Acupuncturist promotes Chinese medical profession, self-healing
...An interview with Matthew Bauer, acupuncturist and author
Interviewed by Cathy Sivak
AcupunctureSchools.com Contributing Writer
June 8, 2006
As a teen from a blue-collar family of construction workers, Matthew Bauer suffered from back problems and found relief through acupressure treatment that led to his interest in eastern philosophy. When the stress associated with his child’s serious health problems caused his first wife to develop a thyroid condition, an acupuncturist brought relief.
That acupuncturist, a 74th generation Taoist Master (spiritual teacher), became a mentor to the young man and taught him about Taoist spirituality, philosophy and history. When his first wife’s emotional problems caused her to leave him to care for their handicapped child, eastern philosophy helped overcome what he describes as a low point in his life and inspired him to seek a profession in the field.
He attended Yuin University, a California acupuncture school, received state licensing and hung a shingle. His 20-year-career as a licensed acupuncturist offering Chinese Medicine through acupuncture, Qi-Gong and Chinese herbs has included treatment of thousands of patients through his practice,
Along the way, he has become an instrumental force in promoting the profession and its benefits. He helped found an acupuncture association, served as a board member for another, and helped to create an acupuncture HMO that has since expanded to become a national program. Mr. Bauer has penned numerous articles published in industry journals including
Acupuncture Today. In keeping with his professional goal to educate the public about the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, he wrote a definitive book on the subject.
The Healing Power of Acupressure and Acupuncture; A Complete Guide to Timeless Traditions and Modern Practice was published by Avery/Penguin Press in 2005 and is widely available via Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Redwing Books and other outlets. In acknowledgement of his contributions to the field of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, his alma mater awarded Mr. Bauer an honorary PhD. in 1998.
The increasing acceptance of acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a treatment option for all types of patients is creating a “positive buzz” about acupuncture, he says. “If you sincerely want to help people with health and emotional and other types of problems, then you are in the best field possible… we truly have the potential to make this a profound art that helps people in significant ways. What more could you ask for?”
Mr. Bauer & His Career
How did you
become interested in the field of acupuncture/Oriental medicine?
I came from a blue-collar family of construction
workers and in my teen years developed an interest in eastern philosophy. I
suffered back problems and stumbled across acupressure as a means to help my
back. My first child was born with a serious intestinal condition that required
several surgeries that left him in need of intensive home care. After my first
wife developed a serious thyroid condition, in part from the stress of caring
for our child, we sought the help of a Chinese acupuncturist who cured her in 6
weeks. This man was also a 74th generation Taoist Master (spiritual teacher) and
I began studying Taoist spirituality, philosophy and history from him when I was
22 years old. Soon after, my first wife’s emotional problems overtook her and
she suddenly left our family, leaving me to quit work to care for our
handicapped son. During this low point of my life, I furthered my study of
Taoist spirituality and decided to dedicate myself to helping others and become
an acupuncturist/Chinese medicine healer.
Tell us about
your career in acupuncture/Oriental medicine.
I had a family to support, so I opened my office just
as soon as I got my license. It was a struggle in the beginning; I just put out
a shingle with no patients. I was in a pretty conservative area on the east edge
of Los Angeles County. I did everything I could think of to get people in the
doors. The first year, we ran out of money and I sold my wife’s ‘65 Mustang to
get us through; before that, I had sold her ‘79 Camaro to get through school. I
bought the Mustang and restored it for her to make up for the Camaro…but then we
had to sell the Mustang. That gave us enough of a bump to make it through and
into the second year, I started making enough money to cover the bills. Since
then, I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to keep being able to pay the bills.
We have an extremely low overhead compared to traditional healthcare providers,
and that helps. My receptionist is my wife, Gayle.
Who (or what)
are the biggest inspirations for your career?
I met a 74th generation Taoist master, Master Hua-Ching
Ni when I was in my early 20s. He’s been a huge influence on my life and career.
