- Personal Doc, Culture, Foreign Worlds, and Society
Have you feel when you go to the hospital, you just spend around five minutes with your doctor, and you can't feel their concern? This film explores traditional Chinese medicine in the United States through the lens of an American alternative medicine practitioner. Ruth McCarty provides life-changing care for children facing difficult diagnoses, as she struggles to find a place for her practice within the world of Western medicine. According to Dr. Ruth, she intends to, not only to share a new potential cure, but also a new spiritual way of keeping healthy. Bearing this in mind, she has the faith that traditional Chinese medicine can under the same roof with the western medicine in the future.
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Fade into an ink wash painting animation: Fuxi (one of the sovereign) invented acupuncture, and Yan emperor tasted hundreds of herbs and discovered their qualities as medicine. With traditional xChinese music in the background, narration or interview begins: Thousands of years ago, Chinese medicine originated during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperor times (pre-dynastic times). It’s a totally different medicine in comparison with the Western Medicine regarding the respect of science and technology.
Animation transits from Chinese ink wash painting into oil painting, foregrounding advanced medical equipment.
Interview of an expert who studies Chinese Medicine in China: “What’s the history of Chinese Medicine? What is Chinese Medicine? And What’s the difference between Western Medicine and Oriental Medicine?
Archive: Asian immigrants landed upon the United States by water. Dr. Wayne Cheng from South Baylo University said: the very first acupuncture was immigrants, when they first came back in 1800. And they brought the knowledge, like Chinese herbs and some acupuncture. It’s just more of a family within a close society. Chinese Medicine was a way for Asian immigrants to earn a living and they opened up their own clinics. At the very beginning, Chinese Medicine was used in treating solely Asian Americans, but not until Nixon’s visit to China in the 1970s. Archive photos: James Reston and President Mao. During that period of time, Henry Kissinger was visiting China, accompanied by a renowned journalist, James Reston. During his stay Beijing, Reston suddenly came down with an acute appendicitis. He was admitted into a hospital and received a treatment by an acupuncturist. Within just an hour, Reston felt all the better, which sparked a wave of enthusiastic interest in acupuncture all across the United States.
Narration or title card: As everyone knows, United States has the most advanced medical system in the world. Why Americans still need Chinese Medicine?
Acupuncture stores fast cut. Nowadays, there are more than 30,000 licensed acupuncturists in the United States. We can see the success and popularity of acupuncture in the U.S. from this statistics. And Dr.Ruth is one of them.
Early in the morning, Dr. Ruth goes to work in CHOC(Children’s Hospital in Orange County) as usual. She starts preparing all the tools needed for today’s treatment. (ID: Dr. Ruth McCarthy, Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at CHOC hospital; a licensed acupuncturist; the founder of Open Mind Modalities Clinic..) Many people who become Chinese medicine practitioners have had some kind of experience with Chinese medicine that it has helped illness or disability that wasn't addressed very well by western medicine. When I was in school, my fellow students all had very similar stories that they had had… they had had an illness or their family members had had an illness and they had received great benefit from receiving Chinese medicine. Dr. Ruth’s old still fade in. In my case, I had a very serious neck injury and I went from being a very, active high level athlete first responder on the beach, that basically put me in chronic pain for over two years. And western medicine really didn't have anything to offer me, and out of seeking some alternative method for pain control, I went to an acupuncturist and had such a profound healing effect that within three months I was enrolled in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.
Painful patients footage. Now there are so many kind of cracks that people are unsatisfied with their healthcare. in 1998, JAMA published a whole journal dedicated to alternative medicine, they surveyed the American public and found that, American citizens were paying billions of dollars in outpatient for more holistic care. So I think that's when the western medical community really took notice that we have some cracks in our delivery. Dr. Ruth treats patients in CHOC. Because people are seeking out this care. And they are seeking out this care because they're not getting something in the delivery in… in the western institutions. Thus, I build my own Chinese Medical Department in CHOC.
What is Chinese Medicine? What is its function? We visit South Baylo University, which is the oldest Chinese medical school in America. Dr. Wayne Cheng gives us a tour: western medicine always rely on antibiotic and surgeries, the development of Western medicine is really slow now. Scientists used 100 years to find penicillin, and the speed of finding new antibiotics is slower than the speed of people has antibody now. Otherwise, there are a lot of disadvantages of Western Medicine. Some disease western medicine can’t cure them but Chinese medicine can.
If you have any patients you can’t cure, just give them to me. At that time, almost all of the western doctors had doubts about her department. Cut to Dr.Ruth with her colleagues. I first started at CHOC in 2002 I received my inpatient privileges. And it was an education process of educating western physicians of what I could bring to the table to help their patients. There have been very few roadblocks in implementing this program once the physicians understood that I'm educated in Chinese medicine, I made it very clear from the beginning that I was not there to replace anything. I was just there to add another level of care to improve the quality of life of the pediatric patient.
Cut to a sick young man, who is going to receive an acupuncture treatment. I will tell you about the first patient I treated in the hospital who was a young man, Taylor Martin, he had a very complicated disease called neurofibromatosis type 2, which, it's a genetic disease and he would have benign tumors, fibrosis tumors in his central, really all over his body and his brain, and his spinal cord that would make him very sick. Dr. Loudoun operated on him many many times and he would end up in the intensive care unit at shock with intractable nausea, vomiting and headaches. And I told the intensivist Dr. Goodman, this is something that Chinese medicine could address. So Dr. Goodman who has been a champion of bringing Chinese medicine into the intensive care unit, went to the medical staff and obtained temporary privileges for me to treat Taylor. And the results were astounding. Combined with western antiemetics for nausea and vomiting plus acupuncture, Taylor stopped vomiting, and his nausea was controlled, and his headaches were better controlled. That's showed many doctors and many nurses that, wow, Chinese medicine has something to offer, to improve quality of life. Seeing is believing.
