You may already know this, but when I started college in 1998 I was pre-med. I wanted to be an ER doctor. Theater was more fun though, so even though I felt a strong calling to be in a profession where I felt I was directly helping people, I finished school as a lighting design major.
In 2005 I again made a small foray into the world of Western medicine when I attended school and got my EMT certification: again, emergency medicine. I really thought that was the way to satisfy my desire to help people–you know, be there when they needed me most. But even before I graduated I knew it wasn’t for me. You perform the same tasks for every patient, the same basic skills, and then you let them go and may never find out what happened to them. In the meantime, there’s a ton of paperwork AND a uniform.
In 2010 I attended an open house at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, where I would graduate in four years with a degree in acupuncture and herbal medicine. Those four years were no cakewalk, and there were many opportunities when I could have done what a lot of students in that program did, and walk away. But I kept at it, because finally I started to feel as though I’d be helping people the way I wanted to.
Chinese medicine looks at the body as a symphony of systems working together in harmony to create a healthy human being. Each organ depends on each other one for its functions. Fluids and energy are created not by any single part of the body, but rather by the body systems in concert. You only get health when each individual part is healthy. If any organ or system is out of balance, it throws everything else off.
What makes Chinese medicine different from Western, and what appeals to me, is that it works by determining the underlying cause for the disease or dysfunction in question, and operating on that cause. We would say we treat the root, rather than the branch. We treat the cause, not the effect; or the reason rather than the outcome. This is why three different people who come to an acupuncturist with similar headaches would be treated with three different point prescriptions. One of those people might have an excess in a particular body system, one might have stagnation in a channel, and one might have a deficiency somewhere else. The four years of training we go through enables us as licensed practitioners to determine which of those people you are, and how to help lead you to a healthy balance within your body and your mind.
As an acupuncturist, I’m still here when you need me most. Sometimes I’m the only person who can listen to all of your complaints and be able to tell you, “Yes, this all makes sense to me. I think I can help you.” I can work with my patients for however long it takes to resolve their problems, and I get to see a result that both of us can be happy with. My end goal is to enable my patients to go for months without needing to come in to see me, because we have reached a point where they understand their bodies well enough to know what they can do to help themselves, and because we have worked to restore balance. Not having become an MD I can’t say for sure, but I think that I have landed in the right place for me, a profession that I will find satisfying for years to come.