Popularity of acupuncture spurs US-based programs in the practice

China 24

Jeremy Riesenfeld suffered from depression in his early 20s and credits acupuncture with healing him. Now, he runs a clinic that treats over a hundred people per week in Washington, D.C.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.

Riesenfeld incorporates traditional Chinese treatment as part of a holistic approach that includes meditation and massage. Many of his patients are professionals who are seeking treatment for stress in addition to physical pain.

In his 15 years of practice, Riesenfeld has never received acupuncture training in China. He visited the country for the first time in April, and learned about Chinese tea.

He studied acupuncture in Maryland.

“The training period in China is longer than the training period for acupuncturists in the U.S.,” he said. “I feel that the education I got here has equipped me to give good results to people, so I’m happy about that.”

Riesenfeld is one of nearly 40,000 acupuncture practitioners in the United States. There are 57 schools certified by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to provide the education.

Dr. Lao Lixing is the incoming president of Virginia University of Integrative Medicine in Fairfax, Virginia. The school offers masters and doctoral degrees in acupuncture.

Lao previously served as director of the School of Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. He said it is not necessary to study in China to receive a good acupuncture education, although it can be a plus.

Lao explained that the training period in the U.S. is shorter because the sole focus is on Chinese medicine. The process in China takes longer because students are trained to practice both Chinese and Western medicine.

“It is popular now because acupuncture is safe and lacks side effects. From our point of view, I think we should teach and train more students to benefit larger populations suffering from pain and disorder,” He said, adding, that acupuncture has proven effective in the United States.

David Kim is a licensed acupuncturist who expects to graduate with a doctorate this year from Virginia University of Integrative Medicine. The 60-year-old wants to prove acupuncture’s effectiveness to the world with academic research.

“We are not mainstream yet, but we will be,” he said. “Until then, we should have a proud practice to show them how it really works.”

Li Weini, a consultant for a World Bank affiliate who grew up in Wuhan, China, is studying for a master’s degree in acupuncture at the Virginia school. She dreams of bringing her acupuncture needles to marginalized communities around the world.

Li said the Chinese system requires acupuncture students to begin their studies at the undergraduate level, but schools in the U.S. are open to students of any academic background.

She said people sometimes look at Western acupuncture training with skepticism. “We are constantly exposed to criticism.”

However, she believes the ability to study in the U.S. makes her more open-minded.

“From outside point of view, we can see our own culture and our own heritage better,” Li said.

Story written and produced by Amber Wang, Yiwen Niu and Ran Huan.

Dr. Jennifer Brett discusses acupuncture programs in the US

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes speaks with Dr. Jennifer Brett, director of the University of Bridgeport Acupuncture Institute, about acupuncture programs in the U.S.