Chung's Energy Flows

October 26, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — As a kid, Douglas Chung always dreamed of becoming a professor. He liked the idea of standing in front of a class and sharing knowledge.

He has fulfilled that dream many times over as president of The Asian Center, which he founded in 1994, and as a professor in the School of Social Work at Grand Valley State University.

Originally, Chung toyed with the idea of becoming a minister but didn't feel he was "holy enough," he joked. He decided social work was a better fit.

He earned a BA degree in English language and literature from Soochow University in Taipai, Taiwan, and went on to earn a master's degree in social work from West Virginia University, which he attended on a United Nations scholarship. He taught for five years at Catholic University in Taiwan and then returned to the United States and earned a doctorate in social work from Ohio State University. He later picked up a master's degree in public administration from Ohio State, as well.

After eight years of teaching at Indiana University, Chung came to GVSU in 1989. Trained as a researcher in mental health, community organization and family therapy, Chung has more than 31 years of teaching experience and has written articles on cross-cultural social work education and practice. He speaks Chinese, Taiwanese, Haga, English and some French and Japanese.

He is author of "Qigong Therapies: A Self -Care Approach" and was one of the editors of "Social Work with Asian Americans." Chung is currently penning "Meridian Therapies" and "Chinese Social Work in the 21st Century."

His specialties are social work research, social welfare policy, and courses such as Qigong Therapies, Spirituality and Human Services and Holistic Practice of Social Work. He also does evaluative research on Qigong therapies for cardiovascular disease prevention, self-healing, health promotion and stress management. 

Chung has designed a program of self-care for patients with chronic diseases that complements Western medicine. At both The Asian Center and GVSU, he teaches his Energy Therapy Model, a model that integrates a number of preventative health therapies that Asians have used for centuries to preserve health and prevent disease.

His Energy Therapy Model combines Yin Yang Theory, Five Elements Theory, Qigong Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Meridian Theory, acupuncture, Eastern hypnosis and herbal medicine.

Chung had what he describes as a "theoretical breakthrough" 20 years ago when he was laid up for two weeks following a car accident. Bored, he dusted off some old books on traditional Chinese medicine that he'd brought with him from Taiwan.

"After getting two master's degrees and a Ph.D. in the United States, I read this old stuff and my thought totally changed," he said.

Chung has practiced Qigong since high school. Qigong is an energy-based health practice that was developed in China over the course of several millenniums. Qigong (also spelled Ch'i Kung) is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement and meditation to cleanse, strengthen and circulate the body's life energy. The practice is said to lead to better health and vitality, as well as a tranquil state of mind.

The theory of the forces of yin and yang is fundamental to traditional Chinese medicine, the belief being that all things in the universe are either yin or yang. The two forces are opposite yet complementary and share an interdependent relationship. The body, mind and emotions are all considered subject to the influences of those forces. When yin and yang are in balance, a person feels well; when they are imbalanced, it can cause ill health. The practice of acupuncture is said to maintain the balance of yin and yang within the body.

According to Meridian theory, energy circulates and nourishes the human body through specific pathways, or meridians, that form a crisscross network of interconnected pathways that link the organs, skin, flesh, muscle and bones.

Traditional Chinese medicine also maintains that the universe is composed of five elements — fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Since the human body is considered a microcosm of the universe, it, too, is composed of the Five Elements, each of which is associated with different organs, meridians and characteristics.

"Traditional Chinese medicine is more preventive in orientation compared to American medicine, which is very, very aggressive and radical; it uses medication and surgery, which is very invasive. So we promote natural therapies like acupuncture, Qigong, herbal medicine, and mind, body and spirit exercise.

"American medicine is effective in the short term, but in the long term it's better for human beings to build their own immune system and develop their own capacity to keep disease away."

In traditional Chinese medicine, the individual has to assume more responsibility for self- care and has to take an active role in keeping himself healthy, Chung explained. Therapies such as Qigong are practiced long term and become part of a person's lifestyle.

The center teaches people how to use Qigong and other alternative therapies for smoking cessation, cancer, and cardiovascular and stroke prevention and recovery.

Chung personally develops and directs training programs at the Asian Center, located at 1444 Michigan St. SE. In addition, he teaches at GVSU and holds medical Qijong workshops for holistic health care workers. To his knowledge, GVSU is the first university to offer a Qigong Therapies course in the United States.

Chung founded The Asian Center in response to the need for "culturally sensitive" human services for Asian Americans in West Michigan. His impetus for founding the center was a racial slur made against Asians by a local radio disc jockey in 1994, he recalled. Chung called a meeting with members of the Asian community here and they collectively demanded an apology, which they got.

"After that incident the Asian community felt uncomfortable," he said. "We needed to have something in place in case of a crisis. We needed an organization. The Asian Center was established to respond to the Asian community's needs, to increase understanding of the Asian culture and also to help Asian Americans maintain Asian culture and feel comfortable about themselves. The center was designed at the same time to provide human services to the Asian community."

He assessed the needs of Asian Americans in the area, designed service programs to address those needs and secured grant monies to support the programs. Along the way, he trained 40 Asian leaders and integrated them into a mutual support network.

The center's mission is "to achieve a diversified, caring, just and democratic global community." Besides offering classes on alternative health therapies, the center offers a translation service, "cultural sensitive" workshops, family counseling, crisis intervention and employee assistance programs. It also serves as a networking resource for Asians new to the community, Chung said.    

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