Wong advocates use of traditional Chinese medicine
By Erin Landau, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 4, 2012
Traditional Chinese medicine can be integrated with Western medicine to reduce medication requirements, lessen side effects and make biomedicine more effective, Chinese medicine practitioner George Y.C. Wong said at the second Colloquium on Globalization of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center on Thursday. Wong was the keynote speaker at the event that focused on interactions between health care practices of different countries.
Wong, a fourth-generation traditional medical practitioner who learned his trade from his grandfather through “osmosis,” spoke about the merits and disadvantages of traditional Chinese medicine, the uses of herbs for preventative medicine and how non-Western medicine can be incorporated into biomedicine. Focusing on cancer and other chronic diseases, Wong explained how the “rich history” of Chinese medicine can be used to prevent the remission of diseases such as breast cancer and lupus.
“A central idea in cancer prevention in [traditional Chinese medicine] is, ‘When positive energy is guarding inside, evil elements cannot do their job,’” Wong said. “Traditional Chinese medicine is not powerful enough to bring about a remission but can slow down the progression of cancer while maintaining a good quality of life.”
Wong warned against using traditional Chinese medical practitioners who claim “exceptional ability” and encouraged listeners and patients to be their own advocates based on informed decisions.
Wong ended his speech with a quote from former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who he said was respectful of Chinese medicine.
“Chinese medicine is an extraordinary repository of treasures,” he quoted Mao as saying. “It must be rigorously explored and developed to even higher levels.”
Three other “distinguished” speakers at the event discussed how Chinese medicine is received in other parts of the world, moderator James Strickler ’51 said.
Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern studies professor Sienna Craig spoke about the integration of Tibetan and Chinese medicine, explaining that Tibetan medicine is one of the many ethnomedicines found in China.
“Tibetans call their own medicine ‘sowa rigpa,’ or the science of healing,” Craig said. “This idea demonstrates how Tibetan medicine is meshed in multiple social, political and geographical realities.”
Environmental science professor Norman Miller addressed how traditional Chinese medicine was “exported” to Africa through a railroad connecting China and Tanzania, which led to the organization of local societies of healers, the setting of fees, the policing of malpractice, growth in midwife training and the eradication of dangerous practices across Africa.
Miller said that there are five universal qualities of a great healer: knowledge of family, charisma, a basis for being respected, knowledge of the “pharmocopia,” knowledge of herbs and medicines and diagnosis of disease. These qualities lead to greater empathy and healing, he said.
Asian and Middle Eastern studies professor Soyoung Suh spoke on traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary Korea and how traditional medicine provides a “rich source” for people to create their own medical policy.
“A deeper understanding about traditional medicine in East Asia helps us to reflect our own ideas about the body — our own body and the body in different cultures,” Suh said. “More concern about the body means more criticism of the self and how we look at ourselves. We need to pay more attention to medical text in East Asia and think about the body and the construction about the self in different societies.”
Strickler ended the colloquium with remarks on the importance of understanding that every society and every culture has traditional healing practices, including the United States.
“I can tell you as a physician who has practiced in three disparate cultures that any practitioner of medicine must understand the traditional practices in that culture and that society,” Strickler said. “If you do not understand this, you are not practicing optimal, elegant care.”
The colloquium was co-sponsored by the Asian and Middle Eastern studies and sociology departments.