German convert to Chinese medicine joins fight for traditional healing hospital

Former patient won over by success of treatment for pain asks why Germany has five Chinese medicine hospitals but Hong Kong has none

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 6:27am

A decade ago, Marcus Gadau was bedridden with chronic back pain due to a hole in his lung.

The 16-year-old could never have imagined his agony would see him leave his home in Germany to study a degree in traditional Chinese medicine for five years in Beijing, become fluent in Putonghua and start a doctorate at Baptist University's Chinese medicine department.

Now Gadau has joined the chorus of support for building a Chinese medicine hospital in Hong Kong.

"Germany has more than five Chinese medicine hospitals and Hong Kong doesn't have a single one, which seems very odd," he said.

Gadau, 26, is planning to open another Chinese medicine hospital in Germany specialising in the treatment of chronic pain.

Gadau said it was his experience of traditional Chinese medicine in Germany that had shaped his life.

"I was pretty sick between the ages of 16 and 18," he said. "I had chronic lower back pain to the point I couldn't leave my bed. I was so fatigued and always freezing. Nothing helped except acupuncture."

After high school, he deferred an offer to study medicine at a prestigious university in Germany to spend a year travelling.

He spent four months teaching English in Zhongshan , Guangdong, and then won a scholarship to study at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

"I thought to myself that I can always go back to Germany and do the standard thing, but I will try it out for a year," Gadau said.

He ended up finishing a five-year combined degree in Chinese and Western medicine in Beijing.

Last August, he moved to Hong Kong and started his PhD, researching evidence-based Chinese medicine.

"We combine the wisdom of Chinese medicine, which says, for example, that something may be caused by cold or heat, and try to prove that with modern technology, such as a thermo scan."

His aim is to change people's misconception that Chinese medicine is based on intangible elements, such as energy flows.

"Unfortunately it has this esoteric image in the West, but if you look at Chinese medicine in classic texts, it is a physiological medicine that is not about an energy concept."

Gadau said that misunderstanding came about from early translations of Chinese medicine texts which equated qi to energy, whereas the correct definition is blood and oxygen.

Baptist University is fighting to build a 1,700-bed hospital offering traditional treatments, but the government wants to use the Kowloon Tong site near the university for housing.

"The government said not now and not on that site, but you've got all these students here already," Gadau said. "If you build it further away, you would have to constantly commute between the two."

The Town Planning Board is consulting on the proposal, and submissions close on Tuesday.