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Fan AY. Gim Shek Ju赵金石. Chinese Medicine Culture 2016;1, 58-61


Citation: Fan AY. Gim Shek Ju: A Pioneer in Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Education in the United States. Journal of Chinese Medicine Culture 2016; 1:58-61.


Gim Shek Ju: A Pioneer in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Education in the United States

Arthur Yin Fan

McLean Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA 22182, USA

KEYWORDS: acupuncture; Chinese medicine; United States; Education; history of medicine; Gim Shek Ju

Correspondence: Arthur Yin Fan; Tel: +1-(703) 499-4428; E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US


Several stories of pioneers establishing acupuncture and Chinese medicine (ACM) practices in the United States (U.S.) have been documented. However, the establishment of actual schools for acupuncture and Chinese medicine is one of the key signs that ACM has become an established profession. One of the first people who wanted to set-up a school for Chinese medicine in the United States was Dr. Tom Foo Yuen (谭富园, 89, Aug 7, 1858 – Jul 10, 1947) during the late 1800s in Los Angles, California. However, it was not until the time period of 1969-1970 that the first ACM school was established in the U.S. The school was called the Institute for Taoist Study in LA, with Dr. Gim Shek Ju as the only teacher.

Based on the recollection from some of his students, Dr. Gim Shek Ju (Gim, in short; 赵金石) was impressed by a group of Tai Chi students, most of them students at the University of California in Los Angles (UCLA).  At the urging of his friend’s Tai Chi students, he used acupuncture to treat these students and some of their relatives during a Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown, LA  in 1969. It was after these acupuncture treatments that these students became interested in ACM and had their Tai Chi teacher, Master Marshall Hoo, a close friend of Gim, persuade Gim to teach them ACM. Gim broke the old Chinese tradition (that means only teaching to those within the family) and taught two classes of non-Asian students ACM during 1969 to 1970. These two classes of students became the key people in ACM development in the U.S., both in acupuncture or Chinese medicine legislation and professional development of Chinese medicine in the U.S. The classes taught by Gim were the origin of three professions: acupuncture and Chinese or Oriental medicine (for licensed acupuncturists, LAc or Oriental medicine doctors, OMD), medical acupuncture (for MD acupuncturists) and animal or veterinary acupuncture (for DVM acupuncturists) in the U.S.

Figure 1. Dr. Gim Shek Ju with a Shaolin Monk.

Dr. Ju arrived in the U.S. around the 1950s (Dr. Fan notes: based on personal research, he should arrive in 1957).  He did not settle in Chinatown, LA until the 1960s (around 1968).  He was still traveling back and forth to Hong Kong at that time because his own family was there.  He practice in LA was funded and organized by his third wife, Helen Robertson.  The clinic was in the apartment that they lived in. Helen was a veterinarian from Downey, CA and a former patient of Dr.Ju. She had suffered a debilitating trauma from a car accident that damaged her spine to the point that she could not stand up, but remained bent at a 90 degree angle.  After finding Dr. Ju via word of mouth, she was able to improve her condition.  Most of Dr.Ju’s patients were Caucasian, and not Chinese.  In fact, very few Chinese came to see him (the author notes: it is opposite to our “common sense”—many people believe Chinese medicine had its market because Chinese people, or say, Asian community uses it more).  Most of his patients were extremely ill, and suffering with debilitating pain.  Dr. Ju was able to treat patients with very little communication.  According to his daughter, Mamie Ju, Dr. Ju’s powers of intuition and understanding or hearing the body was probably daunting to many…even modern-day TCM practitioners.  But it was the “old” way, and in Mamie opinion, the right way to practice.  “Ancient TCM practitioners were most likely practicing Shamans, and I believe my father was a Shaman by birth”.  This is what made him very special. But it is difficult to explain this, even to other TCM practitioners.

Figure 2. Dr. Gim Shek Ju practice Tai Chi with a friend.


Figure 3. Dr. Tin Yau So in classroom of New England School of Acupuncture.

Dr.Ju and Dr. Tin Yau So (苏天佑) were colleagues at the Hong Kong College of Acupuncture; Dr. So was the founder. Dr.Ju strongly recommended Dr. So as the best teacher in ACM and let his students resume ACM under Dr. So; he flied with his student Steven Rosenblatt, as well as Steven’ s wife Kathleen, to Hong Kong to meet Dr. So, where these two American students actually studied there for one year in 1972. Per the invitation and handling of a visa by the National Acupuncture Association (founded by Dr.Ju’s students Bill Prensky, Steven Rosenblatt, etc.) , Dr. So arrived in LA in October,1973  as an acupuncturist in the UCLA acupuncture clinic.

Dr. So was one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century by formally bringing acupuncture education to the United States. He established the first acupuncture school in the U.S., the New England School of Acupuncture in Newton, Massachusetts in 1975 with the help of his (also Dr. Ju’s) students Steven Rosenblatt, Gene Bruno, Bill Prensky, etc. after overcoming great difficulties. To some extent, I could say that it was Dr. Gim Shek Ju who brought Dr. So to the U.S. that allowed him to become the father of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine education in the U.S.

Dr.Ju had a very thriving acupuncture practice treating patients inside his three bedroom apartment. He used one of the bedrooms as his main office and treatment room.  His living room was the waiting room.  There were people there from 8AM until after 5PM, but usually no later than 6PM. He often worked six days a week and was always busy doing something. He rarely rested.  He kept a very strict schedule.  He got up every morning before dawn and practiced Tai Chi. No-one knows when he learned Tai Chi.  Then he started his working day at 8AM.  He took a lunch break exactly at noon every day, and ate lunch in Chinatown with friends, probably his students too, and sometimes with his children on the weekends.  Dr.Ju was usually in bed by 8PM unless he had other things to do.  His students were not around regularly… or at least not on a regular basis.  Dr.Ju never really grasped the English language. His daughter often had to translate for patients who were trying to book appointments over the phone. Mamie often had to schedule appointments for him when he was out. His daughter…making trips to the herbal store to get formulas, and helping him in the room with some of the female patients.  Dr.Ju took many patients, the apartment was filled with people non-stop, and he accepted treatments outside of the clinic as well.  It was not unusual for his daughter to come home and find a limousine parked outside our apartment either waiting to pick up Dr.Ju or to drop him off. Dr. Ju never spoke about who his patients were.  He kept many of those things very, very private. He would not discuss many cases or anything in great detail.

His daughter remembers, when he was still involved with his American students, “I remember accompanying my father to UCLA where he gave a lecture about meridian/channel theory and how acupuncture worked.  Another thing my father did that was rather record-breaking at the time was perform anesthesia on a wisdom tooth patient using acupuncture.  I was maybe about 11 years-old at the time (1975) and I remember watching him do this on our old black and white television”.  It was all over the news in Los Angeles.

His daughter continued helping Dr.Ju with his practice on-and-off until age 14 (this was around 1978, when Gim was about 61 years-old).  At that time, Dr. Ju’s local practice had really slowed down.  He was traveling more than he was working at home.  He was invited to many places…particularly Mexico to perform acupuncture, and he had relationships with high officials and wealthy people there. He often stayed in Mexico for weeks at a time.

Dr. Ju died in Hong Kong in 1987, when he was 70 years old.


The author would like to thank Ms. Mamie Ju providing her father’s stories and reviewing the draft.


Fan AY. The earliest acupuncture school of the United States incubated in a Tai Chi Center in Los Angeles. J Integr Med 2014. J Integr Med. 2014 Nov;12(6):524-8.

Fan AY. The legendary life of Dr. Gim Shek Ju, the founding father of the education of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the United States. J Integr Med. 2016 May;14(3):159-64. doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(16)60260-1.



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The science of oriental medicine (c1902])

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The first acupuncture center in the United States: an interview with Dr. Yao Wu Lee, Washington Acupuncture Center
Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine: Volume 10   May, 2012   Number 5

Arthur Yin Fan (McLean Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA 22182, USA )

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Global Views

DOI: 10.3736/jcim20120502

Open Access

Received March 23, 2012; accepted March 26, 2012; published online May 15, 2012.
Full-text LinkOut at PubMed. Journal title in PubMed: Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao.

