"One Man Two Worlds"

For all his professional life Dr Andrew Jan has felt he's had to choose.

Written by Robert McGlynn

Published in "Vital" Magazine" Issue No. 6 September 2003

Reproduced with permission.

Schooled in both eastern and western medical disciplines, the Emergency Medicine Specialist has always been tom between the two. But the St John of God hospital in the Perth suburb of Murdoch is giving Andrew the opportunity to finally combine his twin passions and in the process to put in place a revolutionary new program. While based on a Christian ethos the hospital's mission statement actively promotes healing by enhancing "the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions of being human", whatever the individual's path may be. 


Trained in martial arts, as well as being a certified instructor for world- renowned qigong master Mantak Chia, Andrew is also a Fellow of the Australian Acupuncture College. His present role at St John of God is Director of Emergency Medical Services. 

"Currently I have a management role in the emergency department, not only for running the department but also for caring for my colleagues, as well as the environment for both staff and patients," he explains.  As part of this role Andrew has been asked by the hospital to introduce a wellness program. In its infancy, it will initially be for staff but ultimately it will he expanded to cater for patients as well. While the concept itself might not he new, Andrew is using his extensive experience of Asian healing arts as the program's foundation ~ offering various complementary modalities     such     as  meditation, yoga, reiki, massage and tai chi.

The program will he quantified so that the hospital can measure whether or not it is a success. But for Andrew, if staff members are happy and healthy then it follows that patients will get a better standard of care. "Its unusual for a western hospital to actively promote these kinds of arts," he says. Major hospitals always promote medical excellence but it's so refreshing to work with someone who is prepared to embrace a different viewpoint," he says, referring to Sonia White who was chosen by the St, John of God sisters to lead the hospital's mission. As for using complementary therapy in emergency work, Andrew says that he uses acupuncture on chronic pain and migraines but he admits that apart from that it doesn't have a very active role. Its real strength, in his work, is in its effect on him as a person. He says that being an eastern-trained medical doctor has helped him become a better western doctor - more compassionate, softer and with a better bedside manner." It's also helped me better absorb people's frustrations and stresses so I feel much more equipped to guide them what is an intensely emotional and difficult time," he says.

Andrew practises qigong every day so that he can rid himself of the stresses that accumulate from working in the emergency department. Curiously enough though he says he actually needs negative energy for his own qigong practise. " In certain inner alchemy practices one transforms negative stresses into positive life force. Negative emotions provide a fuel source to generate the energy for high-level practice," he explains. This transformation is not only a major part of his practice but it also has a strong and calming effect on the patients around him. Every person who comes into the emergency ward is stressed and suffering. And whilst a person is diagnosed, at times, no care is taken as to what the person is actually going through. With a background in other ways of healing 1 can make a great difference because part of that tradition is to go on the journey yourself". He admits that in his youth he was a "bit of a cowboy". His work was his life and his relationships suffered accordingly.

A martial artist from six years of age, it wasn't until he had a personal crisis as an adult that the healing nature of the martial arts became more important to him and he started to re-arrange how he saw both the world and himself. From his own experience Andrew believes that complementary modalities offer people more than a treatment - they also offer a life-path.

"If someone has an acupuncture treatment and it has a positive response, it opens that person up to other things. to investigate it, so they might get into meditation or qigong," he explains." So if you have a good cure from a complementary therapy that person in turn will grow emotionally and spiritually." That's not to say that he believes implicitly in the eastern approach - far from it. Too often, he says, complementary therapists ignore research in favour of tradition. But this is where he believes the two traditions can blend most effectively. "When people exercise their choice and seek a complementary treatment, then western medicine can monitor it and at an appropriate time assess people's progress and then allow them to make informed decisions by putting objectivity into the equation" he says.

You need those opposites to make something. So its not a question of right and wrong. Each discipline has its own purpose and its right to challenge the other , as well as the right to a role working along side the other. When I first got into complementary medicine 1 thought everything about it was right and Western Medicine was totally wrong but then you realise you have balance between the two and tension creates growth."  

Whilst Andrew is enthusiastic his western medical work he is also looking forward to life after the hospital - for himself like Fiona, who is also trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and their baby daughter. Looking beyond the successful implementation of the wellness program they are planning to build a retreat for meditation, Tai Chi and Qigong on their recently acquired property in WA's South West.

"I'm sure I'll be able to find a cave somewhere to continue my practice," he says laughing.

"But surely" Fiona interjects, handing over the baby, "the ultimate spiritual state is to lead a calm and balanced life within the chaos that's family"