Reflections on CAM Rotation
In the past month I’ve witnessed a variety of approaches to the art of healing, some of which have been in existence for often thousands of years, but were often quite new to me. Complementary and alternative medicine has brought me into contact with the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine through acupuncture, qi gong, tai chi, as well as the practice of music therapy and traditional Hawaiian healing known as La’au Lapa’au. While on this rotation I have had time to explore the historical roots of these practices through resources directed to me in addition one on one discussions of up to date research on the mechanisms and evidence for these various disciplines. Examples of research I was able to explore included such topics as: the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat IBS (Chao GQ et al 2014), a randomized control trial of acupuncture combined with antidepressants for inpatient depression (Wang T, et al. 2014), a critical analysis of music as therapy (Kemper and Danhauer 2005), and specifically seeing how harp therapy can positively affect weight gain in premature infants (Kemper 2005). Additionally I spent time taking a look at the licensing and qualification processes of various alternative disciplines at state and national levels.        In my varied experiences I had an especially unique opportunity to spend time with Elizabeth Christenson, MD, LAc, at her private office, designed around the classical concepts of Feng Shui, and located within the beautiful valley of Ko’olau Mountain Range on Oahu, and also as a student in her Qi Gong classes held at Castle Medical Center. Dr. Christenson discussed with me her background and evolution towards her current integrative medical practice in which she commonly incorporates her skill as a practiced harpist with her training as a licensed acupuncturist to bring holistic healing to people at the mental, emotional, and physical level, while especially acknowledging the interconnectedness of these facets of the human person. In her own words Dr. Christenson described herself as a former “non-believer” of medical practices considered non-traditional to modern western medicine until experiencing a frustrating lack of results with western surgical and pharmaceutical solutions in the face of stubborn chronic conditions during the early years of her career as a physician, and thereafter finding deep satisfaction and practical outcomes in the art of healing through Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is rooted in the mind, body, spirit connection. It was very inspiring to see how someone trained in allopathic medicine artfully combined the acuity of western medicine with the grace of eastern traditions in such an appropriate setting.

Other clinical experiences on my CAM rotation included a substantial amount of time with a medical doctor who is well known within the Hawaiian medical and nutritional community for his efforts in remodeling patient’s diets with local, native foods to reverse chronic conditions and initiate radical weight loss. I spent time exploring the modes and philosophy of Traditional Hawaiian Healing with a very unique individual who leads courses and visitations at the Lyon Arboretum located just outside of downtown Honolulu. She shared with me the importance of finding one’s Mana, or spiritual power, through prayer before trying to bring healing to anyone. I can readily identify with this practice as an individual who finds himself deeply shaped by prayer and trust in God. In becoming acquainted with these various healing arts I started to notice a pattern of practitioners seeking harmony and balance for their patients, and in doing so becoming vessels of this harmony and balance themselves. I believe this is an ideal healers of all modalities should find root with. Just as an esteemed chef cannot serve what he has never tasted, so too will a physician ultimately be unable show his patients to a state of health he has never known.

Sean C., 4th-year medical student

Dear Dr Christenson,
I had a really great time at the Qigong classes and the talk with you about acupuncture was very enlightening. The Qigong class was really relaxing. All the class participants were wonderful and welcoming. I am not sure I am really a believer in the concept of healing through Qi, chakras, or energy fields, but your discussion did an amazing great job of trying to relate the energy concepts into biological processes. I think that sort of a conversation is crucial as CAM use gains popularity in media outlets such as Dr. Oz. Our patients will be actively using it or asking about it and being able to speak about it knowledgeably and in a biologically/physiologically grounded way helps us communicate with them more efficiently. I really liked that the discussion was very grounded in sensibility and used CAM as a complement and an adjunct to traditional medicine rather than attempting to use it as a replacement. I also enjoyed listening to your story of how you got to where you are with acupuncture and establishing an outpatient family practice. Who would have known you could do your medical education in Italy? and end up in Hawaii? I think a discussion like the one we had at your Kailua office would be a great lecture for medical students at JABSOM. I know that they are exposed to more CAM practices in their medical educations than most medical students. If they had a discussion like the one we had with you on integrating CAM and traditional western medicine, it would be a great tool to have in their repertoire (especially as many of them will continue on to practice in Hawaii where CAM use is very popular). I am sorry we were unable to attend the full moon gathering (we were recovering from the two dives we did earlier that day). Thank you very much for the time you spent with us. The harp music was beautiful. I hope other students will be able to learn more about CAM and participate in your Qigong class in the future.

Senior medical student Helmi

Dear Dr. Christenson,
The Department of CAM wants to thank you for your excellent teaching to the senior medical student regarding to integrative holistic medicine. They love your office in the middle of a beautiful valley which is very calming.

