Saturday, February 14, 2009

Miriam Lee!

“To practice acupuncture, you must be certain of your intention, your purpose in doing so. It can be done for fame or wealth, to cure or to kill. If the intention is wrong, if you are concentrating on earning money, treating fewer patients and charging higher fees, doing little for much profit, you may get some results from your treatments or you may not….

… But, if you intend to cure, you use all your might to treat patients. You study, you concentrate, you learn all you can. Then when you are with your patients, the best of your knowledge and technique comes to you.”

                       --Miriam Lee, Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist

Who is Miriam Lee, and what does she mean to us at Circle Community Acupuncture? She stands in my mind as one of the true role models for acupuncturists. Born in China, she worked as a nurse and a midwife and later learned acupuncture. She moved to Singapore and later to the San Francisco, Bay Area.  

When she arrived in California, it was illegal to practice acupuncture, so she took a job on an assembly line. However, she found it impossible to not offer her skills, and was soon seeing patients clandestinely. Over time, her reputation grew, and her clientele out grew her ability to practice at home. One anecdote she tells is of the steps to her back porch collapsing due to the number of people waiting to receive a treatment from her. Eventually, she found a sympathetic M.D. who allowed her to work out of his office during the off hours.

In 1974 Miriam Lee was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. Her patient’s filled the courthouse at her hearing, and demanded to have the right to receive acupuncture. Many of them had found relief from long-standing chronic complaints, and were angered that this was being taken away from them. Miriam Lee had offered them compassion and health, and now they came to her defense. Thanks to this public outcry, acupuncture was declared an “experimental procedure” and Miriam Lee was granted the right to see patients at SFU. In 1976, acupuncture was legalized in California.

I have never had the opportunity to meet Ms. Lee. When I talk to people who had the chance to work in her clinic, they say it was a multiple-bed space with patients being treated in the same room. At her busiest, she was treating 10 patients an hour, and up to 80 patients a day.

It is clear to me that Miriam Lee is someone who saw the power of acupuncture and was compelled to offer it to as many people as possible. She could have set up shop in a small office and treated one or two people per hour, and charged quite a lot of money for her treatments. Instead, she worked from the heart, and worked in a manner that allowed her to help as many people as she could. At Circle CA, we hold Miriam Lee’s example close to our hearts. I hope  when I am her age and retired, that I can say, I helped as many people as I could, so please spread the word.  If you have experienced benefit from acupuncture at Circle CA, let people know that acupuncture can help, and that it can be affordable.

1 comment:

Nora said...

I just wanted to add that Miriam Lee was also committed to sharing her knowledge with other practitioners, which wasn't so much the "done thing" traditionally, and I think made her unpopular with some other "masters." Many of our teachers learned from her, and from her patients at her side; in a way we are part of that lineage now, and owe her a lot. Thank you for this tribute.