[Sean McCann gives a brief report on his recent graduation with a degree in Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, and his subsequent opening of a new practice in North Carolina, where he has been seeing patients for the last several months. His report is in the form of a letter to William Herbrechtsmeier (dated 31 Aug 2015). Please enjoy. He’s doing some very interesting work.]
How is everything on that side of the country? What’s new in the Religious Studies Department? My wife and I are at the start of a whole new chapter of our lives. To begin, Trang is 30 weeks pregnant! We are very excited for the new addition. She is due 11/10. It’s hard to imagine all of the changes a baby girl will bring, but we’re looking forward to it with great anticipation. Trang is handling the pregnancy well, and I’ve been able to take care of most of the morning sickness, fatigue, pain, etc using Chinese medicine. In addition, we moved to North Carolina in April, and I recently started my own clinic.
I completed my M.S. in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in April (I know, it’s fairly ridiculous that the word, “oriental” is still being used in some professional circles). We moved to Asheville on the very day that I completed my courses. The move was precipitated by an offer of a residency and job at the Alternative Clinic. The Alternative Clinic is a comprehensive Chinese medicine clinic started by the teachers I’ve been traveling to study with for the past 2 years, Andrew and JulieAnn Nugent-Head. Andrew spent the last 27 years studying with the old doctors and martial artists in China and moved to Asheville with his family last summer.
I spent my first 3 months in Asheville in their clinic, dividing my time between seeing my own patients, observing and assisting their treatments, filling herbal formulas, and speaking about Chinese medicine with people who walked in off the street. It was fantastic to be completely immersed in the clinic with them 6 days a week, soaking up everything I could. At the beginning of August, I decided to start my own clinic. I continue to study with the Nugent-Heads and spend time in their clinic, but my primary focus is now on building my practice and applying everything I have learned up to this point.
I am simultaneously studying the classic texts of Chinese medicine with them. We are currently going through the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue. We will cover many others in the coming years, including the Huang Di Nei Jing and Nan Jing. We go through the texts line by line, the two of them translating the classical Chinese and commentaries relevant to the text, as well as discussing the clinical relevance of the passages. These times take me back to the RS days and leave me feeling thankful, once again, for my experience at Humboldt State. Without it, I may not have discovered qigong and taiji, and I would likely never have understood what it takes to study and gain understanding from ancient texts. I hope that the current students realize how immensely special their time there is.
This has been a thoroughly enjoyable time for my taiji and qigong practice. I studied with a wonderful Chen taiji teacher, Dave Christophy (a student of Wang Hai Jun), while in Florida. Since arriving in North Carolina, I have had extended periods of time during which I have been left largely to my own devices in terms of my personal practice, giving me ample time to reflect on what I have learned from Dave, Andrew, and you. The interplay of the input from each of you leads me to new insights daily. I have found, however, that freedom and willingness to play are of equal importance to good teaching. Without these, one can never make an art their own. I will begin teaching qigong and Wu style taiji here in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to working with a new group of students. I hope to be able to impart to them the importance of this balance.
Trang and I plan to spend anywhere from 3-5 years here, and then we hope to do some traveling before moving back West to settle somewhere. I am intrigued by the idea of eventually getting a Ph.D. in something related to classical Chinese texts or Chinese medicine. The field of study, as well as the practice of the medicine in this country is very young and, unfortunately, immature. There are some incredibly skilled individuals with an immense amount of experience and knowledge to share, but the field lacks the structure to allow these people to teach what they know to large numbers of people.
The only way I can imagine increasing the ratio of good practitioners and scholars to charlatans is to bring the field into the major universities. Certainly, these too have their issues, but I believe the difference in quality of education would be significant if this were the case. I imagine Chinese medicine students with access to anatomy labs and professors who are qualified to discuss the classic texts, as is the case in the RS & philosophy departments at HSU. This increased level of scholarship and blending with the larger academic community would, inevitably, bring about some magnificent changes for Chinese medicine, and medicine in general, in this country.
That is all quite a ways down the road, however. There is plenty to focus on right now, but I still like to dream. Anyway, I hope that this email finds you well. Write back whenever you have some time.