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Saint Joseph’s turns to the East

It is now East meets West for cancer patients at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, which recently started offering acupuncture and other supplementary treatments through a new educational partnership.

Interns from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica started working in the Integrative Medicine Department at Saint Joseph’s in early January as part of new partnership at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center.

The merging of Western medical technology, such as chemotherapy and radiation, and Eastern treatment practices, such as acupuncture, to treat patients is exactly where Christopher Ruth, one of only two interns chosen to work at the Burbank cancer center, said he wanted to be.

“When I first started out, I always knew I wanted to be somewhere with Western healing in addition to acupuncture,” Ruth said.


If not in Saint Joseph’s Integrative Medicine department, Ruth said he is hoping to work somewhere similar after he is certified in August.

Many insurance companies cover the costs of acupuncture or massage as part of a treatment plan, hospital officials said.

“We go to great lengths to make the programs as affordable as possible,” said Dr. Lisa Schwartz, who heads up the department. “Patients can pay even less for sessions with these students.”

In addition to acupuncture sessions offered by Emperor’s College, cancer patients have access to “acupressure,” Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Reiki and other alternative treatments.


“It’s great to use these practices to compliment the treatment patients are already receiving and we can make sure it doesn’t interfere with their normal course of treatment,” Schwartz said. “The more we know about their history, the easier it is to help them.”

Many patients already seek supplementary treatments, but more are turning to the services offered at the cancer center because of the convenience and credentialed practitioners the facility brings in, Schwartz added.

Hospital records show 20% to 30% increases in enrollment each month in the various programs, and Schwartz said she hopes to bring in two more interns from Emperor’s College in the coming months.

“Often times it’s difficult to prescribe additional medication for patients who undergo radiation and already have toxins in their body,” said Dr. Robert Chu, who supervises the interns. “Acupuncture can help solve these issues without putting anything else in their bodies.”