Pauline Sok Yin Hwang, R.Ac, R.TCMP
Pauline uses acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, nutrition, cupping, acupressure, mindfulness meditation and wellness coaching to support people through cancer treatment, recovery and prevention. In practice since 2012, she also treats many general practice patients whose health concerns are not cancer-related (e.g. pain, digestion, insomnia, anxiety, stress, women’s health, fertility, depression, auto-immune conditions, etc.). She is a sought-after teacher and lecturer in the health and wellness field, especially in supportive cancer care.
Let that which we love Be what we do There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth. – Rumi
Extensive education and training.
Pauline is an Ontario-licensed Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.). and Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP). She graduated in 2003 with an Honours BSc degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from McGill University, completing her research thesis in the Faculty of Medicine. Coming from a family of medical professionals, and passionate about how our minds, bodies and environments are connected, she went on to complete eight full years of basic and advanced studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – obtaining a Diploma of Acupuncture (Institute of Traditional Medicine), a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner Diploma (Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine) and a Master’s degree in Medicine, with a major in TCM Internal Medicine and Integrative Oncology (Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine).
Pauline interned at the Jiangsu Provincial Chinese Medicine Hospital, one of the top-rated integrative medicine hospitals in China. She has been registered with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario since its inception, and holds memberships in the Society for Integrative Oncology, the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada and the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. She has completed extensive post-graduate training courses and internships in classical and anatomical acupuncture, classical herbal formulas and oncology acupuncture (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center). Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of her professional development history.
Passion for supporting people with cancer and their loved ones.
Through the personal experiences of her family and friends, Pauline came to realize the great need for comprehensive, holistic, high quality support for individuals and families facing cancer. This led her to create Hillgreen Oncology Acupuncture & Herbs, which cooperates with the Marsden Centre for Excellence in Integrative Medicine, one of the leading naturopathic oncology clinics in Canada, to offer effective, evidence-informed natural supportive care to people with cancer and their loved ones. This care can reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, support the immune system, promote recovery and strength, and help prevent cancer recurrence.
Involved in research and education.
In addition to her clinical training, Pauline is passionate about scientific research in TCM and integrative medicine. Her Master’s thesis project focused on TCM herb selection and safety during conventional breast cancer treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation, targeted and endocrine therapies), completed under the supervision of Dr. Ye Li Hong, Professor of TCM Oncology at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, and Dr. Xiaoshu Zhu, Associate Dean of University of Western Sydney’s School of Science and Health, and key senior cancer researcher at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). Pauline is a past recipient of a National Science and Engineering Research Council grant, China Scholarship Council funding, and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. She has given lectures at NJUCM, served as a preceptor at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and been invited to teach at two Toronto-area TCM colleges.
Walking the talk with a mindful, inclusive approach.
Outside of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Pauline has been practicing insight meditation since 2005, a key ingredient of her own healing (from depression, insomnia, facial paralysis, burnout, childhood trauma, and chronic digestive issues). She has also developed and led an eight-week mindfulness meditation training course. Pauline has decades of experience in the community health and social justice fields, and draws from her training in active listening, trauma-informed counselling, anti-oppression and facilitation to support individuals and groups with diverse backgrounds and needs. In her spare time, Pauline enjoys dance, camping, reading, meditation, cycling, gardening, yoga, writing, playing piano, drawing and volunteering.
Pauline strives to create an LGBTQ2S-positive space and to be as welcoming as possible toward people from all walks of life, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, dis/ability, age, race, ethnicity, religion, or class background. She offers clinical services in wheelchair-accessible spaces, and has a certain number of discounted spots available for those with financial barriers. To read more about her personal journey into health and well-being, keep reading below. To book a free consultation with Pauline, click here.
My personal journey into medicine and healing
By Pauline Sok Yin Hwang
I’m a social justice organizer turned Traditional Chinese Medicine and meditation practitioner, who focuses in two main areas: (1) “care for caregivers and changemakers” and (2) integrative cancer care. After experiencing the profound effects of traditional Chinese medicine and meditation on my own health, I now provide acupuncture, massage, nutrition, mindfulness, wellness & self-care coaching, and workshop facilitation; to keep my own spirits flourishing, I also play with dance, movement, writing and visual arts.
