I have been a licensed acupuncturist since 1988, and have enjoyed a varied and diverse career as an educator, practitioner, author, translator, and academic leader in the field of United States TEAM (Traditional East Asian Medicine). My journey with East Asian medicine and philosophy began in 1982. I was first exposed through martial arts classes, nourishing life (self-cultivation) practices, self-study, and meditation classes to Daoism, Tai Ji Quan, Qi Gong, Nei Gong, Tui Na, Acupuncture, Moxa, and Chinese and Western herbal medicine. In the early eighties, prior to official and widespread licensure and professional recognition, the martial arts world was one of the few places in the United States where a non-Asian person encountered Chinese medicine. I was enthralled with and deeply engaged with the nourishing life aspect of Tai Ji Quan, Qi Gong, and Nei Gong, and practiced with discipline for several years. I remain committed to a nourishing life practice, which now also includes Yoga and Zen meditation.
Access to reliable English-language Chinese medicine literature in the early eighties was extremely limited. This phenomenon was amplified by China’s many years of international isolation during the Cold War years. Like many of my contemporaries, to indulge my interest in Chinese medicine at that time (before I could read Chinese books), I was reliant on limited, poorly translated, and incomplete texts. We purchased these books at metaphysical bookstores, where they were offered alongside texts on herbalism, Daoism, The Book of Changes (Yi Jing), Tai Ji Quan, Buddhism, Macrobiotics, and meditation. Given the limited availability of poorly translated and mostly derivative information on Chinese medicine at that time, it was sometimes difficult to discern historical and clinical fact from unsupported claims and hearsay. In my opinion, this led to numerous misunderstandings of the technical knowledge of Chinese medicine, as well as its philosophical, anthropological, historical, and political bases.
I completed my Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 1989 at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) in San Francisco. I was among the inaugural Master’s degree graduates in 1989. It was widely known at the time that ACTCM was one of the few places in North America where one could learn Chinese herbal medicine from teachers who were educated in China or Taiwan, who had primary access to classical and modern Chinese texts, and who also had extensive clinical experience with real-live patients in integrative medical environments (in their native countries). Our curriculum included course work in medical Chinese language, the study of which I continued on my own, with tutors, and sporadically over several years with professors at San Diego State University. Gradually, my ability to read medical Chinese literature progressed, and eventually I collaborated on translation and editing projects such as the influential Ten Lectures on Formulas from the Personal Experience of Jiao Shu De, and A Heart Approach to Gynecology; Essentials in Verse, both published by Paradigm Publications in 2005.
During a three-month clinical internship in Guangzhou in 1988, I had first-hand experience of integrative Chinese-Western medicine. I had years prior already concluded that Chinese and Western medicine must co-exist harmoniously, but my experience in Guangzhou crystalized my goal to achieve a clinically effective and academically responsible integration of Chinese and Western medicine that simultaneously embraced ancient classics and modern science. Since then, I have tried to hold my own clinical practice and educational responsibility to those standards and have advocated for the same among students and colleagues.
I began my teaching career in 1990, at the American Institute of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, where I worked closely with the late Dr. Ni Yi Tian. I eventually accepted a teaching position at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) in 1994, where I taught multiple clinical and didactic courses and chaired departments at the San Diego and New York campuses. I became Academic Dean of the San Diego campus, and served enthusiastically in that capacity for roughly five years. In all, I enjoyed a twenty-year, varied, engaged, and fulfilling career at PCOM.
Throughout my teaching career, I continued to translate classical and modern Chinese medical literature as the most reliable sources of evidence for my teaching and clinical practice. The ability to read medical Chinese was instrumental in the Chinese-language literature search I performed for my book Chinese Medical Andrology; An Integrated Approach to Male Urological and Reproductive Health, published in 2008 by Blue Poppy Press. I completed my Doctorate of Oriental Medicine (DAOM) at PCOM San Diego in 2013. My capstone research centered on a systematic review of literature for assessing the suitability of eLearning for use by US TEAM institutions. Last year, with enthusiasm for its mission, vision, and values, I joined the College of Eastern Medicine (CEM) at SCUHS as a full-time faculty member and eventually department chair. I was appointed Dean of the College of Eastern Medicine in 2015. The scientific method and the principles of Evidence-Informed Practice (EIP) and Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) are good tools for evaluating the relative efficacy and safety of varied medical treatments, including Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM). Critical thinking embodied within the scientific method can be used to verify, assess, and refine ancient medical ideas. This includes assessing the relative reliability and validity of different forms of evidence. Respect for evidence has long been embedded within Chinese medicine literature. Classical Chinese medicine is rich in expert opinion residing in its many classic texts, which possess a wealth of case reports and case series reports. The vast majority of this literature remains inaccessible to the field in the United States due to language limitations. Modern TEAM research has been accumulating in East Asian medical journals for decades. While in the early years of these research efforts, there were issues with study quality, in recent years they display significant improvements in research methodology. Greater access to the existing Chinese-language evidence base (classical and modern) would empower EIP and EBM.
The historical treasure-trove of classic literature in Chinese medicine is impressive and should be preserved, encouraged, and made accessible to the world as an essential source of evidence. I read classical and modern Chinese medical literature and enthusiastically support translation efforts. Yet I see no reason not to subject the traditional literature to scrutiny using critical thinking and the scientific method. TEAM doctors pride themselves on close clinical observation, and individualized diagnoses and treatments. Worthy of respect are long years of clinical experience, empirical observation, and clinical wisdom that comes from cataloging the results of trial after trial over many years. This results in the accumulation of evidence. Various types of evidence are valued by Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) and Evidence-Informed Practice (EIP). It is true that Chinese medicine literature is rich in case reports, case series reports, and expert opinion; yet these do not typically qualify as higher levels of evidence. Nevertheless, they are evidence just the same. EIP and EBM serve as an aid to students, clinicians, and scholars when they evaluate the relative importance of various types of evidence.
I am honored to serve as the Dean of the College of Eastern Medicine at the Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCUHS) in Whittier, California. The University was founded in 1911, and has been regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for decades. Well-trained doctoral-level faculty deliver our student-centered and evidence-based curriculum that is strong in both biosciences and Traditional East Asian medicine (TEAM). Students, faculty, and staff are supported by humanistic values embodied in institutional maturity and sound leadership. We offer a twenty-first century approach to East Asian medicine that simultaneously values “classical” and modern East Asian medicine. We honor and respect the experience of our predecessors and we also embrace critical thinking and reasoning, the scientific method, and historical analysis as reliable means of evaluating competing claims of clinical effectiveness, lineage, and authenticity.
Dr. Bob Damone, DAOM, L.Ac
Dean of the College of Eastern Medicine,
SCU is proud of its faculty – a diverse group of professionals who, individually and collectively, continually demonstrate their dedication to the delivery of the highest quality education available to today’s alternative health care students. Made up of LAcs, DCs, MDs and PhDs – the University’s faculty also boasts advanced degrees in orthopedics, radiology, sports medicine, neurology, nutrition, public health, homeopathy and oriental medicine.
Pre-clinical faculty are devoted to research and sharing the most up-to-date basic and clinical science information available – utilizing the most progressive curriculum available.
Clinical faculty are dedicated to teaching students in their internship rotations while caring for patients at our healthcare facilities. Participation in studies by the clinical faculty allows patients to receive care from top experts in the field.
Those who represent the SCU faculty are also known for the passion they possess regarding their respective subjects as well as motivating those in their charge to do and be their very best.
Note: Year following name designates appointment date.
(*) designates Postgraduate faculty status
(**) denotes LACC faculty
(PT) denotes part-time faculty