Harvard University ‘18
Since many of my family members are practicing healthcare practitioners, I grew up surrounded by the United States healthcare system. Traditional eastern medicine, however, was new to me. My knowledge consisted of what I’ve read in books, watched on television, or heard in news here and there but nothing to the extent that I’ve been fortunate to witness here at the Jaseng Center for Integrative Medicine. I had the privilege of joining other Jaseng staff members for a tour of the Dispensary Facilities to learn more about the products, processes, and people that go into the manufacturing of the medicine that comes out of the hospital, as well as the company’s mission that leads it. Their goal is to treat certain ailments through non-invasive practices and herbal medications rooted in Korean medicine, so part of my internship this semester was to see the cultural side that goes into healthcare. This tour helped me see that last week.
While walking the aisles of herbal ingredients, passing large vats filled with medicine, and observing employees pack each medicine with care, it was not hard to feel the diligence and meticulous impression that the facility works earnestly to have—qualities obviously instilled in each and every Jaseng product. For instance, I found the most exciting part of the tour to be the boiling vats that are labeled for each individual patient. An affixed card contains each name, doctor, contact information, medicinal makeup, and everything else necessary to match each treatment to each patient. To me, this showed how much the hospital cares for unique needs, and therefore unique solutions in the form of unique medicinal treatments. At the heart of the tubes, vats, concoctions, and ingredients was a mission to provide the very best treatments lead by strong medical professionals who truly care about integrative and Korean medicine as well as a desire to serve their patients in the best way they can.
It’s also interesting to learn how certain supplementary products address certain ailments within the body, such as how 관절고 (Gwanjulgo) is used to build stronger joints, pictured below. At first glance, it looks like a sweet piece of dark chocolate finely wrapped in gold paper but once you take your first bite, the pungent herb flavors overwhelm your mouth while the following ginger aftertaste takes over. I definitely wasn’t expecting it, and it definitely didn’t taste like chocolate! That seemed to be a common conception judging by the faces of our other colleagues on the tour. There I was, donning my white coat, nibbling on a piece of my first 관절고 thinking to myself, “When am I ever going to get this chance again?” I knew, then, that this was a special opportunity for me.
Once again you can see the diligence from each of the staff members on site. All of their products are singlehandedly addressed down to the last detail (as pictured above). For instance, 관절고 are shaped and packaged individually by hand rather than by a machine to ensure that each container is filled, so you’re likely to never find an empty 관절고. From the diagnosis at the hospital, the processing at the facilities, to the packaging and distribution across the country, I truly felt their dedication in handling each patient’s unique diagnosis from this tour. Diana , a previous intern, said it best: “Working with others throughout my internship who were just as passionate and inspired by Jaseng’s approach to medicine helped me realize that its success rests on the shoulders of its human-centric values.”
I also got a chance to visit large room with the different dry ingredients such as pellets, seeds, leaves, and even deer antlers. They were much bigger than I had anticipated and much furrier, too. These are shaven to thinly-sliced chips that were also on display. The organic materials inside this room will give off very strong and sharp smells, so be prepared! You’ll find a wide variety of products from all over the world so having them inside one room together can give off quite an overpowering smell.
All in all, I highly encourage you to visit if you get the chance. It’s highly useful for someone who, like me, may not have been exposed to much of the different healthcare practices and traditions outside of the United States. Since it’s still gaining traction in the United States, learning about integrative medicine was already a rare opportunity for me as it is but this internship not only introduced me to it but the manufacturing of traditional integrative medications, too. It showed a different cultural approach to medicine that I’ve not had much experience with, and one I’m thankful for as an intern.
Jeremiah Azurin is an American Intern from Washington, DC interested in systems design, international affairs, and technology. Prior to the Jaseng Center for Integrative Medicine, he spent his gap years studying at Chonnam National University in Gwangju and, before this, a summer at Kangown National University. Outside of school, he likes to rock climb, bike, row, and go to noraebang. Jeremy is currently Computer Science student at Harvard University and will graduate in 2018.