There should be a medal of Honor called the "Miriam Lee Award", bestowed upon those who display dedication and excellence in the field of acupuncture. And she should be the first to receive it.
This is hardly the frame of mind of a reporter of historical facts.
But maybe it is time a passionate and biased acupuncturist offered a different version of the history of Acupuncture in America.
The History of Acupuncture in America
Who's Your Acupuncture Hero??
Miriam Lee is my Hero. In her book, Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist, Dr. Lee shares her journey to the United States and how she came to practice acupuncture at a time when it was illegal.
Dr. Lee was a trained nurse, midwife, and acupuncturist in China during a time of poverty and war. She escaped to Singapore in 1949 and it was there that she began her study of emotionally-based illnesses. In pursuit of a better life, she moved to the United States in 1966.
She arrived in California at a time when acupuncture was illegal, so she took a job in a factory, unsure if she would ever practice medicine again.
It was only when she saw a friend's bed-ridden son that she offered her skills knowing that acupuncture could help. After several treatments he completely recovered. This began a deluge of word-of-mouth referrals. She always found a way to see the 75 to 80 patients a day who lined up at her door.
Miriam Lee rose to the challenge. Her attitude was, "If you don't press the olive seed, there will be no oil." (From her book, Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist)
As if she was not under enough pressure, she was arrested in 1975 for "practicing medicine without a license". Her patients filled the courtrooms anxious to testify on her behalf. Finally a compromise was proposed and Dr. Lee was permitted to practice acupuncture as an "experimental procedure". A year later acupuncture was signed into California law as a legal medical practice.
Miriam Lee went on to found and run the Acupuncture Association of America working closely with law makers to develop a comprehensive scope of practice and professional licensing for acupuncturists. Dr. Lee's persistence lead to the inclusion of acupuncture coverage by California's primary health care insurance plans.
All the while Miriam Lee maintained her clinical practice and was devoted to teaching acupuncture to students. She is responsible for bringing many well known practitioners from China to teach seminars at her Palo Alto clinic. Those seminars and Dr. Lee's courses on Tung's Points, Herbal Formulations, Scalp Acupuncture, Wrist and Ankle Points, and TCM Gynecology and Oncology are still being taught and utilized today.
Miriam Lee has poured her heart and soul into the welfare of her patients, the teaching of her students, and the entire profession of acupuncture in the United States.
As I stated earlier she should be the first recipient of the Miriam Lee Award. Consider this her nomination.
Bob Flaws is another Hero. He has dedicated himself to translating and publishing otherwise inaccessible Chinese textbooks and making them available in the United States.
He has also contributed innumerable essays, thought-provoking articles, and books on Chinese Medicine. He and his wife Honora Lee Wolfe started Blue Poppy Press and are the reason why we know who Miriam Lee is in the first place.
The Blue Poppy organization is dedicated to the advancement of acupuncture and provides supportive materials, including classes, and workshops for acupuncture marketing and business management.
Ted Kaptchuck is the author of The Web That Has No Weaver, an incredible book on Chinese medicine written at a time when there was little understanding of such concepts of Qi, Yin, and Yang. I still regard his definition of Qi as the most comprehensive; "Qi is energy on the verge of becoming matter, and matter on the verge of becoming energy."
Today his book continues to be used as a standard textbook in many acupuncture schools and is a reliable resource for studying for the NCCAOM certification exam.
Ted is a researcher at Harvard University and has written numerous insightful articles and books on Chinese medicine and acupuncture. He started Kan Herbal Company and provides traditional and original herbal formulations to practitioners around the world.
Read Ted Kaptchuk's interview on Scientific American Frontiers. He has a unique understanding of the similarities and differences between Western Medicine and Eastern Medicine, and he shares his valuable perspective on the history of Eastern Medicine in the United States.
"Doc Hay" predates any acupuncturists already mentioned and may be the first documented Chinese herbalist in the United States.
Ing Hay and his outgoing partner, Lung On deserve recognition for their amazing accomplishments. In 1887 a 25 year old Ing Hay arrived in Eastern Oregon in the then mining town of John Day. He was among a small group of Chinese immigrants there to mine and make their fortune. However fate took a turn.
Ing Hay met a bright young man named Lung On. Together they drew on the traditional medicine of their homeland to provide much needed medicine to the small community. Their commitment to healing and the townspeople are recorded in China Doctor of John Day (1979) by Jeffrey Barlow and Christine Richardson.
The Kam Wah Chung Building where Doc Hay lived and saw his patients is preserved as an historic site in John Day, Oregon. A guided tour reveals actual packages of herbs from China that Doc Hay used in his formulations. Some of these herbs are so rare they have yet to be identified.
This list of people who wrote the history of acupuncture in America is far from complete. There are so many more and they ALL deserve recognition and thanks.
Watch for this list to grow as more information is gathered.
Please share your Insights about any of these or other acupuncturists who inspired you.