DSC Program Overview
If you are self-motivated and focused and have a passion for the field of nutrition, we invite you to explore the Doctor of Science in Holistic Nutrition program. This practical, interdisciplinary program provides a deep understanding of holistic nutrition.
The Doctorate in Holistic Nutrition requires students to participate in the tradition of thought, discussion, exploration, and inquiry in the field of holistic nutrition. Students are exposed to a depth of knowledge as they build confidence to discuss and debate all types of nutrition issues. Students are guided and learn to demonstrate a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the relevant history and present definition of the holistic nutrition field including the major literature, theories, practices, problems, ethical issues, and research methods. Achieving excellence in scholarship requires full and meaningful participation in this evolving, cooperative endeavor.
Graduates of this program will gain knowledge of and practice with holistic tools to support changes in thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and a comprehensive knowledge of holistic nutrition which will allow them to work in a clinical or educational setting. Our focus is to provide doctoral students with a working understanding of human physiology and biochemistry and integrate that with the current science of nutrition. We focus on how our food and lifestyle affects overall health. Our studies also include information on the use of nutritional and herbal supplements, detoxification programs, and information about laboratory testing that is used to assess nutritional and functional status.
This degree can be applied in a variety of ways: teaching, writing, working with food or supplement manufacturers, media, and more. Graduates help consumers navigate through the mass of confusing and often contradictory health and nutrition information. Our graduates work to educate people so that they can make their own informed health and lifestyle decisions more easily. For information about course content click the Curriculum link at the top of this page or see the College Catalog.
To review a copy of the Doctoral Dissertation Handbook, click here.
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Public policy directly affects our food choices and our understanding of nutrition. This course is designed to provide students with an overview of the history, legal, political, and social events that shape our food supply. Students will gain an understanding of how national, corporate, and global policies affect food distribution, quality, and safety. Information about sustainability, food and farming policies, food transportation, food distribution, food fortification, food security, food sovereignty, and international food policies are covered. Students gain an understanding of how the FDA and American policies and laws impact food safety issues, and about the impact of global food harmonization policies. This course also examines the real costs of food policies and how corporations affect world food supply and quality. (4 Credits)
DSC 830 Course Objectives:
• Describe and synthesize food and nutrition policies in a larger global context
• Draw conclusions concerning the relationships between food distribution and sustainability, food sovereignty, global food and farming technology, food transportation, food distribution, and food fortification
• Interpret and analyze the effects of global food harmonization policies
• Determine the real costs of food policies and how corporations, governmental policy and law affect our food supply and quality
• Evaluate and present examples of sustainable agriculture, including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s), local farmers and food suppliers in their local area
• Interpret and evaluate how federal policies impact food safety issues
• Draw conclusions regarding world hunger issues
This course provides the structure students need to conduct research throughout their course of studies. This course focuses on familiarizing you with research methodologies. In today’s culture where information is abundant, how do you know what is credible and what standards to use to determine that? We’ll explore how to critically review scientific studies and the different types of research methodologies. We’ll also explore the literature review which will prepare you for your doctoral thesis and for your studies throughout the doctoral program. You’ll become familiar with use of Endnote Software to use to format bibliographies and to serve as your own research library. Prerequisite: DSC 830 (4 Credits)
DSC 831 Course Objectives:
• Expand ability to find credible scholarly research sources such as EBSCO, PubMed, BioMed Central
• Discern good quality research from poor quality research
• Differentiate among various research methodologies, including: epidemiology, case study, quantitative, qualitative, review, cohort studies, placebo controlled trials, etc.