He’s the most remarkable individual I’ve ever met, he’s written over 40 books on
a range of different Taoist topics. He was a big inspiration to me, especially
in the book I ended up writing, in which I attempted to trace the roots of
Chinese medicine, including acupuncture. The only reason I had the gumption to
try to address the great riddle of the unknown origins of Chinese medicine was
because of what I learned from his long oral tradition.
you to write The Healing Power of
Acupressure and Acupuncture; A complete guide to timeless traditions and modern
Once in practice, I found my ability to explain
acupuncture/Chinese medicine to my patients was well received and I decided to
write a book on the subject. I realized years ago that one of the problems we
have as a profession is that we can’t explain how this began, how acupuncture
started, how chi and the meridians were developed. I consider it a mystery equal
to the mystery of the Pyramids or Stonehenge. I thought this was a public
education problem for us, and that it was legitimate to take a stab at shed some
light on how it may have all began. I’ve been interested in public education to
help people realize what a tremendous healing resource Chinese medicine
represents. The book was written for the general public, although I hope the
acupuncture profession would find it of interest as well.
It’s a three part book. In the first part, I try to
explain the basics of Chinese medical theory. The second part of the book
explains the conditions it can be used to treat and how to find a qualified
practitioner. The third part is focused on self- help techniques including
acupressure and touch techniques for self-treatment.
It took 10 years to write, and was published by
Avery/Penguin Press in 2005. Writing the book is one thing, the getting it
published is another, and then marketing is a whole other. I really believe I’ve
made a contribution to the field, because I attempted to explain how acupuncture
likely began. I believe the greatest influence on Chinese medicine and Chinese
culture was primarily inspired by ancient astronomy. It would be a good book for
all students, because I try to put it into perspective in a way that goes deeply
into the philosophy, but presented in a way that is not too time-consuming. I’ve
gotten some feedback from practitioners that tell me it should be a textbook for
students; maybe someday that will catch on.
instrumental in helping establish the first acupuncture HMO plan in the United
States. What led to your involvement in this endeavor? Details?
I was approached in 1997 by a company that was then
called the American Chiropractic Network. They had developed a network of
chiropractic providers as a complimentary healthcare plan, kind of like vision
or dental care. They plugged away for years, trying to get insurance companies
to warm up to the idea that there was a market for it. They developed these
plans, mostly as rider plans, meaning employers would have to pay extra to get
the coverage. In 1997 they made the decision that acupuncture was the next
alternative practice on the list that seemed to be ready to develop a network
that fit the guidelines and the practices that insurance companies operate
They approached about 15 or so acupuncturists that they
had been told were leaders in the field and asked us to create the same sort of
program treatment guidelines for acupuncture services. One example is case
management, where you get authorization for a certain number of treatments – we
had to determine the number of treatments for various medical conditions. It was
probably the greatest concentration of man hours in our profession put into
crafting guidelines. We had a dozen or so practitioners getting together on
Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays for quite a few months; we spent hundreds
of hours to develop the policies to make it work for acupuncture services. I
enjoyed spending time with my colleagues, even though we were working on a very
specific, proprietary, for-profit project. The first HMO plan was approved by
the California department of insurance in 1997.
Third party reimbursement is the primary way medical
services are paid for in this country. For the acupuncture profession, if we
ever really want to be mainstream and have our services available to a great
amount of people, we have to make our peace with the insurance industry, and
managed care is an important part of that. Having those networks available makes
our services affordable and available to a whole different group of people that
couldn’t afford the ‘cash for service’ terms that a lot of acupuncturists have
A third party reimbursement system is prominent in
paying medical bills in this country; most people have money taken out of their
paychecks to pay for the insurance to cover medical services. But if that
insurance doesn’t cover the kind of medical services you want, you have that
much less cash in hand to pay for services you want, because a good portion went
into insurance that isn’t covering the services. Working with managed care was
(and is) important for the future growth of the acupuncture profession.
As our ranks continue to explode, as valuable as our
services are, I always felt there was potential for a lag time in the number of
people entering the profession recognizing what a wonderful healing resources it
is and the patients who go to access those services. Having the HMO kind of
plans that can work for acupuncture services available was an important
component and offered more of a chance to see the public demand keep pace with
the number of practitioners coming out of school. For a lot of individual
practitioners, I can appreciate why they don’t want to participate in managed
care plans, and that’s great if they can make it. But if we are going to
continue to grow as a profession, we’re going to have to tap into the insurance
programs that are out there.
The plan went nationwide in 2001. There are other
similar plans out there as well, this is the biggest one. It hasn’t grown as
much as it could have, because the cost of healthcare has once again taken off.