Correspondence: Arthur Yin Fan, PhD, MD, LAc; Tel: +1-703-499-4428; Fax: +1-703-547-8197; E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US

     Forty years ago, President Nixon’s visit to China was a sign of the start of the normalization of Sino-American relations. Before and after President Nixon’s journey, the Chinese government’s “acupuncture diplomacy” was very effective. American reporters, politicians and well-known medical doctors or scholars visited many Chinese hospitals and witnessed numerous and various operations performed on patients under acupuncture anesthesia. When they returned, they reported these miraculous stories occurring in China and expressed their impressions. They were also interviewed on television shows. These reports activated American’s curiosity about China and the magic of acupuncture. One story especially, “Now, Let Me Tell You About My Appendectomy in Peking” written by James Reston, the vice-president and the most famous columnist of The New York Times, about his own experience in Beijing, directly triggered American’s interest in acupuncture. What’s interesting is that Reston’s story appeared on the front page of The New York Times along with the Apollo 15 liftoff, on July 26, 1971, which seems to hint that acupuncture would land in the United States of America like Apollo landed on the moon. We consider Reston’s acupuncture article as the most effective “ignition” of the long lasting fire of American’s acupuncture fever. The first real big wave of “acupuncture fever” was actually started by the Washington Acupuncture Center, also known as the Acupuncture Center of Washington, which was established by Dr. Yao Wu Lee (Sam, 李耀武), Dr. Arnold Benson and Mr. Charles Newmark. It is the first widely reported acupuncture center in modern history of the United States and was influential in furthering the development of acupuncture fever. The center was established in May, 1972, and initially named as Acupuncture Center of New York. It opened to patients on July 12, 1972, but closed shortly after due to the order of the New York Board of Medicine. Then it got approval to operate and moved to Washington, D.C. and re-opened on December 28, 1972.
There were several firsts achieved by this center. (1) There were more than 280 domestic and international newspapers that reported the opening of the center. (2) During its “golden time”, there were about approximately one thousand patients treated per day. (3) At the federal level, as per this center’s request, in the category of professions, the United States Citizenship and the Immigration Services created a totally new profession — acupuncturist, and defined acupuncture as a medical practice. Since 1973, there were opportunities for acupuncturists to immigrate to the United States. (4) In 1973, the Internal Revenue Service of the United States announced that patients could claim their acupuncture spending as medical expense in their tax returns. (5) Due to a win of a lawsuit in the Federal Court in 1974, a patient’s right to choose acupuncture treatment by his own judgment and an acupuncturist’s right to practice acupuncture were protected. At the federal level, acupuncture started to become an independent profession in the United States and started to diversify control held by the Western medicine-trained physicians. It also laid a basis for acupuncture or oriental medicine legislation in each state. We should remember that Washington, D.C. was the first local authority to approve non-physician (acupuncturists) to practice acupuncture in the history of the United States.
Washington Acupuncture Center is the first acupuncture center, with the longest history in the United States. To record the history of acupuncture, in December of 2011, the author, Dr. Arthur Fan interviewed Dr. Yao Wu Lee, one of founders of this center, who is 80 years old and still in practice.

     Dr. Arthur Yin Fan (Fan): Dr. Lee, I heard that in 1972, you started the first legal acupuncture center in the United States. Could you tell me why and how you set up this center, and what challenge you met?
Dr. Yao Wu Lee (Lee): This center has three stages: initially it was in New York, then in Washington, D.C., at last, moved to the south of Florida. I came to the United States to resume my academic career from Israel at the end of 1971. I was appointed by an educational training center in Manhattan, called the Education Solution, Inc. The head of the company was Dr. Katana, a very tall and strong Jew, with nine PhD degrees. The company got contracts from the American government and focused on training of the teachers from New York’s elementary and middle schools, and unifying the teaching contents. My task was to develop software for the teaching and making the management more efficient, which I completed quickly. At the same time, Dr. Katana had strong interest in Chinese medicine and let me develop a Chinese medicine diagnosis system. He had known that I had developed an acupuncture point-detector in Taiwan between 1954 and 1960 (at that time, there was no policies supporting Chinese medicine in Taiwan, so this acupuncture point-detector actually was not in use at that time). His idea was to apply a machine to collect the data of patient’s pulse and then automatically reach a diagnosis. This plan required a lot of time and needed a large investment, i.e. at least more than a million dollars. Another issue was that there have been so many different judgments among different Chinese medicine doctors regarding diagnosing from the pulse information for the same patient, due to both objective and subjective reasons. So, I felt that this task was not easy to achieve during a limited time. I planed to go to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and resume my original career in electronics and automation.
During the beginning of 1972, around President Nixon’s China visit, there were many reports about acupuncture in China in newspapers and on television. In such a social environment, I started to have a desire to practice acupuncture in the United States. I was busy remodeling my acupuncture point-detector and developing an electric stimulator. At the same time, I visited several Chinese medicine doctors in Chinatown of the New York city, such as Dr. Shuyu Li (李树酉), Dr. Ching Y. Ting (丁景源), Dr. Huoren Fang (方活人), and Dr. Chingpang Lee (李静平). I stayed with them for three months. My feeling was that they mainly practiced in their own homes, in buildings that were very old, and the space was very small, dark and to some extent poor in hygiene. On average, the fee for acupuncture was $3 to $5. Acupuncture needles could be ordered in stores without any limitation. At that time, acupuncture was not a formal, accredited medical field, and there was no acupuncturist as a profession in legal documents in the United States.
Fan notes: At that time in the “Chinatowns” of major cities in the United States such as those in California and New York, there were a few Chinese medicine doctors practicing acupuncture or Chinese herbology without license. The majority of their patients were mostly Chinese. Because there were no descriptions, definitions or explanations for Chinese medicine or acupuncture, the practice of Chinese medicine or acupuncture was in a “gray area”, between the legal and the illegal. There were no obvious conflicts between a Chinese medicine doctor and a Western doctor. In most states, the Boards of Medicine did not administer Chinese medicine or acupuncture at all.
In my spare time, I performed acupuncture treatments for my neighbors and the teachers who were trainees in the company I worked with. I have learned Chinese medicine before when I was in the mainland China. I knew two Jewish friends through Dr. He, an old Chinese medicine doctor, and Dr. Chingpang Lee. One was Dr. Arnold Benson, who was a graduate of the New York Medical College, and had served as an army physician of the United States in Korea between 1962 and 1964, and knew of acupuncture. Another was Mr. Charles Newmark, a real estate developer, with experience in administration. Both of them, like me, were interested in opening an acupuncture clinic and visited Chinese medicine doctors. At that time, I was 39 years old and they were in their fifties. There was no big difference in age; they treated me as a “half Jew” because I spent several years in Israel. In April 1972, after several discussions, we, as a partnership, made a decision to start an acupuncture center. A formal application to the New York Board of Medicine was made in May 1972, but we did not get a response.
I felt that we had no time to wait, so we mailed a report to the New York Board of Medicine, explaining that the clinic would be operated by Dr. Arnold Benson, a Western-trained doctor, while other hired Chinese medicine doctors and I would perform acupuncture (similar to the nurses or assistants performing injections or drawing blood in clinic) under the doctor’s supervision. I felt this explanation should be accepted by the New York Board of Medicine and ordinary people. However, we did not get a response. We decided to just do it. The clinic was located at the East 73rd Street and called the Acupuncture Center of New York or also known as the New York Acupuncture Center.
Fan notes: “Chinese medicine doctors performing acupuncture under the supervision of (Western-trained) medical doctors” or “(Western-trained) medical doctors performing the diagnosis and Chinese medicine doctors performing acupuncture treatment” was a strategy under a special political climate at that time. This was first applied by Dr. Yao Wu Lee, and later, many legislation agencies in many states applied such terms in their acupuncture regulations. After 40 years of development, most of the states in the United States removed the requirement of medical doctors’ supervision. However, in most states, acupuncturists still have no rights for clinical diagnosis.
On July 5, 1972, Wednesday, we held a press conference for a news release in New York to announce the opening of the acupuncture center. Because Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic was totally new in the United States, it caused many concerns. More than 90 journalists and reporters came from famous newspapers, journals and television companies, such as the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Times, Newsday, The East West Journal, The New York Times and News Week, and may have also included some other professionals and medical doctors. We arranged 12 patients to introduce their health issues, acupuncture experience and the results. I remembered one of the patients was a famous priest and violinist in Manhattan, Rev. Norman Catir, who had headaches and mild memory loss. Another was Mr. Don Lamond who had “osteoarthritis of the left hip” or “sciatica”. At about 11 o’clock, I as the Chinese medicine representative, Benson as the medical doctor representative and Newmark as the administration representative introduced acupuncture and the operation method of the clinic to the media, and replied to their questions. Benson talked first. He knew some acupuncture in Korea, but lacked knowledge of Chinese medicine theory and clinical experience in acupuncture. His personality was simple, modest but not very good at debate. He could not continue to reply when some reporters questioned him again and again, only replying ‘we are not a quack operation, we are a medical practice’. The questions were related to legality of the practice of acupuncture without the approval from the Board of Medicine, the lack of scientific evidence, and the use of acupuncture to only making money. One very extreme reporter of The New York Times said, ‘China is an under-developed country; there is no medicine at all’ — he wanted to deny acupuncture as a medical practice.
I came from Shandong Province, China and was very angry with the insults to China and acupuncture. I found that there was chaos and I had to control the situation. I stood up and questioned the reporters loudly with broken English, ‘What is medicine? What is science? I ask you everyone, who could explain clearly?’ At that moment, Newmark pulled my clothes to let me calm down and speak slowly. ‘I believe Chinese medicine is a science, also a philosophy. Ask you — why Aspirin is effective? I believe that there is not any scientist or medical doctor who could explain it very clearly. Medicine actually is an interdisciplinary science and clinical experience. No one could explain very clearly. Many conditions actually are unsure. The Western medicine is also developed from clinical experience. Chinese medicine has more than 3 000 years of history and has treated billions of patients. It is still useful today; it should have a scientific basis. Sure, acupuncture mixes some clinical experience. However, you could not say it is not a science before you try to understand it. If I use Hebrew to explain the scientific knowledge, you will say I don’t understand, but you could not use ‘I don’t understand’ as a criterion to judge if what I say is belonging to the scientific or the nonscientific. It is the same thing — you do not understand Chinese medicine theory, so you treat acupuncture as witchcraft. It is wrong in your attitude. I am a scientist, also a clinical doctor, here I give you an explanation — acupuncture is using external stimulation to heal internal disorder or illness.’ I invited Mr. Lamond and wanted to show acupuncture on his body. At this moment, a reporter of The New York Times interrupted me and wanted me to explain it in medical terms. ‘You sit down. I will give you an explanation later,’ I replied loudly. I showed an acupuncture point to everyone on the patient’s body, the Huantiao point, with an acupuncture point-detector. It has six instruments, one indicating lamp and a buzz. When it finds the acupuncture point, the machine will flash the lamp and comfortable music will be heard. Dr. Chingpang Lee inserted a 4-inch needle to the patient’s Huantiao point. The patient’s hip pain was decreased immediately. At the same time, Catir’s headache was also treated by acupuncture. He felt much better. The patients and we replied to reporters’ questions. The atmosphere was very active. I felt that the press conference reached its purpose, and it was completed on time. That night, the New York television evening news showed our press conference, especially our magic machine, which caused a big shock. Over three hundred patients called us for appointments or consultations and our eight assistants were busy for a whole night. The next day on July 6, there were more than 280 domestic and international newspapers reporting our acupuncture center’s opening. The United States is a country trusting of science and evidence. People got a strong interest in acupuncture by understanding the theory preliminarily and seeing the results. I predicted our center would be a big success. (Notes: Figure 1 is a photo taken at that time).

