Episode 2: Life at VUIM and Studying for a Career in Integrative Medicine
This week we were joined by 3 current students, Renee Lee, Colleen Rossier, and Jacob Rosenbaum to discuss their experiences at VUIM, how to handle the course load and their prospects looking forward.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Integrative medicine has been around for thousands of years and is now a widely used form of healthcare across the modern world. In this podcast we discuss holistic wellness and share how integrative medicine has evolved to become a part of our culture today. This is All Things Integrative brought to you by the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (00:33):
Integrative is a two pronged approach for me. The first most important thing is looking at the patient and so we’re looking at the whole aspect of the patient to look at not just their physical symptoms, but also their emotional symptoms and their spiritual symptoms. So treating the mind, the body, the spirit, and then we’re also looking at integrative from a big holistic picture of the practitioner also. So we want to make sure the practitioner isn’t just looking at one way to do medicine. We’re looking at are they including multiple aspects to treat the same thing to find out what works best for that patient. Every patient is different and so as a practitioner, an integrated practitioner is looking to find the best treatment for that patient to treat the whole aspect of the patient on the mind, body and spirit. It’s also the practitioner is always looking and learning for something new, for something that is going to serve more people with the least amount of side effects.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (01:28):
We’re not looking to do a one size fits all treatment in an integrative approach. We’re looking for each patient receiving a specialized form of care. And then the biggest thing for me, my passion of integrative care is we’re working to empower the patient to treat themselves too. It’s not just about them coming to seek a power figure to tell them how to take care of themselves. It’s them coming and learning from somebody who is constantly learning and diving into the research so they can take that information and go home with it and help treat themselves constantly in the mind, body, spirit. The biggest reason that I think to enroll at this school is the community aspect. The mission statement of the school involves community and accessibility to the community for integrative medicine and the university has put together a student body that builds community.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (02:16):
Also, We’re not doing this by ourselves alone. We’re actually doing it with the most diverse environment I’ve ever worked or lived in. And with that we’re able to take all of different perspectives from all over the globe into our classrooms. That gives us such a rich environment to learn from. We’re also taking classes with students who are taking Korean and English classes or Chinese and English classes. And so we’re able to talk to students who are reading the original language that this medicine was written in and they’re able to interpret it in a living way that as an American English speaker, I can learn from better than me sitting and reading a textbook. People are always sick. We’re gonna be free of, of being out of balance. We will always be out of balance in some form or fashion. We’ll be out of balance spiritually or emotionally or physically.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (03:09):
And so an acupuncture with our specialty is being to resolve balance. We’re always going to have patients who need that help. Our success in the field has to do with how well we can communicate that need to the patient. And that’s where our Achilles heel is. Cause people don’t always believe acupuncture can help. And so an acupuncturist may not always know how to go out and market themselves to succeed in this field. But if our root passion is to go out and help patients achieve balance and heal and we can communicate that to our patients, we have an endless supply of patients. We have no side effects to our medicine minus a pneumothorax, which we know how to avoid very successfully, then we can’t harm our patients. And so we can go and sell a form of medicine to people who will always need to be rebalanced and that will never end.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (03:57):
It’s an ongoing profession that requires very manual little manual labor from us too. So we can practice this medicine well into our seventies and eighties and still find joy in what we’re doing and helping people. It has been a journey of growth. So I decided to start at this university at about the same time the university was starting to grow and the university had just achieved its accreditation for an acupuncture only degree. They had had their Oriental medicine then needed to receive just the MAc accreditation. And so they had just recently received that and I decided I would join at that time. That meant that as I was suddenly being thrown into growing for my own personal self, I joined an organization that was growing at the same time. And so my time here has been spent participating with the university and how to grow improve the classroom, give feedback on the clinic, give feedback on our instructors.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (04:52):
