Translated by Heiner Fruehauf
National University of Natural Medicine, College of Classical Chinese Medicine
Since I have come to this College, I have always felt as if I did not have enough time for everything. When I look back, however, it seems to me that I did not really do all that much. I read through our standard textbooks several times, and that was basically it. When I was still over at the academic department of the College, I still felt pretty good about my studies, but since I have come to the Affiliated Hospital as an intern I see a definite shift in my attitude toward my education occur.
What astonished me first of all was that many of the doctors here do not seem to have much faith in Chinese medicine. During my four weeks in the inpatient department I discovered that many of them use Western medications. If Chinese herbs are used, then only in the form of injections and patent remedies. I therefore got the feeling that this really was not a Chinese medicine hospital, but a some-Western-some-Chinese medicine hospital. Above all, whenever the herbs are used, they are prescribed according to a disease-based diagnosis. This means that the herbs are used in place of Western medications and just like Western medications. The differentiation based therapeutic approach–the true essence of Chinese medicine—does not show up at all.
Yes, sometimes I have seen the doctor write out an individualized prescription for a traditionally prepared herbal decoction, but then some of these patients never actually got to imbibe it [since the hospital kitchen does not always have time for the preparation of these more time consuming remedies]. And if they got it, they usually had to take the same prescription for several weeks in a row without any type of adjustment by the supervising physician.
What gave me the most disheartening twang of disappointment is something that our physician in charge at the internal medicine ward said: “There are no real advantages of Chinese medicine when compared to Western medicine.” And this came from the mouth of somebody who graduated with a Master’s degree from our formula department.
Some of the stroke patients in the inpatient department are also treated with acupuncture. Since I am entertaining a good relationship with the acupuncturist in charge, I received permission to needle one of these patients. During today’s morning visit, the patient had restored some mobility in his right leg, when only yesterday he wasn’t able to move any limbs on his right side. Everybody was truly excited. However, from a research perspective it is very difficult to give scientific credit to anything we do, since we are usually using Western medications, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture all at the same time.
This article first appeared in Ziran liaofa (Traditional Chinese Medicine and Naturopathy) 18/1995.