Hi everyone! Please welcome back Diana Hermann, L.Ac., from Zi Zai Dermatology for her second interview here on Modern Acupuncture. Previously I talked with Diana about her amazing Chinese herbal dispensary, her packaged herbal dermatology product line, and her tips for opening your own herbal dispensary. (Check out that post here if you missed it.)
Diana is truly an expert in Chinese herbal medicine dermatology and has studied extensively around the world (in both China and England) to gain the in-depth knowledge that she has.
Remember how I’m always saying that acupuncture can take you around the world? Diana is an amazing example of this concept in action, so I couldn’t resist interviewing her about all the amazing places she’s studied.
I hope her travels inspire you not only to pursue even more TCM education (because we all know TCM is for lifelong learners), but also to see where in the world this medicine can take you.
This post is about Diana’s experience studying Chinese medicine in Nanjing, China. In another post (on Wednesday; check back in!), she’ll talk about her incredible experience studying with TCM dermatology expert Mazin Al-Khafaji in London, England.
Plus Wednesday’s post about studying in London will be loaded with Diana’s gorgeous photos from her most recent trip in June. Stay tuned!
Nuggets of wisdom covered today:
- Why Diana chose to further her TCM education after her graduate degree
- How you can study advanced Chinese medicine abroad as well (and why you should)
- What she learned abroad that was above and beyond her Master’s level studies
- Insider tips for living and traveling in China
Here we go!
Thanks for coming back to chat again, Diana! So you got your Masters degree in acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine (MAcOM) from Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) in Portland, Oregon but you’ve studied herbal medicine all over the world since then. Why did you decide to pursue advanced study of Chinese herbal medicine beyond your Master’s degree?
I have continued to study Traditional Chinese Medicine beyond what we were taught in grad school because graduate level education was merely a starting point. There are such great depths to this medicine… it is impossible to learn it all in one lifetime. And my specific interest in dermatology and autoimmune diseases (very complex conditions) require that I get much more additional training in how to understand these illnesses within the TCM paradigm and how to treat them with Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Where else have you studied?
In September of 1999, I completed a month-long internship at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (NUTCM). I studied with the Director of the Dermatology Department in the NUTCM teaching hospital. Recently I began studying with Mazin Al-Khafaji, a world-renown practitioner of Chinese Medicine who specializes in dermatology (learn more about him at www.Avicenna.co.uk). This year I am attending his TCM Dermatology Diploma Course in London, UK. I will travel to London a total of 5 times (!) this year to complete this elite training. [<< To read more about this in Wednesday’s post, click here!]
What made you decide to study in China right after graduating from OCOM?
I chose to study in China immediately after completing grad school for 3 reasons:
- I could get the trip covered by student loans (I was broke – the trip wouldn’t have happened without those loans)
- I knew that once I started a private practice, I wouldn’t be able to leave the business for a full month anytime soon.
- I feared that if I waited too long after grad school I would chicken out and not do it.
How did you hear about Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (NUTCM)?
The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) has a wonderful relationship with NUTCM because Dr. Hong Jin (one of OCOM’s most respected faculty members) graduated from NUTCM and went on to become one of their most esteemed physicians during her time teaching there. Because of her connections at NUTCM, we were able to intern under the department directors during our time there. They treated us royally because they had so much respect for Dr. Jin.
Did you have to speak Chinese to study at NUTCM?
No, we did not need to speak Mandarin during our studies there because we were provided with translators. Our translators were so brilliant. They knew conversational English as well as medical terminology in Mandarin, English and Latin. They were invaluable to our learning experience at NUTCM and to our overall experience as foreigners in China.
Had you been to China before? Were you nervous about living there for a month, because of cultural differences, language barriers, etc.?
I had never been to China prior to my internship in September 1999. I am pretty sure I had some trepidation about the month-long stay, mostly due to my complete inability to speak or understand Mandarin. I also was nervous about the climate (I get unreasonably irritable and uncomfortable in really hot, humid weather). But I recall looking forward to the cultural differences. I love learning about new regions and the people who live there.
What was the application process like for NUTCM ?
I honestly cannot recall what sort of process we had to go through to be accepted for their international internship program (that was 16 years ago!). I only remember that we had to have completed graduate school for TCM.
Do you mind telling us the cost (including room and board) to study at NUTCM for a whole month?
Well, that was way back in 1999. I have no recollection of what it cost back then. But I know it was several thousand dollars because the only way I was able to make it happen was with the help of student loans.
