The New Paper
June 25, 2015
Local TV host Pornsak is now a qualified traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician.
He passed his final exams for his bachelor's degree in TCM from the Guangzhou University Of Chinese Medicine last week - seven years after he started the part-time, distance education programme.
Part of the reason he took up the course is because of his 92-year-old dad, Mr Koh Han Ee, who raised him single-handedly after his mother died when he was five. It was Pornsak's Father's Day gift - he can now tend to his father's health personally.
Nine years ago, his father's left hand started swelling for no apparent reason.
After taking his dad, a businessman, to hospitals in Thailand and Singapore, he still could not find a cure for his swollen hand. Desperate, Pornsak, 33, sought the help of well-known Singapore TCM physician Chen Mei Er.
He told The New Paper: "At that time, I had taken my dad everywhere. "Dr Chen, with one needle and using acupuncture, cured my father. It was amazing.
"My dad's hand has not swelled (up) since." Dr Porn, as his friends like local actress Michelle Chong have affectionately started calling him, can now treat his father's ailments personally. But learning to become a TCM physician wasn't easy, he said. One of his areas of expertise - acupuncture - required him to practise inserting the acupuncture needles into his own body.
"The person I tried it (acupuncture) out on the most was my dad. I know the few acupoints that are helpful for diabetes so I did it for him once a day.
"He was in pain and I could see it because he kept twitching! I kept asking him, 'Is it painful?' But being my biggest supporter, my dad did not complain or make a sound."
Pornsak added with a laugh:
"He's my guinea pig."
Pornsak first met Ms Chen when he was a deejay with UFM100.3.
He said that now, she is like a mother to him. He has learned a lot from observing her medical practices.
Interestingly, Pornsak revealed that he finds it easier to treat slimmer people.
"I have a lot of plus-sized friends so I don't mean to offend anyone.
"It is true that the skinnier you are, it's much easier for me to find (the) exact points to insert the needle. There are 200 acupoints in all so you can imagine (how accurate one needs to be)."
Even when he's sharing nuggets of TCM know-how, Pornsak said it still feels surreal that he's now a certified physician.
During the years that he spent studying for his TCM degree, there were many times he had thought about giving up.
Pornsak, who also has a bachelor's degree in business management (from the Singapore Management University) and a master's degree in early childhood education (from Australia's Monash University), said his TCM schedule was time-consuming.
Each lesson lasted 3½ hours and he had to attend classes three nights a week in Singapore. But the $30,000 he spent on his degree was worth it. He said: "If I could, I'd love to open a free clinic in Thailand for the destitute.
"Some of the people there are so poor that they can't afford food, much less medication." On his plans for the future, he added:
"Maybe in two years, I could open a clinic in Singapore as well?"
But for now he is taking it one step at a time. Or should that be one neck at a time?
"I need lots more experience in TCM. They say that you have to examine at least 1,000 necks in order to start making really accurate diagnoses with any one neck."
This article was first published on June 25, 2015.
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