By Kate Downes July 17, 2014


This past April I was given the opportunity to travel across the world to observe and learn from expert Chinese medical doctors in the beautiful city of Hang Zhou, China. Along with eighteen students of acupuncture, I returned to the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine where I myself studied as a student a few years ago.
I learned a lot about Chinese medicine from my first trip to China. I witnessed new techniques, difficult and complicated cases, and improved my diagnostic skills. I felt much more prepared to take on my own patients with this new set of knowledge. On my second trip, however, I had a completely different experience. Although I observed many of the same doctors, saw many of the same techniques performed, and was in a (now) familiar setting, I was able to see things with a new set of eyes. Before I was fascinated by the stark contrasts between our two cultures; exotic foods, daily lifestyles, the language. This second time, however, I was able to see that we are actually quite alike. Anywhere in the world there are people seeking genuine guidance on how to improve their health, live better, and even start a family.

In a country as populated as China, you may not think that infertility would be a concern of many. The truth, however, is that couples struggle with this problem in China just as they do here in America. It is commonplace for these couples turn to Chinese herbal therapies and acupuncture to help improve their chances of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. I sat in on a fertility lecture from Dr. Ge, a highly respected gynecological herbalist while at the hospital. The fertility issues that men and women face in China are quite similar to those here in America. Women suffer from PCOS, endometriosis, and unexplained infertility and men have issues with sperm count and quality. Treatment is approached in the same way as well: correct the individual’s root problem and return the body to a state of balance.

It was an amazing experience to travel to China to see how this unique medicine is practiced in its land of origin. It was even more amazing to realize how much Chinese medicine has shaped healthcare in China through thousands of years and to dream of how it could shape our American healthcare system. Although my practice style is quite different from the way acupuncture is practiced in the hospitals of China, the medicine and the lives that it changes remain the same.