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A rewarding career in Chinese medicine

Written by Roy Mumford | Thursday, 9 June 2022

chinese medicine

The practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure and I can think of no career that is more fulfilling. But it can also be more. It can be a calling.

I realise that is something of an archaic concept in our post-modern world where many expect to have multiple careers throughout their working life, but it’s still apt given this medicine’s long history.

Traditional Chinese medicine has deep roots that stretch back through time to before the Bronze Age. Roots that feed and support clinical practices that remain relevant to this day. Nothing has changed in our human physiology and little in our psychology over the ages. What worked then, typically works now.

To illustrate this, I’d recall a passage from The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, a 2,000-year-old medical treatise that is said to be a reflection back on what they themselves deemed ‘ancient times’.

Those who knew the way of keeping a good health in ancient times always kept in their behaviour in daily life in accordance with nature… But the people nowadays are different are quiet different. They do not recuperate themselves according to the way of preserving good health, but run counter to it. They are addicted to drink without temperance, keep idling as ordinary, indulge in sexual pleasures and use up their vital energy and ruin their health.

(Wang , 1997, 7-8)

This 2,000-year-old passage could be written tomorrow and still be both accurate and relevant.

A medicine that has observed and described health and disease for almost five millennia has much to offer, not just in the treatment, but critically, in the prevention of illness. What’s more, these are skills available to anyone with the inclination to learn.

In my own 30-year career I have focussed on the treatment of addictions, primarily using acupuncture as an effective way to reduce both the frequency and severity of cravings and as critical support in the difficult phase of acute withdrawal from alcohol and narcotics.

From this clinical experience and as a way to further illustrate the relevance and utility of TCM in our world, it is clear to me that what we in the West might diagnose as addiction, the Buddhists identified as attachment 2,500 years ago. It is no surprise then to see that an increasing number of people today are turning to and rediscovering the ancient practices of mindfulness and meditation to address their compulsive, damaging behaviours.

An effective medical system must be able to both treat as well as prevent disease. TCM does this by working with and co-opting the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Its descriptions of the phenomena of human existence and life are what makes the medicine a ‘poetic science’. Its emphasis on prevention is best expressed by the adage “treating disease once it has arisen is like digging a well when one is already thirsty, or forging weapons once the battle has begun.” (Deadman, 2016)

The process of becoming a practitioner of TCM starts and ends with the same thing – learning. This is really to say that it never ends. You are always learning, always getting better at what you do. If you are interested in health and interested in people, it’s for you.

Over my career, I’ve seen my life and the medicine converge as the knowledge and principles that inform my practice become a larger part of my life. I practice internal exercises daily, my philosophy in life is largely Taoist, I adapt as much as possible to the character of the seasons as much to the situation before me.

The practice of medicine is never dull… ever. You are dealing with different people from all levels of society, trying to help them integrate their physical mental and emotional selves into a healthy coherent whole. You bring your skillset and you bring yourself to each treatment to effect change and are changed yourself in the process.


Deadman, P (2016). Live well Live long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition. Hove: Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications

Wang, Bin (1997). Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine (Wu & Wu, Trans.). Beijing: China Science and Technology Press

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Roy Mumford

Roy Mumford began his studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1988 after using the medicine to help him recover from a spinal injury he received in 1985. He practices Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Tuina (therapeutic massage) and maintains a daily exercise regime of Tai qi and Wing Chun. For the past 20 years Roy has specialised in Drug and Alcohol recovery and has taught at Endeavour College since 2017.

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