To the Acupuncture Community

At the heart of the CAN movement is anger at the failure of medicine to serve community.

I am writing from the United States, the land of the myth of the rugged individualist.I say myth because the history of any country including this one is that of interdependence of its peoples.In 2008 the entire world is interdependent.The sub-primehousing loan fallout in this country is having global repercussions, for instance.We rise and fall together.With this backdrop, what is the responsibility of medicine?

Acupuncture is medicine and acupuncturists are doctors, no matter what we are called.People come to us in distress and dis-ease.We take a history, diagnose and treat their suffering.That’s medicine.We can’t compartmentalize and say that “they” are medicine and we are something else that can ignore our responsibility to society.

We all took some variation of the Hippocratic oath when we graduated from school.It asks medicine to serve society.That has been the responsibility of all forms of medicine throughout human history.Who is society?It is the community you live in.Who is in that community in the United States in 2008?

The specific answer to this depends on where you live.The general answer is people whose means range from poverty to wealth.In any community, rural or urban, most of this range will be present.Gated communities and restricted high rises employ minimum wage workers for various jobs.All communities have grocery stores and drug stores staffed by people who make modest wages.Which part of your community are you serving?

Western medical care, the predominant health care in the US at this time, is expensive.Medical insurance is tied to employment– but only certain kinds of employment – leaving more than 50 million without insurance and unaware that acupuncture can help.

What can we contribute to the mix of health care?Quite a lot, actually.Acupuncture is quite good at relieving many types of pain, treating stress related illnesses and improving the quality of life for those with chronic illnesses.It also treats a variety of acute illnesses.  

Are we going to allow our history at this time of need to be that we were the medicine of boutiques, cruise ships and the well-to-do, of face-lifts and weight loss or are we going to answer the call society has placed on medicine – the call to much more broadly relieve suffering and serve our communities?

CAN answers that call by offering prices most can afford.The price range from $15-$40 is one that respects the dignity of each individual by not allowing either the acupuncturist or the patient to wonder if those paying at the high end are providing charity to or subsidizing those paying at the low end.The increase in volume to make the economics work requires the acupuncturist to focus on the patient, do their job and move on.This helps both realize that the acupuncture is doing the healing, not the acupuncturist.This is also helpful when shopping for hats.

The fact that CAN clinics have 45-60% of people paying $15 per treatment is also great for business and actually is the way the acupuncturist can make a living.Word of mouth advertising depends onthe power of exponential math.Many more can afford $15 and they will and do bring more people in.

So this is CAN’s answer to the failure of medicine to serve society.What is yours, doctor?  

Author: annmongeau

I've been a member of CAN since the beginning.  It just makes sense to me to offer acupuncture at affordable prices.  Then, because it's so much fun to do community acupuncture and it's so useful to people, I got active in spreading the word. 

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  1. The 1st salvo fired…

    …Ann’s post reminds me of the impending changes in quality of
    life that many Americans may be forced to roll with over the next
    several years.

    Affordable, safe medical therapies will likely be in even greater demand
    as costs of medicinals (as well as most goods) are expected to
    skyrocket, as inflation exacts its’ effects.  

    As CAPs are able to operate as local, accessible, effective,
    transparent and compassionate places of medical
    service, we certainly have opportunities to fulfill our Oaths to the degree we are all capable.

  2. the power of compassion

    I would place compassion at the heart of the CAN movement. Is anger really necessary? This may seem a minor philosophical point – and I’m fairly certain it’s been discussed on these forums before – but to me it’s important.

    Certainly, there needs to be some moral questioning going on before we as acupuncturists, reject the “make us much money as you can” mentality and adopt the attitude of serving our communities with a broader sense of social justice.

    Furthermore, the “make us much money as you can” attitude is deeply faulted for sheer economic reasons. Acupuncturists who charge the going rate in America ($65 to $200 per treatment) have saturated the market for those members of the public willing and able to pay those prices. For a few charismatic and clever new acupuncture graduates, certainly exceptions are possible, but many are doomed to failure and a lifetime of paying off huge student loans unless they carefully consider these economic realities.

    But getting back to the issue of anger…anger only perpetuates the separation of groups and people. Only when it is transformed into love and compassion, and enlightened action, can we truly be of benefit. Easy to talk about, difficult to accomplish.

    Meditate on that, while you consider that new government research has found “large and growing” disparities in
    life expectancy for richer and poorer Americans, paralleling the growth
    of income inequality for decades. (New York Times).

    Cynicism is a smokescreen for laziness and fear. Clear light mind awaken! Pierce through all layers of doubt and delusion! Inspire me onwards in ceaseless waves of selfless activity.

  3. Anger is at the heart

    because Lisa Rohleder is the founder of this movement.  She has told the story of her father’s pronounced limp due to an accident.  His family couldn’t afford medical care to help him.  The anger that people like her were ignored by medicine and the medical funding industry fueled her determination to make acupuncture accessible when she later met Chico who couldn’t afford boutique acupuncture prices.

     These dynamics are also why a basic understanding of classism is necessary to be successful at this business model. 

  4. A great manifesto Ann!I do

    A great manifesto Ann!I do think the anger part is important to hold, if that is what one genuinely feels, and I definitely feel anger…among other feelings.  I think it is the anger that compels us to act; that is part of the fire of transformation that makes compassion.   


  5. anger

    I meant in my initial comment to positively underscore 99% of what was said. The anger issue is probably not central to the main theme of Ann’s post, but I’m going to play Buddha’s advocate on this one a bit more:

    If there is a way to positively affect a situation, then the rational person acts accordingly – no need for anger. If there is nothing to be done, then again, anger is pointless. (More or less a direct quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama – who knows a thing or two about conflict resolution I might add).

    Of course, there are plenty of people out there now saying Tibet’s cause is languishing from his pacifist approach, but that’s another issue – confusing pacifism with inaction….two entirley different things.

    In the pop-psychology, spiritual supermarket of today, anger gets a great promo as being fundamentally necessary for action. Greenpeace even enshrines anger as part of its mission statement (or did last time I looked).

    From a Buddhist perspective, anger is defined as seeing the cause of your suffering in external objects and wishing to harm those things or otherwise remove them, or get away from them.

    This gets into another lengthy discussion on karma and the nature of reality, but suffice it to say for now that anger (as so defined) only increases our delusion and perpetuates our suffering.

    Of course, there are other ways to define anger, but usually definitions are lacking and anything seems to go once we hear “anger is good.”

    Again, if there is any unintended hint of saintliness in my words here, I fully disclose that I see the ugliness of anger in my own mind and life, and how it blocks effective communication. Furthermore, as an acupuncturist, I see how anger distorts the healthy flow of Chi, preventing patients from imprinting on a more balanced energy pattern.



    Cynicism is a smokescreen for laziness and fear. Clear light mind awaken! Pierce through all layers of doubt and delusion! Inspire me onwards in ceaseless waves of selfless activity.