Figure 1  Dr. Yao Wu Lee using an acupuncture point-detector to locate Yingxiang point on a young lady’s face on July 5, 1972 in New York. Provided by Yao Wu Lee.

July 12, Wednesday, was the actual opening day. Many reporters of the media came with patients for further observation and follow-up reporting. One week later, the number of patients reached 150 per day; after three weeks, more than 200 per day. We had to rent more office space and expanded to 4 000 square feet (Fan notes: about 400 m2). The “acupuncture fever” caused concern of the New York Board of Medicine. It sent an order to our center telling us to close, stating that ‘Acupuncture is a medical practice. Only licensed medical doctor can practice it.’ At that time, our center had more than ten thousand dollars income per day. Closing the clinic would cause a big loss. In addition, there were many patients from various places awaiting the acupuncture treatments, which also caused us a big stress. On the third day, our administration director Newmark got a new idea of making medical doctors perform the acupuncture under the Chinese medicine doctor’s supervision, which meant our clinic could resume. However, the medical doctors were not familiar with acupuncture. In most cases, both the Chinese medicine doctors and the medical doctors performed acupuncture together. After two weeks, the second order from the New York Board of Medicine came stating that ‘Acupuncture is a medical practice. Only licensed medical doctors can practice it in a medical school or a teaching hospital.’ We tried to contact a teaching hospital. However, the hospital wanted to totally control our finances and operations. At this moment, we got the third order stating that “Acupuncture is a medical practice. Only licensed medical doctors can practice it. It must be performed in an approved research project in a medical school.” This actually aimed to ban any Chinese medicine doctor or Western doctor treating patients with acupuncture. Our lawyer started an appeal, and we believed such orders lacked a legal basis. We practiced medicine legally, and we believed we should continue the practice until the court says we can’t. As the Board forced us to close, we insisted on continuing the practice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) got involved and a court order caused us to close. They froze our bank account. The reason for the court to order closure was that ‘the FBI does not want people to cause political storm and affect the election’. At noon of November 19, the second day after President Nixon was re-elected, more than 20 FBI agents and police with black suits came to close our center.
     Fan notes: I heard from a New York Chinese medicine doctor that, at that time when the doctor heard the FBI coming, he rushed down the stairs, lost his shoes on the way, and ran out of the rear door with the help of a nurse. The situation was really scary!
At that time, our doctors and nurses, other assistants and administrators responded calmly except for one Chinese medicine doctor you mentioned who was overwhelmed with panic. He thought the FBI would arrest all the doctors, so he ran out. On that day, Benson and Newmark were not at the clinic, so I handled the situation. I requested to the FBI agents to allow all patients who had already paid to complete the treatments, which would be fair with the patients. They discussed and then agreed. So, on that day, the center actually closed at 5:30 PM. The whole procedure was under control.
A lot of our patients went to the court to protest. The New York State Attorney General worried that the events would expand and mediated between the Board and us, and let both parties reach a settlement out of the court. The last settlement was “the Board withdrew the lawsuit, and our center agreed to close the office temporarily”. The next day, our bank account was freed and the attorney received payment. The New York State Attorney General sent a special notice and put pressure on the New York Board of Medicine to prepare the acupuncture legislation as soon as possible so that acupuncturists are able to be in a legal practice.
Fan notes: Dr. Arnold Benson was a medical doctor. His opening of a clinic using acupuncture as a therapy was totally legal. However, because of the wrong attitude of the New York Board of Medicine, which wanted to ban acupuncture and was forced by the special political climate, this acupuncture center intermittently opened for five months, and then had to shut down. The ban of the authorities brought disaster not only to the Acupuncture Center of New York but also to the original practice in the Chinatown. All the New York Chinese medicine practitioners or acupuncturists had been banned. In 1976, the New York State started to allow acupuncturists to practice acupuncture under the supervision of a medical doctor. But it was not until 1991 that the acupuncture regulation was able to go through.
That night, we partners ate dinner quietly, and then held a meeting. For the future, there were different views among us. The other two said: “Lee, just close down.” Especially Newmark, who wanted to change direction, was engaged in real estate. However, I insisted to continue to do acupuncture. There was a friend who was the boss of a large cruise ship company in New York. He suggested bringing the patients to the cruise, and as long as they were three nautical miles out of New York, the Board would have no control. I said, on the contrary, that even if it ends in court, we should open acupuncture clinic in the United States itself. We debated until three in the morning. Everyone was tired. Then Newmark said, ‘Benson and I are two Jews, Lee worked as half a Jew. The Jews have always been indomitable, and we admit Lee’s views. The bank account still has $300 000 left (equivalent to about 3 million now, since breakfast at that time cost only $1.20), which could be used for the clinic development in the future.’ They finally agreed with me.
Considering the difficulty of recruiting the staff, I arranged all the doctors and nurses to work part-time. We could not see patients, so we had training and taught ourselves. Our lawyer wrote letters to the Governor of each state talking about the misfortune of acupuncture in New York and hoping to find a place to continue the opening. We proposed to have a medical doctor supervising, while a Chinese medicine doctor performed the acupuncture. The governor of Puerto Rico agreed that we could go there, but it is far away and is not a domestic state of the United States. We were hesitant to go. During this period, there were sympathizers to our ideas. They thought, for example, an aircraft company, using a Boeing 747 to transform it into a clinic in the international airport. Then local governments would have no control for doing acupuncture there. This company wanted to use acupuncture to make money. I think this is heresy, so we declined. They said as long as I want, they could help us at any time. Some newspapers reported sympathy for our situation. There were some patients who called their State Governor and Attorney General to request help for us.
At the occasion of being unable to do anything, in the afternoon of Friday, December 22, I received a call from the Washington, D.C. Board of Medicine. The director said: “We invite you to Washington, D.C. The political climate here is much better than New York. You can come at once.” I was in disbelief and asked: “Can you give me a formal letter of invitation?” He said his secretary would issue that, so I could come and pick it up next Monday at noon time. At that time, Washington, D.C. was directly managed by the Congress and was not an independent city. Its Board of Medicine consisted of non-medical staff and was very open-minded. On Saturday morning, we left New York and went to Washington, D.C. Doctors and management staff took the car, while other supporting staff went by train. Many journalists and reporters also followed us to the station.
Our clinic in Washington, D.C. was at the intersection of I Street and 18th Street. It was next to the Pennsylvania Avenue, and not far from the George Washington University. The White House could be seen very easily. The clinic was located in the fourth floor, with 4 500 square feet space (about 450 m2) and called the Acupuncture Center of Washington (also known as Washington Acupuncture Center). Newmark rented 30 dormitories in Arlington, Virginia for our staff. In the first week, we quickly renovated the clinic. In the second week, on December 28, 1972, our clinic reopened. Many newspapers reported this exciting news. After two and half months, the number of patients sharply increased to more than 250 per day. The clinic space was insufficient, so I decided to open a second clinic at 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, which was a few blocks away from the first clinic, with the space of 12 000 square feet (about 1 200 m2), and located on the 7th floor of an embassy. At peak time, there were 650 patients per day at this clinic. In the two clinics, there were nearly a thousand patients (plus family members, more than 2 000 people) per day. Due to the existing of these acupuncture clinics, the hotel business in the surrounding area (including Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland) and the business of transportation of patients to Washington, D.C. were extremely flourishing. At that time, Washington, D.C. became the capital of “acupuncture”. (Notes: Figure 2 is a photo taken at the end of 1972. Dr Lee was using electroacupuncture to treat a patient)