Employer groups are not inclined to add additional services for something like
alternative medicine like acupuncture when they are fighting to keep regular
healthcare coverage. The ridiculous cost of health care has made the growth of
these sorts of plans less than it could have been. The hope is that someday the
insurance industry will start to include acupuncture treatments in the core
medical plan, and not only include it as a rider plan. The real movement of
acupuncture services was influenced by insurance companies looking at this as
not so much as “is this a good thing that’s good for our customers?” but instead
as a source of new income. The real hope is they may actually get serious about
trying to save costs, and would look at acupuncture and say “This is often more
cost-effective then conventional care, so if we include it core benefits, maybe
that would encourage more people would use it, and it might bring our costs
down.” When it comes to the idea of result in preventative cost containment vs
new revenue stream, insurance companies, like everyone else, are still focused
on revenue streams.
A little less than half of my patients come in through
HMO. I have a lot of older patients on Medicare with no coverage, I do reduced
fees. The development of managed care has put us in a tough position. Our
overhead is already so low, and insurance companies kind of cut their teeth on
reducing existing fees. They’re not in a mindset to raise fees, and that’s been
a catch-22 for our profession, because we were already cut to the bone in
overhead. To be involved in insurance and managed care, we should eventually see
our rates increase but that’s just not the mindset the insurance industry is in.
I’m not happy about that, but we need managed care out there as a profession.
What do you
enjoy most your role in patient care?
That’s really easy. It’s being able to help a wide
range of patients, including people who come to you who have seemingly exhausted
all other avenues. To be able do treat people in a way that is so safe and cost
effective is really an incredible thing. We need to do more to spread the
enthusiasm. It’s remarkable. We stick needles into people and help them find
their healing resources. A well-qualified acupuncturist can treat a wider
variety of patients than any other kind of practitioner. That’s what I love
about my work. People walk in the door with any kind of problem you can imagine,
and I’ve got a shot at helping them.
member of several professional groups and helped found one of them. How do such
groups support your career goals?
I’ve been active with different associations, I’m not
in the leadership of any associations right now, and I made that decision more
than 10 years ago. It’s really because of the unfortunate politics among the
different associations; they developed an ‘us and them’ mentality. The various
associations fought over specific issues, mainly around education and titles and
licensing, and I wasn’t going to choose sides. I try to stay active and current
and maintain ties with different organizations. We are seeing some real progress
there, with new leadership leading to some of the old animosities going out with
the old guard. There is movement to see what we have in common, rather than
focusing on the differences. I worked in the leadership of a group in
California, have tried to help where I can with both state and national groups.
mater Yuin University awarded you an honorary PhD. in Acupuncture and Oriental
Medicine in recognition of your contributions to the field. What does this honor
mean to you on a personal and professional level?
It was very nice to get the PhD; it was an honor. But
honestly, it probably meant more to my wife. I don’t use the honorary in
deference to those who are working toward it. I really appreciate it; the school
was good to me. The movement to develop the doctorate program, higher standards
of education, whether we keep it at an entry level or a post-doctorate type
education program, I think its great we are starting to set the standards
What are some
of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?
I’m honestly a bit conflicted. Part of me wants to slow
down and back off a bit. When I first opened my office, I called it the Holistic
Care Center. I envisioned as a multi-disciplinary practice incorporating lots of
educational opportunities for people. As I got involved in different
professional associations and began to work on educating the public, I got drawn
into other related aspects of the field. I made the decision not to build a
bigger practice, to instead divide my time between practice and working on other
projects important to the overall growth of the profession. I sometimes still
want to build that kind of center, I like to think we could do a good one, but
that’s another mountain to climb. I’ve been very fortunate that I keep my
practice at an even keel, I see a little over 50 patients a week, and I’ve been
at that pace for at least 12 years. I like to keep it there; it allows me to pay
the bills and still gives me the time to do additional pursuits related to the
contributions do you feel the acupuncture/Chinese medicine field has made to
We’ve made a bigger contribution than we probably know.
Somewhere between 6 to 10 million Americans have been treated with acupuncture.
