Report on the 31st Annual International TCM Conference
By Stephanie Schneider
The 31st Annual International Traditional Chinese Medicine Conference was held May 30-June 4 in Rothenburg, Germany. As one of the few American attendees, participating in this conference was a refreshing change and a delightfully enlightening experience.
Over the past few years, I have attended several conferences in the field of Chinese medicine and decided it was time to travel overseas to see what our European and Asian counterparts have been up to. I wasn't surprised to find that some of the presenters were from the U.S., but even they were not the usual presenters we often encounter here. I went to Rothenburg with the great anticipation that the conference would reignite my passion for TCM and its practice. Despite a few alterations in the scheduled courses, I have returned to the States with all of my expectations met, and a renewed sense of awe and commitment to the medicine I have chosen as my life's path.
The first impression that is impossible to miss was the beautiful, picturesque location of the conference. Rothenburg is a medieval town, with an old wall surrounding the city still completely intact. The cobblestone streets and architecture from a time long past all enhanced the feelings of excitement and curiosity about the conference. The setting in this medieval city, and the gathering of people from across the world involved in the ancient practice of TCM, all seemed remarkably appropriate.
The pre-conference courses were quite well attended. The course options ranged from Dr. Stephen Birch's Japanese meridian therapy to Guenther Neeb's pulse diagnosis to Charles Chace's two-day course on respiratory diseases and their treatment. Other interesting courses were presented by Josef Mueller ("The Inner Journey and the Five Phases"), Professor Caigui ("Pediatric Tui Na") and Claude Dialosa ("Nutritional Therapy and Herbal Treatments for Blood Stasis Diseases"). A wide range of courses were available throughout the conference, and the number of participants was limited in many courses so that students could interact with the presenters.
The commencement of the conference was headed by Gerd Ohmstede, one of the organizers. He kindly introduced several of the presenters, especially those from afar, such as Nigel Wiseman, Zhang Bo-Li, Charles Chace and Claude Dialosa. All of the presenters had translators at their disposal. Many of them spoke in English or Chinese, which was then translated into German (most of the attendees were from Germany, England, France, Finland, Scotland and Italy). Initially, I felt that too much time was spent translating the information, but in actuality, it did not interfere with the transmission of material. The only things lost in translation were a few of the presenters' attempts at humor (and some of them were rather witty).
I attended several courses I had not seen offered in the U.S. at recent conferences. The first half-day course I chose was on differentiation therapies for cardiovascular diseases. Charles Chace supplied us with a very detailed handout with all of the TCM differentiations and used the rest of the time enlightening the participants with stories from his practice. His case histories were very interesting and, as TCM practitioners expect, he strongly urged the cooperation of MDs in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and that we should never alter, or suggest that the patient alter, their Western medical/pharmaceutical treatment. Charles humored his audience of about 75 participants with case histories of high-strung type A patients, as well as patients that would be the least likely to have heart-related maladies. In other words, he went far beyond the textbook syndrome of hyperactive liver yang with liver and kidney yin deficiency. The course material was interesting, and he supplied useful tips for handling patient of this genre.
I also participated in a course with Peter Deadman from England (quite the name for a practitioner of medicine, I might add). His course - "Seldom Used (and Often Forgotten) Acupuncture Points" - was brilliant, and one that all TCM practitioners could learn from. The course was definitely one of the highlights of the conference.
Peter is a delightful and entertaining speaker. His manner of conveying material is clear, concise and always in the utmost proper, yet humble, style. Case studies were the framework of his full-day course, and although the course ran from 9:00AM until 5:00PM, the audience was captivated, and we were all glued to the material. I had never considered utilizing some of the points in the clever and innovative manner that Peter illustrated, and yes, he backed up his material with the classics. Certainly it would be to our benefit in the States to have Peter Deadman speak here.
Another course I attended was taught by Professor Liao Jiazhen, a practicing cardiologist and herbalist from China. His course discussed blood stasis and coronary heart disease. Professor Jiazhen is a vibrant 70 years of age and moved quickly through his material. He went into detail about herbal formulae that would appropriately treat heart disease and discussed the key signs to be wary of in treating cardiovascular disorders. There was clear evidence in his Western medical training, since he is also a strong proponent of pharmaceutical treatment as the only route in certain disorders. He also highly encouraged an integrated medical system in which acupuncturists and herbalists work side by side with MDs. Overall, this course was informative, and Professor Jiazhen answered every question in a lengthy yet direct manner.
The theme of the conference was "Blood Moving Therapies and Blood Stasis Diseases." However, I found the range of topics to go far beyond the given theme. I was actually very pleased with the wide selection and high availability of the schedule. The people registering the attendees were highly efficient, courteous, and did all they could to accommodate participants. I wanted to get into an overbooked course, and the woman who helped me found a way to kindly accommodate me in the course of my choice. The organization of the conference was very smooth, and the only glitch I noticed was that one of the presenters from China did not attend. His course on infertility was replaced by another Chinese presenter, who spoke on lower tongue diagnosis.
Another aspect of the conference I found very intriguing was the fact that a number of participants were MDs, Western herbalists, and others in all sorts of related medical fields. It was a pleasure to be in such mixed company and to hear their perspectives on the TCM approach to health and wellness.
As for the vendors, there was a small selection of many of the same things we see in the States, but I didn't spend too much time investigating the products since they seemed very expensive in comparison to the prices we see in the U.S. Perhaps this was due to the greater availability of products in the U.S., or the 17% obligatory tax in Germany.
The "Kongress" (the German name for conference) in Rothenburg was one I would highly recommend to my peers. Despite having studied briefly in Vietnam and China, I have been working in the American paradigm of TCM, and felt that the effort and cost of going elsewhere for a conference was well worth it. Those of us that are educated in the U.S., depending on the institution of our choice, wind up with a particular slant on the practice of Chinese medicine. That is why traveling outside of the familiar and venturing into unknown territories where people share the common thread - the practice of Chinese medicine - is so vitally important to our knowledge base, our experience, and our ability to see the same theme from as many different angles as we can find.
Stephanie Schneider is a licensed acupuncturist in California and New York. She recently completed her doctoral studies in Ayurvedic Medicine at AUCM in Los Angeles, Calif.. She studied in China and Vietnam and will be doing post-doctoral studies in India. She maintains a private practice in Calabasas, Calif. and Tuxedo Park, N.Y.