From July 13–16, the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine (CEWM) hosted an international group of experts and thought-leaders for the inaugural Chinese Herbal Medicine Summit & Symposium on the Potential of Chinese Medicine in U.S. Healthcare.
Chinese Herbal Medicines (CHMs) are used worldwide by a large and growing segment of the population. In China, where these products are a core component of traditional Chinese medicine, CHMs are integrated with western health care. In the U.S., CHMs are more often used outside of conventional medical systems as complementary and alternative medicines.
A growing base of scientific evidence suggests that CHMs are safe and effective for the treatment of certain conditions. However, adverse outcomes can result from poor quality control, inappropriate use, and unmonitored drug-herb interactions. Moreover, particularly in the U.S., physicians are unfamiliar with CHMs. As a result, CHMs are largely used outside of mainstream health care systems, which may negatively impact doctor-patient communications and the use of CHMs.
The CEWM organized the Chinese Herbal Medicine Summit & the Symposium on the Potential of Chinese Medicine in U.S. Healthcare to improve the use of CHMs in the United States. These events brought together an international group to develop new strategies for addressing longstanding challenges. Key figures in the integrative medicine community such as Professor Vivian Taam Wong from the University of Hong Kong School of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Qi Zhang, Director of World Health Organization (WHO)’s Traditional Medicine Unit, Ms. Hildegarde Aguinaldo, President of the California Acupuncture Board, Dr. Tai-Ping Fan from the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Tony Kuo for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, gave keynote lectures. The global group of presenters also included Dr. Hwee Ling Koh from the National University of Singapore, Dr. Lixing Lao from the University of Hong Kong, Dr. Rainer Nögel from the SMS International Society of Chinese Medicine in Germany and Dr. Heather Boon from the University of Toronto. In the Summit, prominent academics, practitioners, researchers, and industry leaders from Asia, Europe, and North America engaged in roundtable debates about CHMs. In the Symposium, conference attendees networked with speakers and participated in panel discussions about the future of Chinese medicine, education and policy.
As part of the Summit & Symposium, the CEWM sponsored a Chinese Herbal Medicine Publishing Competition. Robin Anderson, LAc, was awarded First Place for her submission on “The Surprising Intersection of Rural Mexico and Chinese Medicinal Herbs.” Her submission focused on her work with a non-profit organization working to create local and sustainable ecosystems integrating Chinese and traditional Mexican herbal medicines in poor, rural communities. Collectively, the winners of this competition received $12,000 in prizes, with all submissions evaluated by a blinded panel of internationally recognized experts in herbal medicine and related fields. Key judgment criteria included novelty, feasibility, and potential impact.
The CEWM plans to make the Summit and Symposium an annual event. Over the past 23 years, the Center has been involved in research and consulting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), national and international governments and universities, health insurance companies, foundations, as well as drug and herbal companies. In addition, the Center’s education and training programs have transformed the thinking of thousands of health professionals, many of whom have become change-agents and healthcare leaders.
At the end of the Symposium, Ka-Kit Hui, MD, Founder and Director of CEWM summarized the goal of the Summit and Symposium as a step in building a better future integrative medicine model, noting that healthcare resources should be shifted "to patient-oriented care, prevention, early disease recognition and promotion," rather than expensive, critical intervention. In final emphasis of the Summit and Symposium's goal, Ka-kit Hui said "this task will require the concerted efforts, ingenuity and collaborative spirit of the scientific and medical communities, policymakers, the public and other segments of society."
The Center is now taking the next step to aid the transformation of global healthcare.