Entering an Old Men’s World – Meet the Young, Female TCM Physician

Categories: Workplace

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – a form of alternative medicine more known for being administered by old men with greying hair. For the uninitiated, it comprises bitter medicine, acupuncture needles, and occasional angry, red marks left on your body.

But is that all, really? 

Victoria Tan, a TCM physician, sees more to it than that. 

Victoria remarks that “TCM feels like magic.” With modern medicine often relying on chemical treatments, Victoria finds the natural methods and herbs used in TCM a refreshing alternative.  

While Victoria strongly believes in TCM’s efficacy, she emphasizes that TCM is not meant as a replacement to Western medicine. Instead, she hopes that they can be used complementarily to provide more integrative and holistic patient care. 

Victoria’s difficulties in advocating for TCM is compounded when taking into account her physical characteristics. 

In an industry where the public looks first to the older men in the room, Victoria is constantly undermined as a young, female physician. She earnestly expresses her hope for the public to be more accepting.

“Age, experience, and skills have very little correlation in our industry,” Victoria explains. With the emergence of private TCM academies, the age range for intake of TCM students has widened. This means that a young physician can easily have more years of experience than a middle-aged man who’s a fresh TCM graduate. 

Another hotbed of contention is treatment options – acupuncture, cupping, or bitter medicine brewed from Chinese herbs are often met with skepticism, or even fear. 

Despite the distressing thought of becoming a pincushion, acupuncture is not painful. Acupuncture needles are hair-thin, and can pass through the nerve receptors without causing pain. The red marks from cupping are also not a result of forceful trauma. Rather, they form due to surface blood circulation that has metabolized as a result of treatment. 

For those still hesitant, Victoria urges you to just give it a try! She excitedly shares stories of patients who come in terrified, but later fall in love with these treatments. 

Despite widespread skepticism, Victoria emphasizes that TCM is recognized by most institutions. TCM practitioners are legally allowed to issue medical certificates, and insurance companies generally accept TCM diagnoses.

Ultimately, she hopes that Asians, the Chinese in particular, will be more accepting and receptive towards TCM. After all, it is an integral part of Chinese culture and heritage, and a legacy that she hopes to continue. 


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