When I was 12 years old, my mother began to struggle with Bechet’s syndrome, affecting her mobility, speech and moods. My sisters and I took on caregiving responsibilities for her, our father, and our younger ones. With a large household of eight, frequent conflicts, and limited coping strategies, the strain and pain I felt was intense and unrelenting. Perhaps partly to escape, I buried myself in academic and volunteer commitments, achieving top marks and awards, and becoming known in my community as a youth activist.
Starting around 1996, I became politicized and active around global issues, focusing on the rights of immigrants, workers, women, tenants, queer/trans/LGBTQ folks, racialized and indigenous peoples, and youth. Feeling unable to change anything much at home, I felt more empowered creating action projects, and successfully campaigning against migrant worker deportations, inequitable neoliberal trade agreements, and corporate monopolies on my university campus. I had the privilege of travelling to the US, Europe, and East/Southeast Asia, learning from grassroots community organizers and activists who continue to inspire me. Though I graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive Neuroscience, my passion for social and environmental justice led to over 16 years work as a grassroots organizer, hotline counsellor, youth worker, popular educator, facilitator, and program coordinator.
At first, I didn’t realize the emotional and physical costs to my “caregiving and change-making.” In 2004, things started to fall apart. I was exhausted, discouraged, and frequently sick. I felt it was impossible to say no, resented the responsibilities I’d taken on, and (in hindsight) had entered a downward spiral, affecting everyone around me. I kept cutting more and more out of my overwhelming life – to no avail.
When half my face stopped moving (Bell’s palsy), my friend said, “Pauline, name ONE THING you do to take care of yourself!” I had no answer – hadn’t even thought about it. A few sessions of Chinese medicine fixed my Bell’s palsy, but I finally realized I was burnt out. I hit rock bottom and felt utterly drained, negative, and unmotivated. I quit my job, the organizations I had built, left my partner and friends in Montreal, and hit the road searching for a better life.
To make a long story short, the following decade was a journey of renewal, learning, and balance. I’ve lived in California, China, and finally back in my hometown of Toronto. I unlearned old traumas and belief patterns through counselling, art therapy, energy work, spirituality and self-help. I fell in love with insight (Vipassana) meditation, the daily practice of which woke me up and gave me a new lease on life. I (re-)discovered creativity, writing, yoga, martial arts, dance, and the joys of being in my body. I completely revamped my diet and recovered my immune system. I heard the wisdom in nature, solitary hikes and long-distance bike rides. And I developed new, less-draining, inspiring, and wholistic ways to work for fundamental social and environmental change.
Throughout my most difficult moments this past decade, I’ve turned to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), insight meditation, and the arts for their ability to see and support my whole being – my mind, emotions, spirit and body. When I faced a second bout of severe insomnia and low mood in 2009, my doctor recommended prescription anti-depressants. Reluctant to accept, I took a leap of faith in natural approaches, and found that six months of a (constantly updated) custom herbal formula, combined with weekly acupuncture and regular meditation finally restored me to a state of balance I could sustain. I have now been exploring Chinese martial and internal arts (qi gong, kung fu, tai chi) for many years, and still take care of myself using acupuncture, massage, meditation, creative arts, herbs, and Chinese therapeutic diet principles. Looking back, I realize this is the path I was meant to take; my late grandmother had also practiced acupuncture, herbs and tai chi in Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto. My father is a neurologist, one sister is a naturopathic doctor, and another is a medical researcher… so it seems the passion for medicine runs in my veins!
I now feel a vitality, vision, and self-awareness that I have literally never felt before. I feel energized, optimistic, grounded and productive (in a balanced way – knowing I love myself whether or not I achieve something). And while health and wellness is a unique journey for everyone, I feel grateful every day that I can now share this beautiful medicine with others (including my wonderful mother, who now enjoys regular acupuncture herself!).
Offering “care for caregivers and changemakers” is one of the ways I feel called to contribute to a healed humanity. I believe the personal is political. Individuals and families will have better health when we as society shift to prioritizing people over profit, and giving everyone fair access to opportunities, education, good jobs, healthy food and housing, nature, health and wellness. The fight against suffering, violence, oppression and discrimination, colonialism, environmental destruction, and economic injustice is in essence a fight to heal and reclaim our shared humanity.
I believe knowing and learning to care for ourselves (emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually) ultimately helps us treat others better, improving our relationships at home, at work, in our movements and communities. Relating better to ourselves, to each other, and to nature (i.e. animals and plants), is absolutely critical to the work we do (in whatever way) to better this world. If I can support even one of you to sustain and thrive in your work and relationships, I feel all my efforts are worth it.