• Recognize bias and validity in research
• Perform a literature review
• Develop a system for staying organized with research and note-taking
• Demonstrate ability to utilize Endnote software
This course explores the web-like interplay between nutrition, our food supply, and the environment demonstrating a complex interlinking between our environment and the food we eat. Students gain an understanding about sustainable food supplies and how environmental issues affect nutritional status and overall health. This course includes information on the pros and cons of genetically engineered foods (GMO’s), and presents information about Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and their role in endocrine disruption. By weight and exposure our children are impacted more profoundly than adults are to their environment. Resource materials focus on the environmental and nutritional issues surrounding childhood health and development. The course also covers the nutritional differences between organically and commercially raised meats, dairy and agricultural products. Prerequisite: DSC 831 (4 Credits)
DSC 832 Course Objectives:
• Assess a variety of environmental issues that affect nutritional status and overall health and draw conclusions on how nutrition educators can inform their public on how to mitigate such issues
• Evaluate current resources related to the area of environmental nutrition trends and politics
• Summarize and appraise usable knowledge about everyday exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and other environmental chemicals and describe their role in endocrine disruption, childhood health, and other health issues
• Identify and describe the key points in the field of nutrigenomics
• Critically valuate the pros and cons of genetic food product engineering
• Evaluate functional medicine approach to environmental toxicity
Nutrition begins in the digestive tract. We can eat an excellent diet but if we cannot get nutrients and calories to individual cells, all the best food won’t nourish us. Understanding digestion is essential to the work of nutrition professionals. In this course students will gain an understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the gastrointestinal tract and the associated pancreatic, liver and biliary tract systems in both health and disease. Students examine the digestive system’s pivotal role in the immune system which includes: the role of gut microbiome, probiotics, prebiotics, gut permeability, and the digestive system’s role in immune function and inflammation. In addition the course covers the role of HCL and achlorhydria, and their interaction with vitamin B12, and examines celiac disease, food sensitivities, and food allergies. Prerequisite: DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 833 Course Objectives:
• Determine and distinguish between the physiological aspects of normal digestion, absorption, assimilation, and elimination in health and disease
• Examine and understand the the emerging role of the gut microbiome in health and disease
• Distinguish and defend the role of prebiotics and probiotics in food
• Evaluate the benefits of an elimination diet
• Elaborate on vitamin B12 interactions and reactions to HCl and achlorhydria
• Describe and integrate causes of celiac disease, food sensitivities, and food allergies into a nutrition educational context
• Analyze and understand the role of gluten intolerance and celiac disease in overall health and specific nutritional needs
We spend a considerable amount of our biochemical resources on detoxification and biotransformation processes in our body. Biotransformation of potentially toxic substances can help us by detoxifying them or by forming derivatives with increased toxicity. This course reviews the biochemistry of biotransformation and detoxification and explores how to increase mobilization and excretion of toxins through food and supplements. Students learn to identify and assess people who may have impaired detoxification and increased toxic exposure. This course explore how food can be used to enhance biotransformation to decrease risk to breast and other hormone dependent cancers, autoimmune disease, and other chronic illnesses. Prerequisite: DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 834 Course Objectives:
• Design, develop and present a practical application of the physiology and biological necessity of detoxification and biotransformation systems in the human body
• Compile current knowledge on the biochemistry of biotransformation and detoxification
• Identify people within their personal networks who may have impaired health due to impaired detoxification and increased toxic exposure
• Define the expected outcomes derived from possible interventions designed to decrease toxic exposure and increase the mobilization and excretion of toxins
• Assess the role of food, nutrients, and phytonutrients in the context of practical applications designed to enhance biotransformation processes
This course provides an overview of the human immune system and inflammation metabolism and specifically and its relationship to diet. Students will be made aware of how the immunological system has blossomed over the last two decades. Also presented is the current belief that inflammatory processes underlie chronic health issues such as cardiac and vascular disease. The standard Western diet is inflammatory; Mediterranean and other whole foods diets can reduce inflammation. Natural foods and substances can modulate pain and inflammation. Polyphenols, bioflavonoids, probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids, and other food components modulate inflammation. Topics covered in this course will include: physiology and biochemistry of the immune and inflammatory systems, lymphatic system, innate and adaptive immunology, recognition and receptors, fever, acute and chronic inflammation, antibodies and allergies, cytokines, role of the thymus, and auto-immune illnesses. Prerequisite DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 835 Course Objectives:
• Define and discuss immune system physiology
• Devise a functional depiction of the mechanics of inflammation
• Integrate the concepts of the interaction between immune function, inflammation and the affects of lifestyle and nutrition into a practical presentation framework
• Compare and contrast specific foods and food components that decrease or increase inflammation and immune response
Prior to enrolling in advanced level courses, students must have successfully completed all prior coursework and passed the Midterm Examination.
