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Commencement Address for Yo San College of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Thank you to President Ryan for inviting me today. And, Congratulations to the Graduates! To you, I ask: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? You may have all heard or read the lines from American Poet Mary Oliver: As your commencement speaker, I will have the audacity to make 2 suggestions regarding such a life plan. The 1st is – to have a plan. The second is – to make it bigger.   Graduating today is a huge achievement to be sure. It is the culmination of hard work and the accomplishment of an ambitious goal. It means you have worked to obtain knowledge and expertise to become a practitioner of a powerful and ancient healing tradition.   But while you are studying for your boards, take some time to consciously and proactively craft your life plan by carefully considering your vision, your purpose and your goals.   Those of us who have embarked on a professional path that has clear laid out requirements for practice often get so focused on the next professional milestone that we end up thinking that next hurdle or goal is the whole reason we are studying what we are studying.   It is so common to get on a track and headed in some direction professionally without really taking the time to think about where it is you are trying to get to. You are understandably anxious about making a living and paying off debt, so you feel compelled to take the 1st income-generating option that comes your way.   But with all of your studies behind you and your professional career in front of you, it is a great time to articulate and really clarify 3 things:   1)    What is your vision? what it is you want to do. How will you use these tools you have learned in service of your true purpose –   2) This is #2: What is your purpose – the why you are choosing that vision- this comes from your core values and is recognizable by what gets you excited. What makes your heart smile when you are doing it or thinking of doing it?   3) And 3rd: What are your goals – Your goals are the way there. One of them, we are celebrating today – and there will be more.   Once you have thought about those.., I will tell you…make it bigger.   In Taoism, as you certainly have learned here at Yo San, we are like waves on the sea; all of us expressions of one universal energy. So when you heal someone, you are healing yourself as well; you are working with the energy of the world, manifested in that patient in front of you.   That concept, one of the key concepts underlying the medicine you have chosen to study, is what makes you uniquely able to cure what ails not only the patient, but nothing less than the entire American health care system.   The American health care system is sick, and it won’t be cured by those of us who were trained in a limited view of illness and disease from the purely allopathic model. You have been smart enough to choose a system of healing that recognizes the interconnectedness of all of us and how imbalance among essential elements of being or blockages in flow of energy contribute to lack of health. This enables you to grasp new concepts of mind-body medicine, epigenetics, neuroplasticity – all these ideas that are new to western medicine which show that our actions, our habits, our food, even our thoughts can have profound impact on our health – are foundational and centuries old in Chinese medicine.     You can lead the way in transforming the role of the health care provider. You aren’t stuck in the disease treatment model that western American medicine has to change from. You have learned a model of human health that takes into account the entire patient – physically as well as energetically; body and mind and spirit.   Using a whole system approach, as TCM practitioners, I urge you to be the role model for allopaths and others on focusing on health; not just treating disease (even if that is why most patients come to see you – for treatment of an ailment) – but using that as a lead in to focus on wellness,  – to truly transform our system from a disease care system to a health care system.   Wherever you choose to practice, in whatever setting, I urge you to work in concert with health care providers from other modalities to help create a holistic model of health care.   At the Venice Family Clinic, many of you rotated through our Integrative Medicine program. There, we use acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, massage and allopathic medicine in order to help patients with chronic pain. For these patients, western medicine has failed them. AS important as the treatment are our meetings involving different types of practitioners, where we learn from each other and get a deeper understanding of what each type of medicine is capable of and where he limitations of our own approach.   Using allopathic medicine, we can do amazing things for someone who is acutely ill – we can control HIV, eradicate Hepatitis C; manage physical trauma and give someone a new heart or kidney. But we are lousy at prevention and at chronic diseases; the chiropractors do a musculoskeletal exam that puts us all to shame – and can do amazing things to help someone who has pain from structural problems. The homeopath can treat a child’s allergies in a non-toxic and dramatic way. But we are all taking the patient apart focusing on their particular issue. With Chinese medicine, you look at the whole person and address underlying imbalances; the manifestations of which are all that we allopaths see.   I encourage you to look for ways to be a part of a larger team of health care providers – with practitioners from all different modalities coordinating care for the best course of treatment for the individual patient and where you can frame the discussion about that patient’s care in the terms you uniquely understand – the whole patient, not the cancer or the disease that patient has.   Integrative medicine is the medicine of the future; it is patient-centered care that utilizes the best of whatever modality is needed to help to heal, prevent disease and optimize health for the person in front of us. And it needs all of our expertise, working together, communicating together – and shaped by the fundamental tenants that you bring as TCM practitioners –   That is what you can teach us.     I challenge you to see yourself as a fundamental part of the American hc system, part of the solution and as a leader in the multi-modality approach to optimal health. I close with a quote from Hippocrates.   It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has Hippocrates yo san




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