The President’s Call to Action
On January 20, 2015, President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address. Among other issues, he called for the need of the nation to invest in “personalized medicine,” a potentially game-changing direction for the nation’s medical industry. Ten days later, in an event in the East Room of the White House, he called for $215 million in his upcoming 2016 budget for a research initiative aimed at helping to develop the field of personalized medical treatments, his Precision Medicine Initiative. As I followed this story, I couldn’t help but think to myself that it sounds like what they’re trying to do is what we’ve been doing in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for thousands of years, but adding in advances in genomics and data analysis.
What is Personalized Medicine?
According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization, “Personalized medicine (sometimes referred to as ‘precision medicine’) is an emerging field that uses diagnostic tools to identify specific biological markers, often genetic, to help determine which medical treatments and procedures will be best for each patient. By combining this information with an individual’s medical records and circumstances, personalized medicine allows doctors and patients to develop targeted prevention and treatment plans. The goal is to provide the right treatment in the right dose to the right patient at the right time.”
What is TCM?
TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a complete system of medicine which has been evolving in China since the dawn of history. Its earliest text, Huang Di Nei Jing or Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, was written down from oral tradition approximately 2,000 years ago, and since then, this system of medicine has evolved and advanced, changing as the needs of the people have changed. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, medical massage, as well as dietary and exercise therapies are all part of this system. Over time, this system of medicine has spread across the world.
How is TCM Personalized Medicine?
Rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach and looking at the disease first and the patient second (if at all), a TCM practitioner treats the person sitting in their clinic first and foremost. Every treatment is tailored for the patient as they present at that time. This idea of “right treatment, right dose, right time” is what TCM has been doing for thousands of years. In TCM, we follow a heart-centered, patient first model of medicine which looks at a patient as a person first, a person who may have a collection of signs and symptoms; additionally, we look at all the systems of a person, from their respiratory system to their circulatory system, to their sleep and digestion and compare that information to what the patient’s health concerns are. This holistic approach often reveals larger patterns of a person’s overall health, patterns which TCM doctors have been passing down knowledge about how to diagnose and treat for millennia.
Your Call to Action
It will be a while before this modern version of personal medicine really takes off, and it likely won’t be widespread for a very long time, even if the President is successful in getting his Initiative funded. If you’re interested in being treated like a person rather than as a diagnosis, call your local acupuncturist and get some real healthcare. The time to take care of your health is now.
Jorga Houy, L.Ac.
DNA Image: Micah Baldwin
Acupuncture Image: Malakhi Simmons