Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

For Oregon Acupuncturists


I came to Oregon in 1975, and passed the acupuncture licensing exam given by the Board of Medical Examiner’s Acupuncture Committee. At that time, only Oregon and Nevada had licensing laws allowing acupuncturists to practice who were not medical doctors.

I then moved to Oregon in late 1976 and began practicing in Portland. Not knowing any better, I left an extremely lucrative human and veterinary practice in California, because I wanted raise my children in Oregon. It just seemed to me to be a much better place for children to grow up.

You might imagine that things were a bit different in those days. We could only treat patients that were referred to us by an M.D. Also, the Medical Board had a regulation at the time that restricted those referrals. The referrals could only come from  “in-house” MD who was also approved by the Board of Medicine, and assigned to a specific acupuncturist.

So patients could not come to us if referred by their own doctor.

In 1978 I presented an argument to the Board of Medicine for changing this restriction and asked that acupuncturists be able to accept patients referred from any Oregon licensed MD.

The BME changed their regulation.

At the time there were 6 other practitioners (all Chinese) and myself (the white guy) in Oregon. It was tough then. If you think it is “hard” for you now, you don’t really understand “difficult.” You think we are in an economic depression now, this was during the great Carter Administration when interest rates were 17% to 24%! No insurance coverage at all — only cash patients. Most people didn’t have extra money for alternative care of any kind. Plus, this was back in the beginning when almost no one knew about  acupuncture and its benefits.

Then one day in early 1979, while I was probably daydreaming about salmonfishing, Dr.WaiTak Cheung comes storming into my office and says, with his thick accent, “OK Gene, now we get busy…we need to get the law changed.” At this time the OAA existed, but in name only,and the dues were spent on several very nice Chinese dinners each year. They never undertook any legislative projects, nor did they communicate with the Board of Medical Examiners. Dr. Cheung explained to me that since 3 of the other 4 Chinese Doctors had either left town or died, and since he was in now in charge of the OAA, it was time to make the OAA a real functioning organization. I hadn’t seen Dr. Cheung in 8 or 9 months, but I knew that he and the others heard about my results in getting the Board of Medicine to get rid of the old supervision by “one MD rule.” And at my one and only attendance at the 1977 OAA Dinner For Elderly Chinese Practitioners and One White Guy, I spent a long time trying to convince the members to be active in legislative issues and Board of Medicine oversight issues. They seemed completely uninterested at the time, but it turns out that Dr. Cheung was the exception.

So together, he and I set out [alone] to rid ourselves of the MD referral requirement that was in the original legislation. It took a year and a half, but it got done. By 1980-81MalvinFinklestein and Eric Stephens and Jerry Senogles had arrived in Oregon. So I wasn’t the lone white guy anymore.

In just a few years, a small group of about 5 of us, with very, very, very limited funds, managed to get rid of the referral requirement, and to write and get passed the first insurance parity law in the U.S. And on top of this, the naturopaths were trying each year to pass legislation giving them the power to do acupuncture with little or no training. So we had to fight their lobbying efforts. Lucky for us, no one ever told us how naïve we were to try and do all this in four years with no manpower and almost no money. I don’t believe that any one of us thought we could do it alone. Somehow, even just two or three of us together gave us the courage to try. With 5 or 6 of us….well, we felt invincible.

So…this a very brief summary of a part of my experience in the early, beginning years of our profession here in Oregon. Some of you may be aware that in most states, insurance companies do NOT pay for acupuncture at all. You are probably also aware that most states do not have herbal medicine as a part of their scope of practice.

And I am sure you are all aware that in over 20 other states Chiropractors can legally do acupuncture ….as long as they have the 50 to 200 of required ‘training.’

Thank you for taking a few minutes to let me reminisce and ramble –on about the good old days. And I want to wish you the best for your future, as individual practitioners and as a state organization.

An old friend of mine used to always say, “It’s good to have a plan for the future.”

The first time I heard him say that, I said to him, “You’re such an idiot. How can you plan for the unknown?”

He just smiled and replied, “That’s the easy part. You simply visualize the future you want.

It’s simple.”

I said, “Simple? You’re nuts. How can it be simple?”

He said, “Remember that photo you showed me of that small sailboat you built?”

I answered, “Yes.”

He continued, “So you simply begin to form a picture of your next project, or your next goal, or your entire next year, and you hold it before your minds eye as you would the picture of the sailboat.”

I was quiet for a minute or two, and then asked, ”So if that’s the easy part, wise guy, what’s the hard part?”

He sat up, his eyes looked directly into mine and then he said, “Actually doing it.” I looked at him for a long time. I actually had the makings of a plan that I hadn’t told him about, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I finally said, “I have a plan, but it’s too big for me to do alone right now!

He started laughing and laughing, and then finally became calmer, and he smiled and said,

“Who said anything about doing it all alone?”

So, what’s your plan for the future? Are you headed there alone?

by Gene Bruno, OMD, LAc

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By: Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Society of Oregon, Inc.