Figure 2  Using electroacupuncture technique to treat a patient by Dr. Yao Wu Lee on December 28, 1972 in Washington, D.C. I Street clinic. Provided by Arthur Fan.

Fan notes: “Acupuncture Center of Washington,” or “Washington Acupuncture Center” was the first “totally legal” acupuncture center in the United States. It was the only one that opened to the public, not for research. The approved date was on December 22, 1972. After that, there were 11 other acupuncture clinics getting approved in Washington, D.C. in 1973 and 1974.
Fan: I heard that you organized buses to bring patients to Washington, D.C. for acupuncture treatment. Is that true?
Lee: A seriously sick patient in a desperate situation came to our acupuncture center. After about one month of acupuncture treatments, he recovered. His Chinese medicine doctor was Ms. Susan He. The patient felt that acupuncture has unexpected effects on many diseases or disorders. In order to help patients from everywhere, he launched chartered coaches to send patients to our center, mainly from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and other places several times a week. Basically, the buses shuttled patients back and forth in the same day, with two or three buses a day (120 to 180 patients). Many patients were grateful to him for his help. At that time, there was very few acupuncture clinics and our patients came from throughout the United States. We also had many foreign patients.
Due to the booming of acupuncture business and the differences in thinking, acupuncture had once again aroused the anxiety and unease of Western medicine-dominated medical institutions and drug manufacturers throughout the United States. They united and sued the government of Washington, D.C., but they lost. However, the condition was changing in their favour. In early 1974, Washington, D.C. adopted the “home rule” and became an independent city, which means that it was no longer managed by the Congress. It established a new Board of Medicine, which consisted of local conservative medical doctors. Acupuncture once again became the object of attack. They invited some reporters to engage in a so-called investigation. A reporter named Mike, from The Washington Times, spent one week in our clinics, talked with our patients, and listened to our lectures. One morning, his article was published in the newspaper with a half inch high headline “Acupuncture is an art of deception or a liar?” He allegedly interviewed more than 80 patients who said they were not feeling better after acupuncture. Most people felt disappointed in acupuncture. Even more damaging, he said he didn’t know where the acupuncture doctors came from. He called for the immigration service to investigate the background of theses doctors.
In fact, our Chinese medicine doctors or acupuncturists, in addition to those hired from New York, were recruited from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao through the legal procedures into the United States. In 1973, our immigration lawyer applied for a filing to the Manpower Committee of the Congress to employ acupuncturists in the health care services (Medical Practice). This was the first time that the name of “acupuncturist” was used in the federal legal documents and the definition of acupuncturists was engaged in the medical service.
In 1974, the new Board of Medicine of Washington, D.C. gave us orders and let us close our acupuncture offices six times. The American Medical Association combined with the Board of Medicine, Washington, D.C., sued our acupuncture center in Washington, D.C. federal court. The reason they did not use a local court was to deny acupuncture at the federal level. In order to save the acupuncture profession, as well as our acupuncture center, we had to respond seriously.
When we were involved in the lawsuit, there were warm responses throughout the country. Many of our former patients, acupuncturists, and the medical doctors who knew and liked acupuncture came to help out, which gave us great support. The court convened a serious acupuncture hearing. The judge continuously listened to the testimonies from the public for three months. Our patients from all over the country came to testify. The testimonies of many patients moved the judge. For example, a female patient from New York called Barbara, 45 years old, was seriously ill. Her husband left her and forced her to divorce. She was emaciated and even unable to speak. She ate very little and her complexion was bloodless. The conventional doctors of New York estimated that she could only live for 20 days. When sent by a friend to our center, our medical doctors checked her and also felt there was no hope for survival and suggested that she should not receive acupuncture. It was me who saved this patient with acupuncture. She totally recovered after six months of acupuncture treatments. I noticed that when Barbara told her story, the judge, more than 80 years old, removed his glasses with a handkerchief. People present were deeply touched. Another three months passed and the court announced the decision — patients have the right to choose acupuncture and acupuncturists lawfully have rights to practice. In addition, the court emphasized that it was the final decision and it will not accept the appeal.
We eventually won the lawsuit at the federal level. The legal status of acupuncture and the operating rights of our clinic were protected. At the same time, many acupuncturists and enthusiastic people started to actively fight for acupuncturists’ rights in each state. Acupuncture legislations were started in some states. No doubt, we won our lawsuit and helped acupuncture throughout the United States, and we were very glad. However, we were also exhausted — we put in a boundless energy and time and spent a lot of money.
The subsequent experience was even more severe.

     Fan: How about the situation of the center afterwards?
Lee: False and negative reports about acupuncture in some newspapers resulted in a large negative impact on our practice. It had significant impact on the numbers of our patients. Initially, it was reduced to 600 patients per day, then 500, 400 and so on. The rapid decline of patients caused us to be unable to afford the rent for large space of the clinics. Both clinics on the I Street and the Massachusetts Avenue closed in 1974. The partnership was broken. The shares were distributed to the partners. Many doctors and nurses also went away. Acupuncture legislation in Massachusetts was earlier than many other states so there was a better political climate there. We sent Dr. Yufan Jiang (江玉凡) and Dr. Yulin Jin (金玉林) to Boston and Princeton, to set up new acupuncture centers. Doctors originally from New York basically went back to New York. Dr. Benson, Mr. Newmark, Dr. Chingpang Lee, Dr. David P.J. Hung (洪伯荣) and others re-started acupuncture centers in two different locations of the New York City. However, a few months later, all of these centers were closed due to the crisis of internal management.
My colleagues and I moved the Washington Acupuncture Center to the Connecticut Inn which located in the middle of the Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C., with a total of eight rooms. We worked there for about two years. In 1976, I let our staff Dr. Greg Chen (陈一强) handle the management (in 1980, he moved the clinic to Chinatown, Washington, D.C.). It could be said that between 1974 and 1976, our center experienced a great turn of events, and we were all very depressed. However, I thought if we could continue, there will be hope.
In 1976, I moved the major part of Washington Acupuncture Center to Florida. Until now, it still has three clinics.

