All about training

I’ve got a pet peeve. It’s actually pretty large.

I had a patient who was on an herbal formula that contained Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia Radix preparata), common name “Chinese foxglove”. After taking the formula to her western doctor, her western doctor probably saw “foxglove” and thought “Foxglove is digitalis! This could slow your heart!”

And all my patient said “these herbs can slow down my heart!”, who had a slow resting heart rate to begin with. I had never heard of that ability of any of the many Chinese herbs they taught us about in school, so we’d avoid herbs for the time being. Which was great! The patient felt safer, and I felt happier because my patient felt safer.

Two weeks later, I was talking to a colleague, and he pointed out the foxglove connection. I was excited: I learned something new, and would get to educate my patient, and would hopefully resume helping her with herbal medicine in addition to acupuncture.

After I explained this to my patient, she accepted the information, but said she was going to listen to her western doctor, because her western doctor was Chinese. I accepted this, because who am I to contradict a western doctor, when a patient is more comfortable with their advice? But there was something that bothered me about that, and it took a long time to figure it out.

The doctor did not know anything about herbal medicine! She mistook common names of herbs for the actual names of herbs! And my patient wanted to listen to her (no herbal training) over me (substantial herbal training!), because… “She is Chinese.” As if ethnicity and skin color automatically imparts knowledge!

I felt angry and hurt and despondent over this for quite sometime, but it’s now an important part of my practice: if a person wants to value ethnicity over training, I will gladly refer them to another practitioner (who matches their ethnic criteria for “authority”). Because I’ve lived in China, and I’ve popped my romantic prejudices of Asian cultures, and I want people to get healthier and happier, whether they come to me or not.

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