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Healing touches

Get to know Dr Sandi Suwanda, Head of the Swiss Academy of Scientific Acupuncture (SASA) Clinic at Dubai Healthcare City.

  • Dr Sandi Suwanda, Head of the Swiss Academy of Scientific Acupuncture (SASA) Clinic at Dubai Healthcare City. Image Credit:Irfan Naqi/ANM
  • Dr Suwanda with his wife Lonny Britt, holding the title of Honorary Professor from the Beijing University of CImage Credit:Irfan Naqi/ANM

Get to know Dr Sandi Suwanda, Head of the Swiss Academy of Scientific Acupuncture (SASA) Clinic at Dubai Healthcare City.

I intend to educate people about a new type of medicine [a combination of Western and Chinese systems] that can cure many problems without drugs or invasive surgery. I would like to give people the benefits of complementary integrated medicine.

I am originally from Indonesia.
I have five siblings – three brothers and one sister. My father was a general practitioner and studied in Edinburgh, Scotland. My sister followed in his footsteps. I met my present wife, Lonny Britt, seven years ago and we had an instant connection. We married this year.

My wife is also a homoeopathic doctor. I think we connected because we both had a passion to know medicine through nature. I have two sons from my previous marriage aged 32 and 38 and they are both doctors. One is a general practitioner and the other is a physiotherapist.

I am based in Switzerland at the SASA clinic in Zurich. We now have a clinic here in Dubai which opened in March this year at the Dubai Healthcare City. I have written two books, Chinese Herbal Treatments (2005) and The Compendium of Acupuncture (2006). I'm planning to write a book about acupuncture using laser needles.

My father had seen the University of Vienna before the Second World War.
When I was 16 he suggested that I go there to study for my doctor's degree. At that time the airfare to Vienna was very expensive, so
I travelled by an Italian ship to Vienna with 100 kg of luggage, which consisted mostly of rice and a few other foods.

My mother was very kind and supportive of my studies and, mindful of the long journey ahead and the new food in a new country, she packed lots of homemade things for me. At that time, transferring money via banks was not very common so she stitched $100 to the inner pocket of my trousers. On my journey to Vienna, we docked at various ports – Jakarta, Mumbai, Karachi among others – before finally arriving in Italy.

The first six months of studies were difficult as I had to take a language course followed by a two-and-a-half year pre-clinical study. I used to start my day at 8am at the library and end at 10pm every day. In the beginning it was really tough, but I kept at it.

I specialised in gynaecology and obstetrics. While I was studying there, a team of doctors from China performed an operation on patients for Appendectomy Sectio Caesarea, using traditional acupuncture instead of anaesthesia. Watching that was truly inspirational and it evoked a great desire in me to know more about the practice.

So in 1972 I followed my interest in the Chinese method of acupuncture and went to study in China. I studied the subject for five years. Today I have over 30 years of experience in both Western and ancient Chinese medicine.

I simultaneously studied ancient Chinese medicine.
I have used both Western and Chinese specialities in a combined approach in my treatments. Today a number of gynaecology problems can be solved by traditional Chinese medicine instead of Western medicine alone, even to the extent of solving ovarian cyst problems. A classic example is that of my wife who had an ovarian cyst.

After an ultrasound diagnosis, the cyst was diagnosed as non-cancerous and she was treated with acupuncture.

After three weeks she was absolutely fine and to date has no problems. I first [run a few tests on] the patient and after seeing the results, decide whether the problem can be solved by acupuncture or Western medicine and suggest treatment accordingly. In a case where surgery can be avoided, I would suggest the Chinese approach.

It is relatively easy for me to combine and apply both treatments where appropriate. I believe that this can be extremely beneficial to the patient in that minimal medication and drugs are used, but there are still effective long-term results. When I studied ancient Chinese medicine
I went to China and saw the approach and practices of many doctors there. [Many people] who follow the traditional approach of Chinese medicine do not know of the latest modern medical developments, technologies and discoveries.

For example: we have a new type of needle which is made of silicon and is as thin as a strand of hair. It is more expensive than the traditional metal needle but has a much better response with patients. We now also have new laser needling technology that is absolutely pain free.

During President Nixon's visit to China in 1972, a journalist with the New York Times underwent a treatment for post-operative pain after appendectomy by acupuncture. When he was completely cured, he wrote an article about his experience. That was the point when acupuncture took off and people in the Western field of healthcare began to pay closer attention.

The Americans soon invited the Chinese to talk about and demonstrate their procedures, and slowly the boom happened. In this region, however, not many people know of the benefits of acupuncture although there may be a few clinics providing such practices.

However, the new technologies we possess have only recently been introduced here. When I was first invited to speak about acupuncture at the Arab World Health Congress in 2005, I noticed that not many people had heard of ancient Chinese medicine and the approach aided by new technologies. That was when I noticed the potential and decided to set up a clinic at the DHCC.

Next year I will be 60.
Looking at the future, I intend to educate people about this new type of medicine that can cure so many problems without drugs or invasive surgery. I would like to give people the benefits of integrated medicine and will continue to create awareness by promoting and educating healthcare professionals of all nationalities on the subject. I am available once a month, for a week, for consultations in Dubai. However, we also have Dr M. Luitgard Held, permanently based here at the SASA clinic.

My most memorable career moment was when
I won the title of Honorary Professor from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

This the oldest Chinese university that is today, 52 years old, and has issued only 10 such titles worldwide. My certificate is number 009.

My passion in life is to educate people and give them the joy and benefits of good health and longevity. I want to show people that there is a new complementary medicine available today, which I truly believe is the medicine of the new age and the future.

My mother has always been the constant support to me in my life. She was the driving force behind me to complete my studies.

My role model in life is my father.
He inspired me to be what I am today, by guiding me towards a bright future and by choosing the university for me to study when I was just 16.

As told to Karoline M, a Dubai-based freelancer