This course will focus on current theories in cardiovascular nutrition and metabolic syndrome, and their relationship to lifestyle and dietary modification. Topics covered will include anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system, theories of cardiovascular health and disease, and the role of food and diet in prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Controversies in the field, such as salt restriction and lowering of serum cholesterol, will also be explored. Management of micronutrients, such as ribose, CoQ10, B-complex vitamins, magnesium, calcium and carnitine, will also be covered. Prerequisite: DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 836 Course Objectives:
• Discuss and describe the primary functions of the cardiovascular system works in the context of health and disease
• Understand the underlying nutritional principles related to cardiovascular health
• Assess the current controversies in cardiovascular nutrition including the cholesterol and salt/sodium controversies
• Determine what metabolic syndrome is, and explore the role of lifestyle modification, diet, and supplementation in prevention and modifying its course of progression
• Critique how current diets and protocols are employed to promote heart health and protection from illness
• Interpret how specific nutrients and herbs may be used to enhance cardiovascular health and help to normalize hypertension
In this course students gain a working understanding of the endocrine system and its interaction with diet, lifestyle and specific nutrients. Recognizing how food and micronutrients affect endocrine balance is key to educating people how to create and maintain good health. Topics covered in this course include: physiology and anatomy of the endocrine system, blood sugar control, glucocorticoid metabolism, the role of the adrenals and corticosteroid and hormone balance, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), thyroid function, growth hormone and more. Students will examine common imbalances and diseases of the endocrine system and how to approach them from a nutrition and lifestyle viewpoint. Health promotion topics focus on designing strategies to support environmental change and evaluation of nutrition education programs. Prerequisite: DSC 832 (4 credits)
DSC 837 Course Objectives:
• Identify and categorize the primary and secondary components of the endocrine system
• Evaluate and explain the common illnesses and diseases of the endocrine system, with reference the role and affect of food and micronutrients in endocrine balance
• Compare and contrast the synergy between the endocrine and other body systems
• Analyze research on obesity and hormone imbalance
• Analyze menopausal issues from biological, emotional, and nutritional viewpoint
• Evaluate the role of nutrition, lifestyle, and environment in fertility issues
• Evaluate bone health, osteoporosis and vitamin D in health and disease
• Evaluate and synthesize scholarly opinion about iodine sufficiency and optimal intake
Students gain a working understanding of the common illnesses and diseases of the neurological system and the role of nutrition and environmental factors in neurological function and dysfunction. Studies include parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve function, brain function, neurotransmitters, enteric nervous system, calcium channel blockers, and role of fatty acids and micronutrients in neurological function. Topics also include: understanding of laboratory evaluation for neurological imbalances such as fatty acid testing, celiac testing, and neurotransmitter testing and Orthomolecular Medicine. Prerequisite DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 838 Course Objectives:
• Analyze the neurological system in the context of the field of neuroscience
• Explain how food and micronutrients affect the nervous system
• Identify appropriate laboratory evaluation of neurological imbalances
• Illustrate how lifestyle and nutrition affects the rise of common illnesses and diseases of the neurological system including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related memory issues
• Determine and describe how nutrition and lifestyle impact mental health and learning and behavior disorders
This course introduces the student to Nutrition Education, and the methods and materials for teaching nutrition to students at different grades levels and community groups. The course will focus on how to design, deliver, and evaluate the types of educational interventions and programs. Emphasis will be placed on interventions/programs grounded in Health Behavior Theory. Prerequisite DSC 832 (4 Credits)
DSC 839 Course Objectives:
• Differentiate settings and stakeholders for programs in nutrition education/health promotion
• Examine strategies for reducing health disparities through nutrition education/health promotion programs
• Utilize and appraise the different theories currently being used in nutrition education/health promotion programs
• Identify barriers to changing behaviors and subsequently, strategies which can be utilized to overcome barriers
• Plan, implement, and evaluate nutrition education/health promotion programs in diverse settings
• Propose a public policy statement
• Observe and evaluate a nutrition education program in his/her community
This course introduces students to bioethics as an interdisciplinary subject through critical thinking, writing, and discussing contemporary issues. Bioethical thinking is neither biology nor ethics, but rather, a joining of both of them. In addition, in the later part of this course, students will be introduced to statistics for health care professionals. Prerequisite DSC 831 (4 Credits)
