My Journey to Acupuncture
Many of my friends and patients have encouraged me to get my experiences down on paper and I feel now is a good time. So again, welcome and I hope you find the information helpful in your journey to better health.
I get asked all the time about how I got into acupuncture. I usually give the cliff notes version for time sake; but I figured this would be a good forum to give the whole story of my own personal journey to better health.
I graduated high school in 1990, and like many kids went right into college. I attended Wayne State in Detroit on the political science track. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and didn’t have much motivation in my studies that first year. I dropped out of Wayne and did various odd jobs; none of which paid very well. I kicked around the idea of maybe joining the military, but in the end, took a job in one of my father’s companies as an asbestos remover. It wasn’t the most glorious job but the pay was good for a 20yr old with no college degree. The work was pretty physical which didn’t bother me at all; but it wasn’t the most mentally stimulating thing I could be doing.
After about a year I decided to enroll back at Wayne, this time in premed. I was an athlete in high school and avid gym goer. I thought maybe sports medicine would be for me. I continued doing the asbestos thing to help pay for living expenses and, because of all the heavy lifting I was doing, developed tendonitis in my elbow. I went the standard rout of internist, orthopedist, and anti-inflammatories. Needless to say the issue continued and was really interfering with my activity. My father recommended I see his acupuncturist. I was tired of the pain and willing to try anything at that point, so I thought, what could it hurt. I scheduled my first appointment with Stefan Brink.
This is probably a good time to tell you that this was not my first exposure to acupuncture. Many years earlier my father was under a tremendous amount of stress during the buyout of his business partner. He developed tinnitus in one of his ears as a result of the stress. He eventually found his way to Stefan as a last ditch effort for some relief. I would go with him to his appointments and occasionally pick up meals for him at vegetarian restaurants like the Inn Season Café and Om Café. Being a 16yr old, I thought the whole thing was some kind of crazy voodoo, not to mention the weird food he was eating. It did all seem to help though.
Fast forward to my first appointment, I went in with desperation and an open mind. At this point in my life, I was more fascinated by the experience than weirded out by it. Stefan preached clean eating along with the acupuncture and herbs. My mind was opened to a whole new approach to healthcare.
My elbow pain cleared after a few sessions. I did a 3 week detox and changed my diet to vegetarian and all organic. I felt mentally clearer and more energetic than I ever had. I was sold. I read some books on Traditional Chinese Medicine and started researching schools. I found one in Denver that seemed to be a good fit and sent off my application and college transcripts. I few weeks later I received my acceptance letter to The Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
My original plan was to finish my B.S. degree at Wayne, but was so excited to get on with my next phase of life, I left after my third year with all the necessary requirements to attend CSTCM. My fiancé, Denise, and I married in April of 1996 and left for Denver the beginning of June. During the orientation, the school president explained how rigorous the training was and would most likely loose about 50% of the class to either the part time program or dropout altogether. We attended classes from the middle of July through the following May with 6 weeks off in the summer. We averaged 25 credit hours a semester. I was the youngest in my class with most being in their 30’s-50’s and on their second career. We started with 35 and graduated 5 from our original class. Yea, it was tough. My experience was absolutely amazing and my brain just ate up the information. We had a good mix of Chinese and American teachers.
I was fortunate enough to also participate in 2 internships starting my second year. One was with probably the toughest teacher in the school. His name was Dr Zhang Li Xin, a 7th generation master of acupuncture. He joined the staff at the start of my first year. He was head of the Red Cross acupuncture department in China; and the school brought him over to teach acupuncture theory. He actually chose me for the internship because I was the only one out of 3 semesters worth of students to pass his final. I was honored.
I also interned with Dr. Ron Rosin, OMD. He had been in practice for over 30 years and learned the medicine from his grandfather and from his studies in China. Back when he started, acupuncture wasn’t known in the States and the only way to learn was to go straight to the source. He was a wealth of knowledge and we really hit it off. Over the next 2 years, if I was not in school or working, I was with one of them in their practices. That experience was invaluable and I am grateful to both of them for the opportunity.
Upon graduation, my wife and I made a difficult decision to move back to Michigan to start a practice and raise our family. It’s a decision I have never regretted. We were able to raise our 3 children around our family which was very important to us. It’s been 18 years and a wonderful journey. Thank you to all of my patients for your support and referrals, I would not have been able to continue this work without you.