Why This Olympic Snowboarder Became a Doctor of Chinese Medicine

Dr.  Dominique Vallee is a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Instead of using stethoscopes, pharmaceuticals, and x-rays, she relies on ancient techniques: pulse reading, needles, smoke, and herbs. For Dominique, it’s all about looking at health as a whole, combining acupuncture, herbal formulas, cupping, diet, lifestyle and emotions as a complete treatment plan. The focus of her practice is on the body’s balance, with health, happiness, and abundance at its core.

Dominique grew up in the snowy mountains of Mont Tremblant, Quebec, and from a young age she knew she wanted to become a professional snowboarder. At the age of 18, she left home and moved to Whistler, BC to pursue her dream. She was driven, passionate, extremely hard working, and successful. She represented Canada in several World Championships and X Games and traveled the world doing what she loved. In 2006, she competed at the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy in both half-pipe and snowboard cross events.  She didn’t make the podium, but she was thrilled with the experience, seeing the 2006 games as an opportunity to be a top contender heading into 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

In 2008, Dominique was at her competitive peak,  and primed for 2010, when her world came crashing down. Her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A shattered Dominique put her training on hold and flew back to Quebec to be with her parents. Over the course of an extremely challenging year of chemotherapy, Dominique and her mother spent a great deal of time in hospitals. “That’s when I started questioning everything. That’s not only when I discovered that I actually loved medicine but there I found a hole in the medical system. It was frustrating. It was like they were treating the symptoms rather than the individual with little regard for a holistic or preventative approach.”

While trying to ease her mother’s pain and discomfort, she began to research alternative treatments. “I kept falling back on Traditional Chinese medicine where when something loses balance  that’s when disease happens. Sometimes you just realize that the cycle has been broken for a long time and then that’s when more severe diseases occur. It just made so much sense to me that we just need to learn how to read the body to prevent the wheel  from breaking.”

After a hard fight, Dominique’s mother lost her battle with cancer. Dominique returned to Whistler and her professional snowboarding career but her priorities and perspective had completely shifted.  “I felt that everything I was doing was completely insignificant and that I wanted to change things, help people, and leave a mark.”

From tragedy, she discovered an undeniable passion for medicine that she knew she had to follow — but in her own way. She decided to retire from competitive snowboarding and enroll in school to pursue this new passion. She completed her undergrad to become an acupuncturist and then continued her education to become a doctor of TCM. With courses and all the board exams, it took her seven years. “I’m really thankful. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and might be the hardest thing I’ll have ever done in my life. I couldn’t be happier where I am today.”

Dominique feels incredibly blessed that she’s had two amazing careers. “Coming from snowboarding being my passion, there was no way my second career was something I wasn’t truly passionate about but that’s really difficult to find. You’re lucky if you find that once in your life, let alone twice. I’m extremely thankful that I found Traditional Chinese Medicine because I’m more passionate about it than I ever imagined possible.”

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