The Lenses We Look Through

courtesy Larry Miller/flickr Page A13 of today's New York Times has an article about St. John's College, a rather unique Great Books program. The thrust of the article is to illustrate how St. John's professors -- referred to as "tutors" -- are expected to teach every discipline, regardless of their own specialty. As an example, the article features Dr. Sarah Benson, an art historian, who is currently teaching mathematics -- via Euclid.

The Times article says "students who attend St. John's...know that their college experience will be like no other. There are no majors; every student takes the same 16 yearlong courses, which generally feature about 15 students discussing Sophocles or Homer."

I mention this article for two reasons. My daughter is a freshman at St. Johns College, and is finding the experience to be uniquely mind-expanding.

I can already hear the changes in her thinking; for example, in a recent telephone discussion about how her younger sister's classmates feel that American imperialism is in all cases justified, daughter #1 bursts out indignantly: "But what about Virtue? Don't they even consider that?"

In my mind, I laughed, then applauded.

The second reason is that this article brought back memories of my own undergraduate education, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University (of Oxford, Ohio, thankyouverymuch). Cloistered on its own campus (the former Western College for Women, at which my mother was an assistant dean), the School of Interdisciplinary Studies taught us in much the same way that St. John's College trains my daughter today. Frequent, small discussion classes, only barely run by the professors, punctuated by more formal seminars, at which the academics of the College presented insights from their own disciplines, viewed through interdisciplinary lenses.

There was one class, however, which became for me an intellectual satori. I spent a semester studying the relationship between Picasso's Cubism and Einstein's theory of relativity.

It was team taught by a physicist and an art historian, and we all learned together, studying the works of Picasso and Georges Braque, and reading Einstein's original works. And somewhere, through the heat of that challenge, I emerged a changed man. Somehow, my lenses had shifted, and I never looked at the world in the same way again.

The School of Interdisciplinary Studies is long gone, replaced by a sub-department within a department, but I am glad to see that schools such as St. Johns College continue to educate men and women who will be capable of gazing out onto the landscape of culture and ideas and see things to which others are blind.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

And the Answer Is...

Last Friday, I issued the first DocAltMed IQ Test, with a reward of 10% off any supplement purchase from our Dispensary. The question was:

What institution provided the first acupuncture education for doctors in the U.S.?

Before revealing the answer, I would like to first thank the many competitors who submitted a response. Your answers were thoughtful, informed, and well-researched.

This was a difficult question to answer, however, because of the many competing claims for "first." For example, one organization claims that it "has the unique distinction of being the first acupuncture course for physicians in North America," by virtue of its first course in 1979.

Wikipedia, in a marvelous display of acupuncture misinformation, reports on no postdoctoral programs whatsoever. Of course, that Wikipedia page is so filled with half-truths and innuendo that only about every third word is believable. (Overall, I have found that when it comes to Wikipedia, the entries on alternative medicine are dominated by a few skeptics lacking any credibility (and also, presumably jobs, since it would appear that their main calling in life is to disseminate crowdsourced falsehoods)).

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncturists was presented to me as a possible candidate; however, it was not formed until 1987, and restricts training and membership to a subset of physicians, as only MDs and DOs are eligible. DCs, despite being physicians, are not participants in the AAMA.

The physicians who practice acupuncture the most are chiropractic physicians, and may be board certified by two agencies. One is the recently-formed ACA Chiropractic College of Acupuncture, and the other is the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture (I am a Fellow of the latter organization, through which I obtained my postgraduate education). Interestingly, the chiropractic interest in acupuncture extends  way beyond James Reston's re-introduction of acupuncture to the West, as I described in my earlier post.

In fact, the modern founder of chiropractic, DD Palmer, mentions acupuncture in his 1910 textbook, The Art and Science of Chiropractic. Other investigators since that time have noted the coincidence of chiropractic manipulation's success with visceral diseases, and the presence of acupuncture points along either side of the spine which can influence those very same conditions. From 1910 until 1972, however, acupuncture utterly disappears from the printed page in the U.S.

It is not terribly surprising then, that chiropractors be among the vanguard of doctors who adopted this new and powerful technique. Thus, it was at the Columbia Institute of Chiropractic, in New York, which began the first postgraduate program in acupuncture in the fall of 1972. Columbia has since become New York Chiropractic College, and has moved from the city to beautiful Seneca Falls, NY.

Dr. John Amaro, founder of the IAMA, recalls it this way:

"I am personally proud to have been in that very first acupuncture certification program which was taught by masters of acupuncture who were physicians from the United States, Great Britain, The Republic of China and Japan. As few early Asian educators of acupuncture spoke English the lectures and demonstrations were translated. Chinese acupuncture practitioners from Communist People's Republic of China would not begin the introduction of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the United States for as much as an entire decade later when communication was established. Virtually all acupuncture in North America from 1972 to 1982 was performed through Japanese or Taiwanese "Meridian Style" influences. Likewise, virtually all acupuncture in North America was performed by chiropractic and medical physicians as "acupuncturists" as a profession would not become a reality until the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture was established in 1985.

The Chiropractic profession had always taken the lead in acupuncture education and certification. Even though the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture would not become established until 1985, the State of Arizona established Board Certification in Acupuncture through the Arizona State Board of Chiropractic Examiners as early as 1983."

So, interestingly, not only did the chiropractic use of acupuncture predate any other health profession, but chiropractic doctors were the first to properly certify and regulate its members who practice the art, a full 4 years before the medical profession even started to form its acupuncture college, and 2 years before the acupuncture-only profession was created. Today, over 35,000 chiropractic doctors practice acupuncture.

Surprised? I thought you would be. Chiropractic is full of interesting history which is rarely reported or discussed.

Thank you very much to all who participated, and since nobody won, everybody is eligible to participate in next week's Alternative Medicine IQ Test.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.