what would (did) Miriam Lee do?

Ladies and gentlemen, i kindly invite you to walk the talk.

This other phrase is getting thrown around a lot these days, but I do kind of like it. And it’s true. And it may never be more true than RIGHT NOW for all of us as healthcare providers, for CAN, for this revolution, for each of us as a part of this thing we say we’ve given our lives (and long ago our hearts) over to: “this is our time.”

I consider myself to be a hugely, heartfelt grateful student of Miriam Lee.

For anyone who has managed to not hear this story yet, or for those of us that just like hearing it again, this is a story about a woman (and a large group of her patients and friends!) who stood up to be heard in a particular time and place–the exact right time, in fact–in the face of bureaucratic forces trying to exert a certain control, trying to reign in that crazy people’s/communist/socialist/”other”/over there/out there/”them”/folk/blasphemy/hippie/withcraft medicine. “Let’s get us some regulations and restrictions and some good cash money, son–this here’s America.”

This woman was really a doctor/healer just working an American day job–already educated, certified, experienced as a midwife and acupuncturist in China. She was someone who took an oath to help people with medicine wherever possible, and then set about actually living that oath.  At first, she just practiced from her own home. She did it in a way that regular working folks–folks she actually worked with, probably, or people just around in the neighborhood could afford and access (of course, the neighborhood kept spreading out until people came from pretty far away at times).  Without an office, without fancy advertising, or a professional organization, or 15 CEU’s per year, or trips to visit lots of folks that practice different styles or new gadgets (or lots of western medical lingo!). Just doing it over and over the same simple ways with lots and lots of people.

But then the Volgons got involved. First, they just wanted to get rid of it. We’ll arrest her, intimidate her, take away her livelihood. (Later they wanted to regulate it, certify it, triplicate it, etc etc–cha-ching$, cha-ching$, cha-ching$)

But, you know how it is, a funny thing happened. A bunch of formerly sick people who were feeling worlds better–really hugely, remarkably, relievedly, life-changingly better–folks that had been treated with acupuncture by this woman, spoke up and got involved. Even though they were feeling so much nicer overall, they were still residually upset at the way the medical establishment had not been able to help them for one reason or another. Instead, these patients had taken leaps of faith, trusted their intuition and their own bodies’ healing capacities, as well as some kick-ass, give-me-my-life-back results from this Chinese doctor’s treatments and got enough acupuncture until they were better. And they were not about to let anyone tell them it had to stop.

So in the face of arrest, of not being able to practice this medicine she had taken an oath to practice, in the face of hundreds of cases of patient abandonment, and i don’t know how many other pressures or worries, Miriam Lee refused to step aside, refused to be quiet and refused to stop DOING THE RIGHT THING. And lots of others stood with her and said, “Uh, no, this is not what our justice system is for. We won’t stand for it. This is our medicine and we’re not letting you take it away.” And so began legalized acupuncture in the US.

Miriam Lee is one of the great champions of this medicine. And so is each of us. (It is our time!) We are working according to the oath we took as doctors:  to relieve suffering. We need to fight back against a system that is trying to block us from fulfilling that oath, by making it all about money and power and politics and everyone getting their slice of the pie. (Maybe we should make a colorful pie chart of the institutions that stand to profit from the FPD–i am merely a mid-level EXCEL drone, but it might be fun to extrapolate from Keith’s recent post.)

So it’s time for us to stand up and be counted–to pull a Miriam Lee, my friends. It’s not court, it’s just letters and some footwork for the moment. Let’s honor the memory of this woman and those patients who did the right thing in the face of insanity. Let’s send the same message they did:  “Uh, no, this is not what our own professional organizations or legal systems are for. We won’t stand for it. This is our medicine and we’re not letting you take it away.”

This is the next wave of acupuncture in America, the next wave of healthcare as it’s meant to be. There is no better time than now.

Do all you can

in the time you have

in the place you are

do all you can.


Author: melissa

Found community acupuncture in my last year of acupuncture school and it was like cool water on the dry desert of aculand. It addressed all those nagging questions of how to make acupuncture accessible and inviting to people like me, in my own communities as well as actually make a living and I knew I would practice this way for the rest of my life. I have learned more (about acupuncture, about people and community, about myself) in the past few years of running a CA clinic and being an acupunk at another BDC clinic than ever before. It's one of my all-time favorite places to be. I am eternally grateful to this community for its welcoming support, its passionate determination and its irreverence for useless sacred cows. I look forward to our continued work in supporting community acupuncture clinics worldwide!

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  1. wouldn’t it be beautiful

    If the second defeat of the FPD was remembered by everyone as  “the time those crazy CANners pulled a Miriam Lee?”

    thanks for a lovely post.