DSC 840 Course Objectives:
• Explain what ethics is, its importance, and application to ethical dilemmas
• Understand relevant ethical theories and principles
• Describe virtue ethics and values and how they more clearly describe an individual's moral character
• Approach bioethical problems, break them into smaller, component parts and discuss those analyses through oral and written communication
• Acquire and separate factual knowledge from opinion in the areas of science and philosophy
• Define and utilize the major measures of disease association, i.e., relative risk, odds ratio. attributable risk and population attributable risk
• Describe when to use descriptive statistics confidence limits, and categorical data
• Describe when to use inferential statistics and analysis of variance
• Describe when to use t-tests
This course permits students to explore an avenue of study focusing on a specific holistic nutrition topic of interest. Students identify, research, and gain greater knowledge in their chosen subject. Students will submit a brief proposal to the Director of Doctoral Studies prior to registering for this course to confirm that the project will constitute a semester’s work and is of sufficient content and depth to be awarded 4 credits. Prerequisite: DSC 832 (4 credits)
DSC 841 Course Objectives:
• Compile a body of information related to their topic
• Expand their knowledge and expertise in a specific area of interest
• Demonstrate the ability to use critical thinking skills
• Increase their organizational skills
• Design, carry out, and analyze and/or develop theoretical results that contribute to the literature
• Effectively discuss and demonstrate successful learning
• Write an original research paper
• Submit sufficient documentation establishing the attainment of new skills and knowledge
At the successful completion of all coursework, students must demonstrate that they are able to proceed to the thesis courses by passing the Final Examination.
This course is designed to assist students in the process and development of their final dissertation and to provide them with the necessary skills to write an acceptable research proposal. It is the first of three courses leading to the completion of a dissertation. Students will write a preliminary draft of their dissertation proposal using the knowledge and skills gained in prior coursework. Upon approval of the student’s initial proposal, the student will advance to candidacy. (4 Credits) Prerequisites: Successful completion of all coursework and comprehensive oral examination.
DSC 900 Course Objectives:
• Choose an appropriate dissertation committee and understand the role of the committee in the dissertation process
• Analyze and critique past research in the dissertation topic
• Write a concise introduction for the dissertation
• Begin a comprehensive literature review
• Develop a conceptual framework and the hypotheses for the proposed study
• Determine the appropriate methods that should be used to guide the dissertation research including study design, sampling of participants, data collection and analysis
• Identify the methodology of the preliminary draft of the dissertation proposal
• Discuss the IRB approval process
• Design and submit a dissertation proposal draft that reflects a large part of the research plan
• Interact with your doctoral committee to obtain approval of the first three chapters of your doctoral dissertation
In this course students refine and expand their dissertation proposal and begin writing their doctoral dissertation. Guided by their instructor, students will work on their methodology and begin collecting and analyzing data in preparation of submitting a comprehensive and scientific research study ready for defense at the conclusion of DSC 902. (4 credits) Prerequisite: DSC 900
DSC 901 Course Objectives:
• Submit a comprehensive methodology section
• Identify and attain a study population if necessary
• Understand the various data collection tools
• Identify independent and dependent variables
• Do statistical analysis in quantitative studies
• Analyze data
• Present results
• Demonstrate a significant amount of work towards completion of the dissertation including a literature review
This is the final module in the twelve (12) credit series of dissertation courses. In this course students will work to complete their dissertation and defend it to their dissertation committee. (4 credits)
DSC 902 Course Objectives:
• Successfully complete the doctoral dissertation
• Orally present and defend the dissertation to the Doctoral Committee
• Receive approval of the dissertation
• Receive approval to graduate from Doctoral Committee and Administration
Completion of a dissertation is a requirement to receive a doctoral degree. All requirements are expected to be completed in no less than three years and no more than ten years after first registration in the Doctor of Science program. In the event that students are unable to complete and defend their dissertation at the conclusion of this course, they must register for Dissertation Continuation up to the time they have completed the dissertation. A grade of PR (In Progress) will appear on the students’ transcript for Dissertation Continuation courses but will not be calculated in the final GPA. Upon completion and approval, the final earned grade will be recorded on the students’ transcript. Enrollment must be continuous as a candidate for a degree must be enrolled during the semester in which the degree is conferred. For additional information refer to the Dissertation Handbook.
