Industry News

1st Annual Doris Sweetnam Scholarship Awarded to Kent Lee

by John Stan | Mar 29, 2009
Eastern Currents is pleased to announce the winner of the first annual Doris Sweetnam Scholarship.

The 2009 Scholarship was awarded to Kent Nien Jung Lee, a fourth-year student at the International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Vancouver.

Eastern Currents is deeply committed to the development of the profession of acupuncture and TCM. As the profession evolves, so do we, and we want to channel part of that growth back into the industry by supporting TCM students as they prepare to graduate.

The Doris Sweetnam Scholarship Fund was established in 2008 by Eastern Currents in honour of Doris Sweetnam, a pioneer in the field of acupuncture and auricular medicine.

The 2008 Scholarship totaled $2,915.00, including admission to this year's Canadian Oriental Medical Symposium (approx $400 value) in Vancouver. The award consisted of $1,000 from Eastern Currents, $500 from the Sweetnam Family, $500 from Carbo Trading, and an additional $515.00 from individual practitioner donations.

You can read Kent's winning entry here:

How I would explain Qi, Yin, Yang, and Pattern Differentiation in a way that does not sound Archaic, Mystical, or not relevant in today's world -Inspired by a serendipitous encounter-

By Kent Lee

Deeply annoyed by his wife’s third visit with an acupuncturist, Hedrick Mak sat in the waiting room fuming over his futile attempt to convince his wife about her irrational endorsement of acupuncture. He could not help but recall the take-home message from the alternative medicine elective he took in the earlier years as a med student – quackery and placebo. “What a few pills can take care of,” he thought, “Why waste time and money on a placebo treatment?”
A well-behaved and precocious child who grew up in a traditional Chinese household, Hedrick was persuaded into pursuing medicine under parental pressure. He was bright and did not disappoint in undertaking such an endeavor. Nearly a decade of medical school, internship and residency followed, and came to fruition as he found himself with a busy private family practice. Having settled down with the love of his life, Nancy, Hedrick soon discovered the work-place anxiety that gained a mean grip on her life. She turned to acupuncture, despite his sincere offer of a sensible drug regimen.
Fueled by skepticism, Hedrick decided to confront the attending acupuncturist. “Nancy seems to be quite relaxed,” said Kent as he noticed Hedrick had been looking intently in his direction. “Great. So… how does it work? Hedrick asked, taking an inquisitive approach, “I mean, what’s with this Qi, Yin-Yang balance you preach on a daily basis? What exactly are they?” Kent recognized the skeptical tone in Hedrick’s voice. He wanted some answers.
“The early Chinese saw a world that was constantly evolving and changing as the result of the interaction of two opposing forces. They are called Yin and Yang. The study of their relationship became the core of the theory behind how human body works. Yin and Yang are the two fundamental yet relative aspects that exist in all things and phenomena, with Yang being the active, bright, extroverted, and excitable counterpart of the passive, dim, introverted and docile Yin. Yin cannot exist without Yang, as cold cannot exist without heat; shadows cannot be cast without light; one cannot experience sadness to the exclusion of happiness; we don’t know what a midget is without having seen giants – I can go on all day. But the point is that Yin and Yang are mutually rooted in each other and more importantly – they mutually restrict and transform into each other to achieve a dynamic state of balance. Are you with me so far?” Kent explained before pausing. “I see, but how is that medically relevant?” asked Hedrick. “Chinese medicine defines health as an internal state of balance in Yin and Yang. When the Yin or Yang aspect of one’s internal environment exceeds the other, a diseased state will likely manifest,” said Kent. “That’s rather abstract,” Hedrick quickly remarked with a frown.
“We can conceptualize various physiological and pathological processes as Yin or Yang. For instance, what would you say is wrong with a man suffering from heightened senses, sleep disturbance, anxiety and severe sweating? Kent quickly responded with a question. “Sounds like an overactive sympathetic tone,” answered Hedrick and it was right at that moment when he started to see the Yin and Yang of things. “Exactly. When the fight-or-flight activity of sympathetic nervous system is in relative excess compared with the rest-and-digest activity of parasympathetic nervous system as the Yin counterpart, those symptoms develop. The only difference is that Chinese medicine calls it ‘excess Yang’ as a different metaphor to describe a similar pathological process.
“Take our built-in biological feedback mechanism as another example. Negative and positive feedbacks are the opposing actions of the system that correspond to Yin and Yang respectively. If this control system fails with either positive or negative feedbacks gaining predominance over the other, body systems will be affected, whether it be neural or endocrine in origin,” Kent elaborated, now with his audience engrossed, “If you look at our energy metabolism in the most primitive form, you’ll also see Yin-Yang balance and Qi at work here. The Yin substances of our bodies such as the components of blood, serum, and interstitial fluid are consumed, or catabolized to give rise to the Yang-based bodily functions. The Yang bodily functions then sustain and replenish the Yin substances by generating essential nutrients and mobilizing appropriate resources. As such, the Yang-based bodily functions, or what we call Qi is akin to mitochondrial ATP as the basic energetic unit that drives all physiologic processes of the body. Should a deficiency of either Yin or Yang arise, this cycle of metabolism working via mutual transformation of Yin and Yang will be disrupted. In essence, just as western medicine describes homeostasis as the optimal state of physiological functioning, Chinese medicine does the same by describing Yin-Yang balance as the ultimate determinant of health.”
“That makes a whole lot of sense!” Hedrick exclaimed to his own surprise, “But you can’t make your diagnosis with only Yin and Yang now, can you?” Hedrick inquired further. “No, you’re right,” Kent continued, “Chinese medicine also relies on other diagnostic tools to paint a more definitive picture of one’s condition. Among them, pattern differentiation is one of the most important tools that allow us to gain insight into the strength and functioning of the internal organs. As Chinese medicine practitioners, we observe the smell, voice, spirit, complexion, and other physical as well as mental attributes of a patient. We ask questions specific to the organs from which we suspect dysfunction. In addition, we also ask questions to help us determine the location and nature of the dysfunction, which can be further classified as an exterior or interior, excess or deficiency, and heat or cold conditions. Last but not least, we look at the tongue and feel the pulse of the patient to add valuable diagnostic clues to delineate not only the pattern of dysfunction specific to one or more organs, but also the condition of Qi, blood, Yin and Yang as well as presence of pathogens. With all the information put together, we’re ready to differentiate a pattern.” At this point, Kent slowly got up from the chair, tapped on Hedrick’s shoulder before he said, “business beckons.” Nancy was already on her way out of the treatment room.
Astonished, Hedrick witnessed the transformation of his skepticism into affirmation. He realized what underlies Nancy’s acupuncture treatments is a system of undeniably profound wisdom of which he saw but the tip of the iceberg. “You know, maybe after all, we can both learn something from each other,” Hedrick said to Kent as he left with Nancy, smiling.

