To Qi, or Not to Qi, that Is the Question

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People often ask me, why does a physician in practice for 28 years go back to school for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture? Is it because I am jealous of my daughter attending college and I wanted to enjoy the Greek life? I cannot deny the coincidence is quite suspicious. However, my interest in TCM dates back to my own college days. I owned a copy of the Barefoot Doctor’s Manual, which sat on my bookshelf for years. I never got past a few lines about “dampness in the lower burner” and “excess phlegm.” After all, my goal was to become a physician and I liked wearing my clogs back then.

TCM is quite strange, much like a foreign language to a Western-trained physician. The vocabulary and terms used are unique to TCM and bear little resemblance to the medical physiology known in the Western world. As I have become more knowledgeable about the fundamentals of TCM, I have been fascinated by the elaborate construct of ideas on which TCM is based. Observations of thousands of cases led to the development of theories regarding disease, illness and healing. To my physician friends that question the concept of treating pain and illness by manipulating meridians of qi, I ask: Who are we to question the collective wisdom and experience of hundreds of generations of healers, who through trial and error established successful treatment protocols? I personally have seen many examples of accepted medical truths rejected and disproved since graduating medical school in 1981.


As an infertility specialist, my goal is to help patients overcome their reproductive challenges. We have great tools in Western medicine, but sometimes they are not enough. I am reminded of the book Life of Pi. The protagonist tells his story where he is stuck for months with a tiger on a lifeboat. The investigators reject his story as unbelievable and insist on the “truth.” He then tells the story substituting people for the animals on the lifeboat, which is acceptable to the investigators. In both stories, the outcome was the same. Why does it matter which story was true? Similarly, with TCM, if we can achieve the desired outcome—in my specialty, the much sought-after pregnancy and healthy baby—why does it matter if we cannot explain from a Western perspective the science behind the therapy? I hope that with TCM I will be able to add yet another tool to assist my patients with their journey to building their family.  

David Kreiner, acupuncture student at New York College of Health Professions, is the winner of the college’s 2015 Summer Article Writing Contest, which appears in its entirety above. He is currently a reproductive endocrinologist specializing in infertility.

New York College of Health Professions is an institutionally accredited, private non-profit institution offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in massage therapy, acupuncture and Oriental medicine. For more information, call 800-922-7337 or visit NYCollege.edu. See ad on page XX.

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