     Fan: You are an acupuncture pioneer in Florida. Is the experience of your acupuncture practice very smooth there? Do you think there are some relationships between certain obstacles, setbacks in Chinese medicine or acupuncture met in the United States, and Chinese medicine or acupuncture itself, as well as clinic organizers themselves?
Lee: In 1976, per invitation of a patient, also my friend, I moved the major staff of our acupuncture center to Florida and set up several clinics over the time. It was still called the Washington Acupuncture Center. At the beginning, I flew to St. Petersburg and took a taxi for two hours, found and rented an office of 4 000 square feet at the Central Avenue. Our clinic had six Chinese medicine doctors and six Western medicine doctors, from Washington, D.C. There were 60 to 70 patients per day. In 1977, we opened a center in Palm Beach with more than 80 patients per day, but the parking lot was too small to accommodate more patients. Later, we opened another center in West Palm Beach. Now we focus on Florida’s southeast. In order to facilitate patient treatment, we have three clinics in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Sunrise. I also work part-time in a local hospital to provide acupuncture services for rehabilitation patients.
Our patients have trusted us throughout, but there were unfriendly people. In 1978, a reporter of the Florida Sunset News, a local newspaper of the Washington Star News, took the pamphlet from my clinic. She noticed that this pamphlet listed many disease names that acupuncture can treat. Then, the responsible person called us saying: “The Medical Association will sue your acupuncture clinic; the clinic should be closed because only (Western) medical doctors can make medical claims.” I asked her: “What is the background of the person who proposed that I should close the clinic? Is it a doctor or an acupuncturist? Has the person ever experienced acupuncture before?” She said: “I do not think so.” I counterattacked her: “Since you are not a doctor, and not experienced in acupuncture, what qualifications do you have to force me to close the clinic? If you want to continue to harass me, I’ll sue you.” She was at a loss with words so I used some minutes to introduce the principles of acupuncture. This newspaper did not come back asking for trouble.
I feel that the Chinese medicine doctors and acupuncturists should spend more time on public education, because the principle and theory of Chinese medicine is too foreign to the Western people. We must safeguard the basic rights and interests of our profession. We, Chinese medicine doctors and acupuncturists should fight the rights for ourselves. The professionals of Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been generally too humble and timid for fear of backfire. I would like to engage in the second revolution, if I were younger. We are in a legal medical practice. Why won’t many health insurance programs pay the cost of acupuncture treatments? At the federal level, why does the Medicare not cover acupuncture? We are the same as a healthcare provider. The Medicare pays for the work of other healthcare practitioners, but does not pay for acupuncture. If we do not struggle and do not fight, it will be in the same condition even after a hundred years. No one will help us for that right except ourselves. If we win, acupuncture will be accessible by all the healthcare programs. Our generation invests more, but the benefit is not necessarily greater. However, the next generation of Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists can reap the benefits. A non-profit organization established by my patients (I am a consultant), specifically called on governments at all levels to attach importance to acupuncture and has sent many letters to President Obama, who could vigorously support acupuncture legislation at the federal level, and help acupuncture become covered by the Medicare. Until now, however, it seems to be with little success. It seems that we have to put more investment and more financial resources into gaining the rights to fight in a federal court. This method’s efficiency is much higher than other options. I hope acupuncturists and Chinese medicine professionals could recognize this.

     Fan: I heard that you were involved in many works during and after 1980’s acupuncture legislation in Florida.
Lee: In 1981, a Florida congressman who was a medical doctor wanted to rectify the acupuncture market, and let the state issue acupuncture licenses. The state authority proposed six categories of healthcare professionals, including medical doctor (MD), orthopedic surgeon (DO), chiropractic physician (DC), naturopathic physician, etc., who can directly get the right to perform acupuncture. Acupuncturists, however, should participate in an examination in order to get the license. I hired a lawyer to appeal because the above requirements were illogical. I proposed as long as Chinese medicine professionals or acupuncturists practice acupuncture for more than two years under the supervision of Western medical doctor (there should be evidence such as a contract, or payroll records, medical records and so on), it is not necessary for them to pass the exam and get the license. Later, I was hired by a committee which drafted the Florida Acupuncture Regulation(Ad hoc Committee). I insisted that regardless whether one was a Chinese medicine professional, Western medicine doctor or other professionals, as long as one wants to practice acupuncture, he/she must be treated equally and must pass an acupuncture examination. At the beginning, there were 59 people who applied for an acupuncture license including 29 ethnic Chinese and 30 of other ethnic groups. After a three-day examination, including acupuncture theory, acupuncture points and the actual operation, with acupuncture examiners hired from California, there were 19 people (including all Chinese medicine practitioners from our clinic. There were several Western medical doctors as well.) qualified to get an acupuncture license. However, there were quite a number of Chinese medicine professionals, acupuncturists, and some Western medicine doctors who had practiced acupuncture for more than two years who boycotted the examination. With coordination with the state authority, a Grandfather Law was applied to them. There were more than 100 people who got the license without taking the acupuncture examination.
When drafting acupuncture regulation, some Western medicine doctors added harsh requirements, such as acupuncture clinics must have two restrooms. I argued that many acupuncturists do not need a large clinic space. Patients for acupuncture would not come at the same time. Many clinics of other professions actually only have one restroom. So the finalized regulation stated that acupuncture clinics are just required to have one restroom. At the same time, I insisted to change the regulation name of the licensed acupuncturist as Acupuncture Physician (AP), who no longer practices under the supervision of Western medical doctor. Unlicensed acupuncturists still could continue to practice acupuncture under the supervision of medical doctors. A majority of Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists were very satisfied with the work I did, and understood my situation. However, there were very few Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists who were unhappy with that regulation. There was a lady from Thailand who was angry with me, who did not meet the exemption requirement, and also did not want to practice acupuncture under the supervision of medical doctors.
Later, I served three terms as a Florida Acupuncture License Examiner, two terms as president of the Florida State Acupuncture Association and two years as Chairman of continuing education (1989-1990) for the Florida State Acupuncture Association. After 1985, I also taught acupuncture for pre-med students in the Florida Atlantic University and the professionals in the rehabilitation department of the Boca Raton Community Hospital.
In appreciation for my contributions to acupuncture in the United States, I received the first national “Acupuncturist of the Year” Award for 1983-1984 from the Center of Chinese Medicine in California.

Fan: Dr. Lee, could we discuss the fee schedule of your clinics? Is there any difference in your patients between the present and the past? In addition, it is said that the Jewish people played an important role in acupuncture legalization in the United States and were driven by their interest that in it, what is your opinion?
Lee: When we were in New York and Washington, D.C., the fee for initial visit was $50 and that for the subsequent visit was $20 to 25 (later, increased to $35). Forty years ago, one dollar is roughly equivalent to current $10. For example, if we talk about the price of a car, in the early 1970s, the price of a Lincoln was $6 000 and a luxury Ford car was $4 000. Now their prices are $60 000 and $80 000, respectively. So, if we still apply the fee schedule of that time, the fee for the initial visit and the second visit should be $500 and $350, respectively. However, under the real conditions, our fee schedule is $80 for self-pay patient, as 1/6 to 1/4 of the original fee schedule. Some patients have insurance for acupuncture, which may pay us at about $200 per time with limited times. The fee schedule is much lower than before, so the model of both Western and Chinese medicine doctor seeing the same patient is no longer affordable. Hiring a good Chinese medicine doctor is sometimes also difficult.
Before, there were very few acupuncture clinics in the United States. Patients from all over the country, even from all over of the world came to us, so our center could have 1 000 patients per day (two clinics combined). There were many patients with intractable diseases or very serious conditions. Later, the business of our center was no longer as successful as that time due to the malicious newspaper reports which caused patient’s misunderstanding of acupuncture and bad influence from the lawsuit (although we won). The number of patients was not as many as before. Furthermore, due to acupuncture legislation in many States, more acupuncturists could open acupuncture clinics. The number of acupuncturists, both migrating from all over the world and graduating from accredited schools in the United States, have increased. The increasing of clinics has caused the number of patients to decrease in each clinic. Currently, I have about 30 patients per day from the surrounding area and not many with serious conditions.
To improve the income of Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists and to match the income of other practitioners, such as medical doctors and physical therapists, we should make efforts to promote insurance companies to pay for the acupuncture treatment. Currently, however, many Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists are “comfortable” with their individual business and not many are aware of the need to engage in this important area.
For those who feel that the Jewish people played an important role in the development of acupuncture in the United States due to their interest in money (or say, “greed”), it is unfair statement about our Jewish friends. From my personal experience, there were two Jewish friends of mine involved in our center’s establishment and operation. They did get certain compensation. However, it was not as much as many people thought. Like me, they were driven by the passion to promote acupuncture. In our clinics, eighty percent of the income was used to pay the employees’ wages, operational expenses (including renting, employee training), and the expenses of litigation. Litigation expenses were considerable. For example, there was over $500 000 spent for the lawsuit in 1974 in Washington, D.C. In order to change the resentment of Western medical doctors, to improve the external environment of the acupuncture profession, and to reduce the external pressure on the Board of Medicine (handled by the Congress), in 1973 we invested tens of thousands of dollars to open acupuncture training programs for Western medicine doctors (MDs and DOs) in the George Washington University School of Medicine. Each class had 30 doctors, lasting three months (40 h per week), which was one of the earliest acupuncture training programs for Western medical doctors in the United States. We had a total of five classes. From 1973 to 1975, we invested over $70 000 at the Department of Medical Biology, George Washington University School of Medicine, to conduct the studies of acupuncture on rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, from the perspective of return, investing in another field, such as real estate, would benefit more. However, my Jewish friends and I chose to promote acupuncture.
Personally, if I made another choice, such as returning to Taiwan to continue my previous career, obtaining a “General” title should be predictable. If I chose to work in the United States Space Center, I would be a good scientist. The reason I chose Chinese medicine and acupuncture was that the acupuncture profession brings me a sense of accomplishment. I am 80 years old, and until now, I still work in the clinic (see Figure 3).