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Students can engage in new modes of analysis while building upon the foundations already established in the field of nutrition. The doctoral program encourages interdisciplinary inquiry into health issues and problems. Interdisciplinary inquiry is a way of seeing, thinking, conversing about, and imagining how issues and problems cut across relevant fields. Some fields that intersect the field of nutrition include environmental studies, political studies, sociology, psychology, plant medicines, anthropology, agriculture, medicine, and education.
This program is divided into fifteen (15) courses. Students must be computer literate and able to conduct extensive research and communicate on the Internet. Students are expected to participate in online forums and email will be a primary method of communication. Students are encouraged to review the Hawthorn website for updates and news.
In the process of most doctoral programs there is a clear distinction between one's educational activities and one's real life. At Hawthorn we encourage a merging of educational, contemplative life, and daily life. Nutrition is about a way of living and we encourage students to incorporate the work done on a daily level into their doctoral program where possible. This helps students integrate theory and practice.
As a dispersed community of students with a wide range of interests, we encourage the on-going dialogues between other members of the scholarly community at Hawthorn and at large. You are expected to participate in online forums and to attend webinars on a regular basis. Students communicate and network inside and outside of the program to be truly successful. This allows the student to realize that they are part of a larger and expanded community which will continue to sustain life-long learning.
Students purchase books that comprise the basis of a professional library and are introduced to quality online sources of nutritional information. Students complete assigned textbooks readings, listen to audio lectures, experience practical activities, submit written assignments, and engage in a graded oral discussion at the conclusion of each class. Assignments are graded and returned to the student's portal with written feedback.
Students have the option to meet together regularly via scheduled webinars where live lectures on current nutrition topics are presented. These webinar lectures are also archived on the student portal so that students can access and review these lectures at a later date. Webinars are held every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 4 PM PST / 7 PM EST.
Students interact by posting questions and comments to the message boards and via email. Students have the opportunity to email or call their instructors during their weekly office hours for individual attention and questions. Technical support is available via the Help Desk.
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To be considered for admission to the Doctor of Science in Holistic Nutrition program at Hawthorn University, applicants are required to have a baccalaureate degree from an appropriately accredited postsecondary institution as well as a master's degree in the field of study or related field from an appropriately accredited institution and a minimum of two years of work experience in the field or allied field.
Applicants who already hold other master's level or doctoral degrees in other health professions, such as a master's in nursing, DC, ND, MD, or veterinary medicine may also apply. Applicants should have already completed prerequisite course work in:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Whole Foods Nutrition
Applicants with a master's degree, who do not meet all these requirements, are encouraged to apply so that we may evaluate what prerequisite course work needs to be fulfilled. All of these courses may be taken through the Hawthorn master's level curriculum or at an appropriately accredited college or university.
A total of nine (9) credits can be applied to the DSC program if the courses were taken at an appropriately accredited school and are of doctoral level quality equivalent to Hawthorn's DSC courses. A grade of B or better is required.
Complete and return the online application. A non-refundable application fee of $60 will be charged to all matriculated students. Your application will be reviewed and qualified applicants will be contacted.
Hawthorn University does not provide English as a second language instruction and all classes are taught in English. Hawthorn University requires prospective international students to have an academic background equivalent to an education in the United States, to fulfill admission requirements and to speak and write fluent English.
For more information on the application process, click the admission's link or contact Kathy McDermott, Director of Admissions & Student Management, at
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