An Interview with Dr Jason Callanan - Acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine Herbalist & Acupressure...
Updated: May 29, 2019
Thanks for coming in Jason, the purpose of this interview is to give our community more of an idea of who you are and what type of practitioner you are.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and what are the sorts of conditions that you work with?
TCM is a complete system of medicine that has developed in China over thousands of years. It is based on the principle of treating every patient as an individual, rather than treating the condition itself. We treat people not the disease. More than that, it is not just about treating people when they are unwell, but rather promoting health and vitality to achieve longevity.
There are many facets to TCM treatments of which Acupuncture is the most commonly known. TCM also uses Herbal Medicine, Acupressure massage, nutritional therapy, Tai Qi and Qi Gong exercises, cupping, gua sha (scraping), as well as a lifestyle advice.
In clinical practice, I have worked with a vast array of conditions including acute and chronic pain, neurological conditions, digestive disorders, gynaecological issues, fertility, cancer support, respiratory dysfunction, weight loss and management, smoking addiction, autoimmune conditions, stress, anxiety and depression.
Because I adopt an individualised approach, I am able to tailor a specific treatment plan to address the needs of each patient.
What can someone expect from their time with you?
I have always believed the most important skill I use in clinical practice is to listen to my patients and hear their story. It is in the fine details of a patient's life that I often find a piece of the puzzle that helps them achieve their health goals. Patients can expect an attentive, sincere and devoted practitioner when they come to see me. In cases outside my area of expertise, they can rest assured I will refer them to the best possible practitioner to assist them.
Could you give us a rundown of a standard day for you?
Well my “ideal” standard workday (I often endeavour to achieve) would usually begin with waking early-ish feeling energised and refreshed, going out to my backyard and practicing Tai QI for and hour, followed by a belly-warming bowl of porridge with cinnamon and pears, one coffee then usually off to clinic for a 10am start. I have always worked long days in clinic and try to provide after hours appointments for my patients that are unable to leave work early.
I always try to get home in time to have dinner with my partner so we can share the events of the day, maybe put on a little music while we do the dishes, and then a little more often than we used too, we take some time to switch off from the world by watching an episode or two of our latest Netflix obsession.
My “play day” involves a lazy sleep in (we don’t have children), late breakfast, a few jobs around the house then off to explore one of the many beautiful natural aspects of Victoria, the beaches on either coast, national parks, little country towns, any one of the hundreds of weekend markets, vintage shops or second hand shops to keep my partner satisfied. She has an endless appetite for anything from the 60’s.
Obviously you’ve been in the industry a while, and you’re still in it. What keeps you passionate about your field?
I have always had a strong interest in health and well-being. Prior to my current life, I worked in kitchens with plans to become a skilled chef, carpentry with a desire to become a craftsman, and landscape gardening with a strong passion for learning the skills to become self-sufficient and live off the land.
All these different jobs I thoroughly enjoyed. However I still felt a little lost, or maybe just seeking to learn something different to the norm. I remember my first TCM lecture at college and realising I had finally found what I had been looking for. My search was over.
Since then my clinical skill, practice and experience has grown astronomically. My everyday life involves sitting with people one on one, listening to their story and then putting all my skills to use to help them grow and heal and become a greater stronger version of themself. There is nothing more worthwhile to me. The best work I have ever done.
This is more for my own interest but I’d like to know more about how TCM works with the contemporary medical system/philosophy? Or if it doesn’t, why so?
Fundamentally, they are two different systems of medicine both with the same goal; to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients whilst doing no harm. This doesn’t mean they can’t work side by side. The human body is the most complex organism a practitioner can work with, therefore sometimes medicine works, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t.
I don’t believe any one particular system of medicine can lay claim to having all the answers to all conditions. There are limitations to both. However, by using the strengths of both paradigms: modern medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases, trauma, its life saving surgical procedures and diagnostic imaging, and TCM’s ability to promote health and vitality, and prevent disease, I believe a balance can be achieved.
There is space for both disciplines to work alongside each other successfully. I often refer my patients to their GP when I feel their condition requires a different investigation or intervention, and regularly receive patient referrals from GPs myself.
Moving past medical chat, if you weren’t a Chinese Medicine doctor what would you be doing?
I have not often divulged to many people, but I have always held a little desire to perform stand up comedy. Not because I believe I am particularly funny, but I have known many performing artists in my life and always had a strong admiration for anyone who has the fortitude to stand up in front of large groups of people and feel comfortable putting on a show. I love going to live performances and feeling a sense of presence, a kind of here and now Zen-like moment.
Either that or music. I have played guitar for more than 30 years and have still never played in a serious band. I think I have always used my music for my own type of meditation. So who knows, if I hadn’t devoted my life to TCM I may just be on a world tour now.
I love knowing the inspirations that people draw on. Do you have any academic/arts/film/authors/family members that are your heroes?
It seems strange being in my forties and never once having said this before, but my parents have always inspired me. My father is a self taught man. He has the mind and logic of an engineer and the craftsmanship of any trade he puts his mind too. He has never worked in either profession but he has always had a curious mind. He fixes anything that breaks and if he can’t, he builds something new that will do the job. He taught me some of these skills which have helped me many times in my life.
My mother inspires me as she has never stops seeking to learn new things. She has never been afraid or felt too old to try something different. She changed careers so many times in her life, always learning a new skill, and always making new friends along the way. The one constant with her life is that she is always working with animals, caring for them, rehabilitating them and mostly playing with them. It is from her that I first learnt about empathy, health and vitality.
The one “famous” person I have always admired would have to be Sir David Attenborough. The places that man has travelled, the animals he has encountered, and the work he has done to expose and educate the population to workings of this amazing ball we all live on, is admirable to say the least.
To finish off with, could you give us some generalised health tips that most of us could follow?
My top 5:
1/ Eat well. What goes in your mouth becomes you. Your mouth is not a rubbish bin.
2/ Exercise. Move your body gently and regularly. That’s all it needs.
3/ Sleep. Never underestimate the healing power of a deep, long sleep.
4/ All things in moderation. TCM doesn’t believe something is bad or good, only if it is bad or good for you. Which leads me to my next piece of advice-
5/ Listen to your body. If it hurts, stop. If it bloats you, don’t eat it. If it exhausts you, rest.
"Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
- Dalai Lama