Ironic? Maybe. Upsetting? Yes.

  • This is my first journey into the world of blogs. I read them, but I don’t write them. But some interactions with local acupuncturists stirred something up for me recently. Normally when someone isn’t supportive or excited about what I do, I acknowledge my frustration and move forward, but I rarely respond. As a parent of a child with fairly intense medical needs, I have learned to just “do my thing,” and even though occasionally I wish I had the support of peers who practice privately, or faculty that I had a great deal of respect for as a student. I have learned that some people just don’t (and may never) really understand this community-model-thing that I love so much.
  • Recently however, I started getting emails from a local acupuncture group, who are a well meaning bunch, but who’s events I have never participated in. They get together and talk about the importance of acupuncture, about how to be more visible, and socialize with each other. I don’t go because I don’t need to. I have a fabulous business partner, and I have POCA. And I know why private practitioners aren’t as busy as they would like to be, and why more folks don’t have acupuncture done in their model—they can’t afford it, at least not regularly. I never removed myself from the email list because it just wasn’t worth the effort. The emails show up, and I think, oh, it is nice that they are trying to find some community to connect with–thank god I already have that. I delete them and I move on–until last week. A local hospital was having a Grand Rounds for their incoming residents. It was titled, “Moral Hazard & the Mainstreaming of Complimentary/Alternative Medicine.” It was presented by a local PhD, and professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. Basically it was to talk about how it was unethical to refer patients to acupuncture (though other modalities were briefly addressed). As expected, the response from the 40 or so local acupuncturists who make up the group was heated. Dozens of emails were exchanged expressing outrage that the Western Medical World doesn’t take them seriously, that all of their education and expertise was being called into question, and that they were being undermined. In all honesty, it didn’t really stir that much up for me. I know lots of docs believe in and love acupuncture, and lots don’t. Meanwhile, I stick needles in people and watch them get better, and heal, and transform, and their opinion doesn’t change anything for me, at least not on a day-to-day basis, which is how I generally function.
  • But I couldn’t stop feeling annoyed by all these local acupuncturists’ reaction. Just a week before I had run into a private practitioner (at a memorial service for the father of an old friend none-the-less) and had to endure her utter fascination at the fact that I practice community style acupuncture. “But don’t you just treat stress and addiction?” “Are your patients really needy?” “Are they poor?” “How can you charge so little?” “You see HOW MANY patients a day??” (“And oh, by the way, I hope you can make it to our next get together—it is at my lake house, did you know I have a lake house?”) I kept my answers short and sweet, and simply kept referring her to POCA if she really was curious. And then I got the hell out of the conversation.
  • And last year, when I was suffering with some medical issues related to the genetic disorder I carry that my son has, I got an email from a former classmate of mine who charges $85 and markets herself as a pain and fertility specialist, offering to treat me and diagnose me, because even though she knows I can get treated at my own clinic, she thought some “real acupuncture” was what I really needed. Again, my reply was brief—“thanks, but I have regular access to great acupuncture from a really awesome practitioner.”
  • And several weeks ago a local acupuncturist who graduated in the class behind me—a person I did clinic rotations with, who I treated in the student clinic all the time, who got the exact same education I did, from the exact same people, posted on Facebook that he didn’t understand how community acupuncture could undervalue acupuncture by charging such “ridiculously low fees.”
  • I know you all know those conversations. I have had them with former classmates, with current acupuncture students, with patients of private practitioners, with former professors, and with local private practitioners. Folks who can’t fathom how in the community model we treat the SAME THINGS they treat. Folks who think the community model is somehow a watered down or lesser version of acupuncture. And normally I can ignore it—I love this gig and I am grateful to have found it, and I don’t generally care what those who “don’t get it” think. But these indignant emails kept coming. And I kept feeling increasingly pissed. Pissed because I see what CA does for the world, and what it could really do if more acupuncturists jumped in. Pissed because I sat in classes and worked in student clinics with these folks (or under their supervision) and now they seem to think I couldn’t possibly treat pain, or fertility, or depression, or digestive disorders, or any REAL conditions.
  • Here is why I am pissed. Here is a group of people getting together to talk about their common ground—treating people with acupuncture—and here they all are feeling angry because what they do MATTERS. They are angry because acupuncture WORKS. And yet these are the same folks who doubt that what I do everyday MATTERS, that community acupuncture WORKS. And while I can acknowledge that I am annoyed about this partially for reasons connected to ego, and the desire for some recognition from these folks, I am also annoyed because what they want from the medical world at large, they are withholding from a huge group of their peers—peers who are part of providing over 750,000 acupuncture treatments a year.
  • I actually unsubscribed from Acupuncturists on Facebook ages ago because I was attempting to pick my battles—and that was one I was able to walk away from with everything else going on in my world. I got tired of people who don’t really know what CA is about deciding what value it has. But for the time being, I am picking that one back up again, and I am gearing up to actually respond to the local group about how their indignation affected me, and how perhaps they are doing the very thing they are so distraught about to their own colleagues. Maybe it won’t matter. But hey, it got me to write a blog post.
Author: POCAGuestBlog

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  1. Hey Angela, thanks for blogging. All I’ve got to say is thanks for doing the work you are doing. Yea, I’d probably unsubscribe to that email list. What matters the most to me, and I suspect to you too, is that I love being a punk.

  2. Angela, thanks for expressing this much better than I ever could. I wish I had an answer, a magic phrase that would open the minds of acupuncturists who refuse to believe the evidence we produce on a daily basis. I suspect the best course is exactly what you stated, just keep doing what you’re doing, and doing it well and frequently. Results will continue speaking for themselves and at some point recognition will come.

  3. Angela —

    thank you for this. I think it does matter that you are expressing your frustration.

    One of the worst parts about my professional life, before POCA came along to redeem it and make it wonderful, was trying to talk about community acupuncture to other acupuncturists and hearing some version of, “oh, I tried that and it didn’t work; patients don’t really want it/ it was too hard to do”.

    As we know, running a clinic is hard. Owning a business is hard. But you know what would make it a lot harder? Being surrounded by ostensible colleagues who say what you’re doing is not real, not good enough, and bad for everybody else in the profession. I am pretty sure that a bunch of those people who told me that they tried community acupuncture and “it didn’t work” might well have succeeded if they had just had a little more support. If they had a few cheerleaders who told them that what they were doing was great, hang in there, don’t give up yet! If they had had somebody to talk to. I wonder how many of them had the experience of patients “not wanting” community acupuncture because they didn’t know how to present it — or, worst of all, because in their hearts they believed that what they were offering wasn’t really worth much. Maybe because other acupuncturists kept telling them so?

    Anyway, I think that the backup that we give each other around this issue is very valuable. A lot of us couldn’t withstand what you are describing alone — in part because a lot of people couldn’t articulate it the way that you just did. And adding that unconscious frustration on top of the other frustrations that inevitably go with being an acupuncturist — it could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. And by blogging about it, I’m pretty sure that you’ve lifted that straw, whether or not anybody you’ve lifted it from ever tells you about it. Somebody out there is reading your post and thinking, oh *that’s* why I feel crummy around other acupuncturists — so I’m not crazy, and community acupuncture is not a bad idea!

  4. We can’t go around trying to change everyone’s mind about everything. We learn based on experience and our own will to do so. As laotzu says ” he who promotes himself is not believed”. Good work and genuine passion will speak for itself.

  5. Considering how difficult is is to make substantial money in acupuncture it amazes me when private room practitioners can’t believe that there are so many people who can’t afford 80$ treatments. They want to believe CA is stealing patients away from them. Good grief, they can’t afford private room acupuncture themselves.