For nearly 20 years people have asked what it is that got me interested in the practice of Chinese medicine. That is a tricky question for me. I don't know if I ever wasn't interested in Chinese medicine.
Let's start with my professional history, as it is most likely what you're looking for. If you want to read more about how I came to this, look below in My Story.
In the course of my professional work I have been the acupuncturist at St. Johns Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, treating a wide variety of patients in a general hospital environment. I've been a clinic supervisor at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, supervising acupuncturists in both the Orthopedic Neurological Rehabilitation and Oncology units. I have worked in conjunction and cooperation with; Nutritionists, Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, Physical Therapists, Yoga teachers, Nurses, Psychologists, Surgeons, Dentists, and many more. I am a team player when it comes to patient care. There is a time and place for all types of medicine, and it is important to have strong relationships with the professionals around you.
As a professor of Chinese medicine, I taught for eight years in the Chinese Medicine Department of the Touro College School of Health Sciences, serving as the Chair of both the General Studies Department and the Acupuncture Department. While teaching there I had the privilege of working with some of the great people in Chinese medicine; both my colleagues and my students who have become leaders in the field.
I have served on all three of Chinese medicine’s main standard-setting comittees in the U.S.. For a while I had the pleasure of working as a subject matter expert for the development of the national board exams (NCCAOM). I was also a site visitor tasked with visiting Chinese medicine schools to investigate their programs for elligibility for accreditation (ACAOM). I also had a chance to be a part of the agency that certifies that all acupuncturists are competent at providing care utilizing hygienic technique (CCAOM).
I have been dedicated to Chinese studies for nearly thirty years. I received a B.A. in Chinese Studies from Bard College with a focus on Daoist traditions, including studying at Yunnan University in Kunming, China. My Master’s Degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine is from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. I have also completed training at Memorial Sloane-Kettering in acupuncture for the treatment of cancer patients.
I was born into a love of China. Beginning in the 1960's, my grandmother was one of very few Americans painting in the Chinese manner. She comes from a prestigious lineage of painters. Her teacher was Alison Stilwell, the daughter of the famous American General Joseph Stilwell, who was stationed in China in the early part of last century. Alison grew up with the Imperial family, studying with the cousin to the last Emperor, the great painter Puru. She learned from him in the traditional way of apprenticeship; exhaustive copying with refined attention to detail. She also studied painting with the great bird and flower painter Yu Feian. It was these lineages that were passed to my grandmother Betty Paynter, who studied with Alison in the very same way; extraordinary diligence and dedication. My grandmother's house and studio were filled with Chinese art, and my time with her was peppered with stories about her adventures in China and many other places around the world.
As a teenager I was, as many other young men were and are, obsessed with martial arts and martial arts movies. I was especially captivated by the philosophy espoused in the schools and theaters. At a young age, I began studying Chinese thought on my own. My family was very supportive of my interest and in 1988 my grandmother planned a trip for my brother and I to go to China the next year. My uncle and his family were living in Singapore at the time and were ready to show us what that part of the world was like. The next year was Tiananmen. I sat at the TV riveted and deeply affected by what I was seeing and was completely unaware of the China that was being born at that moment. When things settled down we made our way there in 1990. The trip changed me. Not a single one of my senses failed to be overwhelmed. There was only one problem: I didn't speak Chinese. This was a fundamental impasse for me, I needed to know more, to know deeper. As I boarded the plane home I vowed that I would return, and that I would not be speaking English when I did.
In 1991 I enrolled at Bard College as a philosophy major with a minor in Asian art history. That didn't last long. The art history classes required history classes to fill out the context of the art, but you can't study Chinese history without studying Chinese religion and philosophy, and you certainly can't study philosophy and religion without understanding the root language, and you can't study Chinese language without going to college in China.
So in 1994 I found myself getting off of a plane in Kunming airport packed and ready for study at Yunnan University.
And yes, this time I spoke, read and wrote Chinese.
When I returned from China, to make a longer story a little shorter, I was diagnosed with cancer. That journey is one I could have done without, chemo and radiation are an adventure I'd rather not enjoy again. But significantly, this gave me a direct appreciation of health and wellness. On a walk with my mother, after my treatments were over, she suggested that I join my love of Chinese thought and my deepened appreciation of medicine, and put them together and go to Chinese medicine school.
So now, twenty years later, I am here for you. This is how I got here. I have dedicated my life to this medicine, and have shared myself in tens of thousands of treatments that I have given. I hope that you have a chance to come and share this journey with me.