Our Beginning in Iowa
Acupuncture in Iowa
In 2000 (the Year of the Metal Dragon) we welcomed four practitioners to join our clinic.
Yimin and Diana Xu were friends from New Mexico who taught at our alma mater, Southwest Acupuncture College. They moved to Iowa to take advantage of our excellent schools for their two small children, having fallen in love with our state while visiting Ames for a national education competition. Yimin and Diana joined us in our new enlarged clinic at 8230 Hickman Road, Suite B in Clive, from which we continue to work.
Katherine Whitmore, Elizabeth's sister, and her partner (later to be husband) Brendan Chuopoco moved back from Boulder, Colorado after graduating from the Southwest Acupuncture College campus there. Katherine & Brendan moved into the original clinic on Center Street.
This joint relationship continued until 2005 when our three families separated our acupuncture practices. Yimin & Diana opened a new clinic, Family Acupuncture in Johnston. Katherine & Bendan created a new clinic, Center for Acupuncture & Healing Arts on 39th Street in Des Moines. We maintained our current location and expanded our practice after Elizabeth returned from her second maternity leave.
Through all of these clinic changes, our dearest office staff have supported our mission and compassionately hosted our patients . We are so fortunate to have Gail Williams, whose lifelong wisdom of wellness and empathy for others has been with us since 2000. The addition of Alisha Hutchings to our team in 2010 brings a social & intellectual vibrancy to our clinic. Ashley Mayrose is our latest college-student-turned-clinic-professional. Her writing and editing proficiency has helped us expand our educational materials and professional outreach.
We also have been able to celebrate the journeys of Sarah Hybels and Emily Hurm, both of whom started as teenage high school help. Sarah is now a Licensed Massage Therapist and mom/wife to a beautiful family. Emily graduated from Grandview University in 2011, studied Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota, and is now seeing patients of her own in West Des Moines.
And most recently, the Terrell’s have added the social media phenomenon to their practice. Through the use of Facebook, Instagram, and plans for other means of communication, we will continue expanding our relationship with the community. The daily interactivity is truly the wave of the future. Gone are those six-degrees of separation! In their place exists sharing, likes, comments and timelines. We hope that our social media presence will help to expand the knowledge of our community, further the journey of our patients towards health, and inspire others to share their light & love.
We began this journey as newly married health professionals hoping to bring an ancient medicine to the modern city of Des Moines. Returning to Elizabeth’s hometown brought challenges and opportunities. Would we be able to maintain our organic food & synthetic free lifestyle? Would we find enough kindred spirits to support our alternative medical practice? Would we be accepted by the predominant medical culture? Would they allow us to practice the entirety of our medicine, or would we have to limit our potential?
It is said that trials and tribulations strengthen the soul; in hindsight, we agree! Our clinic began on a shoestring, borrowing family furnishings, finding consignment relics and limiting our marketing. It is still unbelievable that our first dozen patients found us by seeing a 2×3 inch advertisement in the Des Moines Register. Those first two phone calls are still celebrated by Kathy & Jennifer and will be forever honored at our clinic.
This limited exposure continued for a month, until we asked a reporter from the Des Moines Register to write an article on our clinic. On February 10, 1997, we received much more than what we asked: a large feature article on the cover of the Life section! With our young smiling faces in the paper, we began to receive hundreds of new patients. People still occasionally mention first seeing us in that article, which hangs in a frame in our clinic.
The history of acupuncture in Iowa was another challenge and opportunity. For decades, acupuncture was only found among a few MDs and DOs, with their limited knowledge and training, and a few renegade Asian Americans who practiced in their own communities. In the late 1980s two traditionally trained acupuncturists (one Asian and one Caucasian) began practicing amongst the mainstream society in Des Moines. They were quickly popular, maybe a bit too much so! This competition resulted in an Osteopathic Medical Board resolution that limited acupuncture to licensed D.O.s, thereby ceasing the practice of the higher trained traditional acupuncturists, who left the state to survive.
Of course, as we have seen repeatedly in Iowa's history, the people of Iowa refuse to be limited in their choices. A group of patients of the traditional acupuncturists teamed up with some brave legislators and took on the Medical Boards' rulings. In 1993, this group prevailed in passing a limited Registration law for nationally trained acupuncturists, a unique success in the US! Iowa is the only state to pass acupuncture legislation without any actively practicing, renegade acupuncturists leading the fight! For instance, Illinois had hundreds of renegade acupuncturists practicing as felons. It took them until the late 1990s to pass licensure, and they are still restricted from using herbal medicine.
When we opened our clinic at 1221 Center Street, Des Moines in January of 1997, we worried that the limits placed on Registered Acupuncturists would prevent us from thriving. We were only the 4th & 5th people to become registered in Iowa, and only one other was actively practicing (Elisa Buenaventura in Fairfield). The law stated that in order to perform acupuncture we must get written permission from a licensed MD, DO, DC, Psychiatrist, Nurse Practitioner or Podiatrist for each patient and separate permission for each condition we would treat. We had moved from states (New Mexico & Colorado) that allowed us to practice openly and thoroughly, and worried about whether practicing in Iowa was even feasible. How was this going to work? Would we really get permission from a MD to treat colitis or PMS with acupuncture? Was a psychiatrist really going to let us treat their depressed patients? In desperation, we created a form for prospective patients to take to their doctor that had to be signed before we could see them. Imagine the stress that resulted when a desperate person in pain had to go back to their inefficient medical professional, tell them the standard care was failing and ask for permission to see an acupuncturist. Everyday, our compassion and patience was being tested. Yet, everyday brave people faced their doubting (and sometimes outraged!) medical professionals and asked to try this ancient yet novel therapy.
Our practice grew and our reputation spread! This young idealistic couple, pouring passion into the iowa acupuncture clinic, and our patients rewarding us with referrals and their gratitude!
Knowing that the law needed to change, in 1998 we set about trying to do so. We contacted Iowa Senator Elaine Szymoniac and asked for sponsorship of a Licensed Acupuncturist legislation. This bill was modeled after the standard licensure that was passing all over the US and whose most important feature was the removal of the referral requirement. This effort took 3 years and its success lead to the expansion of acupuncture in Iowa. At present time, there have been almost 70 Licensed Acupuncturists approved in Iowa--a tiny but growing fraction of the thousands of acupuncturists in the whole US.