And really as I’m growing in my knowledge of acupuncture, I’ve been able to do that alongside the school as they’re growing in their delivery of the knowledge of the acupuncture. So it has been full of reward and full of the fire hose feeling drinking from a fire hose because it’s been a lot, but it’s been incredibly rewarding and I’m thrilled to almost be done and go forth and do this on my own. I have big dreams and the biggest aspect of my dream is to have a huge integrated clinic. So I have two business partners right now and we actually just met this past weekend about setting up our future clinic and how, how we will work together to bring a whole host of, of options to our patients. Not necessarily from a collaborative perspective but more from an integrated perspective. So I’m wanting to make sure that we have, we have the right people in place to have multiple perspectives that can help us grow and keep learning and researching.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (05:55):
That clinic we will have two major focus aspects. One of my passions is community acupuncture and so we want to make sure that we’re offering services to a demographic of people who would not otherwise be able to come and have acupuncture. So a community clinic involves a sliding scale payment set in a community aspect, so multiple people at one time and that will be part of our clinic. And the other part of our clinic will be a more traditional style of acupuncture and other modalities that we’ll be offering also. So once I graduate, I’m looking to take this live and turn it into a profession that can, can feed my family. Find a mentor. There are certain students that come to acupuncture school and they’ve never even had acupuncture. There are some students who have had it one or two times and were mesmerized by it and so excited and felt that it was their journey to, to join on and come do.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (06:53):
And I’ve found that the students that have had mentors before, so the students that have spent a little bit of extra time on the outside studying this form of medicine are able to learn it and apply it and with a little bit less stress than the other ones. I had a mentor coming into this and it’s really allowed me to be a little more grounded in the classroom and apply the information in a different way. Well, I’m from Texas and we ride a lot of horses in Texas and if you ever watch there’s horse blinders that, that get on horses so they don’t get distracted by other things that are happening around them. Integrative medicine is when we take off the horse blinders. So instead of just looking at something through one focus and one style of learning, we take the blinders off and we’re able to look all around us so that we can say, you know what?
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (07:46):
For this patient, I know this doesn’t normally work. What other tools do I have in my tool bag that I can use? Taking off the blinders lets me look more and wider, and that’s really the quintessential part of integrative medicine because I can focus my care to the patient specific and give a very personalized level of care while I’m connecting all the dots from all of the different studies that I’ve put into being a good practitioner. Well, I’m probably about seven years ago, I sort of reached a point in my family’s life where my daughter and I were both quite sick. I’d had a lifetime of health issues and didn’t really know where to go with them. Nobody was really able to help me or explain, and so I did my best. I call it living on a Teeter totter. I was always looking to try to be in control.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (08:36):
But inevitably something would get introduced to my body, a food or a chemical or something in the environment and I would tip either physically unhealthy or mentally unhealthy. And then my daughter was diagnosed with some health problems and I began managing her care and that made a big struggle in my own health. So about seven years, I met a woman who was an acupuncturist and she was going through additional training in a form of homeopathy and I was fascinated by her and she was really interested to share what she knew with me. And so I started applying what she was talking about doing acupuncture or not puncture acupressure and really trying to look at my food and diet in a different way and look at my care and began receiving treatment from her on the ear primarily for regular acupuncture, is what we call it.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (09:26):
Then I started studying a little bit at home and reading a little bit more about it and was fascinated that it was working with my family and I understood what the material I was reading was saying and I was able to then apply that to. So over a couple of years I just started doing a little bit more with that and studying it more. And then slowly friends were coming and saying, you know, I’m having, I’m having some constipation problems and I’d acupressure certain areas. And I was reading their body and asking their body what it, what it needed support with. And I was finding points that are classical, not our classical texts. Our Bible text, dead man was saying, pair together really well for these conditions. And my friends were saying that they were feeling better. And so then lo and behold, at that point, all the doors and windows opened and the universe said, you have to go to acupuncture school.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (10:17):
And my parents moved here. So we had childcare accessible. My husband changed jobs and he wasn’t traveling anymore. The UAM had just gotten its accreditation and just the MAc. I had discovered community acupuncture and was blown away by it. And so I reached out and talked to the school and sent in my application and started this journey. If you decide to go to acupuncture school, be prepared to feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. It is overwhelming. There is so much new content and new perspectives, everything that you understand about the human body and medicine from a truly Western approach. If you grew up in America, you pretty much understand the Western approach and you have to be able to take that information and learn it from our Western medicine classes and understand that whole new language that’s Greek and Latin. And then you have to learn the world of acupuncture at the same time.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (11:16):