Its interesting, if you get into a crowd of people at a social gathering and
acupuncture pops up, someone always said I’ve had that or my uncle did or
something like that. Almost universally what you hear is a positive thing. There
is a positive buzz out there about acupuncture. Until the subject comes up,
people don’t know how many of their friends and relatives and neighbors have had
acupuncture, and most of them have had positive experiences. We have silently
been making a real difference. I advocate that we shouldn’t be so silent about
it as a profession.
We, as a profession, should help to facilitate the good
buzz that’s out there in the general public to really spread the word about
acupuncture. I believe we have a responsibility to do so. That’s really why I
wrote the book…I was frustrated with the professional associations for not
taking on the responsibility of public education as a real priority. I got
frustrated enough that I thought I’d write a book to take my own personal stab
at it. We’re really on the cutting edge of what’s a revolution in medicine, and
that is that we help the body to heal itself. We’re not the only field that does
it, but we’ve been doing it longer and on more people than anybody else. That
needs to be the future of medicine, the development and the spreading of methods
that stimulate the body’s self healing rather than from the outside, which is
what 98 percent of what modern medicine is about. Acupuncture is the most
advanced therapy in the world for stimulating self-healing. We’ve been doing it
for a lot of years, but it hasn’t really broken out yet.
The Actual Work
typical day of work for you. On a basic level, what skills does your job demand?
I practice an unusual technique, I’ve worked quite a
bit with Qi-Gong, and I have a Taoist spirituality background. I actually work a
great deal by feel and intuition. I have some capability to feel chi blockages
fairly directly; a lot of my work is done by feel more so than theory of
technique. It actually comes fairly naturally to me now. That doesn’t mean
everybody is cured, or that I don’t have patients that are difficult to help.
The paper work is much more difficult. I feel so blessed, when I work on
patients, I’m doing a Qi-Gong, its very relaxing to me most of the time. When I
work on someone, I come out of the treatment room feeling refreshed and relaxed,
and just very fortunate to have made a connection with my patient, and to be
doing work that is helping people and myself at the same time. It’s truly a
phenomenal blessing. I believe that was the original inspiration, trial and
error finding points, and then heightened sensitivity. You learn all the
memorization and the theory, but when you get out there and start cultivating
and balancing your own energy, we truly have the potential to make this a
profound art that helps people in significant ways. What more could you ask for?
challenges and rewards come from working with your patients in an independent,
non-Western healthcare care setting?
Cost is always a challenge. In order to be able to help
people as much as your training allows, time is money. So that’s a great
challenge, to be able to use all of the tools you’ve worked hard to develop,
because so much of the time you might not be able to do everything you might
have the potential to do because of the cost factors. I’ve tried to deal with
that as much as I can, even when you offer people to work with them in any way
they need to, to get them the treatment they need, a lot of times they feel
uncomfortable about it and won’t avail themselves. So even when the practitioner
has no barriers to cost, patients often create them. I’ve told people over the
years that my policy is that if they want my help and I believe I can help them,
they get my help, and we work out the financial part along the way. A lot of
people feel uncomfortable with that. People come in for treatment, and if they
don’t see great results right away, they get frustrated and don’t show up for
appointments. It is frustrating to treat someone a number of times, and thinking
that if I could have had a few more whacks at them, we could have turned things
around for them.
What are the
tools of the trade that you use the most? Favorite gadget?
My favorite gadget is my own chi. I work a lot with my
hands, I always do some amount of acupressure massage work together with
acupuncture. Its all different forms of Qi-Gong, it’s all about stimulating chi
and addressing chi and balances. All of my techniques and tools I use are based
on that, trying to diagnose chi and balances, and then trying to address them.
It’s one skill to find problem spots and therapeutic points in the body; it’s
another to know what to do with them. They are related skills, but they are not
entirely one and the same. I believe less is more, that using subtle techniques
and not over-treating, not trying to do too much all at once, to learn the
skills is the best approach. Trust your instincts and let the treatment do its
thing. We’re talking about stimulating self healing, and a lot of healing of
chronic problems is going to have a delayed effect and a cumulative affect. We
have short, medium and long range healing. The long range is the type of service
that people get the least of. We have the potential to work on that level of
long-term healing, I try to encourage my patients to avail themselves to.
What are some
common myths about the acupuncture/Chinese medicine profession?
