Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This I believe: The Oath of Sun Si Miao

My son had the opportunity to be a part of an oratory club this past school year. One of the speeches the members were asked to write was entitled "This I believe". These speeches were based on books, quotes, and people who had inspired the students. In the next few months, I will share a few of the books, quotes, and people that have formed me as a practitioner and thus my practice of medicine. 

The first is the Oath of Sun Si Miao. Sun Si Miao was a physician during the Sui and Tang dynasties. He was said to have been very sickly as a child, this sparked his interest in medicine at a young age. Sun went on to become one of the most talented physicians in all of China.1 He authored of two influential works on Chinese medicine: "Essential Formulas for Emergencies [Worth] a Thousand Pieces of Gold" and "Supplement to the Formulas of a Thousand Gold Worth". Combined they contain over 7000 herbal prescriptions for treating disease and ensuring health.2 Sun was given the title of "King of Medicine" Perhaps his best known writing is the first chapter of "Essential Formulas". It is entitled "On the Absolute Sincerity of Great Physicians", better know as the Oath of Sun Si Miao3:

On my honor I solemnly promise, as a physician of the medical arts, to humbly practice my profession to the best of my ability.  I will not pretend to know what I do not know, but I will endeavor to study diligently and train myself tirelessly, for all of my professional life. 

When I treat an illness I will calm my spirit and fix my resolve.  I will not give way to wishes and desires but develop an attitude of compassion. 

When someone comes to me for help, I will not ask if the patient is noble or common, rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly.  I will consider strangers, family, good friends, foolish and wise as my closest relatives. I will look on others sufferings as my own and be deeply concerned and anxious to relieve the distress.  

Neither dangerous mountain passes, nor time of day, neither weather conditions nor hunger, thirst nor fatigue shall keep me from helping wholeheartedly.

I will be respectable and listen with love and understanding to my patients. I will strive to master all the medical literature, working carefully and tirelessly.  I will be modest about my abilities and respectful with other physicians.  I will have integrity with my patients and my business practices.  

I will be proud enough to practice my medical art to the best of my ability and be humble enough to call for assistance when necessary.  I see my ability to be a great physician of Oriental Medicine as a gift to be shared with humanity.

I was first introduced to this just before completing my Master's degree at Southwest Acupuncture College. Part of the graduation ceremony was to stand and give the oath. Hearing all our voices in unison was one of the most memorable moments of my life. 

In retrospect, I think it would have been wiser for our teachers to have introduced this text on our very first day of class. It's one thing to be interested in Asian cultures, drawn to alternative healing, and turned on by the power of "magically" making a headache disappear. It's another to compassionately treat the patient who lashes out in anger as a result of living with chronic pain; very different hold the hand of a person for whom chemo is not winning the battle. It is with equal parts determination and hope that I bend over bodies that have been the victims of all the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' that life has to offer. It is with a certain amount of sadness that I have watched some of my colleagues give up their moral integrity to offer their patients false hope in the form of healthcare gimmicks or betray their ethics in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  I see practitioners of all kinds judge patients by their weight, lifestyle choices, or perception of reality, despite this being unhelpful. 

At the same time, I'm humbled everyday by the selfless wisdom and service provided by the teachers and practitioners of this medicine. My patients who carry their burdens with such courage and grace fill me with awe. I'm deeply grateful for the contributions Western medicine has made toward health and wellness. It's exciting to be practicing in a time where a collaboration between many different kinds of healthcare is becoming the norm!

So, everyday I strive to treat to the best of my ability, to practice wholehearted compassion, to be honest about what I know and do not know, to be humble regarding my talents, but most of all to be present with the human being before me. I may not always succeed, but I always do the best I can in the present moment. 

3 Southwest Acupuncture College Graduation Ceremony Program, August 22, 2009


Left Hand Community Acupuncture is located in the heart of Old Town Lafayette 
at the corner of Simpson St. and Michigan Ave. LHCA offers an affordable sliding 
scale of $25-$55. We do not ask for proof of income. You decide what you feel is 
fair to you and fair to us. We treat patients in a relaxed, group setting that promotes 
an atmosphere of healing. Caroline Adams is a Licensed 
Acupuncturist and nationally board certified. Acupuncture can help with a wide range 
of health issues including pain, stress, insomnia, arthritis, allergies, depression, 
headaches, fatigue, cold and flu, digestive issues, PMS, and many other health concerns.



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