Dr. Lee's Philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
As the course chairman, I would like to share with you some of my personal views on TCM, a vitally important body of medical knowledge.
1 .Integrating modern medicine and TCM
Integrating modern medical sciences and traditional Chinese medicine is more than just mixing them together in a
haphazard fashion. There now exists a theoretical framework supported by scientific evidence to resolve the apparent
conflicts between modern medicine and TCM (please refer to the video clip entitled The Untold Story on this website).
The missing link appears to be the heretofore poorly understood functions of the central nervous system and their
multidimensional relationships with all aspects of physiology, including the body's immune functions and its genetic
makeup. True integration of these two important systems of medicine should result in a modern biomedical explanation of
the seemingly abstruse principles of TCM. Likewise, some of the apparently inexplicable modern clinical observations can
be elucidated by the principles of TCM. The marriage of these two powerful healing systems will yield handsome dividends
for health care, leading to substantially improved outcomes accompanied by tremendous cost savings. For instance, the
concurrent use of appropriate Chinese herbal formulas will not only mitigate the many side-effects of chemotherapy and
radiation in cancer treatments but will also enhance the therapeutic efficacy of these modalities, improving the cure rates
as well as long-term survival. The judicious use of acupuncture can also significantly reduce the need for long-term
drug therapy and surgical interventions in chronic pain.
2. The theories, principles, and practices of TCM ought to be embraced by modern physicians regardless of their specialties
TCM should be included in the core curriculum of all medical schools to help future generations of physicians understand
medicine in greater depth and breadth. This idea has in fact been echoed by quite a few of our course participants, some
of whom are medical school professors. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding, or worse, the persistent misunderstanding,
of TCM by medical educators in this country has not been conducive to the implementation of meaningful efforts to teach
TCM in American medical schools, unlike their counterparts in China. To be fair, how can we expect medical educators to
embrace TCM concepts that are so foreign to their own educational experience? That is why our training programs have been
specifically designed for physicians, with the hope that the correct ideas will percolate through our medical community to
eventually become a cornerstone of medical education.
3. All licensed physicians should be allowed to perform acupuncture without restrictions
Needling a point between the nose and the upper lip known as Renzhong or the human center can be quite helpful in
reviving a patient following syncope. Needling a point known as Hoku (Con Valley) in the web space between the thumb
and index finger and a point known as Sanyinchiao (tri-Yin merger) in the leg can be used to induce labor. Heating an
acupuncture point at the lateral tip of the small toe with moxa (a powdered herb) may correct fetal malposition such
as breech presentation. These relatively simple techniques can be learned by physicians quite easily in a day or so
instead of the hundreds of hours of training required by some states, even though in many states the laws governing
the practice of medicine consider acupuncture to be within the scope of a physician's medical practice, thus requiring
no additional licensing. More physicians and their patients will therefore benefit from the more widespread use of
acupuncture without such restrictions. Unbeknownst to most health practitioners, the famed physician Sir William Osler
himself was rather familiar with the technique of acupuncture and had many positive things to say about it. Osler would
not have been able to perform acupuncture, had he been required to complete the two to three hundreds hours of training
deemed necessary by some states.
While physicians should be encouraged to use acupuncture in accordance with their levels of training and experience
as the clinical situations may call for, they should also be encouraged to expand their knowledge by attending formal
training courses. With few exceptions, physicians are already well trained in needling techniques, which include lumbar
puncture, thoracocentesis, joint aspiration or injections, arterial puncture, trigger point injections, and paracentesis,
among others. So for them, learning to perform basic acupuncture requires no giant leap in training. A current valid
medical license and a commitment to set aside a few hundred precious hours to complete the course are already strong
indications of the desire to learn. That is why no essay or statement needs to be submitted as a prerequisite to
participate in our courses.
4. Addressing some of the political issues
I am reluctant to use the term "medical acupuncture." For thousands of years, acupuncture has been used exclusively
for medical purposes, so the word medical seems extraneous as it would in medical gynecology or medical pediatrics.
The term further implies there is some kind of nonmedical acupuncture when there is not. "Medical acupuncture" is
generally construed to be acupuncture performed by physicians. In reality, however, the needles used, the technique
employed, the points to be punctured are no different from those of licensed acupuncturists. The term denotes who is
doing it rather than what it is. Personally, I would much prefer to use the term physician acupuncturists to differentiate
them from licensed acupuncturists.
Naturally, knowledge in modern medicine can often afford a broader view of disease processes, perhaps enhancing the
clinical outcome. On the other hand, much can be gained by working closely with licensed acupuncturists while caring for
patients, especially when the physicians themselves are familiar with basic knowledge regarding this modality of treatment.