English Feature #7-35224 Broadcast September 3, 2001
Many practitioners of alternative oriental medicine in the United States are immigrants from China. Today on New American Voices you'll meet two Chinese doctors who talk about their alternative medicine practice in the Washington area. This feature was prepared by VOA intern Mark Cabana, a student of Political Science and Asian Studies at Furman University in South Carolina.
Doctor Deng Jackson's small, one-room clinic is tucked away in the third floor of a nondescript building in the center of Washington. The room is dimly lit, giving it an aura that is both mysterious and calming. The table on which patients are treated is separated from the rest of the office only by a cloth screen. There is a cabinet with drawers, but no instruments or other medical paraphernalia are in sight. Despite the austerity of the setting, Dr. Jackson says that in this room he has alleviated vast amounts of pain suffered by his patients with only a few small needles and the herbs that comprise traditional Chinese medicine.
"Chinese Medicine is basically called natural medicine. It is different from Western medicine because we use a natural way to treat disease, like acupuncture, herbal medicine and Qi Gong energy therapy. With Western medicine there are a lot of side effects, but with Chinese medicine you can treat the problem without side effects."
Another practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine in the Washington area, Dr. Fusheng Jin, has been treating patients for over thirty years, first in China and then in the United States. A graduate of the Shanghai Traditional Medical University, he came to the United States on a medical exchange trip in nineteen eighty-seven and decided to stay. After studying hard for one year he passed the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exam, and opened a traditional Chinese medical clinic. Dr. Jin says that in the ten years the clinic has been in operation, it has treated nearly three thousand people. He attributes the growing popularity of Chinese medicine to its effectiveness and safety.
"Benefits are in most areas with chronic disease, depression, pain management and other very very painful conditions. For example, if people suffer a cold, fatigue or fever, Western medicine may use Tylenol and so on. But we Chinese use Chinese herbs, a mixture of Chinese herbs. I think people can get the most effectively benefit from the herbs, because the side effects are very low."
Patients are by no means only Chinese-Americans or Asians. A recent Harvard University study, using statistics from 1990 and 1997, concluded that people in the United States made almost twice as many visits to alternative medicine practitioners as to primary care doctors, and spent nearly 30 billion dollars on the treatments. Dr. Jackson, who also practiced oriental medicine in China before immigrating to the United States, says that except in one area, the complaints of patients in China and here are virtually identical.
"In this country you probably see more of what we call metabolic problems. People with overweight problems. In China there aren't too many overweight problems. Other than that, they're pretty much the same."
Many patients turn to Chinese medicine when Western medicine fails them. One patient, forty-six year old Maureen Allen, finds that only acupuncture relieves her chronic pain - and that the therapy continues even after the treatments are stopped.
"I had an accident in my car when I was 18. Recovery from that has taken a long time- every minute until now. I have had something called herniated disks. So I went to the doctor and had ten acupuncture treatments and the pain slowly went away -- and even after the tenth treatment, the pain dissipated even further. Acupuncture definitely works. There are many problems that a regular doctor can help me with, but there are other problems that the acupuncture doctor can do better on."
Other people, like Julia Su, are attracted to Chinese medicine because of its organic quality.
"'Cause the medicine is milder, and besides most of them are herbal medicines, it's not chemical. That's why, if I can, I would prefer Chinese medicine. In my mind Western medicine basically is chemical and I don't like that."
But Julia Su, like many Westerners, finds it difficult to accept all the practices of traditional Chinese medicine.
"Basically, I don't like acupuncture because I'm the number one coward in the world, I don't like those needles."
Join us next week on New American Voices, when we visit a local Washington-area park that on late summer evenings echoes with the sound of many languages.