The foundation of Crane & Sparrow is to be a community where women can not only look good but feel good and do good as well. Crane & Sparrow is a place where women can feel inspired, and lift each other up - where we celebrate our successes and others as well.
With that idea in mind, we wanted to introduce our newest weekly feature - Women Wednesday. Each week we'll be featuring a woman that is passionate about what she does in hopes to inspire and teach others along the way.
Meet Shanie - the passionate Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Acupuncturist & TCM Herbalist based out of Vancouver BC. Shanie turned her love of sports and passion for helping others into a rewarding career in Chinese Medicine.
Tell us about yourself
For the sake of keeping it short- I'm a small town Albertan who moved to the West coast to study to become a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor.
What brought you on this path?
A combination of things occurred.
An injury with a bad sports medicine experience coupled with an unsuspecting exposure to something that left me curious enough to explore it in my own life. Then the marriage of those 2 outcomes.
I spent my childhood playing sports. As most athlete's stories go, I eventually obtained a performance altering injury, which introduced me to the world of sports medicine. (Meanwhile, I had been receiving chiropractic care my entire life- so preventative medicine has always been a staple for me, thanks Mom!) For my knee injury in particular, I had been referred to a renowned sports medicine doctor in the city. I was about 12 years old at the time, and the guy completely pulled the rug out from under me by telling me I had no hopes of becoming a professional athlete given my injury and structural make-up.
Surgery was an option but with the odds being in favour of worsening the situation, I declined. I left his office devastated and not knowing it was best practice to get a second opinion, didn't. What I did know was, there had to be a better experience for people/athletes out there. I continued to play through the injury as a result and didn't allow his opinion to take away the joy that sport gave me.
Fast forward, it's after high school and I was taking some time to think about what path would be right for me. It was bound to be rooted in body sciences. Forensics? I did love the analysis piece, the puzzle that comes with this line of work, but, wasn't sure I wanted to commit to so much schooling at the time. (Ha! The irony)
Psychology? Maybe- I had a real knack and inherent need to hold space for people emotionally; Family, friends, even complete strangers. But still for whatever reason didn't feel satisfied by this alone.
Then one day, I'm mindlessly watching a medical show which followed the lives of physicians within a private health setting- OBGYN's, a Psychiatrist, a Paediatrician and a guy dubbed the alternative medicine specialist. Insert a scene where a woman struggling with emotional turmoil finds herself on the alternative medicine guy's table and he just put some needles in her and left the room. That was it, that was my first exposure to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Naturally, my reaction was, WHAT DO YOU MEAN THESE NEEDLES can help her grief, frustration and stresses?!! I don't know that I even finished the episode, it was down the rabbit hole of research I went from there.
This lead to the discovery that it was a full medical system that treated patients as a whole, body & mind, and in a way that encouraged our bodies own self-healing mechanisms. Yep, I was sold. From there I explored a few treatments of my own, was blown away by what was felt while I was on the table and the after effects and realized in the process, this was the answer to my question from the day I left that sports medicine doctors office - THIS is the experience people can have. On top of that, it encompassed every element I could want in a career- body sciences/sports medicine, mental health, helping people, variety.
Another piece highlighted by the show had been the idea of Western medicine and Eastern medicine working together under one roof- 19 year old me couldn't help but think that was the future of medicine and knew it was something I needed to be a part of it.
It's now 7+ years later, and I'm a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner getting some field experience before writing one last exam which will enable me to hold the title Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What kind of schooling did you have to do?
I feel like this is another long answer, but first I think it's a great chance to explain the different levels of TCM therapist.
So there is R.Ac - A registered acupuncturist, licensed to provide acupuncture.
R.TCMP - A registered TCM practitioner, licensed to provide acupuncture + herbal prescriptions.
Dr.TCM - Doctor of TCM, licensed to provide acupuncture + herbal prescriptions and have undergone further education and thus been tested for the most extensive knowledge base of the three.
The other piece that comes with the education question depends on which province you studied in. In all of Canada only 3 provinces have official regulating bodies, those are BC, AB & ON. While the exam is the same across Canada, the eligibility and requirements to be licensed in each province varies. Since I wanted the Dr.TCM title this meant I HAD to move to BC as it's the only province where you write an additional exam to be licensed as such (Though Ontario is currently working on also becoming somewhere this title is regulated.)
