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The Community ‘Remedy’

By Sara Calabro

The Remedy: Integrating Acupuncture Into American Healthcare is a little book—just over 100 pages—that packs a powerful punch.

Author Lisa Rohleder is the founder of Working Class Acupuncture, the first-ever community acupuncture clinic, located in Portland, OR. Rohleder, disenchanted with the traditional private-practice model of high prices for one-on-one sessions, opened her clinic in 2002 to cater to middle class people. “If you build it, they will come” was her mantra, and she was right.

Seven years later, WCA is open seven days a week and sees six patients an hour. As its founder and something of a cult hero to acupuncturists in search of a more socially conscious model of practice, Rohleder finds herself at the helm of a bonafide movement. It’s no wonder WCA-style clinics are popping up all across the country—it’s hard to read Rohleder’s book and not feel inspired.

She starts with some staggering statistics, especially to those of us who have plopped down close to $100K on acupuncture education: “…the number of independent licensed practitioners of acupuncture has remained stagnant for the last four years, at around 15,000 nationwide. This despite at least 50 accredited acupuncture schools turning out about 4,000 graduates per year….between 50 and 80 percent of acupuncturists are no longer in practice five years after graduating.”

The point she’s making is this: In order for acupuncture to evolve into a realistic career option, other professional avenues besides private practice need to open up.

In addition to highlighting acupuncture’s dire state as a profession, Rohleder argues in favor of community-style work by pointing out some realities of clinical practice. She says that acupuncture really only works when administered repeatedly, over several continuous sessions. But who can afford that at the going rate of $75-150 a pop charged by most private practitioners?

Community acupuncture addresses the accessibility issue—most clinics charge sliding scale fees of $15-40—and also, according to Rohleder, brings acupuncture back to its roots: “Acupuncture belongs to everyone, including ordinary people; that is integral to its Taoist soul.”

Rohleder’s writing style is direct and easy to grasp. She clearly articulates a lot of concerns that are shared but rarely spoken aloud by the acupuncture community. And while there is an inherent social awareness behind the mission of community acupuncture, Rohleder keeps it real. She bluntly states that her own financial comfortability was one of her primary motivations in founding WCA.

The Remedy is a quick read with a long-lasting message. The book will prove inspirational to patients, acupuncturists and other healthcare professionals who are convinced of acupuncture’s benefits but concerned about its accessibility.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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