Figure 3  Dr. Yao Wu Lee treating a patient with acupuncture in Florida (2012). Providod by Arthur Fan.

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Acupuncture Today, April, 2012, Vol. 13, Issue 04      http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32551

Real Acupuncture or Real World Acupuncture? Deciphering Acupuncture Studies in the News .  By Matthew Bauer, LAc

Recent studies have concluded that acupuncture is no more effective than various forms of sham or placebo acupuncture, and these conclusions have been reported in the media and used by skeptics to discredit acupuncture.

The Oriental medical (OM) community’s response to these reports has been ineffective, perhaps counterproductive. These studies, and the resulting media coverage, can serve was a wake-up call to the OM community, alerting us that we need to be more proactive in our public education efforts and rethink some long-held beliefs regarding the efficacy of traditional theories.

In the News 

In the last few years, several studies sought to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating common conditions.1,2,3 The findings of these studies were widely reported within the media.4,5,6 The good news for the Oriental medicine (OM) profession is that these studies found that acupuncture was not only effective, but often more effective than conventional therapies. The bad news is that these studies also found that traditional acupuncture techniques – based on the point/channel theories taught inOMschools – were no more effective than what is termed “sham” or “placebo” acupuncture.

The most recent of these studies, published in the May 11, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine and sometimes referred to as the “Seattle” study, built on other recent studies and is a good example of current acupuncture research. One of the conclusions this study’s authors reached is particularly striking:

“Collectively, these recent trials provide strong and consistent evidence that real acupuncture needling using the Chinese Meridian system is not more effective for chronic low back pain than various purported forms of sham acupuncture.”

As someone who has treated thousands of people with chronic low back pain using the Chinese meridian system, my first reaction to this statement was to feel the researchers were mistaken. But, I also respect scientific research and feel it would be a great mistake for those of us in the OM profession to criticize these studies just because they tell us something we don’t want to hear, without looking critically at both the studies and our own beliefs.

Real Vs. Real World 

The only evidence these studies actually provide is that so-called “real” acupuncture is not more effective than sham acupuncture in a controlled, clinical trial environment. I believe this detail is of critical importance. But, before I explain why this detail is of such importance, I want to critique the response to these studies from within the OM profession.

Up to this point, the sparse response from theOMfield to these studies has been limited to pointing out that there are many acupuncture points including hundreds of extra points, so “sham” acupuncture is still hitting acupuncture points. Regarding studies that use “placebo” techniques in which acupuncture is simulated with the skin unbroken, some acupuncturists have pointed to tapping techniques, common in Japanese acupuncture, that never pierce the skin. While there is some merit to these arguments, they ignore the greater problem with these studies and make theOMprofession sound to the public like we are grasping at straws and making excuses. If researchers can’t help but hit useful points no matter how hard they try to avoid them, why should anyone bother seeking treatment from people trained in the complex traditional theories that stress diagnosing qi imbalances to identify the best point prescriptions?

The primary problem with these studies is not that researchers inadvertently performed real acupuncture when they attempted to do sham or placebo acupuncture, but that the real acupuncture seriously underperformed. Most of these studies show the real acupuncture groups to be somewhere in the 45-60% effective range. Only 45-60%? If I was only getting 45-60% positive effect for my patients, I would never have been able to build my practice and support my family for the last 23 years. Ask any clinically successful acupuncturist, and they will tell you for common pain problems like low back pain, the average range of effectiveness is somewhere between 75-85%.

Obviously, something about the design of these studies does not capture what happens in the real world when using acupuncture to treat these conditions. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough studies that reflect what happens in the real world because most of the money for research has gone to the “controlled” studies using sham and placebo controls, and the type of patient contact that happens in real world treatment is not allowed. None of these recent studies allowed the acupuncturist who did the needling to consult with the patient and choose points and techniques.

In most of these studies, a set of points were prescribed and used repeatedly regardless of the patient’s progress, or lack thereof. TheSeattlestudy was the only study that attempted to mimic actual practice by having a diagnostic acupuncturist see one group of patients before each treatment. This diagnostician chose the points to be used based on traditional diagnostic rationale, but then these points were passed along to the treating acupuncturist who did the actual needling.

Qi Interaction

Will it affect the outcome if the acupuncturist who inserts the needles is not allowed to interact with the patient and choose what points and techniques to use? It shouldn’t matter, if acupuncture only stimulates specific nerve endings, causing mechanical neuro-chemical responses within the body. But, if acupuncture actually works by manipulating qi, as its founders and supporters have claimed for more than 2,000 years, then there is very good reason to believe that the qi dynamic between the acupuncturist and the patient is an important factor that must be considered.

The first day I interned in the private practice of my school’s clinic director, he asked me to take charge of treating a very difficult case. When I balked and said I thought I was too inexperienced to manage such a difficult case, my teacher told me that my sincere enthusiasm created a positive qi that helped to offset my lack of experience. Over the years, I have come to believe the acupuncturist’s qi can be as important as the points themselves. Points do matter, but the effect these points elicit is influenced by the qi of the one stimulating them. Like yin and yang, there is a combination of both factors at play: different points have different tendencies regarding how they influence a patient’s qi dynamics, but that tendency is influenced by the qi of the person manipulating the points. Because this fact is rarely discussed in acupuncture circles, researchers have not taken this into account in their studies.

Skeptics have long contended that acupuncture only works if the patient believes in it (ignoring the effects of veterinary acupuncture or animal studies), but it may be more important that acupuncturists believe in what they are doing. The best practitioners with the highest success rates put everything they have into every treatment – into every needle or patient contact. We choose points and techniques because we believe they are very best for our patients, and that belief influences the effects of the points. Any acupuncturist who puts needles in a patient not believing it to be the very best they can do is inserting those needles with less than optimal qi.

Unlike administering drugs or performing surgery, which manipulates the body in a more mechanical fashion, influencing qi dynamics is more dependant on subtle factors, including the qi of the one doing the manipulating. This may sound like what skeptics call “woo-woo” – irrational, new age mysticism — but it is a key part of acupuncture’s traditional foundation and deserves consideration. Before jumping to conclusions about traditional concepts, we should encourage studies using acupuncture in a way that reflects what takes place in the real world. Let’s study what happens to patients when treated in actual clinic conditions with no blinding or controls, in which the acupuncturist does whatever their years of training and experience leads them to believe is the best they can do for each patient. Don’t limit them in their techniques and communication with the patient, because such limits are not imposed in real world practice. And don’t refer to acupuncture being done under research constrained controls as “real” acupuncture, because it does not resemble the manner in which acupuncture is done in actual practice.