So for me, being in BC meant I required 2 years of post secondary education outside of the 5 year Doctor program I would be taking in Vancouver.
My 2 years were spent prior in Edmonton, at Grant MacEwan in the Holistic Health Practitioner program. It was a great introduction to Chinese medicine for me as I took the Acupressure course. I had also studied western herbology and holistic nutrition along with many science courses, business courses and communications courses.
As for my 5 years in TCM school- they included in depth teachings in western medicine in addition to the entirety of the TCM medical system. I cannot emphasize the importance that comes with knowing the body in both languages, it creates not just the best understanding, but also ensures the safest care possible.
There are a lot of people out there who are new or hesitant to Chinese Medicine, what would you tell them?
I'd usually ask them what their hesitation is- sometimes it's fear of it hurting, sometimes it's unease over the framework of the medicine, though most often I find it's because they don't even realize it can be utilized for their health concern.
Did you know that 80% of the worlds primary health care includes a form of herbal medicine? Western society is the 10% that doesn't start there! It's not our fault though, we are brought up in a society that operates a certain way and just don't know any different. We don't know our options. Then when we DO, we still fear it because the information we have, isn't clear or is lacking altogether.
Because of this, one of my biggest goals with my practice is to educate others on what the medicine has to offer people. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have no control over your health, or not understanding what might be happening in your body. I've watched this medicine hand the torch back over to patients and that kind of empowerment alone brings with it a lot of health benefits.
What would be their first step for those that are new?
ASK QUESTIONS. DO RESEARCH. I know it can be overwhelming, but when you go to buy a new car you don't just go in blindly. You acquire information, so you can make the best decision for yourself. So why not do that when it comes to your own health and body?
Ask your doctor for a referral or any other healthcare professional you might already see- they are already familiar with your body, they have a network they work with and trust to take care of their patients. Once you get a name, make sure they are a therapist trained in Chinese medicine based acupuncture, herbs and otherwise. We go to school for a long time and focus on an intricate model that was built around these tools. It's bound to be a very different experience than if you are seeing someone who has taken a course with significantly fewer hours (a weekend vs years) that teaches them a fraction of theories and uses.
I think the other big thing I would suggest is, if you do make it into a treatment, be willing to communicate. If you have questions at any point during the process, ask your therapist. If you feel uncomfortable during treatment or nervous beforehand, tell them. While some therapists are good at picking up on what their patients need even though they aren't saying it, for others, they can't help you with what they don't know is an issue in the first place. Be an active factor in your health.
If anyone reading this now still feels like they don't know where to start, no matter where in the world you may find yourself, email me, I am always happy to help answer questions or even guide the process of finding the right therapist in your area for you.
You went on an internship to Taiwan, what was your biggest take away from that?
Earthquakes are no joke.... Ha! Obviously this is not my answer, but just saying- there were 2 of them while we were there and it left an impression I won't soon forget.
The biggest take away is the power of a healthcare system that houses allopathic medicine and traditional medicine in the same hospital. There was an entire TCM wing in the main general hospital, within which all specialties existed and had full floors allocated for their patients. To see it considered the norm and not just a utopian model was so encouraging. Bringing the two together is not just plausible but also incredibly effective.
3 random facts about you.
- I'm a language enthusiast, in two ways; I really love words/expression. And also if I could speak 7 languages or more I would. I'm only up to 2 for now, English and French. Actually, 2.5 if you consider my very weak Mandarin picked up through school, but I would love to explore Spanish & Italian next!
- I would do just about anything to be on Big Brother Canada or The Amazing Race, and not just for fun, but because I'm fairly certain I would win.
- If I couldn't be in the healthcare industry in any capacity, I most likely would have ended up in the culinary world/lifestyle and entertaining. Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, and anytime I can bring people together in a mindfully curated space is time well spent.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that it is such an honour to be featured here with Crane & Sparrow. If you haven't read the 'About' & 'Why' behind it all, I urge you do because the story is inspiring- To have taken your life's hardship and spun it into such a positive and opportunistic initiative is endlessly admirable. I love how centered around women's health it all is- directly through the donations of sales profits and indirectly through choosing pieces, inclusivity in mind, that women can feel confident and beautiful in.
The end game is about empowering women, so truly thank you for letting me have a small piece in this community you are building and I can't wait to see what the future holds for Crane & Sparrow. [Awe, thank you Shanie, we appreciate it!]