Dr. Michelle Phillips, MS, RAc, Dip.TCM, RH
My name is Dr. Michelle Phillips and I am a Doctor of Acupuncture, Registered Acupuncturist and a Registered Herbalist in Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve also completed a Diploma in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which covers the herbal portion of TCM. I also have a Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, in Medical/Clinical Genetics, and still use this education as part of my Acupuncture practice.
Here are the Coles notes of my story: I was in western medicine for 15 years, my sister got diagnosed with terminal cancer, a TCM doctor helped her more than you could ever imagine, I quite my job, went back to school for 5 years to learn Acupuncture & TCM, and for 12 years after that, I have been in private practice. If you want the crazy details, feel free to read on!
I can sympathize with those of you who are skeptical or non-believers when it comes to acupuncture. I used to be one of you! My background is hard core western science – biology and human genetics. Anyone who takes a look at my CV will wonder how I ever ended up where I am now. It was a bit of an unlikely start, but looking back, I get a good chuckle out of it.
I was seeing my western medical doctor for some health concerns; I was feeling quite fatigued and was really grouchy. The method of treatment that she proposed didn’t sit well with me, however it was the only option presented. I had a discussion with a colleague and friend of mine at work, who suggested that I try acupuncture. My immediate response was, “I don’t go see quacks.” Fortunately, my friend knew she could appeal to my scientific and logical side – she pointed out I had nothing to lose – so off I went. I remember being virtually certain that it wouldn’t work. It was the little – what if? – niggling in the back of my mind that convinced me to give it a fair shake.
Wow! It was nothing like what I expected. After three treatments, I started to notice subtle changes. After ten treatments, I was feeling on top of the world. I was sleeping through the night, something I hadn’t done in so long, I had forgotten what that felt like. I still remember the shock of that first morning when I woke from a solid 8 hours of sleep. I didn’t feel irritable anymore; I had lots of energy and was back to feeling like my regular self. Others also noticed the difference – friends and colleagues all commented positively on the change and of course I got a smug smile and an, “I told you so!” from my friend who convinced me to try acupuncture.
My perspective had definitely shifted – I had gone from thinking acupuncturists were “quacks” to having a whole new regard for the profession. The impact on me was so intense that I felt compelled to learn this ancient art of healing. I remember thinking that if I could make the same difference in even one person’s life that Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture had made in my life, I would be happy. This was the beginning of an exciting new journey.
What finally prompted me to quit my job as a genetic counselor after 15 years was my experience with my sister Patti who had become terminally ill with cancer. She was also a non-believer when it came to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, but toward the end of her illness, she too realized she had nothing to lose and grudgingly ventured into the world of TCM with my firm support and encouragement. She was blessed with the opportunity to be cared for and treated by Dr. Steven Aung.
When Patti started her treatments with Dr. Aung, western medicine had done all it could for her. She had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and was given some very powerful pain medication that kept her as comfortable as possible. When she saw Dr. Aung for the first time, he told her he could not stop the cancer, but he could make her feel better – and so he did. When Patti arrived on Dr. Aung’s door step, she was in a wheel chair, on oxygen and taking insulin three times a day, along with a variety of other medications to manage her symptoms. Palliative care was an integral part of her life – she was unable to do any of the everyday activities most of us take for granted. After seeing Dr. Aung for one month – going for acupuncture three times a week and taking the Chinese herbs he recommended – there was a change in her that was nothing short of miraculous. She was able to tuck her wheel chair away in the front hall closet; she no longer required extra oxygen, was able to stop taking the insulin and cancelled her palliative home care. She was out doing her own grocery shopping again, having her family over for lunch, getting dressed and doing her hair all on her own.
Believe me – I know how this sounds – a bit like magic and a lot like I’m crazy. I can assure you that neither is the case. It was simply a beautiful real life example of the potential of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. None of us really understood it at the time, and truth be told, we didn’t care what the explanation was – we were just extremely grateful for the quality of life Dr. Aung was able to give Patti, and in turn, the quality time it gave us to spend with her.
The experience I had with my sister – seeing the profound positive impact TCM had on her quality of life – is what inspired me to finally take my leap of faith. Patti passed away in January 2004. I quit my job as a genetic counselor and went back to school. It was a steep learning curve and it strained my “western” trained brain at times, but I graduated in July 2009, and am very proud to say that I am a Doctor of Acupuncture with a Diploma in Traditional Chinese Medicine(AB), a Registered Acupuncturist(AB/BC), as well as a Registered Herbalist(AB). I will always miss my sister, but I am forever grateful for the gifts that came from sharing in her experience – the vision to practice medicine and the courage to pursue it.
Facilitating healing takes many forms, but at the foundation of them all is the desire to improve quality of life and enable wellness. Choosing the strengths each modality has to offer and using them synergistically is what manifests true healing. I feel blessed to have knowledge and experience in both eastern and western medicine and strive to provide exemplary care by offering the benefits of both.