China Trip 2017 Part 1: Inside the Teaching Hospitals in Nanjing

In September I journeyed to Nanjing, China to visit the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (NUTCM), located in the Jiangsu province of southern China.  Actually, to be more accurate, I went there to scope out these fast-growing new beauty health clubs (I thought they’d be more about dermatology/skincare but they were not at all what I expected, and it immediately became clear that they were not a business investment I wanted to be part of).  Business investigation aside, I was left with plenty of time to observe in the teaching hospitals and pharmacies of NUTCM for the remainder of my stay.  Now, NUTCM is the university where I completed an official externship back in 1999, shortly after graduating from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.  At that time, I trained with Dr. Min Zhong Sheng, Director of Dermatology of the First Provincial Hospital of TCM and with Dr. Xiang Yi, the director of the Acupuncture Department… both were astounding practitioners and patient teachers.  This time around was less formal and I got to see many aspects of the hospitals and university that I missed (or that did not exist!) during my official externship 18 years ago.  I am so grateful to my beloved teacher Dr. Hong Jin of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM), Portland, Oregon, for allowing me the honor of these experiences in China.  It is her stellar relationship with NUTCM that afforded me (and the recent graduates of OCOM) the opportunity to observe with the best of the best doctors at NUTCM.  Dr. Jin not only graduated from the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but she was a respected and revered teacher there for several years before coming to teach in the United States.  Without her connections and efforts, neither of my learning experiences in China would have been possible.  Thank you Dr. Jin!

I took as many snapshots as I could during this whirlwind trip in September and I hope they give you a glimpse into the world of Chinese Medicine as it is practiced in China, as well as insight into the daily life in one of China’s largest cities.  It really is something you should see with your own eyes, but for now some of my favorite photos will do.  Here is part 1 in a series of posts:  Getting to China and  inside the Chinese Medicine hospitals and herbal pharmacies. Enjoy!

 

Waiting at Denver International Airport to board a plane for the other side of the world. It took 3 flights and more than 24 hours to get from my door to the airport in Nanjing.

 

I had gotten an upper respiratory infection from a flight the weekend before the China trip. I wore a mask in an effort to not get a new viral infection on top of the one that was just leaving my body.

 

Landing in Beijing.
Horrible air quality -almost blots out the sun. All the lower level haze you see here is pollution, not clouds.

 

The pollution in Beijing hit my lungs like smoke from a fire as soon as I stepped onto the tarmac. It burned my throat.

 

The Air China panda reminds us that we should put on our own oxygen mask first, before attempting to help others. A good tip both on an airplane as well as metaphorically in life.

 

I stayed at the hotel in the Nanjing airport since I arrived late in the evening. The next day the university arranged a bus to get us to our smaller hotel in downtown Nanjing. That first night in downtown, we went to a spa and got a herbal foot soak followed by intense massage and then cupping. The moving cups on the soles of my feet were wonderful…I thought it would hurt but it felt like it relieved so much tension. The spa stayed open until midnight!

 

 

 

Day 1 of clinical observation. We were in the internal medicine department of the Municipal Hospital (one of the teaching hospitals of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine). In fact, we were able to sit in with doctors in the “Hall of Fame” – the best of the best. It was such an honor.

 

My colleagues (recent grads from the master degree program and one from the doctorate program at OCOM) and I getting a quick selfie before heading in to observe in the pediatric department of the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 

Observing in the pediatric department of the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. How adorable is this patient? Just about every kid that came in had a cough with fever. No wonder several of us got sick shortly thereafter. It was a small room and we were packed in close.

 

Patients waiting for their herbal prescriptions outside the pharmacy on the main floor of the teaching hospital.

 

 

At one of the local RETAIL herbal pharmacies located in downtown Nanjing. Here a doctor on duty will offer consultation for a fee. This is outside the university/government hospital systems. What a lovely setup – that lattice is a piece of artwork in addition to its practical use as a partition.  That is the thing about older architecture and decor in China – its form follows function, but it is beautiful to the eyes, too.

 

The same retail herbal pharmacy in downtown Nanjing (as seen in the previous photo). They will fill and cook patient prescriptions if you bring one in, or they offer an herbal consult during certain hours if you need one (see previous photo). I so enjoy seeing all those drawers of herbs – each drawer contains a different herb. Upstairs in this same shop is a western pharmacy where you can buy all sorts of over-the-counter medicines.

 

Another peek at the raw herb pharmacy shown in the previous two photos. Oh, those drawers!

 

Raw Chinese herbs sold pre-packaged, over-the-counter. Mostly just the ones that are safe to eat cooked up as food (or added to drinks/soups/stews).

 

 

Getting a tour of the pharmacy at the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. My lingering common cold turned into a cough, so the mask was to prevent others getting sick from me.  At these hospitals, you need to have at least a 4-year degree in Chinese Medicine in order to work in the herbal pharmacy.  You need the full 5-year degree to be a doctor who sees patients.