About Kent Nien Jung Lee

A middle child in a family of five, Kent was born in Taiwan and raised in a household where he was constantly encouraged to enter the medical field. His father and his career as a medical doctor have always been a prominent influence that helped form his vision.
Kent undertook his undergraduate study in psychology at UBC where he served as an active executive and volunteer in the Alternative & Integrative Medical Society. As a Director of Communications, his interest in TCM and other modalities of complementary medicine grew.

During the same period, he volunteered extensively in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver where the immense amount of suffering he saw further motivated him towards medicine. However, he struggled with the decision to enter UBC Faculty of Medicine or to pursue Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was a difficult decision, but after witnessing his mother's illness and how much it could take away, it became clear that the holistic approach of TCM is more in line with Kent's values.

Kent's pursuit of TCM is marked by a voracious appetite to deepen his knowledge and clinical experience. Through his education at the International College of TCM in Vancouver as well as his interest in reading published works of renowned TCM doctors in their original language, he had a glimpse of the profound therapeutic potential that TCM embodies. In the summer of 2008, Kent sought clinical internship in China, to learn at the source of TCM at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Anhui University of TCM. This eye-opening experience, along with all he has experienced strengthened his conviction to practice Chinese medicine, grounded in compassion, respect and understanding of patients as an integrated whole.


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