By Beth Astin
Beth just completed an internship at OMS and is graduating with honors from VCU's Interdisciplinary Studies Program. In this essay, she beautifully describes her internship experience. We will miss her, but we know she'll be doing amazing things.
I chose Oriental Medical Specialists as my internship because I wanted to know more about the practice of Chinese Medicine as a whole. Until my internship, I had experienced individual treatments performed, but finding a practitioner trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine and having a first hand experience in the integrative approach to the practice was not something I had a deep understanding of prior to my internship. Acupuncture, diet, Chinese herbs, moxibustion (burning herbs at the acupuncture points), tui na (massage), qi gong and tai chi (using movement, positions, and breath) are the seven practices used in the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. During my internship, I became much more familiar with the female anatomy and the birthing process. Or at least the complications women encounter when trying to conceive. Oriental Medical Specialists have developed a network with Reproductive Endocrinologists. This complementary approach to Assisted Reproductive Technologies supports the holistic philosophy that the mind, body, and spirit of an individual is influential to one’s success. The success in the conception outcomes I have witnessed during my internship is surprising. Not because I was doubtful about the connection between mind, body, and spirit, but to witness first hand the impact and results driven by this medical model should give good reason to consider it for other potential health outcomes. It leaves me wondering why mainstream medicine is not more welcoming of this philosophy.
The most valuable take away I gained from this internship is that people consider “alternative” therapies only after conventional medicine has done all it can for the patient. I would have to say that when dealing with my own health issues, I had the same experience. It was not until the doctor told me “that this might be the best you will get,” that I too sought out a different mode of healing. After experiencing a positive health outcome, I wanted to pursue a career in holistic healing. My thought was if I could help other people gain better health through alternative forms of healing, I could help them save time and disappointment. The reality is that not everyone makes the choice to heal the way I chose to heal. I am not implying that people choose to stay sick, but rather how one handles illness is a personal decision. Respecting someone’s choice can be challenging for someone who has experienced results different from the path others have chosen. Studies on the placebo effect have shown a person’s ability to heal can have a lot to do with what one believes. One of the statements Keith Bell made when I attended a presentation he gave to VCU medical students was, “I am not here to convince you that acupuncture works, but I am here to tell you what I know about the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and then it will be up to you to decide if you believe in it.” He concluded his lecture by saying, “If a patient asks what you think about alternative therapies, it would be better if you were supportive, because it could make a difference in the patient’s outcome.” This was one of the most valuable pieces of advice I gained from my experience. Give the patient the power of choice.
As I complete my internship and reflect on what this experience has meant to me, I realize that I if I want to continue my career in wellness, I will need to continue my education and specialize in a specific area in holistic wellness. More importantly, the most valuable lesson I learned from my internship at Oriental Medicine Specialists, was that having an abundance of knowledge is not what makes their practice so successful; it is power of listening and understanding that every patient is different. Hearing, recognizing, and addressing those differences is what has driven their success.