These studies point to sobering realities theOMprofession needs to face. We cannot ignore the fact that in study after study in which researchers stimulated points in a manner that seemed incompatible with traditional Chinese medicine protocols, a respectable percentage of test subjects experienced significant improvement. So while it may be fact that the best trained and most experienced acupuncturists will obtain 75-85% effectiveness rates for their patients, it may also be a fact that poking some needles virtually anywhere will get 40%-50%, sometimes even 60% effectiveness. (See sidebar.) If that is the case, then the value of comprehensive traditional training and years of experience may be in getting that extra 20-30% of successful outcomes.

I am not surprised that poking needles anywhere can help a decent percentage of pain-related cases because I believe any acupuncture stimulates the body to produce anti-trauma chemistry such as pain modifiers and anti-inflammatory compounds. That is why I was never strongly opposed to other health care professionals being able to legally do some acupuncture. I have long felt that rather than fighting to prevent other health care professionals from having the right to perform acupuncture, theOMprofession should be trying to educate these other professions that the more comprehensive training allows for that additional 20-30% effectiveness. In a spirit of mutual respect, we could encourage other health care professionals to refer their more difficult cases to us. This suggestion may not be welcomed by some, but theOMprofession must be open to evolve with the times.

Regardless of how we approach the issue of other health care professionals using acupuncture in their practices, the recent studies and media reporting of their findings should make one thing very clear: The OM profession needs to be much more proactive both in encouraging research that better reflects real-world acupuncture and in educating the public and media about OM and the OM profession. TheOMprofession has never mounted a comprehensive, multi-year, public education campaign. We have never seen fit to make such a campaign a priority. This must change. We cannot continue to leave the manner in whichOMis perceived by the public and portrayed within the media to outside forces. For too many years, our profession has acted as if all we have to do is raise education standards and do the good work of helping people and the rest would take care of itself. The conclusions of these studies and the media reports that followed should be making it clear that this is not the case.


If it were true that getting successful results does not depend on where one puts the needles, then every first-year acupuncture intern would get the same results as their most experienced teachers, which is not the case. While it seems to be true that having positive qi can make up for lack of experience, almost any acupuncturist will tell you that they get better results with experience. After training and licensure, acupuncturists typically spend the next several years of their careers learning more techniques and theories to add to their arsenal. Why do we do this? Because we learn that sometimes your Plan A or Plan B does not get results, so you better have a Plan C, D, and E as back-up if you want to get the highest degree of success. If it did not matter where you put the needles, no one would bother to keep learning additional techniques and the robust continuing education offerings out there would cease to exist.

We OM professionals, who work our tails off helping our patients, know how valuable our services are and we know that points do matter. We are buoyed by the gratitude of our patients, even as they tell us how they wished they had known aboutOMsooner and wonder why more people don’t take advantage of this safe healing resource. We don’t have to manipulate the facts to educate the public, media, and policymakers about what we have to offer, but we do have to guard against allowing the facts to be manipulated against us. There are acupuncture researchers who have a greater grasp of the subtle dynamics of clinical acupuncture, including the Society for Acupuncture Research, and the OM profession should do more to familiarize ourselves with their work and to encourage that the real-world effects of OM is given its just due.


  1. Haake M, Mueller HH, Schade-Brittinger C, et al. German acupuncture trials (GERAC) for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898.
  2. Cherkin D, Sherman K, Avins A, et al. A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(9):858-866.
  3. Moffet HH. Sham acupuncture may be as efficacious as true acupuncture: A systematic review of clinical trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(3):213-6.
  4. Bankhead C. Acupuncture tops conventional therapy for low-back pain. MedPage Today, 2007. www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/AlternativeMedicine/6770. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  5. Doheny K. Acupuncture may ease chronic back pain. WebMD Health News, 2009.www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20090511/acupuncture-may-ease-chronic-back-pain. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  6. Park A. Acupuncture for bad backs: Even sham therapy works. Time.Com, 2009.www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1897636,00.html. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  7. Amaro J. Is most of acupuncture research a “sham?” Acupuncture Today. August 2009;10(8).www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32013. Accessed October 11, 2009.

About the Studies 

The two main trials referenced in this article are the German Acupuncture Trails (GERAC) for chronic low back pain and that carried out in both the Center for Health Studies,Seattle,Wash.and the Division of Research, Northern California Kaiser Permanente,Oakland,Calif.that is sometimes called the “Seattle Study.”

In the German trails, 1,162 patients were randomized into groups receiving “real” acupuncture, “sham” acupuncture, or conventional therapy. Participants underwent 10 30-minute sessions usually at 2 treatments a week for 5 weeks. An additional five treatments were offered to those who had partial response to treatment. The “real” acupuncture groups were needled at points traditionally believed to be beneficial for lower back pain while the sham acupuncture involved superficial needling at non-traditional points. At 6 months, positive response rate was 47.6% in the real acupuncture group, 44.2% in the sham acupuncture group, and 27.4% in the conventional therapy group.

In theSeattlestudy, 638 adults with uncomplicated low back pain of 3-12 months duration were randomized into four groups: individualized acupuncture, standardized acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and conventional care. In the individualized acupuncture groups, a “diagnostic acupuncturist” considered the patient’s progress and prescribed points according to traditional theory. The prescribed points were then needled by the treating acupuncturist. The standardized group employed a set of points traditionally considered helpful in treating low back pain that were used throughout the treatment series. The simulated group had the same points as used in the standardized group but toothpicks were used to simulate the feeling of acupuncture. The treatments were done using back points so subjects could not see the needles. Treatments in the first three groups were done by experienced acupuncturists and consisted of two treatments a week for three weeks then once a week for four weeks.

At eight weeks, mean dysfunction scores for the first three groups were 4.5, 4.5, and 4.4 points compared to 2.1 points for conventional care. Symptoms improved by 1.6 to 1.9 points in the first three groups and 0.7 in the conventional care group.

While I emphasize the need to distinguish what both of these studies refer to as “real” acupuncture from that which is practiced in the real world of clinical acupuncture settings, the Seattle Study did make note that its design had limitations, including restricting treatment to a single component of TCM (needling), pre-specification of the number and duration of treatment, and limited communication between the patient and acupuncturist. While I applaud this study’s authors for mentioning these limitations, the conclusions they reached regarding the “strong and consistent evidence” that real acupuncture is not more effective than sham acupuncture indicate they did not consider these limitations too significant.

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Dear colleagues & Friends,

A Spring seminar will be hold by Virginia Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (VITCM) on April 1, 2012, Sunday. Hope everyone will arrange time to attend, and share your knowledge and experience.

Topics: The Western Diagnosis, TCM Treatments and Research Updates of Common Skin Diseases; Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine.

Location:Potomac Community Center, 11315 Falls Road,Potomac, Maryland 20854;Tel: 240-777-6960.

Skin problems, which affect more than 10 million Americans, can be one of the most frustrating and stubborn group of symptoms to successfully treat. Many pharmaceutical solutions offer quick relief but do not provide a lasting solution, and come with risks such as toxic build-up in the body and weakening of other organ systems. Therefore, more and more people are choosing alternative solutions such as Chinese Medicine, which can be safer and which intends to address the root cause of the symptom instead of covering it up each time it appears. In fact, dermatology is a recognized specialty in traditional Chinese Medicine. Treatments for skin disorders have been described as early as 1100-221 BC in China.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a natural solution to improving skin conditions with its sophisticated system, both external and internal administration. There are hundreds of herbal formulas available for skin disorders such as herpes, eczema, and psoriasis.

Fee: $208. (Mail check before March 15, 2012, discount rate at $188).

Contact Person: Dr. Arthur Fan,Tel:(703)499-4428, e-mail: ChineseMedicineInstitute@gmail.com. Address: VITCM,8214 Old Courthouse Rd,Vienna, VA 22182.

Lecture Details (included in lecture and discussion):

8:00AM-9:30AM: Tai Chi and Medical Applications. By Drs. Eugene Zhang, Arthur Fan (Outside, in Parking lot; if rain or snow, cancel). 

9:30AM-1:30PM: Western Diagnosis & TCM Management for Common Skin Diseases. By Dr. Yongming Li (this special lecture outline is available in the Blog part)

1:30 PM- 3:00PM:  TCM and Skin Disorder: An Update on Clinical Research. By Dr. Lixing Lao.

3:00PM-5:30PM: Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine: Four Seasons, Five Organs, Yin Yang and Related Experiments. By Dr. Quansheng Lu


Dr.Lixing Lao,  CMD, PhD, LAc, Professor of Family Medicine, Director of Traditional Chinese Medicine Research, Center for Integrative Medicine,University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore,MD.

