Class of 2019: Student finishes medical school learning Traditional Chinese Medicine with a rotation back to his Taiwanese roots
Editor's note: This story has been updated since publication.
There was one more thing Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine student Ray Chang wanted to do before he graduated in May — take an international medical rotation in Taiwan, the island where his family is from originally.
Taiwan is one of 11 international locations for which the medical school has international rotation partnerships, which allow students to broaden their horizons by learning and observing medicine in other countries.
“I saw it as an amazing opportunity to travel and learn medicine from a global perspective,” Chang said. “Also, I wanted to better understand the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is widely practiced in Taiwan and has a growing interest in the U.S.”
Chang had a family connection to the Taiwan rotation. His mother, Bianca Chang, was instrumental in getting the rotation established after learning that former VTCSOM Dean Cynda Johnson wanted to create a medical student exchange program in Asia. As a nurse who was trained in Taiwan, Bianca Chang had plenty of contacts at hospitals and medical schools there. The program was made official in 2016 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
Chang and fellow student Lamvy Le spent April in Kaohsiung at E-Da Hospital/I-Shou University studying TCM and observing plastic surgery techniques.
“Our two weeks of TCM were devoted to learning the concepts of Qi (also known as Chi) and Yin/Yang,” Chang said. “These are quite radical from the foundations of allopathic medicine. Qi is the belief is that there is a flowing life force that governs your existence. Treatment is designed to either add or remove Qi from the patient through maneuvers such as acupuncture or various natural remedies.”
Roughly one third of Taiwan’s population across all age groups receives TCM in some form, and it is covered by its health care system.
“The main role of TCM is to be used as a complementary form of medicine,” Chang said. “It’s not curative. Rather it’s intended to be used in conjunction with Western medicine.”
For the plastic surgery rotation, Chang and Le observed procedures both in the clinic and the operating room, everything from repairing industrial and vehicle accident injuries to congenital defects and elective surgeries. A highlight was the opportunity to practice microsurgery on the miniscule blood vessels of a rat.
“Our resident and lab technician took a video of the rat post-operatively to show that the rat was running around,” Chang said. “This indicates we were successful!”
Upon graduation, Chang will complete a preliminary year of residency at Atlanta Medical Center and then will do a four-year residency in diagnostic radiology at Mount Sinai Hospital West in New York City. Le will travel to Minneapolis where she will complete her residency in plastic surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Chang’s brother, Wayne, graduated from the VTC School of Medicine in 2016, making them the first set of siblings to graduate from the school. Wayne is currently doing his surgery residency at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Graduation at the VTC School of Medicine will be May 11 at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.