In the morning, we visited Dr. Ruth’s home, she was doing yoga and watering flowers. I have five acupuncturist that work in my practice and we all offer supportive care to each other. I really depend on kind of mind/body/spirit practices to keep myself healthy. I'm a meditator. I do yoga. I surf. I swim. I’m really kind of dependent on physical activity to keep myself healthy. So I try to stay active. The most important thing of being a doctor is keeping yourself healthy.
Dr. Ruth went to her own clinic: Open Minded. Today, she’s going to treat a special case: Sophia. Sophia went into the room in a wheelchair, which was pushed by her mother Racheal. They were waiting to see Dr. Ruth. Open Minded financial manager Celeste greeted Sophia, Hi, Sophia, How are you? Sophia spoke very slowly to everyone: “ I..am…Fine..”. Dr. Ruth went out with needles and started to chat with Racheal, asking about Sophia’s condition in the past two weeks. Sophia has a very debilitating neurological disease. It’s a kind of, she just was diagnose with a genetic disease this year, but she has many many many neurological problems. She has spasticity, she has very impaired vision, she has many many metabolic problems. So she's a very complicated case. She has received scalp acupuncture pretty much every week, for at least, I think I've been treating Sophia going on to our fourth year. And she, compared to the other children with similar diseases, she has not developed scoliosis. And I treat her mom, too. Dr. Ruth start to do acupuncture for her, we can cut to some close up of the needles inside her body. Dr. Ruth are explaining, why those points helped for her body. And she start to treat Rachael as well. In my outpatient clinic, I'd always offered care to family members, so I have a very family-centered care practice. In Chinese medicine is such a beautifully, eloquent system of connection that there are acupuncture points that improve the connection between a parent and a child. So I focus on that connection. And I found out that if I treat the whole family, that the patient does better. And that's because of the emotional connections, and the spiritual connections.
We followed Rachael and Sophia while they went through some western medical examinations. Racheal starts to talk about her previous experiences. She used to lean quite a bit to the right and now you're much straighter. And I'm pretty certain a lot of that had to do with acupuncture based on that was the only thing we changed clinically. And four years ago she didn't have one word. Our insurance company covers our ten visits a year. So, which is pretty good since we only come every other week. Then we just have to pay the regular co-pay which is not, it's really not bad, considering everything else we will pay for her. you know, the wonderful, how much better we feel from after we leave. It's well worth the price.
So even when insurance, well we already met all of our insurance cost, I can't complain.
Running a Chinese medical business is very hard in the United States. Sophia is lucky, but I think my biggest challenges are financial reimbursement. In Orange County, in Santa Ana I think there’re 60,000 children who have no access to health care. In the hospital where I’m covered, each child can get the Chinese medicine treatment once one has the request, without worrying about the payment because the hospital would pay. But for outpatient, it’s a different story. Therefore, I’ve worked very hard with the hospital and numerous insurance companies to figure out ways for these kids to get free treatment and I and my other practitioners can receive some reimbursements at the same time. Thus, more people would have access to Chinese medicine treatment. Healthcare in the United States is not offered for free, rather, it’s based on insurance, or you should be involved in a government program for reimbursement. In the past and nowadays still, acupuncture is not considered as a standard form of medical care qualified for reimbursement. Therefore, I’m working very hard to try to change this situation.
Dr. Ruth was going to open a new clinic near CHOC. She gave us a tour around the empty clinic. Her assistant told us: The reason she was going to open a clinic near CHOC was because CHOC had set up a lot of limitations on the usage of Chinese medicine, and we can recieve and treat more patients from CHOC. In CHOC, Dr. Ruth can only make use of needles. Unlike other western doctors, she can’t write out prescriptions for patients.
Dr. Wayne Cheng said: Chinese Medicine is just an alternative medicine in the U.S, and those who practice Chinese medicine can’t be addressed as “doctor.” And all herbs are not recognized as medicines but simply health care products. We visited Sun Ten Laboratories, which imports Chinese herbs into the United States. The Manager there told us: All the Chinese herbs in the U.S. were not considered as medicines but more of health care products, like Vitamins. And a lot of medicines were legally not allowed to be imported. Chinese doctors needed to find substitutes for their patients, in the cases that they need herbs that can’t be imported.
We visited Doctor Ruth’s husband, a doctor who practiced modern medicine. He was filling some documents in his office. Actually, I strongly feel that these two medicines should be combined together because they are complimentary to each other: modern medicine treats cancer and emergent cases while Chinese medicine works well for rehabilitation. Normally I would introduce my post-surgery patients to Ruth. I feel that when two medicine combines each other, Modern medicine treat cancer, emergency problems, and Chinese medicine can rehabilitate. Normally, when my patients finished a surgery, I will introduce them to Ruth.
Dr. Ruth and her husband were holding hands while sailing together. Whatever medicine we use, the target is to heal the patients. One of my goals is to develop um… an educational program. So we can take this model and teach it to other pediatric hospitals so every child in this country, if they are admitted into a pediatric hospital, can receive this level of care. And that's what I'm working on now. I hope in the future, we can see practices of both modern and Chinese medicines under the same roof.
- Running time
- 25 minutes
- Dora Wu ... Director, Co-producer
- United States
- Years of Production
- Orange County, Changsha
- Release year
- Chinese American Film Festival/ Awareness Festival/ Beaufort International Film Festival
- AltFF Alternative Film Festival Winner
- English/ Chinese
- English/ Chinese
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