Thursday, January 31, 2013

Miriam Lee

English: Acupuncture needles. Deutsch: Akupunk...
English: Acupuncture needles. Deutsch: Akupunkturnadeln. Français : Aiguilles d'acupuncture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I already had another post ready for today. But, I couldn't let this Month of Courage pass by without mentioning Miriam Lee, a courageous acupuncturist who helped legitimize acupuncture in this country.

Miriam Lee was born in China in 1926. She became a midwife and then studied acupuncture under Master Tung Ching Chang, who came from a long line of acupuncturists, famous for only using a small number of acupuncture points.

When she immigrated to CA in the 1950's, the only job she could get was working in a factory. Her co-workers started coming to her her with their health problems. So, she started offering acupuncture treatments to her co-workers before and after her shift.  Influenced by her teacher Master Tung, she discovered that she could successfully treat her American patients using a protocol of only 5 acupuncture points. By using so few points, she was able to treat up to 17 people an hour!

The story goes that so many people came to her house for treatments that her porch steps eventually broke! Finally, a sympathetic doctor allowed her to share his office space. In 1974, she was arrested for practicing  medicine without a license. Her arrest and trial prompted CA to recognize the legitimacy of acupuncture as an alternative medical modality and forced the state to adopt regulations.

Most importantly, Miriam Lee demonstrated that it was possible to set up a high traffic clinic in the middle of a Working Class neighborhood and provide access to cheap health-care to folks who can't get it elsewhere. Her work inspired the Community Acupuncture Movement.

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