Dr. Lao graduated from Shanghai University of TCM (MD in Chinese medicine) and completed his PhD in physiology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. He has practiced acupuncture and Chinese medicine for more than 20 years, and has been awarded numerous grants from the NIH and the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct research on acupuncture and alternative medicine. He presents frequently at national and international conferences, including the seminal 1997 NIH Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture and the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He was board cochair of the Society for Acupuncture Research, chief editor of American Acupuncturist, the official journal of American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Dr.Lao was one of funders and professor of former Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (MITCM), which was a well-known school in TCM education during 1990s to 2000s. Currently, he is the honor president and main lecturer of VITCM.

Dr. Eugene Zhang, CMD, PhD, LAc. has been practicing acupuncture for over 15 years, and is a graduate of famous oriental medical school in the world: the Beijing University of TCM.

In China, Eugene Zhang was a Medical Doctor (MD in Chinese Medicine); here in  US he is one of the top Licensed Acupuncturists inVirginia,Maryland and Washington DC. area. He was a well-respected professor and Clinical Supervisor for the prestigious Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (MITCM). Because of his years of experience, he serves as a consultant for the council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).

Dr. Zhang is also a senior Taiji (Tai Chi) and Qigong Instructor, both in the United Statesand in China. He has written a detailed book, “The Ultimate Exercise for Mind and Body” that explains the benefits of Qigong and shows pictorially the different body postures.

Dr. Yongming Li, MD, PhD, LAc (in New York and New Jersey). Our guest speaker.

Dr.Li is a leading doctor in both Chinese medicine and Western medicine. He graduated from Liao-ning college of TCM in 1983, and got PhD, MD in USA.

He is a well-known doctor in dermatology, doctor and scholar in the field of acupuncture and Oriental medicine with more 20 years’ clinical experience. Currently, he also serves as a NIH grant reviewer. He was the president of American Traditional Chinese Medicine Society, which has more than 700 members in New York area.

He has published many academic papers and books,included in “Acupuncture Journey to America”, a new published book in acupuncture history.

Dr. Quansheng Lu, CMD, PhD, L. Ac. Dr.Lu is a licensed acupuncturist in Maryland. He graduated from Henan University of TCM in China and subsequently worked as a resident and attending physician of TCM at a general hospital in China for 8 years. During this period, thousands of patients recovered under his treatment.  Given his outstanding contribution in TCM, Dr. Lu was awarded the Outstanding Doctor Award from the Local government. Dr. Lu pursued his master degree in TCM at Beijing University of TCM.

He continued to expand his education and later received a  PhD in cardiology in Chinese and western integrated medicine  at the China Academy of Chinese medical science. He focused on exploring hypertension molecular mechanisms and looked for new anti-hypertensive natural herbs. His supervisor is Professor Keji Chen; president of The Chinese Association of Integrated Medicine, and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Lu was a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University Medical Center and Children’s National Medical Center.

Dr. Arthur Yin Fan (Fan Ying),PhD, CMD, LAc, a leading specialist in Acupuncture and Chinese herbology, has more than two decades of clinical experience in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine. In China, he was awarded an M.D. degree in TCM and a Ph.D. in Chinese internal medicine from famous Nanjing University of TCM. He completed additional one year’s training in the Western medicine diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders as well as a six-year medical residency combining TCM and Western internal medicine. He was a medical doctor in both TCM and coventional medicine when he worked in a University hospital in China. He was the funder of  Nanjing Stroke Center which is now a China national key center in Stroke rescuing and rehabilitation.

An evaluator of medical science research grant applications for many countries, Dr. Fan is currently a consultant for the Complementary and Alternative Medicine program at the University of Maryland medical school. He has also conducted CAM research for the Georgetown University medical school’s programs in nutrition and herbology.

Dr. Fan holds the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certificate in Oriental Medicine, which comprises Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology and Asian Bodywork. Dr.Fan was awarded the third place prize in Taiji-quan (Tai Chi) in China first national health-sport congress (1985,Shenyang,China). Dr.Fan is the funder of VITCM.

Ron Elkayam, MSTCM, graduated from the Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences in Oakland,California in 2004 where he studied acupuncture and Chinese medicine. While still in school studying Chinese Medicine,  Ron studied with Robert Levine, L.Ac., in Berkeley, where he furthered his understanding of acupuncture, herbal formulas, diagnosis, and pulse taking. Inspired to take his learning to a new level, he moved to Taiwan in 2005 to learn Mandarin as a way of deepening his studies in Chinese medicine.Over the course of almost five years, Ron studied Mandarin in universities in Taipei, Shanghai, and Beijing, received advanced Mandarin language certification, and worked in hospitals (Guanganmen,Tonren hospitals) as interns, where he was able to communicate with doctors and patients in their native language and gain useful clinical experience.

Ron has a background in mind-body disciplines and has a 2nd kyu (brown belt) in aikido. He has also studied qigong (Wild Goose style), taiji (Wu and Chen styles), and Kripalu yoga. He also believes in the importance of diet and exercise in helping patients reach optimum health and happiness.

In late 2010, Ron finally returned to theU.S.to bring his clinical experience to American patients.  He has NCCAOM certification in acupuncture and herbal medicine, in addition to being licensed inVirginia,California, and Rhode Island. Ron is originally from Baltimore,MD.At present time, he works part-time to assist VITCM’s daily work.

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Efficacy of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in the management of female infertility: A systematic review.

Ried KStuart KComplement Ther Med. 2011 Dec;19(6):319-31. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Original information from http://www.pubmed.gov


Discipline of General Practice, School of Population Health & Clinical Practice, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia.



To assess the effect of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) in the management of femaleinfertility and on pregnancy rates compared with Western Medical (WM) treatment.


We searched the Medline and Cochrane databases and Google Scholar until February 2010 for abstracts in English of studies investigating infertility, menstrual health and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We undertook meta-analyses of (non-)randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or cohort studies, and compared clinical pregnancy rates achieved with CHM versus WM drug treatment or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In addition, we collated common TCM pattern diagnosis in infertility in relation to the quality of the menstrual cycle and associated symptoms.


Eight RCTs, 13 cohort studies, 3 case series and 6 case studies involving 1851 women with infertility were included in the systematic review. Meta-analysis of RCTs suggested a 3.5 greater likelihood of achieving a pregnancy with CHM therapy over a 4-month period compared with WM drug therapy alone (odds ratio=3.5, 95% CI: 2.3, 5.2, p<0.0001, n=1005). Mean (SD) pregnancy rates were 60±12.5% for CHM compared with 32±10% using WM drug therapy. Meta-analysis of selected cohort studies (n=616 women) suggested a mean clinical pregnancy rate of 50% using CHM compared with IVF (30%) (p<0.0001).


Our review suggests that management of female infertility with Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month period compared with Western Medical fertility drug therapy or IVF. Assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle, integral to TCM diagnosis, appears to be fundamental to successful treatment of female infertility.

read more:



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Someone mentioned in blogs, inUSA, the first State passed acupuncture legislation was California. Actually it is inaccurate. California was in 1975-1976. The first one should be in Nevada in 1973, Maryland and Oregon Sates passed the legislation in same year.

Washington DC was in 1989(However, DC was the first place in USA where a first legal acupuncture clinic established in end of 1972, at that time, acupuncture was allowed, but without acupuncture regulation) .Virginia was in 1993年.

State Legislative Initiatives: The first practice act legislation was enacted in 1973 in Maryland, Nevada and Oregon. Today, 44 States (PDF), plus the District of Columbia have enacted practice acts(only 6 states have no legislation-Alabama,Kansas,North Dakota,South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming).

1973-Maryland, Nevada & Oregon
1974-Hawaii, Montana, South Carolina
1975-Louisiana, California, New York
1978-Rhode Island
1981-Florida & New Mexico
1983-New Jersey & Utah
1985-Vermont, Washington
1986-Massachusetts, Pennsylvania
1989-Colorado, District of Columbia, Wisconsin
1991-New York
1993-Iowa, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia
1995-Connecticut, Minnesota
1996-West Virginia
1997-Arkansas, Illinois, New Hampshire
1998-Arizona, Missouri
1999-Idaho, Indiana
2000-Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee
2005-South Carolina
2006-Kentucky, Michigan

2009 -Alabama

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