What Teresa Wlasiuk brings to the table during each and every treatment is invaluable – she is an inspiration for other Chinese medicine practitioners! Even though she already has quite a set of tools that she brings to bear in every treatment, she is continuing her doctorate studies in order to expand her reach with patients on an even deeper level. We are glad to have her high level of dedication on our GHF practitioner team! Read all about Teresa’s story with Global Healthworks Foundation below.
Teresa Wlasiuk Is Hooked on GHF Jornadas and Medical Outreach Work
Teresa Wlasiuk pulls her blonde hair into an elastic ponytail. She takes out a small leather-bound notebook from her apron pocket and begins jotting down notes about her previous treatment. “I just started a doctoral program in acupuncture and oriental medicine,” the acupuncturist and massage therapist says. “I need to keep track of what herbs we’re using and what treatments we’re suggesting. This time around is like a work-study trip for me.”
Teresa’s April 2015 visit to Guatemala is her second jornada (medical mission) with Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF). “I am hooked!” she explains of the bi-annual events. Within minutes of the October 2014 jornada, she says, Teresa knew she’d return the next time around.
After graduating from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine (ECTOM) in 2013, Teresa began practicing acupuncture in Los Angeles, where the school is located. Shortly thereafter, she decided to continue her studies at ECTOM in order to expand her practice further and reach patients on an even deeper level. “The doctoral program is a total of six hundred and fifty hours,” she explains. “I can count my work here [in Guatemala] for at least fifty.”
Teresa first learned of GHF from long-time friend and acupuncturist, Peter Caron, who serves as the Foundation’s local Program Manager. “I knew the jornadas would resonate with Teresa,” Peter describes. “Whenever she talked about helping people, I’d watch her heart open up. I didn’t see that happening with the other work she was doing. I saw her as being someone who would be able to find her deeper self and passion here.”
According to Teresa, the trips have enabled her to do just that. “My favorite part of these trips is the way they change you internally,” she explains. “There’s something very grounding about it. I feel whole and authentic. It brings me back to myself.” Teresa’s enthusiasm for outreach work has influenced the manner in which other ECTOM students view acupuncture and integrative healthcare, notes Juliana King, a third-year acupuncture student who joined Teresa for the April 2015 jornada. “Teresa is like a mentor to me,” Juliana says. “She scooped me up during my first year and offered to help guide me through school. In fact, she mentors a lot of people and lets them observe her clinical practice. For that reason, I call her ‘Mother Teresa.’”
In addition to bringing along a fellow ECTOM student to Guatemala, Teresa also hauled two suitcases filled with sanitary and medical supplies, reading glasses, vitamins, and toys for local children. “My suitcase was mainly filled with baby wipes,” she says. “I barely had enough room for clothes!” Together, Teresa and Juliana raised nearly $2,000 for travel costs and supply donations.
Though she didn’t need another reason to convince her to travel to Guatemala again, Teresa says, “it really felt right” while she was paying for some of the toys. “I was in line at Toys ‘R Us and mentioned to the cashier that the toys were for a volunteer trip to Guatemala,” she explains. “There were two women behind me in line who heard me and told me they were from Guatemala, too! They were so overwhelmed with gratitude for the work we were doing—kind of like the gratitude we feel from the patients here [in Guatemala].”
The GHF team, says Dan Wunderlich, the organization’s Founder and Executive Director, is equally grateful for her presence. “Teresa is a natural healer,” he explains. “And she’s truly dedicated to her studies in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. But I hope she knows that by simply being her true self, she is already helping patients in their healing process. What she brings to the table during each and every treatment is invaluable.”
Her resourcefulness, Dan adds, is part of what makes her so “invaluable.” While treating a new mother during a particularly busy jornada hour, Teresa secured the woman’s baby on her back using a traditional cloth baby wrap. Thanks to her quick thinking, she was able to care for the mother and baby simultaneously. “I don’t think everyone would have thought to do that,” Dan says. “Teresa has a special gift. She inspires other practitioners, particularly our student practitioners, to think creatively.”
While Teresa’s treatments benefit jornada patients and fellow practitioners, as her own words indicate, the experiences also impact her deeply. Each trip to Guatemala is another opportunity to learn more about herself and continue her journey toward a more “whole and authentic” self.