It’s East vs. West, medically speaking

HEALTH: Chinese students talk differences between holistic, conventional approaches

August 15, 2011 

About 50 people attended a community forum about traditional Chinese medicine last week at Saint Martin’s University.

The goal of the program: to explain the differences between conventional medicine – which is practiced widely in the United States – and the holistic approach of healing that’s been practiced in China for more than 5,000 years.

The presentation was hosted by nearly 25 students from Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine who visited South Sound as part of a two-week cultural exchange program with Saint Martin’s.

“This is the culmination of a cultural experience for the Chinese students,” said Joseph Bessie, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Saint Martin’s. “This is a sharing experience.”

The students showed slides of their 83-acre university campus, talked about the education system in China and compared traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine. They also discussed some of the latest research on Chinese herbal remedies and other treatments with Alzheimer’s, vertigo and chronic ailments.

They said one of the biggest differences in the two systems is approach. Western medicine is aimed at removing or destroying the cause of illness with treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or medication. Traditional Chinese medicine is aimed at identifying ways to promote health in daily life and focuses on the whole body, including the spirit, they said.

During their stay, the students took classes in English as a second language at Saint Martin’s and visited health care facilities including Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

They also took in some local sights, including sailboat rides at Boston Harbor and snow at Mount Rainier National Park – which was a thrill for many of the students, according to teacher Xu Jie.

“We have no snowy mountains,” she said. “No thick snow.”

Besides the presentations, the forum featured demonstrations of acupuncture and tai chi, which are traditional Chinese therapies commonly used for ailments such as chronic pain and high blood pressure.

Student Buyi Wang, 21, said she hoped the audience walked away with the message that “China’s medicine is efficient and reliable.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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