Immigrants, Diversity, and Medical History


Franz Eugen Kohler, kohler’s Medizin-Pflanzen Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

North America is filled with Immigrants

Although our pioneer forebears all came from somewhere else, we Americans  often consider ourselves to be the greatest in the world at everything. But as our population diversifies, we have learned that we are not.

I go in for complementary medicine. Massage. Meditation.  Acupuncture and Qi Gong. So I perked up when I read the following article. BIO-PIRACY: WHEN WESTERN FIRMS USURP EASTERN MEDICINE. Raj Choudhury and Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business school professors, examine the history of herbal patent applications, and challenge the stereotype that Western firms are innovators, while emerging markets are imitators.

Carmen Nobel, senior editor of Harvard’s Working Knowledge, begins her July, 2014 article: “In May 1995, two scientists at the University of Mississippi were granted an American patent for the use of turmeric to treat flesh wounds. Soon thereafter, an Indian research organization won a lawsuit challenging the novelty of the patent. As it turned out, Indians had been using turmeric as a wound ointment for thousands of years. The United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked the patent in 1997. Patents are supposed to be novel, but patent offices know little about the novelty of herbs.

I sprinkle turmeric and cinnamon on my family’s cereal. I take a daily turmeric capsule. Along with eating copious amounts of fruits and veggies, I swallow black elderberry syrup for coughs, and drink green tea.

I hope that these mysteries help my health. What are your favorite home remedies?

World War II and The Shanghai American School

U.Mich Peony Garden

Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks at the University of Michigan Peony Garden







     Mike and I traveled  to the impressive University of Michigan in early May to join a reunion of the Shanghai American School (SAS) —  part of the conference, “China Between Two Worlds.”

Hans Pederson died when I was one month old. My mother remarried when I was two. We left Seattle, and so the mystery of the noted builder who was my father grew for the next 70 years. My new “Dad” took us to China where he was an agent for the Standard Oil Company.  As well as Seattle history, the “Mysterious Builder” describes my Far Eastern early childhood in Shanghai, Honolulu, and Manila, along with Dad’s attempts to do business there during the turmoil of the pre and post-war World War II years.

The Michigan conference described “China Between Two Worlds” partly through the memories and photographs of American expatriate families —the missionaries, doctors, and businessmen in China between 1927 and 1949; years that bridged the Chiang Kai Sheck and  Mao Tse Tung regimes withWorld War II in between.  We, the children of these families, had all lived in China. We had lived those photos. We had felt that sense of straddling two cultures.

Such freedom we had. Missionaries upcountry had put their children on the train for Shanghai to board at the Shanghai American School sometimes at the tender age of nine. My husband, a day student at seven, roamed freely around Shanghai with his older brother, jumping over sampans on the Whangpo River. I, however, a five-year old girl, stayed with my amah. Conscious of her bound feet, I never ran away from her, because she never could have caught me.

Most business families were evacuated from Shanghai as we were in 1939, and most expatriates as well by the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on  December 7, 1941. The Shanghai American School closed from 1941 to 1946. It was another story for the missionary families in smaller cities upcountry. Some of them were interred in Japanese Prison Camps.

Japanese cruelty towards the Chinese was legendary. Brutality, in fact, was a part of Japanese military training. But one or two people at our reunion had filtered out the cruelty and remembered basically happy childhoods in prison camp, even though they were always hungry.

European and American prisoners organized their camps into rotating teams with specific jobs. With plenty of teachers around, the children had good schooling. They fielded sports teams and put on plays. They always invited their captors to sit in the front row. A few western camps run by Japanese consular officials, were seemingly able to maintain discipline without excessive cruelty.

And so we learned, sometimes there is light within the darkness.

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