And you’re learning Chinese as you’re going through there and you’re trying to figure out both these systems all at once. And so your first year is just a time where you are hanging on for dear life and trying not to drown. Then by the second year you get, you get far more comfortable. You’ve heard all the information before and so now you’re just going in applying all the information in both your Western medicine and your acupuncture classes. It’s far less overwhelming. It’s far more exciting because you’re actually beginning to connect the dots. You’re memorizing a lot less your first year. It’s a ton of memorization. Your second year you’re applying all that work you did the first, you’re applying all the memorization and it’s, it’s much easier to sit in class and understand what the instructor is saying without having those waves of overwhelm happening.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (12:02):
And then by the third year you’re in clinic and you’re rocking what you’ve understood your first two years and so you’re really able to engage with the instructors in a whole different way and you’re beginning to start to teach the students below you and so you’re participating in your community as a teacher, which is very exciting to me. So it’s a, it’s a stage, it’s a process for each level where you really actually can feel yourself growing and feel yourself becoming more and more prepared for what your end goal is. I think the biggest strength of the UIM is, is truly the interest and growing. So I talked about that when I started here. The school was at a growth stage and the whole time I’ve been here, they’ve stayed in that stage. They’ve always been really interested in improving themselves in the classroom. They’ve been interested in improving themselves in the clinic.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (12:54):
And you can see that in our student body and how it has changed and evolved. You can see that in how the instructors are really getting more tailored to what the school’s mission is. So the biggest strength is just the growth that the school is interested in pursuing. I would like to say strength number two though is the student body. I adore the fact that I’m sitting in a classroom and working among people who are from all over the world. It just is the, the most glorious experience to receive everybody’s interpretation of what’s happening. And, and then the, the growth opportunity, if I remember correctly, that you asked for. I think it’s continuing to just enrich the classroom experience. We hear a lot. Google in fact is working on the flipped classroom. You’re hearing a lot of press from Google about that and how they’re trying to use Google classroom to manage that.
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (13:51):
We have an opportunity to do that as acupuncturists. One thing that’s really easy to do in a lot of the Western medicine classes talk about it actually is, is the aspect of touch and acupuncture is a beautiful form of medicine. It’s an art form to be able to touch the patient and read the body through the channel work and, and through the, the tissue layers of the entire body. And so if we can take that idea of that acupuncture is a form of art that’s engaging with the human body and apply that to our classroom by saying that we have these texts that we can sit and read or we can listen to a lecture about and that’s great, but taking it to the next level of actually applying the information in a super meaningful way in the classroom, even outside of our practical classes, then I think that that would just be a glorious moment to, to connect those dots. Again, like I’d mentioned about in our second and third year, so that when we’re sitting in an anatomy class, we’re palpating the muscles at the same time as we’re talking about and we’re finding our boning landmarks while we’re studying the different
Speaker: Student, Renee Lee (14:52):
Types of bones and really leaning into that flip classroom application model.
Speaker: Student, Colleen Rossier (15:00):
Hello, my name is Colleen Rossier. I’m a third year student at Virginia university of integrative medicine. So to me integrative is about basically looking at the same person symptoms per se from a lot of different perspectives. And I think the huge value here is Western and Eastern medicines kind of coming together with their different cultural backgrounds and different paradigms. I think there’s a lot of different ways you can then look at the same problem to come up with a more comprehensive solution. Yeah. So I think I mean I think it’s a really important field. I think, I mean from my own life, I’m sure many of us have heard things on the news, but just healthcare in general has a lot of challenges in the United States and around the world currently. And I think in particular there’s a lot of diseases or conditions that Western medicine hasn’t quite figured out how to treat adequately.
Speaker: Student, Colleen Rossier (16:09):
So I think there’s a great opportunity to be coming from and really truly understanding both sides. I think there’s a lot of people that are falling through the cracks. Currently, I’m in my own life. I had two different health issues. I guess you could say that Western my Western doctors, as wonderful as they are and as well intelligent as they were, weren’t really getting to the root cause of what was going on for me. And that’s what led me to acupuncture. I started going to a Chinese medical doctor in California and he started treating me with acupuncture and a lot of herbs. And four months later my issues were entirely resolved. Whereas from the Western perspective, they’re just, they didn’t really know what was going on with me and wanted to put me on some drugs that weren’t really going to be addressing the root cause.
