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What Changed My Daughter’s View of Chinese Medicine

As part of “My Story” I would like to share a testimonial that my daughter wrote for Dr. Wang Qi. It captures so well the ups and downs, the struggles and joys the journey my family shared while my husband was sick a few years ago. It also shows how my daughter, an American doctor changed her mind about Chinese medicine.

The testimonial was written for a big national conference in Beijing for celebrating Professor Wang Qi’s 50 years of practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). But because it is written in English, I don’t think many people have read it.

You see, Dr. Wang Qi throughout his distinguished medical career has helped thousands of patients, and is not short of a testimonial like this one. The main reason I publish this testimonial as my blog is to share with you that dramatic period of time, and the physical and emotional experience we had. Moreover, I hope my children, grandchildren, patients and friends will see how miraculous TCM can be, and hopefully will be inspired by our experience.

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Here is the testimonial my daughter wrote:

My name is Xuewei Huang. I completed my medical school and residency training in the US and have been practicing internal medicine in a hospital for nearly ten years. I had little exposure and experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine until my father’s dramatic recovery from refractory contact and irritant dermatitis. For over a year, as a daughter and physician, I watched my father suffer but could not offer any comfort or relief. You can imagine my frustration and sadness. It was a very fortunate encounter with Professor Wangqi changed all that.
       My father is a trained biochemist and had been working on peptide synthesis at Massachusetts General Hospital for twenty years. In the summer of 2005, he started developing rash on his face, neck and hands. Over the next several months, his symptoms became progressively worse and had spread to his chest, back and lower extremities. In addition to the rash, he also developed diffuse red painful nodules, and extremely itchy and dry skin. He started his long journey in the medical system, beginning with his primary care physician, then dermatologists, immunologist and hematologist. He was prescribed topical steroids, moisturizer and high dose antihistamines. His condition continued to deteriorate that he had to quit his job because his symptoms worsened as soon as he stepped into the lab. He was confined to home because we could not predict what will trigger another exacerbation, the grass, plant or the carpet. My mother changed everything possible in the house to hypoallergenic item. Plants and pet bird were given away. He was still itching and scratching all the time. His skin was too dry to hold any moisture despite he was applying ointment every fifteen minutes. It became crackly and painful. He could not sleep, work or socialize. Life was miserable. There had been a few times that his allergic symptoms were so severe that we rushed him to emergency room for concern of anaphylactic reactions. By the summer of 2006, he had two skin biopsies, multiple allergy testings, countless blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy. The diagnosis was established as contact and irritant dermatitis with the original culprit being the chemicals he was exposed to for twenty years. His symptoms were much more systemic and refractory than any contact dermatitis I have encountered. The treatments he was receiving included escalating strength of topical steroid cream, increasing doses of antihistamines and bottles of moisturizer. Frustrated with the lack of efficacy of his treatments, my mother (an acupuncturist herself) sought help from her senior colleagues in Boston area. My father underwent multiple courses of herbal remedies without any improvement. He went back to see the immunologist who offered immune suppression with high dose systemic intravenous steroid or chemotherapy, as the last option. At that time, we already knew my father’s immune system was dysfunctional based on his blood tests. After careful consideration, my father declined the treatment . We were left in a very difficult situation. We had no other treatment option and the status quo was not bearable. At the darkest hour, our prayers were answered and a life altering opportunity presented itself. Professor Wangqi happened to visit his son in Boston and my mother had met him during one of his international presentations a few years earlier. Hoping to have an opportunity to inquire about my father’s disease, my parents went to visit Professor Wang the day he arrived Boston. That was my father’s favorite moment. Professor Wang was coming down the stairs, when my parents were greeting him. He took a look at my father’s face, said “you have contact dermatitis, I will write a prescription for you”. He turned around, wrote down on a piece of paper without asking any history, nor checking the pulse and the tongue. My parents were amazed at how personable Professor Wang was. The prescription consisted of several simple common herbs, nothing rare or expensive. My father started the daily herbal remedies. On the third day, his skin was redder as if everything was erupting to the surface. By the fifth day, his skin started to crust over and heal. The itching and dryness were dramatically better that he did not need much ointment or antihistamines. Within the first course of treatment ( about ten days), my father had not felt that comfortable and hopeful for over a year. We were all in awe. With just one simple look, Professor Wang accomplished the task that the specialists could not achieve in over a year: make the correct diagnosis, and the highly effective treatment plan. In a month, his dermatitis was essentially cured and he had this life back. Except a brief relapse in the summer of 2009, which abated with a short herbal course, my father had not suffered further attacks of dermatitis.

    We have been deeply grateful for my father’s miraculous recovery. This is the first time that I witnessed how amazing herbal medicine could be in the hands of an experienced practitioner. Professor Wang has such a profound understanding of the essence of each herb as well as accurate assessment of the individual person. The mastery of the two aspects makes his practice a fine art. Since then, I had a chance to read his masterpiece on different types of body constitutions. The book is an outstanding contribution to health and well-being of millions. It provides an individual blueprint for everyone regarding his or her health. In modern Western Medicine, we are gradually recognizing there are individual differences in respect to disease and treatment. We still have limited understanding of the origin of this individuality, which is commonly attributed to a person’s genetic or ethnic background. With the theory of body constitution, health and disease are truly individualized even in the same genetic population, as a result of intricate interplay of genetic and environmental factors. It revolutionizes how I view health and disease and fills the missing link which I even had difficulty to name. I wish his work can be translated into other languages, so that millions more people will be benefit from it. My family is truly fortunate, that my father is cured of his conditions, and our eyes are opened to a new realm of concepts of health.”

My daughter earned her M.D. from the medical school at Duke University. She has been a physician for 13 years, including 10 years as a hospitalist that serves patients in critical conditions. What helped her change her mind about TCM, I think, is her Chinese culture background, her practice of medicine and her own personal experience. She knows the limitations of western medicine.

We, as Chinese medical practitioners, have much to offer the medical community, the patients, and particularly in the field of health.

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