Dr. Yu-Fung Lin isn’t your typical cannabis advocate. Growing up in Taipei, Taiwan, she knew the commercial crop, hemp. Not until she came to America as a PhD student in Ann Arbor, Michigan did Dr. Lin discover its other qualities.
Dr. Lin is an Associate Professor of Physiology and Membrane Biology at UC Davis. Her interest in cannabis stems from cannabinoids’ unique effects on ATP channels, membranous gateways studied for their relation to diabetes, hypertension, seizures and regular bodily function. She plans to lead groundbreaking research with ATP channels and cannabinoids — if and when that research is legalized and properly funded.
Department chairs convened in 2016 at the UC Davis School of Medicine to discuss cannabis. Following its legalization in California, the student body became more interested in experimenting with cannabis, inside and outside of the lab. Science had established some medical benefits, but misunderstanding remains surrounded its psychoactive effects. The group of UC Davis researchers and educators, including Dr. Lin, realized with frightful awareness that the cannabis industry was suffering from a lack of needed information, at every level.
Dr. Lin urges, “the medical professional’s position is essential to medical treatment. [It simply] would not be safe to skip the doctor.”
At the behest of the university, Dr. Lin devoted herself to understanding the academic research on cannabis, levying her background in membrane biology and physiology. She compiled her research into UC Davis’ first cannabis coursework. Her classes — Physiology of Cannabis and Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Physiology and Medicine present cannabis objectively, alongside reliable interpretation of the available science.
Cannabis education, Dr. Lin hopes, will become standard for medical professionals. When confronted with the reality that budtenders, not doctors, are effectively providing medicine while doctors’ involvement feels like forced bureaucracy, Dr. Lin urges that “the medical professional’s position is essential to medical treatment.” It simply “would not be safe to skip the doctor.”
Doctors study for years in medical school and continue with life-long learning to provide informed guidance appropriate to patients’ unique medical history. The problem is not with doctors, but with the state of education that produces doctors who receive no formal education regarding the cannabis they prescribe.
Dr. Lin hopes to open a new course to the UC Davis community of public servants and interested members of the local community.