Doug Cheung has been awarded the 2010-11 XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship along with fellow senior Bethel Mesgana. They are using the scholarship funds to create an undergraduate course and public forum promoting the holistic understanding of illness and healing. Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

Student promotes compassion in medicine

UCI senior and new Dalai Lama Scholar Doug Cheung is dedicated to compassionate healing.

It took a friend’s grim diagnosis to get Doug Cheung thinking about the kind of doctor he wants to be. Cheung, a UC Irvine senior majoring in neurobiology and psychology & social behavior, explains:

“My best friend was diagnosed with HIV last year and I’m inspired by his courage in fighting this disease,” Cheung says. “When he learned of the news, his doctor held his hand and comforted him while she described the course of treatment. That’s the kind of doctor I want to be.”

Cheung, who is interested in blending eastern healing techniques, such as acupuncture, with western medicine, is co-founder and president of Students for Integrative Medicine. The group provides stress-reduction and nutrition workshops for the local homeless community and low-income families, and offers a yearlong integrative medicine education certificate series. Members also conduct research in complementary and alternative medicine.

“Integrative medicine combines western research and methodology with eastern healing practices,” Cheung says. “Think of a doctor using chemotherapy to treat cancer, but also providing herbs and accupuncture treatment to alleviate digestive problems and fatigue.”

Cheung also volunteers with the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, which provides mental health counseling and referral services to HIV-positive and at-risk youth in Los Angeles and Orange County. He started the organization’s first support group for HIV-positive teens and young adults and guided World AIDS Day events on campus in 2008 and 2009.

Cheung’s deepening dedication to compassionate healing prompted him, along with fellow senior Bethel Mesgana, to apply for the XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship, awarded annually to UCI students who demonstrate academic achievement, honesty, integrity, fairness and service to others. Applicants must outline a project related to peace, ethical leadership or positive national and global relations.

Winners Cheung and Mesgana will develop an undergraduate course and public forum promoting the holistic understanding of illness and healing. The class will feature lessons in psychiatry, geriatrics and family medicine, as well as guest appearances by people with chronic diseases or terminal illnesses. A panel of experts, patients and caregivers will participate in a public forum next spring.

“UCI’s Dalai Lama Scholars are continuing to lead the way in demonstrating the power of love and compassion in healing individuals and communities,” said Manuel Gomez, vice chancellor emeritus for student affairs. “As we all grow in awareness of our global interdependence, I’m hopeful that integrative medicine will no longer be considered an ‘alternative’ to normal practice.”

Cheung grew up in Hong Kong and moved to California in 2008 to attend community college. He hopes to pursue a master’s in public health and become a neurologist specializing in treating HIV-positive patients and others with terminal illnesses.

In the meantime, Cheung works with Mesgana to recruit UCI health-and-wellness experts for the course and public forum, as well as patients and families who can share their experiences.

“We hope this course and public forum will allow students and community members to make connections between wellness and compassion, hear stories and get inspired.”

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