Dr. Wai Tak Cheung


President of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Society of Oregon

July 23, 1994


June 11, 1994.

I have heard from some of my colleagues that today many of the younger generation of

practitioners of Oriental medicine may not be aware of the history of their profession in Oregon.

I hope that after reading what follows, all will know. If even one person who did not know this history begins to understand the importance of our professional roots and of our professional future together in Oregon,  then writing this will have been worthwhile.

Hard work, luck and coincidence have made the legal practice of acupuncture in the United States possible.  When President Nixon visited China in 1972, he opened many cultural as well as political doors.  Acupuncture and Oriental medicine were introduced to Americans in late 1972 as reports of acupuncture began to appear in the news media and in books.

Many Americans were having health problems for which they could not find successful

treatment in the United States.  Dorothy Barrett of Oregon had multiple sclerosis.  She heard of Dr. Michael Yau Ferng and went to Taiwan in 1972 to seek treatment from him.  Ms Barrett experienced such tremendous success that she wanted to make Dr. Ferng’s skill available to others in the United States.  Dr. Ferng came to the United States with a traveling visa in 1973 and began treating patients many of whom were Oregon residents.

Also, in 1972, two other doctors, Dr. Duke K. Won and his son Wing S. Won, both DCs and NDs, already living in Oregon before having obtained American citizenship, began treating growing numbers of Americans seeking Oriental medical care (before it was legal in Oregon). These doctors became well known as they successfully continued treating many patients in the state.

The Board of Medical Examiners (BME) soon heard news of their activities. The BME secretary had these three doctors arrested.  Attorney had the doctors freed from jail within twelve hours, since there were no laws in existence pertaining to the practice of acupuncture in Oregon. The judge dismissed the case after issuing a warning to the doctors and made it clear that the practice of acupuncture was illegal in Oregon, except when done by MDs or DOs.

By this time many Oregonians had received acupuncture and benefited from the treatments.  In 1973, many supporters, as well as patients (in particular Dorothy Barrett,  Mary Wilson, Irma Silvon and Mary Lotina), took action by circulating a petition for the legalization of acupuncture in Oregon.  They took the petition to Salem and talked to their state representatives to introduce such a bill to the Legislature.  In order to have the bill pass, it had to be written with specific conditions. An acupuncturist had to work under supervision of a single MD. This meant that anyone seeking acupuncture treatment

in Oregon had to first see an MD who would officially refer them to an acupuncturist.  Every acupuncturist had to work with one supervising MD or DO. The use of moxa was originally excluded from the scope of practice, as the legislature felt its inclusion could prevent the bill from passing.  I think moxa was too new or too exotic for them.  Acupuncture was put under the control of the BME.  There was no lobbying for this bill. The Oregon medical Association did not object to the practice of acupuncture by acupuncturists because it was under the MDs control.  The bill became law on November 15, 1973.

The first legal private acupuncture clinic in the United States was opened in Lincoln City, Oregon.

It was a very busy practice and patients had to book far in advance.  Professor Kok Yeun Leung was the first acupuncturist at the clinic.  He was later joined by Professor Shui Wan Wu and later by Dr. Wai Tak Cheung.  Three of the first seven acupuncturists in Oregon were from Vancouver, B.C. and practiced acupuncture between 1973 and 1975. These early Chinese acupuncturists established the foundation in the Northwest for the growth and development of acupuncture in Oregon.

Dr. James Tin Yau So practiced acupuncture successfully for over 35 years in Hong Kong. Dr. So was brought to the United States by the National Acupuncture Association to work in the clinic at the UCLAMedical  School. This clinic started in 1972 and was the first clinic in the United States.  Dr. So arrived in 1973. In October 1974, Dr William Prensky, Sr. Steven Rosenblatt and Dr. Gene Bruno took Dr.  So to Boston, Mass., where they opened a clinic for him.  Dr. Rosenblatt ad Dr. Bruno then established the New England School of Acupuncture for Dr. So and worked with him closely as instructors and also translated his two books into English.  Dr. Rosenblatt and Dr. Bruno returned to Los Angeles in 1975 where they established the CaliforniaAcupunctureCollege.

Dr, Cheung visited Dr. So in Boston in 1989, by which time Dr. So was retired.  During the visit Dr. So asked if Dr. Cheung had any students.  Dr. So believed passing on Oriental medical knowledge and continuing the education of new generations was vital to long term success of the professions. Dr. Cheung replied that he had no school, although he had 15 inters. Many hundreds of people, many DOs, MDs, and other professionals studied with Dr. So. This was the first acupuncture school in the United States.  Later, many of his students opened acupuncture and Oriental medicine colleges and helped

legalize the practice in many states.

One Chinese doctor was upset with Dr. So, feeling that he was selling out the Chinese people by teaching Oriental medicine to Americans. But Dr. So was proud of himself and he believed that the Chinese had very god knowledge to pass on to Americans. His teachers passed the knowledge to him, and now he wanted to pass it on to others.  Dr. So could have made a good living in private practice, but he chose to open a school and to educate people about Oriental medicine.  He told Dr. Cheung he hoped the proverbial stone tossed into the pond would send out endless ripples so his students, which would influence education and legislation throughout North America.



