Two Saybrook School of Mind-Body Medicine Students Study Healing Traditions of China in Memorable Visit: Introducing Pegi Black and Mary Singler
Pegi Black and Mary Singler are both nurses and PhD students in the Fall 2010 cohort in Saybrook University’s School of Mind-Body Medicine. Together, they traveled to China for their School of Mind-Body Medicine practicum experience. They joined the small delegation from the People To People Ambassador’s Healing Traditions of China program led by Lucia Thornton, a prior President of the American Holistic Nurses Association. Initially, Dr. Norman Shealy, a pioneer in holistic health who earned a doctorate in humanistic psychology from the “Saybrook Institute,” was to be Ms. Thornton’s co-leader. However, at the last minute Dr. Shealy was unable to attend.
During the 12-day intensive medical and cultural immersion program, the medical delegation traversed the country beginning at the nation’s capital of Beijing in Northern China. In Beijing, Pegi and Mary visited the Beijing Massage Hospital, which consists of a dual campus with a 50-bed in-patient capacity, a massage training school, and a separate preventative medicine clinic for wealthier clientele. The hospital serves as a clinical site for three different universities and has 600 Chinese and international students. It is famous for the 60 blind massage therapists of the 110 total massage therapists on staff. Remarkably, the outpatient clinic, with its four screening family practice doctors, serves 1,500 patients per day. The four doctors prescribe various forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) Tui Na Massage, in conjunction with other traditional Chinese therapies such as acupuncture, skeletal and muscle manipulation and traction, herbal steam baths, laser therapy, and moxibustion. The patients primarily seek medical care at this facility for neck and low back pain.
Also visited in Beijing was the large Guang’anmen TCM hospital. It is a WHO Collaborating Center for TCM, as well as being a National Center for the treatment of cancer, diabetes, and anal and intestinal diseases. It has 600 staff members, 28 clinical departments, a 600-bed in-patient capacity, and registers 3,000 out-patient visits per day. The most interesting aspect at this medical site was the tour of the expansive out-patient herbal pharmacy. Lastly in Beijing, the group visited the Beijing Wisdom Healing Center, another international school, whose focus is in the teaching of Medical Qigong.
The small group then flew to Xi’an in Central China. Pegi and Mary reported that the delegation was fortunate to stay at the new 5-star Hilton Hotel, which provided a stark contrast to visiting the rural Barefoot Doctors of Nansuo Village in Hu County. The rural clinic had neither running water nor restroom facilities (aside from the clinic owner’s outhouse located behind the clinic). The name “Barefoot Doctors” refers to rural TCM practitioners who in poor local farming communities have acquired TCM knowledge and skills, passed down by family elders from prior generations. One interesting discovery in Xi’an was that acupuncture treatment is not reimbursed by the government in the government-sponsored clinics where a doctor’s visit typically costs $1. Consequently, the prescription of Western pre-packaged medications has come to take precedence over the more time-consuming administration of typical TCM treatments, such as the preparation and distribution of Chinese herbal meds or the delivery of a series of acupuncture treatments.
Additionally while in Xi’an, the two toured the Medical Herbs Market with a pharmacist from a local TCM Hospital. The herbs market, a state supported site providing 1,500 vendor booths (small metal warehouses), sells approximately 1,600 varieties of herbs including herbs from both plants and animals. Frequently seen were gogi berries and dried scorpions, both thought to be medicinal. When combined in a fermented preparation, the prescribed liquid is thought to be efficacious in the treatment of arthritis.
The last leg of the medical site visits was in Kunming in Southern China. At the Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Pegi and Mary had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Chi Cheng discuss the underlying principles of TCM. The university visit was followed by a visit to the 742-bed in-patient medical center at the Yunnan Provincial Hospital of TCM. This teaching facility prides itself on being an integrated facility which offers the best of both TCM and Western medicine. It is affiliated with 90 TCM hospitals, has 29 clinical departments, and schools of medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. Most notably, it is the research center for the province, doing what was thought by Pegi and Mary to be fascinating research on the adjunctive use of acupuncture at both the acute and chronic stages of disease management.
At each city visited, Pegi and Mary were immersed in the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine and exposed to a wide variety of cultural and historical aspects of the lives of the Chinese people. In Beijing, they visited the three historical sites of Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Badaling portion of the Great Wall of China. In Xi’an they learned about the Silk Road that linked China to the Roman Empire and the jade and silk markets. Additionally, Mary met the local farmer who first discovered the buried Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty. The thousands of full-size clay replicas of the army’s men and horses were entombed with Emperor Qin Shi Huang. He was the emperor who, in 246 BC and at the age of 13, was crowned king of the Qin tribe. Later he would go on to conquer and unite all of China, proclaiming himself China’s first emperor. Additionally in Southern China, Pegi and Mary visited the Stone Forest, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of 96,000 acres of limestone rock formations.
Aside from gaining new and expanded perspectives on the Healing Traditions of China, what was most remarkable to both Pegi and Mary, about this once-in-a lifetime experience of both medical and cultural immersion, was the meeting the wonderful people of China. Consequently, Pegi and Mary attempted to capture their appreciation for the way of life and the culture of the Chinese people in a series of PowerPoints, as well as in the practicum poster prepared for the Spring 2013 San Diego Residential Conference (RC).