“We need to explain more clearly for people to
understand what traditional Chinese medicine
does, and what it is able to heal.”
An interview with Ms. Doris Rathgeber,
Founder and General Manager of
Body & Soul Medical Clinics
“Every problem needs an individual solution. At Body & Soul, we are committed to a holistic health philosophy, combining natural treatment with the best medical science. We are also a multi-disciplinary team of experts dedicated to pain management and rehabilitation, our therapists use modern manual techniques and their vast knowledge, while providing the most gentle, natural treatment.” So says Ms. Doris Rathgeber, Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, General Manager and Founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.
Body & Soul Medical Clinics was founded to provide a healing place where the international community could benefit from the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to address their modern health needs. And it has evolved into Shanghai’s top integrative medicine resource, offering comprehensive diagnosis and treatment at convenient one-stop solution clinics for health and worry-free medical care with responsive customer service and insurance processing in Shanghai.
Before coming to Shanghai with her husband Ekkehard in 1995, Doris was a sales woman for a software and hardware company in Germany. Upon arrival, having always been very interested in medicine, she first studied Chinese for two years before starting her education in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Doris received a bachelor degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the University for Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology where she studied from 1997 to 2003. She founded and is operating four Body & Soul – Medical Clinic in Shanghai, offer TCM consultations, along with TCM treatments such as acupuncture, cupping and Tuina-massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, functional medicine, orthopedics, and psychological consultations. The clinics are also well equipped with laboratories to perform Western diagnoses and pharmacies to hand out Western and Chinese medication solutions.
As the Founder and General Manager Medical Director of Body & Soul, Doris delivers speeches to several international organizations to raise awareness about Traditional Chinese Medicine. SpaChina found the opportunity to interview her.
What brought you into the TCM world?
When I came to China and I started studying Chinese language, I finished after about two years, and I didn’t want to only study the language so my friend who was a TCM doctor introduced me to Chinese medicine and I wanted to study some massage techniques. She enrolled me to the bachelor program for traditional Chinese medicine of internal medicine and I did not choose western medicine because Chinese medicine studies includes history, philosophy, and medicine, and this is what I really liked about it. When I started to study the Chinese medicine I did not know that I would ever be able to finish the studies as we were supposed to go back after three to five years after arriving in China. So I was lucky I could finish.
This year is the 15th anniversary for Body & Soul, please tell us briefly about the development story of Body & Soul.
After finishing the studies of traditional Chinese medicine my husband and I decided to open a consulting company with me doing consulting for TCM and my husband doing consulting for media. That was in 2003. For my side, after doing consulting about the Chinese medicine for half a year, I realized that it is not enough to be a consultant in that area but we needed a clinic so that we could prescribe medicine, we could do treatments, that we could do diagnosis with western medicine diagnosis tools. So we applied for the first clinic in 2003, and in July 2004 we opened the first Body & Soul – The TCM Clinic close to XinTianDi. Two years later, we decided to open our second clinic in the Minhang / Hong Qiao area where a lot of foreigners live. They asked me to come a little bit closer to them. So in the year that my son was born, in 2006, we opened our second clinic.
The third clinic came in 2010. That was a very small clinic, only for acupuncture basically, that we opened in the Four Seasons Hotel in Jing’an. Someone in the management read an article about our clinic and decided that they wanted to have acupuncture as a treatment method in their hotel.
The fourth clinic was opened in 2012 and was specially opened for Pudong area, as we have many patients in that area after it developed.
For me, the most difficult part was in that context to find the employees, the colleagues that I have. Actually, all my colleagues are the biggest treasure that I have, a great team of approximately 100 people by now.
Compared with other TCM clinics in China, what is unique about Body & Soul?
I think the combination of different treatments, the combination of western and Chinese medicine, the more western style management and the time that we have for our patients. On top of that, we designed our clinics always with art and medicine in mind, so each of the three big clinics that we have has a topic and a theme. The first clinic was our first TCM clinic and so the decoration is all about Chinese medicine. All the things that we collected about traditional Chinese medicine are framed and we also designed the ceiling and the walls according to TCM ideas. The second clinic is a clinic for western and Chinese medicine. It’s an integrative clinic and so the art that you find in the second clinic in Minhang is also a combination of east and west, western and Chinese art. There was a german artist in Shanghai and he established a cooperation with a Chinese artist and sold the art pieces that resulted from their cooperation for the decoration of our second clinic.
And although the third clinic is also a pure TCM clinic, we decided to give the clinic in Pudong, the newest lifestyle area in Shganghai, to give it a very modern and very easy decoration. So, all these together with the German management style, a very free and liberal management style concerning all our therapists and doctors, I think that’s unique.
Who are your patients? What are they looking for from Body & Soul?
We have patients from all over the world. Most of our patients, 80%, are caucasians, around 10% are Japanese and another 10% are Chinese patients. We welcome everybody in our clinics and we offer solutions for all of them.
