Practitioners Corner: May Spotlight, Dr. Pamela Robbins

It is a privilege to discuss my thoughts on TCM and Acupuncture and relate some of my observations on the incorporation of its use in Western hospital settings. As a native of Singapore, I am a third-generation practitioner of Traditional Oriental Medicine. OnePam Robbins L.Ac.5 (2) (002) could say I was raised in the medicine.  Both my grandfathers were herbologists and TCM doctors.  While holding earlier business-related degrees from Brigham Young University/Hawaii, I earned my Cardiovascular degree from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida and my Traditional Chinese Medicine Training from East-West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota, Florida and with that received National Board certification with NCCAOM.  In the last 19 years of practicing both Eastern and Western medicine and running 3 private practices in Florida and Arizona, I have also worked in the Catherization Lab at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida; and most recently as a member of the Integrative Medical Team of Banner M.D. Andersen Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona.

After cross-country moves from Florida to Alaska and then Arizona, my husband and I settled in Scottsdale/Mesa Arizona where I established 2 practices. It was an exciting opportunity in 2017; I was invited to join the Oncology Integrative Team at M.D. Andersen in Arizona.

TCM has come a long way from the 70’s to present day, from being illegal to practice to now integrating medical practices in some hospitals.  We are standing on the shoulders of many that have come before with their hard work and diligence. I do believe we still have a long way to go. There are different levels of acceptance of TCM practices in hospitals across the US and this varies from state to state. From research acupuncturist working with herbal studies and acupuncture protocols to establish evidence based science to hospitals who just wants acupuncture as an alternative modality because there is a demand. Overall, there is still a lack of understanding and doubt of TCM in the western medical world.

There is definitely an increase in awareness of and interest in the benefits of TCM through the years. This leads to conversations and demands from the healthcare system we presently have. With the participation of the insurance system, that awareness and interest heightens.  Hospitals particularly in the world of oncology are beginning to see the benefits of how acupuncture can help cancer patients alleviate the discomfort and pain that comes with post cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.  Many patients ask for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods to enhance the efficacy of their cancer treatment, to boost their immune system, and to reduce side effects and increase tolerability of conventional cancer care.  Hence, it is refreshing to see the various forms of alternative care such as yoga, massage, and even essentials oils that facilitate that demand in those hospitals.  Acupuncture a well-established part of TCM and 1 of the oldest treatments, is one of the most frequently requested and offered treatments. In the area of nausea, neuropathy, xerostomia, cancer related fatigue, dsyphsia etc. has led to positive results.

Below are some thoughts that I have observed that might help speed up a true integration that will benefit future patients.  Namely: Increase the amount for evidence based studies on both acupuncture and herbal medicine, secondly, as practitioners we need to work together and bring a unifying effort to have Acupuncturists and Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicines recognized as key health care providers in ALL 50 states. With this recognition, comes the respect our branch of health care deserves, and along with the compensation equal to other branches of medicine. Lastly, a strong encouragement to all Colleges of TCM to instill in all their graduates a higher level of respect for our selected practice of medicine – one that has now stood the test of time for over two thousand years.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to China with Dr Dan Wen of TCMZone and a team of TCM colleagues to receive further training on TCM.  I have seen integration of western medicine such as chemotherapy and radiation, and Chinese herbal infusion used on patients post cancer treatments. The results were phenomenal and I can only hope the day will come when our branch of medicine will take its place as equal part of the treatment protocol in our hospitals as well.