Dr. Zhu demands a lot of his students and Zhu Scalp Acupuncture (ZSA) Certified practitioners.
His insistence upon our clinical excellence reinforces his philosophy that ZSA is a complete system of medicine which can be applied for general practice.
The ZSA certification program enables practitioners to deal with any kind of medical condition; emergent, acute, chronic or otherwise.
This is one factor which sets ZSA apart from practitioners not trained and certified in his system.
I am blessed with the ongoing opportunity to study and work with Dr. Zhu. Something that he said in the very first course I attended has stayed with me ever since.
“There is always just one medicine – human medicine.”1
To Dr. Zhu, different medical modalities or paradigms are just different perspectives of the same integrated system.
I would venture to say that each medical paradigm is like a set of goggles through which we perceive our patient’s needs.
“Medicine has no borders!”2
Therefore acupuncturists must be able to integrate microscopic (biomedicine) and macroscopic (holistic/functional medicine) perspectives in our clinical practice to help our patients in the most profound and appropriate ways possible.
“There is no differentiation between Western and Chinese medicine – only one human medicine.”3
Western and Chinese medical systems are each, in their own right, capable of occupying a student’s entire lifetime with study. I suggest that we had better get to it sooner rather than later.
So just how do we mold ourselves into the well-rounded and effective general practitioners Dr. Zhu envisions us to be?
I’ve curated salient points from Module 1 materials4 and class notes which offer the ideals:
- Develop knowledge. The areas of focus include: medicine, I Ching, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, or “other religious ideas that teach you to be a nice person.”
- Master medicine. There are five steps: learn, imitate, apply, think, and innovate. No small task and that is why we practice and study it over a span of years.
- Live a favorable lifestyle. Simplicity, openness, movement (as in movement of the body and exercise), wide/big-hearted, and calmness are the qualities to strive toward.
- Things to avoid. Greed, anger, obsession, deceit, and jealousy are the qualities or emotions to avoid, if at all possible. Ironically life is a constant source of exposure to these poisons, so I would say that proactivity matters in their prevention.
- Develop the Five Virtues. Benevolence, righteousness, piety, sincerity, and modesty. I think it’s safe, and not disharmonious, to add compassion to this list. I hope it’s not just me who thinks so.
This is pithy stuff and it may seem like a tall order to ask modern acupuncturists (or anyone for that matter) to live up to these lofty standards.
What I can tell you from personal experience is that self-cultivation is necessary in providing the best medical care to patients.
“If the doctor is not calm, the patient is not calm.”5
How we communicate with patients can make or break the practitioner-patient relationship. It is not always easy to communicate with patients, for myriad reasons. I have learned that caring for patients through the use of right speech and positive reinforcement is empowering for all parties involved.
“There’s a Chinese saying, good words are better than good medicine.”6
Anyone who has visited Dr. Zhu’s San Jose clinic can tell you that it is a very positive, upbeat, and supportive environment in which to do the work of healing. Patients spontaneously get to know one another and cheer each other on.
It’s nothing short of inspiring! Encouragement is the order of the day.
This is favorable lifestyle in action. It does not have to be as difficult as we sometimes may try to make it. In an environment that supports encouragement, it’s easy and natural to be encouraging.
I’ll share a little about my own personal journey towards these ideals.
I started to study Taoism and Buddhism starting at around 11 years of age. It was in large part due to my interest in the Shaolin after exposure to the television show, Kung Fu starring David Carradine.
My formal study and use of I Ching as a divinatory system and source of wisdom began in 1997. I have worked with the concept of modesty on numerous occasions thanks to one particular translation, I Ching: Oracle of the Cosmic Way.
“Modesty, equality, uniqueness – three principles in harmony with the Cosmic Way.”7
I believe that it was in 1979 that my grandmother Nadine bought me my first book on acupuncture. In the mid-1980’s, I picked up a softcover copy of The Barefoot Doctor’s Manual and continued my informal studies. Acupuncture charts adorned the walls of my bedroom growing up.
In the year 2000 I was accepted at Five Branches and started my formal study of Chinese medicine. That study has not ceased. I do not expect that it ever will. It seems to me that it’s a lifelong pursuit to achieve Dr. Zhu’s ideals.
I’ve spent more than eight years working as acupuncturist on staff at a local hospital. This experience has enabled me to better traverse the bridge between East and West.
I am grateful and glad to say that I have, in my own way, made some headway, however meager, along the path of clinical excellence.
Dr. Zhu asks a lot of us and simultaneously teaches us how to excel at human medicine. My experience is that training with him is being given a rare opportunity to hone my acumen as a healer and to learn how to better meet my patients’ needs.
Thank you, Dr. Zhu, for setting the bar high and insisting that we continually refine ourselves in the life-long pursuit of self-development with the aim of benefiting others.
It is remarkable what Dr. Ming-Qing Zhu has been able to achieve during his more than five decades of teaching and treating patients. He embodies the above ideal principles and is a true master in my eyes and in the eyes of many around the World.
If you happen to be unfamiliar with Dr. Zhu’s life story, please check out the short film After 15 Million Needles.
1 Class notes taken by the author, on 4/6/2013 and 3/17/2016
4 Handout: Module 1 – Basics of Zhu Scalp Acupuncture course slide presentation
5 Class notes taken by the author, on 4/6/2013 and 3/17/2016
7 Anthony, C.K and Moog, H. I Ching: Oracle of the Cosmic Way. 2002, I Ching Books, Stow, MA.