David Chang likes helping people. A pre-med student at Portland State, Chang works at the Mercy and Wisdom Healing Clinic and, like all the other doctors and staff at the clinic, is a volunteer. The clinic, on Northwest Burnside Street and Third Avenue near Chinatown in downtown Portland, uses natural medicine to treat various complaints, providing alternative medical treatment to those who desire it.
David Jer-Wei Chang likes helping people.
A pre-med student at Portland State, Chang works at the Mercy and Wisdom Healing Clinic and, like all the other doctors and staff at the clinic, is a volunteer.
The clinic, on Northwest Burnside Street and Third Avenue near Chinatown in downtown Portland, uses natural medicine to treat various complaints, providing alternative medical treatment to those who desire it. The main purpose of the clinic is to provide health care for uninsured and low-income people.
“We would like to help as many people as we can,” Chang said. He works in the office of the clinic, giving forms to patients to fill out and helping the doctors.
The nonprofit clinic was formerly in Chinatown, but moved last year to its current location. It used to be free, but now patients are billed on a sliding scale to help cover the increased operations fees. Patients pay between $10 and $50 per visit.
Naturopathy and acupuncture are both practiced at the clinic. Naturopathic medicine diagnoses and treats disease, often through complementary and alternative methods. Acupuncture involves the use of needles at certain points of the body to help relieve pain and has been used for centuries in Asia.
Doctors who are naturopaths work with other branches of medicine, such as chiropractic or acupuncture, to help the individual. The clinic also has a wide range of natural products, Chinese herbs and powders rather than synthetic drugs.
Some Western medicine practitioners remain skeptical of acupuncture, and of alternative medicine in general. Chang said that practitioners of Western medicine typically mask symptoms with painkillers, while Eastern medicine focuses more on getting to the root of the physical problem.
Chang said that mixing Western and Eastern styles of treatments produces the best results. Christina de la Garza, office manager at Mercy and Wisdom, said that the methods are “a way of healing and nurturing,” and that good results have been achieved at the clinic.
“It’s a way of treating things without side effects,” de la Garza said. “There are many, many people in need of this.”
She said that, among people with and without insurance, there is a movement in the country right now toward natural medicine.
Chang said many of the stories he has seen have been inspiring. He said that one man who suffered a stroke-depressed and bed-bound-came into Mercy and Wisdom and was able to walk again because of the treatment he received.
Another man, de la Garza said, broke his leg after he fell off a ladder. The screws inserted to help it heal became infected with staphylococcus, a bacteria that has recently become common in hospital-acquired infections. Twenty-two surgeries later, the leg was a likely candidate for amputation, but after the man came in for treatment, de la Garza said, he was able to walk within a few weeks.
Students from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in Southwest Portland do residencies at the clinic. They work with Dr. Chiaoli Lu, who started the clinic, and the team of volunteer staff. The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Southeast Portland also supports the clinic.
Right now, Chang said, there are four to five doctors, two to three acupuncturists, and four students from NCNM. The students do four-month shifts at Mercy and Wisdom for the college to complete required internships.
Mercy and Wisdom is a member of the Coalition of Community Health Clinics, a conglomeration of cheap and free clinics for the uninsured and underinsured. Though Portland State students do have insurance, de la Garza said that anyone who has low income and proof of that income can come to the clinic, including students on limited budgets.
“I would hope this will be a help to the PSU community,” de la Garza said. Chang said that the clinic is looking for more patients.
Because doctors donate their time, Chang said it is important to fill that time with patients. As more people sign up, the clinic will be able to expand its hours.
De la Garza said that the clinic is currently looking for volunteers to help market and promote in the community. Grant writers would also be appreciated.
Raised in Taiwan until the fourth grade, Chang said his parents always took him to natural medicine doctors, and from there his interest in natural medicine arose. Chang will finish his degree this year, and afterward he hopes to attend NCNM.
“I believe in giving back to the community and helping people in need,” Chang said. “As a career I feel like it’s a profession that humanity will always need.”
The Mercy and Wisdom Healing Clinic, located at 2 N.W. Third Ave., is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and can be contacted at 503-227-1222.