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National University’s Part in Acupuncture History

AcumanAcupuncture and oriental medicine comprise the oldest codified medical system in the world, effectively treating over 300 health conditions according to the World Health Organization. In honor of "Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day" this October 24th, National University of Health Sciences is celebrating its unique role in United States acupuncture history.

National University currently offers masters degree programs in both acupuncture and oriental medicine.  Both programs started in 2006, leading many to believe that National University is relatively new to acupuncture education. However, National may actually be one of the oldest acupuncture schools in the country! National played a small but historic role in the introduction and spread of acupuncture practice in Illinois and the United States. In fact, National was the first educational institution in the country given state government authorization to offer an acupuncture education program in 1972.

America became fascinated with acupuncture in 1972 after President Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China. With Nixon's trip, news reports brought back intriguing accounts about life in modern China, including its successful use of acupuncture to treat a host of medical conditions.

But even before Nixon's trip, National was already beginning to discuss whether or not to make acupuncture part of its curriculum. "In 1970, National's faculty, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Janse, engaged in a two year clinical study of acupuncture which, upon conclusion in 1972 led the institution to begin teaching this health science system to its chiropractic students and to graduates of National College of Chiropractic," says President James F. Winterstein of NUHS, who, at the time was one of the patients in the acupuncture study.

Acupuncture was added to National's post-graduate curriculum in 1972, and included in the regular doctor of chiropractic curriculum in 1974, long before most of today's current acupuncture schools were even founded.

Additionally, it was a team from National that lobbied state legislatures and chiropractic associations around the country to include acupuncture under the scope of practice for chiropractic physicians.  This ultimately made it legal for chiropractic physicians to perform acupuncture in many states. This did not pose any threat or competition to acupuncturists at the time, since in the 1970s, an organized, licensed acupuncture profession did not yet exist. However, the lobbying efforts did succeed in thwarting efforts from allopathic organizations that sought to have acupuncture defined as a surgical procedure. "If groups like the American Medical Association had its way in the 1970s, nobody would be able to do acupuncture today except an MD or a DO," recalls Dr. Winterstein.

Still Making History

Today, National's new master's degree programs are making their own history. The programs maintain some of the highest admission standards in the country, requiring completion of a baccalaureate degree - the only acupuncture and oriental medicine programs in Illinois to do so.

The campus integrative medical clinic boasts a full Chinese herbal dispensary, as well as a clinic wing devoted to acupuncture and oriental medicine. National's acupuncture and oriental medicine students have access to the full educational facilities of a major health science university, including a cadaver-based anatomy lab.

In 2012, National forged an innovative partnership with Cook County's John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital allowing NUHS interns on rotation to offer acupuncture as part of an integrative medical team in the hospital's pain clinic.

"We will continue to work for the increased integration and use of acupuncture and oriental medicine in our nation's health care system, with the goal of improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs," says Dr. Winterstein.



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