The Rise of Integrative Wellness in a Post-Pandemic World: Q&A with East West College of Natural Medicine
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Clinical research over the last couple years has shown a tremendous uptick of global interest in holistic mind-body wellness modalities since the COVID-19 pandemic first struck (Alternative and Complementary Therapies Journal). This integration of both the mental and physical seeks to understand the root cause of illness to restore the whole person to balance and health. In a time when chronic stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness are on the rise—combined with the real and present danger of viral infection—many have found comfort in integrative healthcare. And that peace of mind has even translated into stronger immune resilience, the research goes on to point out. As a nation, we are starting to move in the direction of a post-COVID society, but this desire to achieve optimal wellness through natural medicine remains. Here in Sarasota, we are fortunate for the abundance of such modalities to choose from, but in this month’s Community Spotlight article, I want to call attention to one local mainstay, in particular. The East West College of Natural Medicine has been a pillar of our wellness community for almost 30 years, and I had the recent pleasure of talking with Clinical Director, Dr. Steven Roensch, to find out how this Sarasota institution continues to be of healing service—both in the pandemic and well beyond.
Natural Awakenings: What has this pandemic been like for the East West College as a school, alternative medicine practice and community institution?
Dr. Roensch: We have experienced some major challenges just like everyone else. When the pandemic initially hit, we were relegated to an online class structure which, not unlike many other teaching institutions, we were not positioned for right away. However, after that unexpected transition, we were soon able to adapt and implement a system to accommodate virtual learning for both our students and faculty. Our campus clinic also shut down for a period of time which was difficult for us as physicians—not to mention, equally difficult, if not more so, for our patients. Ultimately, we have since been able to return to campus, but we continue to practice social distancing and other protective measures as spelled out by the CDC.
NA: What health services do you offer, and have you seen an increase in Sarasota residents turning to the immunity benefits of natural medicine as a response to COVID-19?
Dr. Roensch: As an integrative medicine college and clinic, we naturally offer acupuncture and herbal therapies which are the mainstays of our practice. However, there is more to integrative medicine than just these two areas. Traditional Chinese Medicine also utilizes cupping, moxibustion, medical massage, electrical stimulation, food therapy, Tai Qi and Qi Gong, injection therapy, guasha (myofascial release) liniments and plasters for pain or trauma, and LASER therapy. Now that our clinic is open to the public once again, we have seen a definite resurgence in those who are interested in boosting their immune response which, of course, is one of the major benefits of this medicine. Acupuncture gently coerces the body to return to homeostasis, or a state of natural and healthy balance. Combine that with its positive affect on the immune system and its ability to lower stress, and it’s easy to understand how regular treatments can help build more resistance against disease.
NA: What degree programs do you offer at the East West College, and when are classes for the fall 2021 semester scheduled to begin?
Dr. Roensch: We currently offer a Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine (MSOM), but are working to implement a Ph.D. program as well in the foreseeable future. Our classes resumed on campus in the first week of May 2021. Our fall semester will begin on August 31, 2021, entirely on campus. Our virtual classes are no longer available, as this program utilizes a hands-on approach with both classroom instruction and clinical training.
NA: How many years has the college been in operation, and what does it mean to the staff and faculty to be such an integral part of Sarasota’s wellness community?
Dr. Roensch: Our college has served the Sarasota area for 27 years, during which time we have helped graduate 60 classes of Acupuncture Physicians. It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of the integrative medicine community and profession. This form of healthcare is sought out by more individuals across the globe now than ever before.
The East West College of Natural Medicine is located at 3808 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. To schedule an appointment at the clinic or to learn more about the course programs available at the school, call 800- 883-5528, email [email protected] or visit EWCollege.edu.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota– Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress. com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced and empowered lifestyle