 

This here is a portion of the herbal pharmacy in the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In this section are the raw herbs that will go into prescriptions the patients take home to cook themselves. Each herb is pre-measured…these bins contain tiny plastic packages of individual herbs that are picked from the bin and put in a paper bags. Each paper bag contains a full day’s formula. That a lot of plastic, and it kind of was disappointing to see. But these pharmacists are filling one prescription after another at this busy hospital and this is how they chose to make it efficient. You’ll see in subsequent photos that not all the pharmacies do this. And this is not how they fill prescriptions that are cooked at the hospital.

 

Rows upon rows of these bins. Here is a closer look at the shelves you saw in the above photo. These little packets contain raw herbs that will go into prescriptions the patients take home to cook themselves. Each herb is pre-measured…these bins contain tiny plastic packages of individual herbs that are picked from the bin and put in a paper bags. Each paper bag contains a full day’s formula. That a lot of plastic, and it kind of was disappointing to see. But these pharmacists are filling one prescription after another at this busy hospital and this is how they chose to make it efficient. You’ll see in subsequent photos that not all the pharmacies do this. And this is not how they fill prescriptions that are cooked in the hospital.

 

More from the same pharmacy as seen in the previous couple of photos. These are patient herbal prescriptions that the patient will take home to cook up themselves. Each paper bag contains a full day’s formula. Some patients really enjoy the process of cooking their own herbs and they say it helps them feel empowered in their healing…like it’s part of the tradition of the medicine. The Chinese are very big on tradition, even when it means more work.

 

Here is the back stock of those bins of pre-weighed herbs. Lots and lots of little plastic baggies filled with individual herbs. Also, a pharmacist taking a break…I see you, guy.

 

This is the same TCM teaching hospital as the previous 5 photos. This is their granule pharmacy. Just like the pre-packaged raw herb packets, granules are also weighed out in commonly-prescribed doses and packaged up in little packets to make filling patient prescriptions much faster. Still, all that plastic…

 

In the other herb pharmacy at the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine where they cook up the prescriptions for patients. Drawer after drawer, each with one single herb in it. Wish I had enough room in my pharmacy in Fort Collins to have this sort of system.

 

Dr. Jin loving being surrounded by all the herbs in the pharmacy.

 

To my astonishment, the pharmacy at the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine no longer uses pressure cookers to cook patients’ herbal prescriptions! Apparently, the patients demanded that the hospital adhere to the traditional method of cooking herbs on a stovetop. I am a little surprised they allowed the patients to dictate policy, but hey, who am I to argue?

 

I really was stunned to see all these prescriptions being cooked in open pots on the stove top at the pharmacy of the municipal teaching hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Look at those simmering pots of liquid the pharmacist needs to keep his eye on!

 

At a different hospital pharmacy than previous photos. Each hospital had their own way of filling patient prescriptions. I so enjoyed watching this pharmacist fill prescriptions…he was so fast! [See a video of him here]

This whole scene pleases me. You can see all the wooden drawers of herbs in the background (I think the wooden ones are much lovelier than the metal ones, don’t you?). And this is quite the pretty herbal formula, too.

 

New colleagues of mine from The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine observing a fabulous TCM doctor in the gynecology department of one of the teaching hospitals of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 

Observing in the acupuncture department of one of the teaching hospitals of NUTCM.  the doctors free hand every needle – no guide tubes are ever used.

 

Now that’s some traditional fire cupping! Bamboo cups are still the norm in the acupuncture departments in the TCM hospitals in Nanjing.

 

A close-up view of the bamboo cups that are still used for fire cupping in the acupuncture departments in the TCM hospitals in Nanjing. I did not see any glass cups or any pump-type cupping sets. Just tried-and-true bamboo.

 

One of the newer buildings added on to the campus of the First Provincial Teaching Hospital of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. When I trained in the dermatology department of this hospital back in 1999, only one building with an inpatient and outpatient department existed. Now there are 4 or 5 big buildings that make up just this hospital in the heart of downtown Nanjing. I am flabbbergasted how much this university and its associated hospitals have expanded in 18 years.

 

Yet another herbal pharmacy in one of the teaching hospitals of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Each one I visited had its own unique setup.

 

The retail portion of the same hospital pharmacy seen in the previous photo. I like the decor. Those wooden herb drawers are dreamy (to an herb-nerd like me, anyway!).

 

In the next post, I’ll show you the new, hugely expanded campus of the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine.  Wait until you see the new technology used to train the students as well as the medicinal herbal garden….it’s all so very cool.

Tags: acupuncture, china, china trip 2017, Chinese herbal medicine, chinese herbs, Chinese medicine, featured, jiangsu, nanjing, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, NUTCM, traditional chinese medicine, travel

Topics: Chinese Medicine

Publish Date: November 13, 2017     *Articles may include updates since original publishing.

About the Author ()

Diana Hermann is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified in Chinese Herbal Medicine. She received her Master Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, OR and trained in China at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Diana treats patients in her Fort Collins, Colorado clinic and hand crafts herbal skin care products for her company Zi Zai Dermatology. In 2015, she completed the Diploma In Chinese Medicine Dermatology program from Avicenna in London, UK.

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