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2007 Nuherbs Scholarship Application

Karen E. Litton
Daoist Traditions Student
Asheville, N.C.

Volunteer/ Extracurricular Activities:

Since becoming a student almost three years ago, my activities beyond working and going to school have certainly been curtailed! I do enjoy gardening, bird watching, hiking in the woods with my dog, paddling on rivers and lakes with my husband, and generally just being outside. I have done several long distance flat-water canoe races in Texas called the Water Safari (a race that goes for 260 miles from San Marcos to the Coast). My indoor pursuits include reading, yoga, and meditation, Qi Gong, cooking and listening to music. My husband and I have lived in a rural area for a number of years and been associated with an outdoor center which focuses on rafting and mountain biking. We often join friends in these activities in the mountains.

I am a massage therapist also, and most of my recent volunteer work has been in that capacity. I used to go to team events with the national whitewater kayak team and offer massages to team members. I have participated in local outdoor activity events and offered massage. With my local neighbors who do not have much money, I have done massages in exchange for plants and produce from their gardens. I am often called on by friends and others in the community for assistance in determining what they can do to help themselves in whatever physical difficulty (or other challenges) they are having.

Academic Interests

I am thoroughly enjoying my involvement with a program of Acupuncture which also emphasizes herbal studies. I am in my third year of studies at Daoist Traditions and each semester we have had a course dealing with herbs and herbal medicine. I recently took out a loan to attend further herbal studies once a month in NYC with Jeffrey Yuen. I am traveling there for a weekend a month for two years to study herbs in depth with him. I find my work with herbs to be an exciting part of medicine and an integral part of my development as a practitioner. Also the energetics around herbal medicine increases my own awareness within me and within my work with patients. If I had more time I would love to work more with the herbal garden which is in the process of being developed at our school.

Application Essay

How can the beauty of Chinese Medicine be introduced widely to America, becoming part of Americans’ everyday lives?

For several weeks I have been considering this question and how to approach answering it. I have been through many different scenarios and idea possibilities. Then last week, a chance discussion with a massage client, sparked an idea. My client was discussing how her brother-in-law had sought treatment for a chronic back problem from an acupuncturist. He had been through many medical procedures and tried many different approaches over a span of many years. None had eventually given him any relief for his pain. Finally, he went to an acupuncturist, and was able for the first time to experience relief. Ironically, for all the years he was seeking treatment, there was an acupuncture office across the street!

My client, who told me the story, is another one for whom acupuncture was helpful. She sought relief three years ago for nausea due to pregnancy. She too had a very positive experience. But she has not since been back to acupuncture; nor brought herself or her child to the clinic. Even thought both her and her child suffer from numerous colds and upper respiratory tract infections, and I have suggested acupuncture, she does not seek out Oriental Medicine for her other health concerns

Why not? What made it a “last resort” for her brother-in-law? How is it that a two thousand year old practice is not more readily accepted as a valid medical treatment in the U.S.? What perceptions does she hold that prevent her seeking out further treatment from Chinese medicine for other conditions? She has even had an experience that was positive; so why does she not turn to oriental medicine for assistance?

My thought is that we need to first become clearly aware of the current belief systems and perceptions that keep most Americans from opening out to the beauty and efficacy of Chinese Medicine. It is imperative to discover U.S. views and beliefs around acupuncture and Oriental medicine. It is only after we first discover the answer to why people aren’t turning to Chinese Medicine that we can address how to get them to make it a part of their everyday lives.

I believe a national questionnaire/study is needed to find out and clarify how Americans in general view Chinese Medicine. Once the prevailing American attitudes toward Chinese Medicine are defined then a plan of action can be implemented to address peoples’ concerns. Of course a smaller local or regional survey would be beneficial as well on a correspondingly smaller scale.

I suggest the survey be administered or sponsored by the new combined national association for acupuncture and oriental medicine which has extensive membership lists and a vested interest. Perhaps member practitioners could be asked to help defray the cost of the survey for a copy of the results. The survey could be set up so results would be tabulated by area of the country. This would allow for the regional differences to be taken into account. If the results were then specifically tailored to each region, and were demonstrated to contain valuable information to aid practitioners in establishing practices, it could be very valuable in addressing the concerns shared culturally and by a selected area.

What type of questions can we ask to get at the beliefs and perceptions which influence the choice Americans make concerning their health care? Although it is not within the scope of this paper to outline those questions, the choice of what to ask, and how to ask these questions would be very important. The entire questionnaire needs to be directed at learning prevailing views concerning Western medicine practices and Chinese Medicine practices. Questions would be designed to delve into what is behind a person’s choice for medical treatment, and to evaluate and understand biases from both the Western and Oriental perspective.

Examples of areas that might need to be addressed:

  • The Western bias toward quick fixes.
  • The belief that Western medicine is “real” and acupuncture is somehow in the mystical realm.
  • The influence of drug companies, and commercials, in supporting everyone’s belief system that a pill, or a procedure will “fix them”.
  • The idea that people do not have to look at their lifestyle or deeply examine their relationship to their disease process to be healed.
  • Our conditioning in this culture to think that Western medicine holds all the answers, and we can only be helped if we follow their every word and decision.
  • The view toward the use of Chinese herbs in American health issues?
  • The question of whether choices are knowledge based?
  • Is fear of needles (or something else) involved in the choice of Chinese Medicine? Is it fear of pain?
  • Is money or insurance an issue?

An additional tool to make the survey even more meaningful to a regional area would be to also focus on a non-life threatening disease conditions common to the area. An example in my own area of the mountains of North Carolina would be hay fever. Hay fever is common and widespread in this area. As part of the aforementioned survey, questions could ask locals about their chosen paths of dealing with persistent hay fever. Why did they take a particular treatment route? How successful was the treatment? What drugs did they take? How successful were drugs in dealing with the problem? What are possible side effects of the drugs they took? Were they aware of acupuncture and herbology’s success rate in treating hay fever? Practitioners and local organizations involved with alternative care, could then weave together advertising campaigns and informational talks which would address the concerns in their area as well as the values and perceptions toward the use of Oriental Medicine as a treatment possibility. Dealing with hay fever could be the theme. The survey, which combined the emotional/perceptional data with reactions to a certain health concern, would be an important informational tool for the Oriental Medicine community of that area.

In order to help people in our culture perceive the beauties of this medicine, it has to be explained in terms that people can relate to and understand. It is my belief that the only way the question you posed can be successfully answered is to first address the question behind the question. Though this paper points at more questions to answer your initial question (!), I believe to be specific we have to interview those who hold the views. This would be the most valuable avenue to finding the most appropriate “answer”. It is only through discovering how Chinese Medicine is viewed or understood by people today that we can begin to tackle the dream of making it a part of Americans’ everyday lives.