Dr John Shen

Two Anecdotes from Dr John Shen

Around 1910, a famous doctor, Cao Gang Zhou, in Su Zhou, was a physician to the Qing Emperors. One day, he was called to treat a patient suffering from typhoid fever. After having seen the patient, Dr. Cao returned home. Minutes later, the patient’s wife rushed into the doctor’s residence and asked if he had mistakenly taken fifty dollars which had been by the patient’s pillow. “Yes”, said Doctor Cao. He then gave her fifty dollars. Later, after the patient had recovered, his wife found fifty dollars among the sheets.

Realizing then that the doctor had never taken the money, they returned the fifty dollars to Dr. Cao and were curious to know why he admitted to having taken the money. He explained that since the loss of the money had led to suspicion, even about their own physician, it had indicated how important the money was to them.

If he had not admitted to it, and they could not find the money, it may have caused the patient too great an emotional stress. In turn, his illness might have gotten worse, and might have killed him. So the doctor was ready to give his own money to save a life.

In 1933, I was living in the province of Jiang Su. A newly born child of a wealthy household had been crying almost continually for a full month.

The family consulted with a Dr. Chu, who looked around their yard. Then, after he had seen the baby, he said that there was nothing wrong with the baby. He simply pointed out that the baby’s diapers were dried under a tree whose flowers stuck to the diapers.

The baby was crying because of the itching. He recommended that the baby’s bottom be rubbed with a kind of herb powder. The baby stopped crying.

These two anecdotes show instances where physicians used their compassion and wisdom in their work. On the surface, they may seem simplistic. In fact, they are not. They illustrate that in treating a patient, it is not a matter of just dealing with the illnesses. One must also be concerned with the patient’s psychology and surroundings.

Dr John H .F. Shen was one of traditional Chinese medicine’s most famous practitioners. Dr Shen was born in Shanghai in 1914. He studied medicine at the Shanghai Medical College studying all aspects of Chinese Medicine, including herbs and acupuncture. In 1938 he established the Shanghai Medical Clinic, of which he was the director.

Dr Shen moved to Taiwan in 1948, practicing Chinese medicine there for 17 years. In 1965 the National Medical Association of Malaysia invited him to work as a consultant in Southeast Asia. During the years 1965-1971 Dr. Shen traveled and worked in ten countries in Southeast Asia, meeting with more the 50,000 patients.

Dr Shen moved to the United States in 1971, opening clinics in Boston and New York City. In the United States he became one of the principal advocates for the practice of complimentary medicine, using the most effective and efficient treatments from both Eastern and Western medicine. He also lectured and taught throughout the United States.

Dr Shen passed away in 2000.

Read more about Dr Shen: Interview with a past long term student Sue Krieger

A lovely observation from one of his student (Insights for acupuncturists)