by Evelyne Vivies
How good is your Chi? Find out at The Center for Integrated Medicine in Visalia.
Dr. Kwong has two doctorates: one in western medicine and the other in Chinese medicine. Patients of her clinic, The Center for Integrated Medicine, get the best of both worlds, Eastern and Western medicine. She started the clinic in 1994, but Dr. Kwong’s expertise goes back three generations to Hong Kong where her great-uncle practiced Chinese medicine and healing herbs.As the name implies, her practice integrates all the branches of Chinese medicine. Here, patients are treated with natural, holistic medicine, integrating the entire body. “Traditional Chinese acupuncture is not just about acupuncture,” explains Dr. Kwong. “In addition to acupuncture, we also do oriental bodywork, which includes things like cupping, ear therapy, and massages. We also have an on-sight, medicinal-grade herbal pharmacy. This is very unique. Most clinics don’t mix the two.” The clinic also integrates Chinese nutrition in the form of recipes that help with certain conditions. They also give classes, which include Chinese healing exercises of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, Feng Shui, and very popular cooking classes.
“Chinese medicine is like being a farmer, treating the body as though it were a plant. Conventional medicine doctors are more like mechanics. They fix the parts. Something is wrong with the gallbladder? Let’s just take it out. Something wrong with your elbow? We’ll just fix that elbow. Something wrong with your blood pressure? The numbers are wrong? We need to concentrate on just that. So the concept is being more of a mechanic fixing parts. It’s not interrelated. The parts don’t transition as in Chinese medicine.”
“In Chinese medicine, the process is longer,” explains Dr. Kwong. “When you’re farming you look at your plants. Chinese medicine is about looking at the whole body as though it were a whole plant or tree, and it’s changing all the time. You have to nourish that plant. Some months you have to trim. Some months you have to fertilize. Some months the plant requires more sun. Some months you have to adjust your plant to a different lighting system or watering system. Whereas in conventional medicine there is no such thing.”
When you come to the clinic you are coming to a professional who is going to look at your health history and come up with an assessment that is based entirely on natural, holistic, traditional Chinese medicine. The goal: looking for imbalances in the patient’s Chi. “We examine the organs through the patient’s pulse using palpation,” explains Dr. Kwong. “We look at the patient’s tongue. We look at the patient’s complexion. We use inquiry, meaning asking questions, not just about the symptoms but things that would indicate a pattern in a holistic way.” They will examine the Chi level in your body.
But what exactly is Chi?
“To understand Chi,” explains Dr. Kwong, “you have to understand the foundation of Chinese medicine. Chi is the force that does the work in your body. Chi is a general concept, it’s not just one thing. It’s not a panacea. Chi can be anything. When your body needs to get rid of something, it needs a certain Chi. To get a certain organ to work requires a certain Chi. When your body needs more oxygen, it requires a Chi called Jong Chi. When your body has too much inflammation then it gets rid of bad Chi. Chi is the transformation of physiology. It’s not just energy, not just force, but also movement. It means an indivisible air. It means a defense system.”
Is your Chi a little confused? Keep reading.
“When you look at the Chinese writing,” explains Dr. Kwon, “the word for Chi has a grain of rice in it’s inner part. In other words, to preserve your Chi, the good Chi, you need proper nutrition. The top part of Chi has a big dragon tail, which means air. A vital, invisible force. That’s a whole concept of Chinese medicine that is so different than that of conventional medicine because it has an understanding of the body as a whole as opposed to conventional medicine which only sees health through a very narrow lens. A lot of western doctors know about it but they might not know how to explain it.”
That is why Dr. Kwong has created a teaching center within her clinic. The Center for Integrated Medicine is an accredited teaching facility through the state of California. “They intern here to understand traditional Chinese medicine. Most of these students are coming from a conventional medicine background, but they chose this as their elective. That is very helpful because, once they graduate and become physicians or health practitioners, they can better explain this medicine to their patients.”
She has precepted over 80 students from different universities. “We have a few coming this year from the Osteopathic School in Clovis and the pharmacy school of the University of the Pacific of Stockton. I am also affiliated with Loma Linda in Los Angeles, UCSF, and even out of state schools send me their students. I take both conventional medicine interns and the Chinese medicine interns from the acupuncture colleges like Five Branches University, Empress College, and Yo San University in Los Angeles. I don’t charge for this. My main purpose is to help spread the word. Sometimes in order to get the information to the patient, you have to teach the doctors first so that they can relay accurate information.”
Dr. Kwong is also able to take medical apprentices. “That means that one does not have to go to a medical school or a school of oriental medicine. They will learn from me. Students who have finished their bachelor’s in pre-med can apprentice with me for five years and then take the California state examination and the state does not charge them tuition. I am one of only a few centers that the State of California will do this for. This is very interesting because they don’t have to get a student loan to go to school.” Dr. Kwong is looking for a possible candidate for an apprenticeship. Pre-med students can find this very interesting information on the center’s website www.allholisticmed.org.
Dr. Kwong also has several non-profits. “I formed non-profits many years ago just to introduce the Asian culture to the community.” A major one is the Asian Cultural Society which puts on the festive annual Chinese New Year celebration. They also have the Autumn Moon Festival, a tea-tasting event, where very delicious Chinese beverage teas such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are sampled. It is an evening gala which takes place in the second week in October. “It has a lot to do with eating moon cake and drinking tea. It’s really fun, and people really enjoy that.”
As if all this is not enough to keep Dr. Kwong extremely busy, she is also now starting a Chinese medicinal garden and herb walk for educational purposes. Proof that her energy Chi is obviously in excellent working condition!
The Center for Integrated Medicine
Dr. Kwong, Pharm. D., L.Ac., O.M.D.
Co-founder and Owner
816 W. Oak Ave
Visalia, California 93291