Speaker: Student, Colleen Rossier (17:04):
And I don’t think, I mean, I don’t mean to sound like entirely anti-Western cause I think there’s a lot of really important work that’s done in hospitals by Western doctors. I have a lot of friends who are doctors. But I just think that without considering multiple perspectives, it’s easy to, mm, just not understand something that’s going on. What I’m just seeing is that there’s a lot of people with chronic conditions that are not fully served within our current medical system. And so I think more and more people are turning tall. What was first considered kind of complementary or alternative and it’s now kind of moving into integrative, which is then this kind of more brought into the mainstream that it’s becoming more accepted from a Western perspective to be seeking out an acupuncturist or a Chinese or Korean or Japanese medical doctor.
Speaker: Student, Colleen Rossier (18:02):
So I think, yeah, both, both like social acceptance in the United States had happened first in the West coast and now it’s kind of coming to the East and maybe even the Midwest. It’s a good time. And then I think also just people want answers for things that have been chronic conditions. I think I want to specialize in a few different fields. I want to specialize in women’s health. That was what brought me in. I also want to work with digestive and autoimmune conditions. And I’d also like to work with like anxiety and depression types. Because I think all three of those, there’s a lot of value that Eastern medicine has to bring to the mix. And I would also like to work in a practice that is integrative. I’d like to be working very closely with Western doctors. And also chiropractors, physical therapists.
Speaker: Student, Colleen Rossier (18:56):
A lot of people come to acupunctures for pain issues which can also be related to more chronic stuff. The more chronic stuff is often like the most interesting for me. But I think the team approach is the best way. And one of the classes we had last quarter are red flags. Which was all about what to pay attention to when a patient is talking to you in the clinic and what to be listening for to make sure that you’re going to catch anything that could become an emergency really fast and when to refer out and to whom you’re referring and at what level of urgency. And I think that was a really important class to me. And it just also made me aware of the value of working with Western doctors. Sometimes people come in with stuff that it’s, yeah, it’s an emergency or it needs to be dealt with in a Western hospital. And I really value the care that they have.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (19:54):
My name’s Jacob Rosenbaum. I’ve been a student at view. I have been for about a year. And gosh, I’m passionate about Chinese medicine Brazilian jiu jitsu and people. So yeah, it’s a, it’s really a pleasure to be a student here. We just got done with a clinical shift and yeah, I really enjoy working with the patients and learning something new every day. One of the things that I thought was so cool about Virginia university of integrative medicine is that that’s such an important word. I mean, it really in my mind explains what we’re doing here because we’re not actually in traditional China, you know, we’re in, you know, present day America. And so I think a lot of what we’re doing here is very accurately described as integrative medicine. So it’s a combination of techniques, you know, used in traditional China and you know, modern America.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (20:43):
So integrative just means in my mind, a combination, all the great things. And specifically integrative medicine would be a combination of all the wonderful things. Regarding medicine. I would say probably one of my, the, my favorite things about this field is that you get to work hands on with people and you make a real impact. So I know that sounds a little cheesy, you know, everyone wants to make an impact. But I think if you’re interested in making a impact on, you know, people’s quality of life working in the medical field is, is for sure a direct way to do that. Yeah. Yeah. You know, it’s been a really great overall experience. I, I did a, I am a transfer student, so I did half of my acupuncture education at five branches university in California, and then the half of it here so far.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (21:27):
And it’s been, it’s been really good. So I’ve really enjoyed working with I’ve been really impressed with the teachers that teach when it comes to biomedicine. So that’s been wonderful. And it’s just been an overall good experience. I really, really liked the people. I would never want to say anything negative about my other school or schools I’ve visited, so I’ll just, I’ll just leave it at that is that I think the culture of the people here is fantastic. I will try and go against my emo and make this a short story. You know, usually every time you make a long, but this, this really is a long story, but to, to I guess to boil it down it would be that I, when I was about 18, I contracted very serious Lyme disease and it attacked my heart.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (22:08):