One of the myths among the public is that people have
to be Chinese to do it. I always ask people “Have you ever been to an Asian
medical doctor?” They didn’t have to be Caucasian to learn western medicine, and
you don’t have to be Oriental to learn Chinese medicine.
What are your
pet peeves as an acupuncture/Chinese medicine physician?
My biggest is not really a complaint, it’s just a
disappointment. We haven’t done enough to educate the public. We are the
authorities in this field and we have the responsibility to let people know what
it is. What you commonly heard 15 to 20 years ago was people didn’t want to
market their services. The common philosophy was if we just learn our art and
craft, and help people, it will spread by itself. It comes from a good place,
but there’s nothing at all wrong with being more actively involved in getting
that good news spread and helping people. My biggest disappointment is that the
profession has not yet taken on that task squarely. Individuals can do their
part, but as a profession we could see tremendous growth of interest and use of
this field if our institutions and orgs were to start do public efforts. It
takes both, individuals working with their patients plus the profession as a
whole reaching out to the public.
care tip for a novice?
Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
describe a patient care anecdote that typifies your role as an acupuncturist?
A patient came to me for low back pain. As I was taking
the history, I asked if there were any other problems, and was told there was
some pain in the shoulder, but “I’m really only here for my back.” Anything
else? “Well, once in a while there’s some pain in my neck, but I’m here for my
back, that’s the thing that concerns me.” I treated the patient four or five
times and noticed he was moving up and down off the table. But when I asked how
he was feeling, he said “I’m still in pain.” So I said “the back still really
hurting you?” The answer was “The back? The back is better but the shoulder is
really bothering me, no better.” A couple more treatments and I get the report
that he is still in a lot of pain. “So the shoulder is not responding?” I ask.
The answer was “Oh, the shoulder? It’s a lot better, but the neck is bothering
One thing I would tell people, I don’t think its
people’s poor attitudes, its part of the survival of the fittest instinct
phenomena. Your focus automatically goes to the next problem, you don’t think
about what has been resolved. Don’t just ask people how they are doing, break it
down, and hold a mirror up to them, so they can see if they are getting better.
This is natural healing, it often happens so subtly. They don’t feel anything
mystical happening to them, their problems just start to fade away. It’s helpful
to help patients understand how it works.
Do you feel
that is important for someone to be passionate about acupuncture/Chinese
medicine in order to be successful in the field?
It’s important to be sincere: sincere with other
people, but especially sincere with yourself about what your passions really
are. If you sincerely want to help people with health and emotional and other
types of problems, then you are in the best field possible.
Education Information & Advice
Tell us about
your acupuncture/Chinese medicine education. How did you choose to attend Yuin
I had been looking for a school, and I was taking care
of my son, who had some handicaps. When he was well enough to start pre-school,
that’s when I decided to get into my more chosen field. Most of the acupuncture
schools were a distance a way from me, and had evening classes. I had read an
article about an acupuncture school that had opened in a town a few miles from
me, I went to check it out and I was sitting in class the next day. They had
daytime hours, so it worked out for me. Its one of those things, if the school
hadn’t have opened nearby, who knows what would have happened.
I personally had a good educational experience,
especially going back more than 20 years ago; at that time, if you could get 15
students together, you had a school. Mine was one of those. I had a lot of good
instructors, and I actually came away from it with a good learners permit, so to
speak. I had a good experience in that we had some very good teachers that saw I
had a family to support and that I was very serious about my new career. The
teachers gave me some good experience as well as the theoretical training.
What did you
like and dislike about your education?
What I liked about it was that we had really good
Dislike, it was a new school and they were feeling
their way along trying to learn what the state required, and how to make it
work. It was mainly administrative problems. I didn’t really form any kind of
lasting bonds with fellow students. But I think that was just an unusual
circumstance. It was the strangest things, I was the only non-Iranian student in
my class, they were all from Iran. It’s a strange and long story, but the
students in my class weren’t the most serious students, a lot of them were there
because their parents wanted them to have some kind of training for a
profession, but they weren’t really people that were all that serious about
oriental medicine, though some of them were. I was the only one that passed the
licensing exam on the first try
retrospect, what do you know now, that you wish you knew before you pursued your
It probably would have served me better to look toward
one of those schools that were a more stable school that had students with like
minds that I could have formed some bonds with. It is useful to students to look
at alumni situations, and at what schools do in supporting their students and
what kind of networking opportunities are available for graduates.
licensed in the State of California. Can you describe the licensing process?
