Recently I attended a panel discussion at Bastyr University's Practice Management class. 25 or so students, almost all with an open laptop in front of them, looking up at me and my three CAN colleagues with a difficult-to-read-gaze. The four of us did our best to inspire the next round of graduating 'punks, but I was having trouble deciding if it was just the fact that the class began bright and early at 8:00 a.m. or whether there had been some intellectual filter inserted by Big Brother Bastyr designed to keep such revolutionary ideas as community acupuncture from reaching their tender ears. It was as if they had been in school for four years and never had time to even once visit the CAN website and explore those rumors about what that community acupuncture thing was all about. To their defense, from what I hear, the study load is not for the faint of heart, so free time isn't in abundance.
I sipped my tea and shared my experiential cup with all my heart. There was a steady trickle of questions afterwards, but not the sort of excited (or confrontational) dialogues that I encountered in the same class two years previously. Nonetheless, one student came up afterwards and asked for my card and said she wanted to come see my clinic and another emailed a few days later and said he wanted to do a preceptorship at CommuniChi….so the revolution seeds continue to sprout and blossom, and bear fruit. A few days later, it's almost passed out of mind; now I am back at my clinic, feeling exultant after back to back shifts with a total of 43 patients.
Today I was thinking back to a day 9 years ago, fresh back from India, deciding to give the acupuncture “profession” another go. I was in another 'punks office doing locums work and she had two treatment rooms and expected me to treat….wait, brace yourself….two people an hour! Funny to think of what a big emotional hurdle that was for me to gain the confidence that I could actually treat two people an hour.
Last two days, the new normal is something like this: Five people scheduled in an hour and a half dozen people walking in without appointments….and somehow, I managed to see them all, reschedule most of them, and not miss a beat before the next hour rolled around when another four or five were scheduled.
And I'm certainly no one special in the CA world, I know my 'punk friends around the country are doing these type of numbers routinely without missing a beat.
There is something electrifying about doing this work…having the flexibility to build a community based business that is not tied to a rigid corporate model. During the panel discussion at Bastyr, one of the first questions that came up was about HIPAA which I quickly deflected….we don't do electronic transactions so therefore, officially we're not covered entities, and as for standard courtesy of having private discussions about medical information, it's easy to w h i s p e r, with white noise, and implement other easy solutions. Besides, I said, notions of privacy are mostly an middle-upper class value that is less strictly defined in working class families and in people who value community and sustainability.
One more thing that defines my new normal…something that polite society doesn't talk about, and that is difference – racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, language, age, ability, and maybe even immigration status. My people come from all walks (and wheels) of life. Today my day started off with an elderly lady of Japanese descent, followed by a Latino couple, a very dark skinned Somalian man and his mother, a Vietnamese couple, another Latino couple, a lesbian couple, a mixed race black and white couple, a veteran in a motorized wheel chair, and several unaccompanied white men and women sprinkled throughout. My old insurance based practice was about 98% white, and pretty monochromatic across the spectrum of difference – in other words, the privileged elite of American society.
Privilege has taken on a new meaning for me – a white male, with the rare privilege of working within a diverse, multicultural community, unlearning my own internalized racism and oppression through individual acts of health care service.
Thanks Lisa and Skip….thanks CAN….and everyone…keep on bringing it to the people!