In the State of Oregon Since 1973


Acupuncture became legalized in Oregon. An acupuncturist could only practice under a single MD’s supervision. This law passed without opposition. BME regulated the licensing of the acupuncturists in the state. It was the acupuncturist’s responsibility to find the supervisor.  If no MDs were willing to accept them, then the acupuncturist could not practice. Moxibustion was not allowed. The BME licensing examination was established and offered twice a year.


The OAA was formed.  Professor Mi Po Shu was the OAA president and the first member on the BME acupuncture committee.

Moxibustion was allowed by the BME as a heat therapy by acupuncturists.  NDs and DCs tried through their board to get permission to practice acupuncture.  Their reasoning was that they, too, are physicians and should be able to practice acupuncture.  Their request was denied.  There have been repeated lobbies since then to accomplish this goal.  So far all the attempts have failed.  There were only about seven acupuncturists, all Chinese, practicing in Oregon.  We did not have any lobbyist to promote our profession.


Dr. Gene Bruno moved from California to Oregon.  He was the first Caucasian to practice acupuncture in Oregon.  Later Dr.  So’s students moved from Boston.  The practice of acupuncture became more widespread and our profession as a whole became stronger.  The need for a more determined and united OAA became even more critical to the future of our profession.


The OAA consisted of Professor Kok Nung, President; Professor Yet Sun Chan, Vice-President; Tize Kwok Tai, Treasurer/Secretary.


Dr. Gene Bruno requested privately from the BME that any MD or DO be able to make referrals. This was granted by the BME so that the single supervisor/physician was no longer needed.

Professor Kok Nung had a heart attack. Shortly later he moved back to Vancouver, B.C.

The OAA now consisted of Professor Yet Sun Chan, President; Professor Kok Yeun Leong, Vice-President;

Dr. Wai Tak Cheung, Board member.


Professor yet Sun Chan had a stroke. Professor Kok Yuen Leung refused the position of president.  He asked Dr. Wai Tak Cheung to take over the position, which he accepted. It took six months to obtain the OAA records and documents (because of the health condition of Prof. Yet Sun Chan).


OAA members joined with other American practitioners. The OAA members increased in numbers and strength.


OAA introduced two  bills to the Legislature to:

1. Allow acupuncturists to see patients if they first obtained a diagnosis from an MD, DO, PC, ND or NP.

2. Have equal rights for insurance payment; to pay acupuncturists the same way that the MDs are paid for acupuncture treatment of the same conditions.

The first bill passed.  At this point, we hired a part time lobbyist to help us pass our legislation.  Dr. Gene Bruno, Eric Stephen and our lobbyist did most of the lobbying and other needed procedures.  We were short of money, so Dr. Cheung asked all the members and others to donate money for the OAA objectives.  About $800.00 was collected. Dr. Cheung added $2000.00 of his money for the OAA expenses.

Dr. Cheung proposed to open an acupuncture school under the OAA. Dr. Cheung wanted the school to be under OAA so more financial support from the public could be obtained to run the school more efficiently, and so more research could be done for the advancement of acupuncture in Oregon.

Eric Stephen helped a great deal in finding a part time lobbyist.  Jim Hauser,  Gerald Senogles , Stuart Greenleaf,  Malvin Finkelstein, Betty Chen, and Dirk Friedt were also involved in the process.

I thank all of them for their efforts. Our greatest appreciation is given to Dr. Robert Schwartz.

Without his efforts we might not have been free to do what we do today. Special thanks to Dr. Gene Bruno for his hard work toward achieving our goals. I hope that Dr. Gene Bruno will also write a brief history of events that occurred from 1976 to present. The Equal Right bill for insurance payment was proposed again and failed.  OAA members did not work on this bill, as they thought it would not pass. I tried to convince everybody that it is like the root of a cancer that has to be eradicated, otherwise it would always be an impediment to our practice,  Dr. Gene Bruno was no able to lobby since he was on the BME Acupuncture Committee. In the 1989 Dr. Gene Bruno, Dr. Robert Schwartz and our new lobbyist Steven Kafoury joined forces and successfully passed our insurance bill and convinced the Governor to sign it into law.

Last, but not least, I want to thank John Ulwlling, former BME Executive Director and Dr. Joel Sere, MD,  BME Acupuncture Committee Chairman, for all their help and support during our struggle along the way.  I also thank all the members of the Acupuncture Committee for the work they have done over the years.

After the introduction of our scope of practice bill signed by the Governor of Oregon, Barbara Roberts, No additional opposition from OMA was attempted. The insurance companies fought us in our attempts to pass our insurance bill. Also naturopaths and chiropractors argued against our scope of practice Bill. We came to a friendly agreement with the lobbyist for the chiropractors.

However, the lobbyist for naturopaths and their legislative spokesmen did not want our bill to pass.

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