Most of our patients come with pains. Headaches and neck pains are our major field, after that we see gynecology patients who come with irregular period, pain in the period, menopause and all the questions on female health and all the problems that come with the period. Traditional Chinese medicine gynecology does not work with hormones, so we can help a lot with herbal medicine and acupuncture in this field.
We have a lot of patients with internal problems, colds, belly pains, diarrhea, constipation and everything in the internal medical field. And third is skin. So, acne, eczema and all the things that are related to the skin, we can also work with.
What are the differences between foreigners and Chinese patients?
An easy answer to that is that the Chinese patients know what we are talking about, so that they know that we do wang-wen-wen-qie, the four different diagnoses forms in Chinese medicine, they know that we use not good tasting herbal medicine, they know that it takes a bit time to heal chronic diseases with traditional Chinese medicine, and so on. Foreign patients need a lot of explanation. We need to explain what is the philosophy behind the Chinese medicine, and what are we treating in the Chinese medicine. So, you need to imagine that the foreign patient doesn’t know or understand the concept of Qi, so the vital substance qi, which is the most important energy that we work with, and which we heal, this is our goal. The foreign patients do not even know it because it doesn’t exist in the Western philosophy. So this is a major difference. If we treat foreigners who are having contact with Chinese medicine for the first time, we need to reduce the amount of herbs because the bodies react very strongly. But the foreigners accept the Chinese medicine very well and they have an excellent healing result. It’s amazing.
Do they have different body types and requirements from the doctors? Do they have different philosophies for wellness living?
About the wellness concept of foreign and Chinese patients, also here, we have completely different lifestyles. Let me give you some examples. For example, drinking cold drinks, eating raw food, exercising during the period, all these are things that Chinese people wouldn’t even think about, but for foreigners, this is completely normal. It is not a better or a worse, it is just completely different because of different philosophy and different beliefs. But we embrace all the different approaches, and we always like to explain why in Chinese medicine we do things differently, why is the Chinese diet completely different and why is exercise completely different as well.
What are the advantages and challenges for a foreigner like you to establish a TCM clinic in China?
It is certainly challenging to be a foreigner and to open a clinic for Chinese medicine. Opening a clinic overall is challenging, and we have to stick to the regulations or the law, and if you stick to the law and you fulfill all the requirements of the government, then everything should be fine. But we spent a lot of time to fulfill all the requirements, and to work lawfully and responsibly for our patients.
How do you see the future of TCM in China and worldwide?
This is a very good question and it is something that also frustrates me a little bit. I do personally think that the traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t have such a bright future in China itself. Why is that? I feel at the moment that Chinese people who walked slowly and participated in taiqi before, they are now starting to run. And that means that they do not have the time for their bodies that they had before, and they also do not take the time for healing with their own medical system. So this is the frustrating part. The Chinese people ignore Chinese medicine more and more, especially the younger generation who are absolutely not fond of traditional Chinese medicine. So very often I realize all of the scientists and all the universities of Chinese medicine do not do a proper job in selling their wonderful medical system. That really frustrates me. In foreign countries, there are more people who are much more into the Chinese medicine and they explain the theory behind it and the use for everyone much more efficiently than the Chinese people can by themselves.
This is not a criticism but just a matter of fact. All of the people who study Chinese medicine, who work with Chinese medicine, and work in the research field, need to explain more clearly for people to understand what does the traditional Chinese medicine do, and what it is able to heal. Sometimes what we see and read is too sophisticated, it needs to be explained more simply. Not the medicine itself, but how it works so that people can understand better.
What is your own lifestyle for balanced wellness living? What are the key points for keeping healthy?
In my family, we use traditional Chinese medicine if we are sick, and also to prevent. So if we notice that something is coming up, like a cold or a belly pain, or whatever, then very fast, I will apply herbal medicine for everyone in my family, including my pets. Now how do we keep healthy and what is our lifestyle. We are all athletic people. My son is a competitive swimmer, so he needs to eat a lot and eat very healthy. Certainly, he exercises a lot. Maybe not healthy for traditional Chinese medicine, because the Chinese medicine doesn’t suggest us to exercise every day. They would like to have us exercising every second day, so that the Qi can recover on the second day. So for my husband and me, we are both in our fifties already, so we like to exercise every second day, but that doesn’t mean that we take it easy. We exercise also with a personal trainer, and we exercise very strenuously, and we really exercise a lot. We try to maintain our weight, we like to drink a good glass of wine, but not excessively, so maybe just one glass. We like to have a good rest, we like to work hard, so we try to keep everything balanced. The most important element is the diet, and in the summers time we like to eat fresh and raw food, so that according to Chinese medicine we can help our body to stay cool, and when the fall comes, and of course the winter, our nutrition will change, and we have more warming food. In winter, we have a lot of food that keeps you really really warm, with a lot of spices and ginger and chili and all the food items that keep you warm. That is what we practice, what we do, and with this we can really stay healthy, in China or anywhere in the world.