The motivation for beginning my career in Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbology, etc.) emerged from a mixture of a deep-rooted interest in anatomy and biology, a desire to have a career that not only helps people feel better and live their best lives but could also help keep myself and my future family healthy, and a yearning for a life full of opportunities to learn and grow (Hi, my name is Monica and I’m addicted to school).
My mother first introduced me to the world of “complementary” and “holistic” medicine when she began to experiment with everything from NAET to homeopathy sometime during her battle with several autoimmune and chronic illnesses (and after much disappointment with western medical approaches). I had only ever heard good things about acupuncture and was searching for a change, so I made a leap of faith and moved back to Texas to enroll in the master’s degree program at The American College of Oriental Medicine after a decade of being elsewhere. I left my somewhat dreamy life of the 4 years prior living in paradise (Costa Rica) with a job that mostly stressed me out and a surfer/musician boyfriend whom I thought I’d marry, and I signed up almost without hesitation.
What I have come to realize since beginning my journey with TCM in 2011 is that almost nobody becomes an acupuncturist by accident. Somewhere along the ride, many of us discover the true powers of this ancient medicine through various personal experiences and perhaps experimentation with our own health. My story is no exception.
From early elementary through most of my childhood, I struggled with allergies and urticaria (hives) for which I took the then-prescribed drug, Zyrtec. I questioned my doctor after some number of years, curious to know if there were any risks for taking this drug long-term and how long I should expect to take it. He simply told me that if it worked for me that I should continue. Naturally, I took his advice mostly because when I would forget to take the little white 10mg pill even for a day, I would awake in the middle of the night with burning and itching hives all over my body. I couldn’t help but scratch, only that would make it feel ten times more intense. So, of course I didn’t even consider quitting. I didn’t know any better other than to assume that this was the “natural state” of my body, and this medicine seemed to make it bearable. I couldn’t even really remember my state of being when it was first prescribed to me because too much time had passed; I only knew that I needed it now. It was my mother who read in the paper about the thousands of people who were complaining about withdrawal symptoms from this now-over-the-counter drug, and it was like a light bulb went off in our heads: I had become addicted to Zyrtec after taking it for 20+ years!
I sought out the guidance from naturopathic professionals, and it took just a few months for my body to detox and wean off the pharmaceutical drug to realize that I wasn’t broken after all. That was the first moment I felt myself come out from behind a cloud. I felt outraged that I had wasted so much time, money, and effort to keep myself feeling normal, and ashamed I had barely questioned the health care system that was clearly failing me in this case.
On the other hand, western medicine treatments certainly did not fail me in early childhood when I had to have heart surgery for a rare genetic heart anomaly; in fact, western medicine probably saved my life. However, I have since come to realize that we do not have to choose just one or the other.
The beauty of the Traditional Chinese Medicine system is that it is a type of complementary (as opposed to alternative) medicine that treats your body as a whole instead of chasing symptoms. It complements almost any body in any given situation, no matter what else is going on, because it looks at the whole picture to find patterns of disharmony and imbalance. Our bodies are self-regulating, self-healing, and innately wise. We usually only need the appropriate amount of proper resources and lifestyle to heal and be balanced, and the ancient Chinese figured out how to help this occur.
My goal with Chinese medicine is to empower my patients while offering professional guidance and effective treatments. I encourage my patients to take hold of the reins that lead their journey through the healing process.
WHY GYNECOLOGY, OBSTETRICS, AND PEDIATRICS?
In my master’s degree program, I had the opportunity to study for a month doing rotations within the top TCM hospital in Tianjin China. I observed an overlap between when women and children were at their most vulnerable with what Chinese medicine excelled at treating, and it was there I first realized I wanted to specialize in women’s health and pediatrics.
After becoming licensed in Texas, we were relocated to the Bay Area in California for my husband’s job where I had to go through the process of studying for an exam and getting licensed all over again. During the 2.5 years I was completing my doctorate at The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, naturally, I chose to follow midwives, pediatricians, and other seasoned acupuncturists specializing in women’s health for the required externship hours. One midwife I followed (who later the next year actually helped me deliver my own son at home) invited me to attend a home birth early one Thursday morning. The experience of observing a raw, unmedicated labor and birth lit a fire under me and later led me to apply for an internship in Brooklyn, New York with Claudia Citkovitz (author of Acupressure and Acupuncture during Birth: An Integrative Guide for Acupuncturists and Birth Professionals), that took place in the labor and delivery unit at with her acupuncture team. I spent 10-hour days in the hospital with hands-on experience in the birthing rooms, observed epidurals being placed, vaginal deliveries, and even a cesarean section.
Since then, I’ve continued to broaden my horizons within women’s reproductive health to include fertility. I spent my final months in California working as an acupuncturist in one San Francisco/Bay Area’s top-rated acupuncture clinics treating women who were trying to conceive. I also look forward to attending the Integrative Fertility Symposium in Vancouver in April 2019 where I will hear speakers who specialize in reproductive medicine from Chinese medicine practitioners and naturopathic physicians to western medical doctors and functional medicine specialists.
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, DAOM, 2018
Licensed Acupuncturist, LAc, California & Texas
Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, 2016
Diplomate of National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), 2016
Certified Postpartum Doula, 2016
Certified Yoga Teacher, 2011