At NUTCM, where did you spend most of your time? In clinic or in classes? Can you describe the various learning environments?
We definitely spent the vast majority of our time working in the hospital. I think it was 8 – 10 hours per day, 5 days per week (M – F). We had class for 2 or 3 hours after clinic on Wednesdays. We had weekends off to sight see like tourists.
What are some of the most important lessons you learned from your time at NUTCM?
I learned to have greater assurance in the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine… that it could successfully treat so much more than the limited list of conditions that the WHO says it can treat. I learned some of the limits of TCM and when to call in help from western medicine. I learned how the two paradigms of medicine could be successfully employed together to get the most benefit for the patient being treated. I learned that what we were taught in graduate school was merely a starting point for study of this medicine. I learned that you don’t have to practice general medicine if that is not your calling… you could specialize and become an expert within a specific branch of Chinese Medicine. The young doctors of TCM in China have such extensive knowledge compared to the average TCM grad student in the U.S. This alone was enough to inspire me to keep learning as much as I possibly can throughout my career. My time at NUTCM showed me how to be both more confident and more humble as a health care practitioner.
Would you recommend that others study at NUTCM, or in China in general, for an extended period after graduating from a US college of acupuncture?
Abso-friggin’-lutely. Seeing how Traditional Chinese Medicine is practiced in the country in which the medicine originated is a powerful experience. To see TCM used in inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, alongside modern western medicine, really opened my eyes to what this medicine is capable of treating. To see the extensive pharmacies, the decocting machines, the premade external medicines, the sheer volume of patients treated each day – amazing. In the hospitals they utilize herbs and acupuncture to help surgical patients heal faster. They employ antibiotics when necessary and send patients down the hall for blood work right away if needed to confirm a diagnosis – a simpler and more efficient system than here in the U.S.
Any words of advice for those who want to study in China but don’t know where to begin?
Hmmm. Frankly, I am not sure where I would start now. It all was much easier at the time I went because my grad school made all the arrangements for us and we went over as a group with our beloved Dr. Jin as our liaison. If a current practitioner from the U.S. wanted to complete an internship in China now, I would suggest contacting your graduate school to see if they already have a program in place with an affiliated university in China. If not, try contacting another graduate school. I am sure the administration at any TCM grad school in the U.S. would be much more helpful regarding internships in China than any information I can offer.
Favorite/least favorite tips about living in China? Insider tips for living in China?
#1 tip for a foreigner spending time in China: Never forget that you are a guest in a country with customs that differ from yours. Respect the people and how they do things. Be kind and grateful (gracious) and the people you meet will do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable.
Keep in mind I went to China in 1999. Much has changed since then. But here are some other tips:
- Don’t wear white clothes (it is hot and humid and you will get horrible pit stains that you can’t wash out when scrubbing your clothes in the sink).
- Be extra super cautious crossing the street (it is complete chaos in the big cities).
- Be prepared that you will have little personal space. Streets, sidewalks, classrooms, the hospital, stores, restaurants are all overcrowded and require that you get along without conflict as you all bump along together on your path.
- Don’t take anything personally. It’s not about you. People are not intentionally being rude. There are so many people and not enough resources for all of them – they are just trying to fend for themselves. For instance:
- People will shove you to get on/off the bus.
- People will push past you to get in/out of a store.
- People will prod you to move forward in line or will cut in front of you if you act unsure or if you are dawdling.
- People will stare at you if they are not used to seeing a foreigner (this might be different now, but in 1999 I met loads of Chinese citizens who had never seen a Caucasian).
- If you are vegetarian, learn how to say, “I do not eat meat” in Mandarin.
- Bring your own chopsticks to eat with.
- If you are not Asian, be prepared for well-meaning locals to approach you and follow you around at tourist attractions so they can practice their English as you walk along together. They often will offer to translate signs and informational postings for you in return. It’s sweet, really. Don’t turn them away – offer them kindness and chat with them. You will learn a lot.
- If you open a map (or, maybe nowadays, a phone app??) be ready for a swarm of people trying to help you find your way. If they cannot adequately give you directions to your destination, they will walk you there themselves.
Thank you for sharing, Diana!
Be sure to visit again on Wednesday for an even more in-depth interview about her advanced studies in London with world-renowned TCM dermatology expert, Mazin Al-Khafaji. (With loads of gorgeous pictures of London and the rest of the United Kingdom!)
Have questions for Diana? Feeling inspired to travel and learn more? Leave a comment below!