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Student groups introduce Bruins to integrative medicine

By So Jung Ki

March 3, 2014 2:30 a.m.

Students and faculty gracefully moved their hands in unison as they filled the auditorium with waves of tai chi movements at the second Annual Student Conference for Integrative Medicine on Saturday.

UCLA’s Students for Integrative Medicine and the David Geffen Integrative Medicine Student Interest Group hosted the conference titled “Science and Art of Whole-Person Healing for the 21st Century.”

Integrative medicine is an approach in health care that combines alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and yoga, with modern medicine, said Vivianne Chang, a fourth-year human biology and society student and the external vice president of Students for Integrative Medicine.

About 200 people attended the conference, which aimed to educate people about the holistic approach of integrative medicine so that people would have more options in self care and becoming better health care providers, Chang said.

The conference cost a total of $7,000. UCLA Center for East-West Medicine donated $2,000 and the rest of the cost was funded by donations from organizations involved in integrative medicine, as well as the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative.

The conference comprised two guest lectures, a career panel on pursuing health care professions and eight 40-minute workshops that demonstrated integrative care for wellness.

Michaelyn Nguyen, a first-year biology student, said she chose to attend “The Science and Practice of Tai Chi” workshop during the first session because she expects tai chi to have the same benefits as yoga, which she does regularly along with running.

“It’s a really good exercise to do when you are running because it makes you more flexible and more nimble,” Nguyen said.

The conference’s mind and body session included a workshop on acupressure led by Sandi Chiu, education coordinator at the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.

She instructed participants to press the center of the web between the thumb and the index finger because it helps in relieving neck pain and headaches.

Chiu said all parts of the body are connected and pressing certain acupressure points trigger the flow of the energy to other parts of the body.

Michael Goldstein, a guest speaker at the conference and the chair of UCLA’s Healthy Campus steering committee, encouraged people to pay attention to integrative medicine because it is effective in helping people prevent and manage chronic health problems.

Goldstein said he has combined Western medicine with Eastern medicine many times before, even in his personal life.

When his son was 2 years old, an iron fell on his foot. Instead of treating him with traditional medicine by doing a skin graft, Goldstein said he was able to completely heal the burn with aloe vera.

“We used natural substance in replace of Western surgical intervention that would involve pain and discomfort for the child,” Goldstein said.

Despite success stories like Goldstein’s, integrative medicine still faces barriers in breaking the misconceptions in its effectiveness and validity, said Katherine Diep, a fourth-year physiological science student and the president of Students for Integrative Medicine.

Chang said integrative medicine practitioners only use alternative medicine techniques that are validated with evidence as safe.

Diep also said people of Asian heritage are more familiar and open to Eastern medicine partly because it is part of their cultural history.

“Alternative medicine has been (around) longer than Western medicine,” Diep said.

She said she has seen Chinese traditional medicine help her mother in dealing with fibromyalgia, a chronic lower back pain, while getting a surgery forced her to stay home for six weeks without getting rid of the pain.

Students for Integrative Medicine plans to host the conference again next year in hopes of continuing to provide different approaches to self care and wellness to the community.

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