Isabelle Chen-Angliker, a pediatrician from Switzerland, was never fully satisfied with the Western medical approach. She did not agree with the method of funneling patients into an increasingly sub-specialized medical system. She was concerned with the discrepancy of more sophisticated diagnostics vs. the lack of treatment options that are both minimally invasive and without significant side effects.
Isabelle was always looking for more holistic and integrative healing modalities, but there was not much complementary training available in Switzerland at the time she went through medical school except for homeopathy and manual therapy: “Even chiropractors got their training in the U.S.,” she said.
When Isabelle moved to Austin in 2008, she began taking her daughter -- then just 18 months old -- to Heartsong Music, a music school located near AOMA’s former campus in north Austin. In this process she also began admiring AOMA next door and dreaming of studying Oriental medicine herself. In 2009 she went through Hatha Yoga teacher training, which to her served as a “baby step” before entering the AOMA graduate program. In 2010 she began searching for alternative treatments for her young son with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, which inspired her to finally enroll in AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program.
As Isabelle nears graduation, she has finally found a style of medicine that deeply resonates with her. What especially appeals to her about Chinese medicine’s integrative and holistic perspective on healing is its individualized treatment approach tailored to the needs of patients and its applications and modifications involving art and intuition. Isabelle loves that the practitioner-patient relationship in Chinese medicine is “a give and take rather than consumer or hierarchy oriented relationship” -- and gone are her concerns about the invasive treatments of Western medicine. Chinese medicine is all about “Doing NO harm, and providing an effective yet pleasant and relaxing treatment,” she said.
Through her path to becoming a practitioner of Chinese medicine, Isabelle has learned to make mistakes and be patient with herself -- that it’s okay to not be perfect. For Isabelle, these are important achievements in light of the courage it took for her to return to school after years in a different field of medicine. Through this process, she has overcome her fear of failure, while also conquering a language barrier and culture shock.
Outside of her busy career and studies, Isabelle leads a very full and happy life as mother of two children: Lenny, 11 years old and Celia, 6 1/2 years old. She spends her free time volunteering at her children’s school, taking them to music, piano and ballet lessons as well as on field trips to places such as Enchanted Rock and parks around the city. She also loves to swim, do yoga, craft, read, play music and dance, and hopes to one day mastermind an herbal and vegetable garden like her grandmother’s.
Some of Isabelle’s greatest achievements during her time at AOMA include reports from her returning patients’ about the improvement in their health issues and stress management; her own lifestyle changes and increase in mind-body awareness; and inspiring her patients to embark on their own journeys seeking health and happiness through her sharing of passions for healthy food, movement, and nature.
Of course, like any graduate student in a medical program, she has faced many challenges as well. These include scheduling conflicts with her two children and busy husband, performance anxiety, and learning to pace herself.
Isabelle has worked steadily to overcome these by planning ahead, constantly refining her organizational skills, and avoiding procrastination. She also cites the importance of reflecting and pausing, revisiting her original call to go back to school, and always striving to see the big picture. “Treating patients is rewarding, encouraging and my main motivator even when I feel stuck, drained, exhausted or overwhelmed,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to other students, she had a lot of insight to share:
Get regular acupuncture treatments yourself -- even before starting the program
Plan well, practice plenty of self-care and take breaks to avoid burnout
Find balance and keep mind and body connected
Communicate concerns and challenges: Follow a “problem meets solution” strategy
Correspond with student peers and share ups and downs with friends and family.
And as for the most transformational experiences she has had since starting on the path of Chinese medicine? “Feeling the instant benefits of acupuncture on my own mind and body -- the powerful effect of the needles as well as immediate and long term benefits of Chinese herbs,” she said. “I love when patients give me that look of ‘What did you just do to me?’ or say ‘I feel so relaxed,’ ‘I feel so much better,’ ‘My pain is almost gone,’ or just give a big sigh of relief.”