California is the only state out of 43 states that
license acupuncturists that has its own independent exam. The California system
has an exam at least once a year. The exam process here has been under a lot of
scrutiny and criticism over the years, I think it’s gotten better and they’ve
fixed a lot of the problems with it. Once you are licensed, then you need to
maintain continuing education credits to keep your license in good standing. The
standard was 30 hours every two years, but starting this year (licenses renew
every two years here) it’s being increased to something like 40 or 50 hours
every two years.
should prospective students consider when choosing an acupuncture/Chinese
You need to go to a school that accredited to apply for
the state or national licensing. Both require accreditation. Whether it’s
accredited by the state board or the relevant accrediting agency, you need to
make sure. Ask what schools do to help graduates as far as future job prospects
go, what kind of support services they give for their graduates’ networking, and
students applying to acupuncture/Chinese medicine schools or programs do to
increase their chances of being accepted?
The current status, I think it is the rarer schools who
will say we only accept so many students and you are going to compete with other
applicants with only so many allowed in. Whatever the entry standards are that
are mandated by the accredited agencies, it would be the rarer school with
private requirements used to screen applicants. That is something that
eventually we need to move towards; eventually we should have fewer schools with
higher standards. Right now, I don’t think there is much of a barrier, I think
most schools, as long as students meet what is required by the
accrediting/licensing /certification process
How do you
feel that the acupuncture/Chinese medicine educational system could be changed
to better serve society?
I think we have way too many acupuncture schools; we
have to whittle it down to a number of truly outstanding schools. It will allow
the schools to have more resources to grow into something that is more
approaching medical universities. Eventually we need to weed out the
underperforming schools and develop ones that everybody can be proud of. There
are schools developing the infrastructure that are the type we are looking for,
that aren’t just small proprietary schools. When I went to school 20 years ago,
it wasn’t even a bachelor’s program, it was just a kind of vocational school
that prepared students for the state licensing requirements.
Schools should be involved in public outreach, pubic
education, and I would like to see the schools working with the profession as a
whole to help educate the public. Unlike our professional associations, which
are very limited in their resources, some of the schools have financial
resources that are well beyond what the professional associations have. The
schools should be working with the associations to do pubic outreach and
education. That would benefit the public as well as their graduates and future
graduates. That would benefit prospective students and the public as a whole.
I would also like to see more studies and data; we
don’t really know what is going on in the job markets for licensed
acupuncturists. What do acupuncturists make? What’s the story out there for
people entering the field? There’s no reliable statistics at all. That’s
something the schools could help to fund. It may be that some of them don’t want
to know, that information might not be that rosy a picture. In most fields, when
you enter a school to go into difficult and time-consuming and costly training
with the idea of coming out of a new profession that you are going to devote the
rest of your working life to, usually you have some kind of reliable ballpark of
what your job and wage earning prospects will be like. I don’t think anyone can
say we have that in our fields; it’s another growing pain challenge.
I always tell prospective students if they’re looking
for a good salaried job they can make a good wage in the healthcare field and
have real job security, if that’s their main goal, then this might not be the
field for them. But if the main goal is that you really want to help people in a
safe way and to provide a needed service to people then I don’t think you can do
advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and
career in the acupuncture/Chinese medicine field?
This is about balancing and harmonizing chi and it’s
like physician, heal thyself. Practitioners of this system should really be
working on themselves, through practicing something like Qi-Gong or tai chi, we
should practice what we preach, and studying the philosophy is part of that.
Don’t just look at it as a technical skill, but as a lifestyle, and not just a
lifestyle to recommend to patients, but to experience and grow with yourself and
you’ll be in a better position to help others.
Industry Trends, Information & Advice
How can the
reality of acupuncture as a career differ from typical expectations?