For many years, I’d had the dream of going to China to study more about the use of traditional, natural medicine to support cancer patients. Through generous scholarships from the Taiwanese and mainland China governments, I was able to complete a 3-year Chinese-language Master’s degree in TCM Internal Medicine, focusing on integrative (Chinese/Western) oncology. Little did I know that my studies would overlap with the diagnoses of three of my family members with various cancers, bringing the reality of the cancer journey home in a way that has changed my view of life and healing.
As my thesis research focused on the integrative treatment of breast cancer, I was exposed to both the latest theories and practice on how TCM can support cancer patients alongside conventional treatment using surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone and targeted therapies. This support can help decrease discomforts caused both by cancer and by treatment side effects(e.g. fatigue, digestion, urinary problems, pain, stiffness, swelling, hot flashes, sweating, depression, anxiety, insomnia, unexplained low fevers, etc.), increase quality of life (sleep, energy, mood, digestion and appetite, etc), enhance the conventional treatments, and possibly even improve the length and chance of survival (stay tuned to my blog for more info). I have been so grateful for the opportunity to bring both concrete knowledge and a mindful, caring heart to cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones back home to Ontario. Join my mailing list if you want to keep in touch with how this unfolds!
Clinical internships I’ve completed in Nanjing have primarily been at the Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine, a large, well-known and respected top-tier teaching hospital. My thesis research project on the use of herbs alongside conventional breast cancer treatment was supervised by Dr. Ye Li Hong (NJUCM) and Dr. Xiaoshu Zhu (University of Western Sydney). In addition, while in Nanjing, I completed additional trainings and clinical observation in classical medicine, primarily with Dr. Huang Huang, world-famous authority in classical formulas and founder of the International College for Classical Chinese Medicine at the NJUCM. Some of my other TCM-related professional development activities have included:
- Huang Huang – Classical Formulas Training Conference (Nanjing) 2018
- Huang Huang – Classical Formulas for Neurological and Psychological Conditions Training Conference (Nanjing) 2018
- Renowned Senior TCM Doctor Zhang Yong Hong TCM Oncology Conference (Nanjing) 2018
- Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of TCM Oncology Conference (Nanjing) 2017
- Huang Huang – Classical Formulas Training Conference (Nanjing) 2017
- Society for Integrative Oncology conference (Miami) 2016
- Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary & Alternative Medicine Research (Toronto) 2016
- Huang Huang – Classical Formulas Training Conference (Nanjing) 2016
- Applied Channel Theory Acupuncture Workshop (Nanjing) 2015
- China-Taiwan Straits TCM Exchange (Taiwan) 2015
- Tzu Chi University Acupuncture Workshop (Taiwan) 2015
- Huayu Enrichment Scholarship, Mandarin language training, Tzu Chi University (Taiwan) 2015
- Kiiko Matsumoto – Acupuncture workshop (Toronto) 2014
- Terry Norman – Sports Tuina (Toronto) 2013
- Jake Fratkin – Chinese Patent Medicines (Toronto) 2012
- Paul Pitchford – TCM nutrition workshop (Toronto) 2012
- Brenda Loew – Shonishin, Pediatric Japanese Acupuncture workshop (Toronto) 2011
- National Acupuncture Detoxification Association – clinical hours at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Hospital (Toronto), 2011
- Khadro – Qi Gong (Toronto), 2009
- Ross Rosen – Advanced Pulse Diagnosis (Toronto), 2009
- Mandarin language training, Jinan University (China), 2005-2006
- Master Mak – Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Kung Fu (Montreal), 2001-2003
- University of Pennsylvania Cognitive Science Workshop (Philadelphia) June 2002
- National Science and Engineering Research Council summer student grant, 2002
- Dr. Ye Li Hong, Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of TCM, Internal Medicine ward (Nanjing)
- Dr. Zhang Cheng Ming, Dr. Chen Yu Chao, Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of TCM, Oncology ward (Nanjing)
- Dr. Huang Huang, Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of TCM, Ming Yi Tang (famous doctors) department (Nanjing)
- Clinical rotations in Jiangsu Provincial Hospital of TCM: Acupuncture, Gynecology, Pediatrics, Neurology, Breast Surgery, Oncology (Nanjing)
- Richard Kwan, R.TCMP (Toronto)
- Noel Wright, R.Ac (Toronto)
- Teaching Clinics: Institute of Traditional Medicine, Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine