Last week was our 10th week of classes here at Zhejiang Chinese Medicine University. Through the first 2 months we spent all of our time in the classroom learning and finishing the textbooks of theory and diagnostics. Meanwhile we continue to have classroom lectures on acupuncture and herbs.
With that knowledge accumulating under our belts and more time in our schedule, we started clinical observation and training last week. We had one session of diagnostics, tongue, pulse, looking and asking, in the famous Fang Hui Chun Tang (方回春堂) clinic in the historical part of town, HeFang Street. Most of the asking was done in the local dialect of Hangzhou and the teacher-doctor didn’t seem inclined to translate and teach. This was frustrating and did not contribute much to our learning and clinical practice of diagnosis. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to feel such a variety of pulses, intermittent, weak, sinking, faint, and to start to hone our senses to perceive the differences.
Then we had 2 acupuncture clinics. In the first, the doctor performed all his own needle insertion and with such speed and skill, it was incredible. He taught through a translator, explaining the patient’s condition/complaint (most of which were neck or back pain), why he chose certain points, and general discussion on acupuncture. He tested our knowledge of acupoints and how to locate them. We asked him how you tonify (nourish) or reduce when needling, the number of sessions patients needed, his success rates, etc.
The second acupuncture clinic was in the Acupuncture-Moxibustion-Tuina Teaching Hospital. There were 3 students performing most of the needle insertion, massage/tuina, and cupping. One of the students was an Israeli girl in the second year of her masters degree at our university. She explained a lot and was very helpful in answering our questions. The doctor oversaw the work of the students, attended to some new or more complicated patients himself and prescribed formulas. This clinic was interesting for 2 reasons: it was the first Chinese medicine hospital I’ve seen in China where acupuncture is performed and herbs are prescribed by the same doctor; most separate the two functions to different departments or even different hospitals. When you include the tuina, cupping, and moxibustion, this was the most complete (one-stop shop) Chinese medicine hospital I’ve seen for Chinese patients.
The second interesting thing was that 2 women were there getting acupuncture weight loss treatments. It costs 90yuan ($14) per session and lasts about 1 hour, during that time they retain about 30 needles in their body, roughly a quarter of which are hooked up to electrical impulses machines. But the single most striking thing about this clinic was the moxibustion. The entire time, the air was so thick with this smell and the smoke. It made my eyes and throat dry and I had to go outside a few times just to breathe. To put it into perspective, there were about 10-14 patients in the same treatment room, 70% of which were receiving moxibustion and they usually had 5-8 cones each.
This week we continue with the same clinical schedule.