The article does a fairly good job of highlighting the familiar beefs that are associated with the TCM versus biomedicine or “western” medicine turf wars. Recently, I have been reviewing the work of Volker Scheid and Linda Barnes. They are medical anthropologists who have written extensively and persuasively on considerations that underlie the question of what is the role of Chinese medicine as a system in the mainstream. If you have interest in this topic I have listed a couple their publications at the end. Scheid and Barnes recognize that the conversion of TCM into biomedicine is inevitable. They argue that such should not take place without understanding about the political context of how professions generally develop, i.e., at the direction of the dominant profession, like a merger and acquisition. Scheid is quoted in the NYT piece, as is Unschuld. Other Chinese physicians are quoted who are on the whole less accepting of the “old ways.”
The piece caused me to reflect on current topics in American acupuncture. The leadership deck has been shuffled once again. It is my observation that many of the “old guard” have departed the scene. I am referring to the leaders who directed the profession down a dead end where acupuncture would coexist with the mainstream on its own terms. This has failed to materialize. Without leaders the rank and file will dwindle and direction for the profession will become less clear.
We are in a new era of grass roots organization. The POCA group has started its own acupuncture school with ACAOM oversight. The AAAOM is in a period of reconstruction wherein the national membership org champions fewer causes, in this case the federal push for legislation that will include acupuncture within Medicare. By the way, Linda Barnes discusses the history of this schism within the profession in her manuscript “The acupuncture wars: the professionalizing of American acupuncture — a view from Massachusetts. She gets to the Medicare and insurance reimbursement history on pg 280. Guild member Harvey Kaltsas gets a shout out on pg 277. Available here…
The Guild is becoming better and better at working with legislative matters. We are about entering the mainstream. There are diverse views on the “role” of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the mainstream. One thing we are generally united on is that it is good to earn a living and that for most of us the shortest path to that goal is to work as mainstream providers. I have observed that our greatest obstacles are no longer the “old guard” folks who as Barnes or Scheid suggest might defend a pluralistic view of the medicine. What we have learned in California is how to work with the legislature and the various committees that influence how we practice. In New Jersey Andy Rosenfarb is undertaking a battle on behalf of the 862 LAcs with an NPI who live and work in the state. We know that if Andy is to be successful defending against a regulation that a couple of state committees have passed – policy, not legislation – which reduces reimbursements to new lows then he must contact the members of those two committees and educate them to reconsider their decision. He is doing this on his own. With the help of two or three volunteers he will be that much more likely to have success. The work will take at least two years. That is how things work when a goal is pursued that portends a positive outcome.
Dr. Tu Youyou made her discovery 40 years ago. We have waited more than 30 years to find a clear direction for building this profession that can benefit many providers and even more patients. If you are living and working in New Jersey and want to learn about Andy Rosenfarb’s quest, you can contact Andy here.
Andy Rosenfarb, ND, L.Ac., Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, Board Certified in Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese Medical Ophthalmology
Linda Barnes. Needles herbs gods and ghosts: China, healing, and the West to 1848. Harvard University Press, 2005.
Volker Scheid. Chinese Medicine in Contemporary China: Plurality and Synthesis. Duke University Press, 2003.
One more Linda Barnes observation. She complains several times in her “Acupuncture Wars” piece about acupuncture articles always being accompanied by an image of a woman with a face full of needles. The New York Times article featured an image of a Chinese woman with needles all over her face.