PhD Student Renee Rolle-Whatley and Timothy Sam Kit Tin, L.Ac
Renee Rolle-Whatley, a PhD student in the Saybrook University College of Mind-Body Medicine, recently completed a practicum placement with acupuncture practitioner Timothy Sam Kit Tin, L.Ac. This practicum provided her with the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the real-time use of a medical system of diagnosis and treatment already several thousands of years old. Acupuncture as practiced by Tin and his colleagues at Joyee Acupuncture and Herb, was both grounded in ancient Chinese medical wisdom and focused to treat common modern physical complaints. Mr. Tin was an enthusiastic mentor, jumping in with both feet, even though he and Ms. Rolle-Whatley differed in language, culture, and healthcare profession. By allowing her to learn by observation, discussion, and comparison, he provided a memorable and beneficial internship experience.
The Process: Renee quickly found there to be a specific routine to the 60-75 min acupuncture profile: The assessment covered (1) the main complaint, (2) a history of the main complaint, (3) a review of concurrent complaints that influence the main complaint, (4) a brief review of patient lifestyle, (5) questions about patient’s dietary history, (6) questions to reveal other past medical issues, and (7) any current medications/prescriptions being taken by the patient. After diagnosis, the treatment plan could include use of acupuncture, herbs, acupressure, and cupping (a suction technique that draws deep tissue fluids to the skin’s surface). She observed acupuncture administered for a variety of presenting complaints, after which she and Mr. Tin discussed diagnoses and possible causes as expressed using the Traditional Chinese Medicine system of beliefs: Yin and Yang, whole body healing via the Three Treasures, the Five Elements, and the Eight Principles. She didn’t expect to understand the whole of Traditional Chinese Medicine in a brief practicum, but with nightly personal study, she understood more every day.
Challenges: She found two broad areas of challenges: (1) language, vocabulary, differences in the medical paradigm, and (2) cultural behavior norms. First, Mr. Tin’s ability to communicate was just adequate as Western patients generally don’t question his diagnoses. Second, though she thought it rude to speak in a foreign language when others couldn’t participate, she learned that this that didn’t seem to phase the acupuncturists. She was constantly “on alert” to making her presence unobtrusive yet simultaneously having to be pro-active and create entre into the appointments of the other practitioners. After this daily effort, she was eventually invited to observe Mr. Tin’s office colleagues as they discussed diagnoses and performed acupuncture on their patients.
Insights: The TCM practitioner always thinks relationally and holistically before determining the most viable treatment plan. Deep listening to the patient’s story is an absolute must. The body is considered only in relationship to the whole (acupuncture can’t cure liver disease without dealing with the entire matrix of energy, principles, organs, and treasures). Emotional/psychological complaints are within the purview of the acupuncturist. Surgery is never desirable as it involves cutting energy meridians thus losing original and acquired qi. Organ transplants and blood transfusions are last resort options.
Overall, Renee regarded this internship as “stellar.” The exposure broadened her personal approach to healing and gave her additional tools and knowledge to comprehend the co-relational nature of all human body systems. It was a unique privilege to learn from an intuitive, experienced, caring practitioner for whom patient recovery was ever the first priority.