As great of a service this healing field is, the
greatest challenges are going to come when others start to try to get a piece of
the action. I see some threats in the future from those who say they do
acupuncture but who come at it from a difference perspective. It used to be
20-25 years ago, the problem was that conventional medicine thought this was
worthless. I believed for a long time the real problem was going to be when they
decided that it was worthwhile, and I think that’s happening. There is getting
to be more and more support for the practice of acupuncture, that it has real
clinical significance. What we’re starting to see is in the conventional Western
medicine is acceptance of acupuncture but not necessarily of the traditional
tenets behind the practice, the idea of chi flow and meridians. There is the
beginning of a new kind of acupuncture biased on Western scientific ideas, neuro
chemical transmitters and nerve points … if that really catches on and the
physicians in the tens of thousands start to practice this new kind of
acupuncture, it might be a threat to the traditional ideas that are taught in
all of our schools. All of our exams are based off of a variation of traditional
If the other health care practitioners decide
acupuncture itself, sticking needles in people is good and has value, but you
don’t have to learn all those superstitious ideas about chi and yin and yang,
here’s other ways to do it with a basis in western anatomy, then the public will
really start to be confused. That is something we need to be concerned about. I
would encourage students to get involved with student associations and work
through professional associations.
are emerging as hot issues in the overall healthcare field that will impact the
acupuncture/Chinese medicine profession?
Eventually it might start to sink into people that
there are two types of healthcare approaches, one where we take over for the
body and intervene from the outside in, and the other where we help the body to
heal itself. That’s what acupuncture does, and that’s where the future of
medicine should be going. I think it will we’ll see more of that; helping the
body to heal itself isn’t something we’ve been doing in modern medicine. The
body produces its own medicine. We don’t always have to bring in medicine from
the outside. Let’s stimulate the body to heal itself. Who’s going to be doing
it, who are they going to be describing it and how will they present themselves
is the hot topic.
What are the
best ways to land a job in the field of acupuncture/Chinese medicine?
Unlike something like if you become a physical
therapist or respiratory therapist or something like that, you can open the
classifieds of any major city newspaper and you can find help wanted ads for
these types of jobs. In the acupuncture Chinese medical profession, there aren't
lots of jobs available for you to get hired on somewhere. You kind of have to
make it happen yourself, whether it’s going into a team setting in an
established practice with an MD, Chiropractor or other acupuncturists, or going
out and leasing an office and putting out a shingle, trying to get patients in
the door. Most of those opportunities are opportunities the practitioners
themselves have to generate; they’re not just applying for positions.
are internships or other hands-on learning experiences?
If you compare the education we get in this country to
what may happen in the Far East, especially China, that’s an area where we are
lacking. That’s an important thing students should look at in the schools. What
do they do for the hands on experiences? Do they have enough patients for the
students to work on? In a lot of ways, students in the U.S. may get even a
better and broader theoretical training than they would get in China, but not as
good hands on training.
recent acupuncture/Chinese medicine school graduates expect to earn when they
are starting out?
The financial aspect is still very hit or miss among
graduates. Some come out and get licensed and start doing well really soon, but
there are a lot of licensees who are competent and really struggle to make a
reasonable living. That’s a real issue the profession needs to do a better job
of addressing. That goes back to my broken record, the pet peeve disappointment
about not educating the public to create the demand. There should be greater
demand for our services, and that would help those that are struggling to make a
living, and cause there to be more potential patients for people. It’s something
that people should really start to consider from the very beginning, not just
getting through school, passing the exam and getting the license, but also they
should start to question pretty early how exactly you are going to earn a living
with the license.
How has the
popularity of the Internet affected your profession?
It’s giving us a lot more information at our
fingertips, different marketing potential, databases to help the public locate
an acupuncturist. As far as individual practices go, some offices are taking
advantage of the Internet to market their services.
anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession
that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to succeed in the field
of acupuncture/Chinese medicine care?
I think that I would really encourage us to mend
whatever fences we could professionally; there have been differences of opinion
among the associations, organizations and institutions that have sprung up in
our field. The acupuncture profession in this country has accomplished amazing
thing to develop a profession from scratch in 30 years. It really remarkable,
but I wish we could do more to get together on the things we do agree on, which
is sharing what we are to more people as a valuable health resource.
There are really challenges. Its naivet€ to believe
that our futures are ensured by virtue of the valuable things we are bringing
forward. It takes more than that, cooperation, vision to look to into the future
to see where opportunities and challenges are to deal with those, I thing there
s more potential threats to the viability of our healing art to those who would
look to take over this system than to deny its viability. We have a lot of work
to do as far as coming as much together was we can to help protect a 3,000-year
plus healing art.