Noe A., MD, PhD,  Dept of CAM, JABSOM

Dr. Christenson,
Your Qi Gong class was wonderful. I felt great after every class. It gave me energy and made me feel healthier. Your home/office is AMAZING! I love the location, ambiance, I could just melt away in nature if I was there longer. Thank you for all that you taught us and for the book. Also thank you for playing the harp for us. That is my favorite instrument and someday I am going to learn how to play. This CAM course was an eye opener. I felt I learned so much especially about lifestyle change. I really enjoyed every part of it and wish I would have done it sooner. I don’t know of one thing I would change about it. You wanted feedback, there it is, keep it going you are changing the future of medicine one allopathic student doctor at a time. Thank you,

Morgan E. Medical student OMS IV


Hi Dr. Christenson,
I really enjoyed your Qi Gong class and having you talk to us in your office. It really was interesting learning about your background and how you integrated your medical knowledge with CAM. Overall, I think the CAM elective was very eye opening and a great experience. Thanks,



CAM experience
I really enjoyed my CAM rotation, and it was nice to do qigong every Monday. I enjoyed your lecture and the books you gave us, and I appreciated your advice about medicine and the business of medicine. I wouldn’t change anything!

Tiffany C.


Subject: My experience with CAM Elective
Hello Dr. Christenson,
I just wanted to touch base with you and thank you for inviting us to your Qi Gong class on Monday mornings. I really enjoyed participating in your exercises and meeting with you at your office to discuss your therapy. I also appreciate the time and knowledge that you passed on regarding business and how to handle our money as we become older. I am realizing the importance of that every day now. I was surprised by your ability to play the harp and found it very relaxing and therapeutic. I am glad we had the opportunity to visit with you as I believe it added to the value of this elective. Although we were not able to visit the Chinese Acupuncture School, three of us did visit with Dr. Long during her office hours. We were able to observe as she met with her patients and she taught us some things about acupuncture and examining tongues as a part of our physical exam. Overall I feel that I was exposed to a wide variety of alternative treatments and I appreciate all of the time you and the other teachers have invested in us. Thank you for your time and I hope that we can stay in touch in the future. Take care.
Zeporah S.


Dear Dr. Christenson,
I wanted to tell you about some of my thoughts about my rotation over the last four weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the last four weeks in the CAM rotation because it gave me a completely different experience and look at medicine. It taught me so many different things that I never would have learned in my traditional medical school curriculum. From TCM, I learned so much about herbal medicine, got a chance to see acupuncture, and learned a little about feeling pulses and reading tongues which we definitely don’t do in Western medicine. I also enjoyed going to Qi Gong because I’ve never done anything like it before and it was a completely different experience for me. We also got to learn about other types of medicine such as Adyuvedic, which was also very interesting, and we heard from a Native Hawaiian healer and tried kava, which I’ve never done though I’ve lived in Hawaii for the majority of my life. Hearing about nutrition from Dr. Shintani was fascinating and he taught me a lot which I can share with not only my patients, but with my family and bring into my own life as well. I also liked the various lectures we had on meditation because it was so relaxing and I enjoy doing it in my own time, especially since it helps me to relax and be more mindful of myself. One of the things that I liked the most was the music therapy. The music therapy sessions that we attended were with dementia and autistic patients and we also had a lecture. The therapists played a variety of instruments and had the patients play the instruments as well. I have to say though, that when you played the harp, it was so beautiful and it felt instantly relaxing. I wish we had had more time to listen to you playing the harp because that was truly wonderful and you have a real talent at that. Thank you for taking to time to talk to us and allowing us to take Qi Gong. I know you shared many valuable life lessons with us (especially about finance) and I appreciate it. This was a great rotation and I wish everyone in my medical school class could take it to get exposure to this side of medicine because so few get exposed to it, yet it is so important to learn about because patients explore this side of medicine every day. Thank you for sharing it with us. Sincerely,

Kelley C.


Dear Dr. Christenson:
Thank you for all your informative teaching in CAM this month. You have opened my eyes to see other ways of practicing medicine. Initially I was skeptical but after this month of exposure to all different modalities including your Qigong class, acupuncture practice, integrating the East and West Medicine, spirituality in medicine, music therapy etc… now I realize I need to know them so I can be prepared to face the world of CAM. I am looking forward to read Dr. Sha’s book and all other information you gave me. Best,
Eric L. 4th year medical student

Hi Dr. Christenson,
We have 8 senior med students visiting from the mainland for our CAM Elective this Feb.  Thank you for offering your Qi Gong class at Castle and your private teaching and all of your support and help!

N. A. MD CAM Elective Coordinator, Dept of CAM, JABSOM UH


Hi Dr. Elizabeth,
We have 8 senior med students coming in January for the CAM Elective. Thank you for your teaching!

