Warren Fischer, Dr. TCM, Founder and Dean
Dr. Fischer’s path to Founder and Academic Dean of the Academy of Classical Oriental Science (ACOS) is rich and storied. His interest from an early age in medicine and the internal workings of the body gradually drew him away from the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpting toward the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics. Dr. Fischer received the Biology Award and also the French Government Award for excellence in French language, prior to accepting an entrance scholarship to McGill University where he completed fourth year French language in year one, leaving the remaining years to complete the Honours Biochemistry program of study. Dr. Fischer’s natural talent for languages, coupled with a strong desire for a university course not beginning with ‘bio’ or ending with ‘chemistry’, led him to choose Chinese language as a fourth year elective. It was not long before he, with his innate interest in medicine, recognized the Chinese language as the key that would open the lock of impenetrability between Caucasian Canada and the then enigma of acupuncture, glimpsed only among the Chinese Canadians in Montreal’s Chinatown.
Dr. Fischer’s instinct to go to the source of TCM took him to the renowned Beijing University, where he enrolled first in a further year of language studies tailored to TCM specialties, and then in a five-year program in TCM, where he was the only foreign student in a class of forty native Chinese. Fully immersed, with classes 6 days per week, 10 months per year, his language skills flourished, as he eagerly looked past the words to the vast wealth of knowledge behind them. Combined with his well-developed student skills, his burgeoning language skills unearthed a latent passion in the Meridians Course, where he outscored all of his Chinese classmates. He was equally at home in the laboratories which complemented lecture courses. The unending streams of patients in the teaching clinics and hospitals were a continuous source of learning, as were teachers outside the university in the fields of Taijiquan, martial arts and Qigong. Although the evacuation of foreign students following the Tiananmen Square massacre cut short his fourth year of studies, his determination took him back to Beijing by September, despite the establishment of martial law in the city. Dr. Fischer became the first Canadian to graduate from the standard five-year program of studies in TCM of the People’s Republic of China.
Six years in China had come and gone quickly. As difficult as it was to accustom himself to life within the Chinese culture, it was just as difficult to leave it, having had the seeds of this ancient culture sown and cultivated in his heart and mind. Dr. Fischer now recognizes that he truly grew up in China, as he had grown into a person whose mind now bridged two cultures.
Back in Canada, Dr. Fischer’s TCM practice grew quickly, fueled by the testimonies of those who had been helped. He was discouraged, however, by the level of knowledge and skills of his Caucasian colleagues who had received their TCM education in North America. He was stirred to ensure that the medicine was competently practiced and accurately represented to the public. In this way, it would grow into a strong and effective profession, as it is in China.
Dr. Fischer realized that the present day higher education in TCM in the People’s Republic of China, with its heavy emphasis on integration with modern science, is at all times linked to classical writings, the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Canon, in particular. Dr. Fischer knew that the knowledge contained in the classical writings is important; however, the greatest hurdle of the Western mind to the study of TCM is not simply access to the knowledge, but the ability to explore and model the Chinese way of thinking. The native Chinese student of TCM has innate access to this way of thinking, but for the Western student of TCM, this is a field of study in itself.
Up to this point, he had always considered the Chinese language to be the key to the treasure trove of Chinese medicine. He now realized that even the idea of a key was a western one; a more accurate analogy is a Chinese puzzle box, in which it was first necessary to have the language, and then the way of thinking in order to gain access to the wealth that TCM has to offer.
With a firm foundation in western bio-sciences, and having undergone the process of learning the Chinese way of conceptualizing with a western mind, Dr. Fischer realized he was uniquely positioned to lead other western minds on a similar journey. Nelson’s Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences was conceived using this approach, and now offers a depth of instruction simply not available at any other acupuncture school in North America.
Dr. Fischer’s advocacy for TCM in the West extends beyond ACOS. In 1999, he was appointed by the British Columbia Minister of Health as a member of the inaugural Board of the College of Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia (CTCMA). During his three years on the Board, the membership was registered; the first examinations sat; and, the bylaws of the College drafted and approved. British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to license the entire profession of TCM, rather than just acupuncture only. Dr. Fischer has recently been appointed to the new Expert Committee for the Development of a Competency Profile for the Practice of Acupuncture, which will develop national entry-level competencies for acupuncture across Canada.