The New Normal

Recently I attended a panel discussion at Bastyr University's Practice Management class. 25 or so students, almost all with an open laptop in front of them, looking up at me and my three CAN colleagues with a difficult-to-read-gaze. The four of us did our best to inspire the next round of graduating 'punks, but I was having trouble deciding if it was just the fact that the class began bright and early at 8:00 a.m. or whether there had been some intellectual filter inserted by Big Brother Bastyr designed to keep such revolutionary ideas as community acupuncture from reaching their tender ears. It was as if they had been in school for four years and never had time to even once visit the CAN website and explore those rumors about what that community acupuncture thing was all about. To their defense, from what I hear, the study load is not for the faint of heart, so free time isn't in abundance.

I sipped my tea and shared my experiential cup with all my heart. There was a steady trickle of questions afterwards, but not the sort of excited (or confrontational) dialogues that I encountered in the same class two years previously. Nonetheless, one student came up afterwards and asked for my card and said she wanted to come see my clinic and another emailed a few days later and said he wanted to do a preceptorship at CommuniChi….so the revolution seeds continue to sprout and blossom, and bear fruit. A few days later, it's almost passed out of mind; now I am back at my clinic, feeling exultant after back to back shifts with a total of 43 patients.

Today I was thinking back to a day 9 years ago, fresh back from India, deciding to give the acupuncture “profession” another go. I was in another 'punks office doing locums work and she had two treatment rooms and expected me to treat….wait, brace yourself….two people an hour! Funny to think of what a big emotional hurdle that was for me to gain the confidence that I could actually treat two people an hour.

Last two days, the new normal is something like this: Five people scheduled in an hour and a half dozen people walking in without appointments….and somehow, I managed to see them all, reschedule most of them, and not miss a beat before the next hour rolled around when another four or five were scheduled.

And I'm certainly no one special in the CA world, I know my 'punk friends around the country are doing these type of numbers routinely without missing a beat. 

There is something electrifying about doing this work…having the flexibility to build a community based business that is not tied to a rigid corporate model. During the panel discussion at Bastyr, one of the first questions that came up was about HIPAA which I quickly deflected….we don't do electronic transactions so therefore, officially we're not covered entities, and as for standard courtesy of having private discussions about medical information, it's easy to w h i s p e r, with white noise, and implement other easy solutions. Besides, I said, notions of privacy are mostly an middle-upper class value that is less strictly defined in working class families and in people who value community and sustainability.

One more thing that defines my new normal…something that polite society doesn't talk about, and that is difference – racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, language, age, ability, and maybe even immigration status. My people come from all walks (and wheels) of life. Today my day started off with an elderly lady of Japanese descent, followed by a Latino couple, a very dark skinned Somalian man and his mother, a Vietnamese couple, another Latino couple, a lesbian couple, a mixed race black and white couple, a veteran in a motorized wheel chair, and several unaccompanied white men and women sprinkled throughout.  My old insurance based practice was about 98% white, and pretty monochromatic across the spectrum of difference – in other words, the privileged elite of American society.

Privilege has taken on a new meaning for me – a white male, with the rare privilege of working within a diverse, multicultural community, unlearning my own internalized racism and oppression through individual acts of health care service.

Thanks Lisa and Skip….thanks CAN….and everyone…keep on bringing it to the people!

river Jordan
Author: river Jordan

After graduating from the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in 1997, I had a hobby practice for a few years before moving to Northern India to study Buddhism. During this time, I volunteered in a local clinic, giving acupuncture to Tibetan refugees and Indian nationals. <p> Returning to the U.S. in 2002, I started a typical insurance based acupuncture practice catering to the upper middle class. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with <a href="" target="_blank">Acupuncturists Without Borders</a>, using community style acupuncture to treat trauma victims in a natural disaster setting. </p> Inspired by the power and efficacy of acupuncture in a post-disaster setting, I began to contemplate issues of socioeconomic class. What could be done to make acupuncture accessible to everyone and still provider a livable wage for an acupuncturist? After attending WCA's first conference in October of 2006, I had found the answer to that question. In January 2007, together with my partner Serena Sundaram, we founded <a href="" target="_blank">Communichi</a>, Seattle's first dedicated community acupuncture clinic. <p> As a Buddhist, I believe that healing begins in the mind. As the positive qualities of wisdom and compassion are cultivated in the mind of a practitioner, this...

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  1. Hey Jordan, I had several

    Hey Jordan, I had several thoughts while reading this, and I’ll share what I can remember.

    Firstly, you are no average punk. Students at Bastyr have heard of Communichi, and generally they know of that before they know of WCA.

    I graduated from Bastyr in 2008. It is a great school…in many ways. In many other ways I think I may have missed the boat. What is DEFINITELY true is the sheer mass of work that Bastyr students are under – and many of them are adding on MORE (doing the herbal program, doing the massage program, working full time/part time, raising kids etc). So while I had heard about community acupuncture in 2006/7…. I’m sorry there just wasn’t anymore room in my brain.

    I don’t know that Bastyr set out to keep us from being open to CA (they may have had that thought in mind, but I didn’t notice), as much as they are so incredibely dedicated to getting us prepped for the boards… and because of that our exposure to other types of acupuncture is almost non-existant.

    I remember thinking after hearing a talk about CA while in school that that was a great idea, but only for those type A personalities (of which I am not) who could handle more than one patient an hour. I envied, and despised those other students some. I didn’t even have the qi to make it through one 4 hour shift of 3 patients, let alone 2 an hour. So it saddened me, but I accepted that it wasn’t for me.

    What I had forgotten (or did not yet know) was that I wasn’t going to be depleted and tired FOREVER. So try not to be disappointed Jordan – if they are like me, they are interested, just not as interested as they are in trivial things like sleep, or eating.

    But, perhaps like the talk I heard years ago, you have planted the seed that will mature when they have the time to breathe again.

    Well done.

    Dana @ Skagit Community Acupuncture

  2. a great school….in many ways

    Thanks Dana, Good point. Sleep, eat, breathe, study, class…I imagine that routine could shift one into survival mode. Glad you made it out the other end of that grind!

    I was mostly tongue in cheek about Big Brother Bastyr….they have a business model that has obviously worked to create a name for themselves as one of the premier institutions in naturopathy/acupuncture in the country. Organic vegetarian cuisine in their cafeteria. And now it looks like deluxe on campus housing. Gorgeous campus next to a state park with walking trails through 2nd growth forest. I’d want to go to school there if I had a daddy with loads of dough, or if I had easy federal money. Debt repayment? What’s that?

    Anyways, I doubt very much whether what I say or do as a local CA business owner generates any interest or response in their upper level management. 

    Nonetheless, it was interesting to see how a 30 year regime in Egypt came tumbling down in 2 weeks of peaceful protests. I wonder what it will look like when that sort of massive uprising finally reaches a critical bubbling point in America?….and whether the bloated acupuncture industry, itself, a tiny princedom within the empire of mainstream (western) medical care will survive without radical restructuring, making it more responsive to the needs of everyday people rather than corporate shareholders and wealthy elites.