N. A. MD, FAAP CAM Elective Coordinator, Dept of CAM, JABSOM UH


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
We have a visiting MS4, Claudine L, from 8/30/10 to 9/24/10.  Please welcome her and help us teach her about CAM through your practices.  Thank you again for all you do to teach our senior medical students about CAM. Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP CAM Elective Coordinator, Dept of CAM, JABSOM UH


Dear Dr. Christenson:
We have a new Senior Medical Student, Jason B. who will be taking our CAM Elective next month July 6, 2010 to July 30, 2010.   Thank you again for all you do to make this Senior CAM Elective such a wonderful experience for our medical students.  We greatly appreciate all of your time, teaching and effort! Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP Coordinator Senior CAM Elective and Assistant Professor Dept of CAM, John A. Burns School of Medicine


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
Thank you for taking the time and energy to teach our Senior Medical Students in their CAM Elective with us.  We have 1 JABSOM UH Senior and 5 mainland Senior Medical Students starting a month rotation with us Monday, March 29, 2010.  Thank you for opening up your practices for this final block of students for this school year.  Sincerely,
N. A. MD, FAAP CAM Elective Coordinator and Assistant Professor Dept of CAM  John A. Burns School of Medicine at University of Hawaii


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
Thank you very much for all of your help with our CAM Elective 4th Year Medical Students during February!  They really enjoyed learning about CAM and Integrative Medicine with you.  Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP CAM Elective Coordinator and Assistant Professor Dept of CAM John A. Burns School of Medicine at University of Hawaii


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
We have four 4th year medical students visiting us from the mainland to be our CAM Elective in February.  Thank you for letting them study with you to learn about CAM and Integrative Medicine.  Thank you again for taking the time to share your experiences and expertise with them. Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP CAM Elective Coordinator and Assistant Professor Dept of CAM John A. Burns School of Medicine at University of Hawaii


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
We have 5 new CAM Elective students we have studying with us this January 2010…. Thank you again for all of you help teaching them about CAM. With much Aloha, Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP, CAM Elective Coordinator


Dear Elizabeth C,
We have two new 4th year CAM Elective students.   Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and CAM experiences with our students.  Aloha, Sincerely,
N. A. MD, FAAP    Assistant Professor Dept of CAM, JABSOM


Hi Elizabeth C,
We have two senior medical students doing a CAM Elective with us March 30-April 24, 2009.  We gratefully appreciate all of your help with Sean and Kanani.  You are making a big difference in their medical education!  Thank you very much for all of your help Aloha, Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP   UH JABSOM Asst Prof Dept of CAM


Thank you so much for agreeing to teach our medical students. Lauren and Michael this is an excellent experience to be with Dr. Christenson. I hope you can take advantage of the opportunity.

Rosanne H. Professor and Chair Dept of CAM John A. Burns School of Medicine at University of Hawaii


Hi Dr. Elizabeth,
We have two new students for our CAM Elective.  Thank you very much for helping us in teaching them.  Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP   UH JABSOM Asst Prof Dept of CAM


Dear Dr. Chen Christenson,
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me on Monday, and for the wonderful Qi Gong class. I felt the chi all day and can’t wait until next Monday. I am also really enjoying Dr. Sha’s book. Thank you.



Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
Thank you very much for this great email of opportunities for Shauna.  Our CAM Elective would be definitely less without your participation.  I really appreciate your teaching and sharing your colleagues and contacts in CAM with our students. With Much Aloha and Thank you,

N. A. MD, FAAP  UH JABSOM Asst Prof Dept of CAM


Greetings Dr. Chen Christenson,
First of all thank you so much for helping to arrange all of these wonderful options for me. I am deeply grateful. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, I am trying to organize my schedule and was going to email you a copy of my calendar for the month with the various activities that I will attend. I am going to try and experience as much as possible.    I am hoping to participate in the Qigong class on Monday October 6th and then spend time with you in your clinic afterwards if that is okay. I can also arrange this for the 13th if that is better.   I am finalizing my activity schedule and hope to have a good calendar set by tomorrow which I will forward to You and the department chair. Thank you again for your time and help. I look forward to working with you; Aloha

Shauna C.


Dear Elizabeth,
We have another medical student Shauna for our 4th year CAM Elective.  She is with us 9/29/08 to 10/24/08.  Thank you for offering her any CAM experiences you can.  Thank you for all of your help, Sincerely,

N. A. MD, FAAP   UH JABSOM Asst Prof Dept of CAM


Dear Dr. Elizabeth,
Thank you very much for meeting with Eva R., our CAM student visiting from Loma Linda Medical School.  She had many great things to say about you.  Thank you for helping make our CAM elective a success. We have another medical student senior from Hawaii, Angela Y., who will be doing a CAM elective with us from Monday, March 31 to Friday, April 25, 2008.  She is going into Psychiatry and would love to have CAM experiences she can experience for her future practice. Thank you for offering your Qi Gong class at Castle. And also thank you for spending some time with her at your Maunawili office.  And also thank you for coordinating schedule for her to go to some classes at the acupuncture school at Chinese Cultural Plaza.  Thank you for all of your help with Angela.

N. A. MD, FAAP    Coordinator for Dept of CAM 4th year Elective