And so I was, I was very sick for about almost two years and I was on antibiotics and some heavy medications for about a year and a half. And it wasn’t until I got involved with an acupuncturist who was also, he was, he was really, you know, you can accurately describe him as an integrative healthcare practitioner because he wasn’t just doing acupuncture. He had some incredible machines, some lasers, some rife machines in a variety of other healing modalities. And he essentially in my mind, saved my life from Lyme disease and I was then able to get back into a healthy body, get back in a, in a good life. And here I am 11 years later, almost going to be an acupuncture to myself. So it’s a cool, full circle journey. I really, I remember the first time I entered my mind, I was lying on the table under the care of this practitioner.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (22:56):
His name is Timothy Weed, by the way. And I was just lying on the table with the needles in it, receiving a treatment and I just thought, Oh, maybe this might be something that I’d be interested to do. And you know, as I worked with him over the months I just got more and more curious and and then I actually, he offered me a job in his clinic. And so then from there you know, once I was working in the clinic with him, I realized that I really didn’t want to do this. And then I strayed from the path and moved into downtown DC and got a job and then went to San Francisco and worked in an office and hated it, you know, and did sales and fundraising. And then finally, and thankfully came back to Chinese medicine. So there were, there were multiple periods in my life where it was, it was clear that I should do it.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (23:38):
And then finally in 2017, it just was so obvious I couldn’t ignore it anymore. When you first start Chinese medicine school or whether it’s the acupuncture program or the TCM program it can be very overwhelming and it can be frustrating, you know, and, and I’ve seen a lot of, and I felt it myself and I’ve seen it in other classmates is in the beginning, you’re basically just almost drowning in all of this information. And, so my advice to the first years would just be patient and be consistent. You know, the, you know, consistent meaning rather than staying up all night doing benders and studying for, you know, 12 hour chunks, you know, just consistently everyday read the book for about an hour. And then as I guess my advice to students as they get deeper into the program it would be as, I hope this doesn’t sound cliche, but it really would be to take your education into your own hands.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (24:28):
Because I think in order to really be a good healthcare provider, especially a good acupuncturist, you have to really be obsessed with the medicine. You have to swim in it. And so, you know, something for me, I noticed that on my weekends I was actually enjoying it. It was my leisure time reading certain case studies. And so I think that’s really what it takes to Excel in anything. You have to really commit yourself to it. So yeah, stay patient in the beginning and then as you get into the program, stay humble and swim in it. And, you know, it’s, it’s funny this happens to me all the time when I’m out in public or you know, at a bar or at a friend’s house where like, Oh, tell me about acupuncture is like, it’s almost an impossible task to sum it up.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (25:07):
But how would I describe our medicine to somebody that’s never heard of it? I would say with integrative medicine, you know, we use science like modern Western medical science combined with a holistic approach. That takes into consideration, you know, all of the systems of the body. That particularly is geared towards healing in a natural way. You know, instead of using pharmaceuticals, we use herbs and with acupuncture we know we’re using the body’s own resources. Primarily in my mind it’s circulation circulatory system is blood to heal itself. Oh my goodness. What would be the suggestion is to grow and be a better school? Well, you know, it’s funny, I’ve, I’m sure if we were to read the reviews at the end of each term, there’s tons of, you know, students always have so much to say.
Speaker: Student, Jacob Rosenbaum (26:03):
And now here I am, you know, as a student being asked and, and I can’t think of one complaint, but I’m sure if I really think I can come up with something. But you know, of course I think every school can always improve. Their clinical procedures. I know Dr. Cohen is here working on that right now. And of course every school can always improve their, you know, hands on learning in the classroom. And so I think those are two areas. This school and every school should always continue to work on making the clinical procedures as efficient and effective as possible. And and working on, you know, hands on learning in the classroom versus learning from a book. That’d be my opinion.
Speaker 1 (26:45):
Thanks for listening to All Things Integrative. Be sure to tune into our next episode where we’ll share more information on how integrative medicine can help you lead a happier, healthier life.