The image of China’s Barefoot Doctors struck a resonant chord with those in the West who were looking for simple and effective means of helping people with medicine that was not tied to an established medical hierarchy.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s acupuncture had not made its way from the Chinese communities into the dominant culture. And the early adopters of Chinese medicine were just beginning to find their way to the East where they’d learn the language and medicine.

It was in this time that the Black Panthers and Young Lords in their work in building community resources came across acupuncture. And began to explore its use as a people’s medicine. And that connected with the groundbreaking addiction treatment work at Lincoln Hospital in The Bronx. This aspect of the history of acupuncture in the West has received little attention, but it caught the attention of Rachel Pagones, and she’s written a book about it.

Listen into this “community voices” conversation between Rachel and guest interviewer Beth Sommers on acupuncture as revolution and this grassroots effort of community organization, self-care and acupuncture.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • How does our history exclude people who were significant in the development of our medicine in the USA?
  • The early days of acupuncture and Lincoln Hospital
  • Revolutionary politics, activism and medicine
  • The influence of Nixon opening up to China in 1972
  • The early days of endorphin research and acupuncture
  • POCA’s influence of social justice and accessible acupuncture
  • The image of the Barefoot Doctor, fact or fiction?
  • How people are responding to the book
  • Can we learn from history, so as to build and fortify our profession?
  • Ways in which small community programs can make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged
  • The inspiration that comes from genuinely helping others

Don’t try to treat everything at once with older adults. Focus your treatment, and focus on the qi.

Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator and author with a background in journalism. She was department chair of the transitional doctorate program of acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego – where she taught clinical research design, evidence-informed practice, and preventive medicine and public health and supervised a free acupuncture clinic for older adults – before moving to the UK in late 2021. She currently lectures in TCM Academy’s Oncology Acupuncture International Certificate Program.

Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire  — Catherine of Siena

Elizabeth Sommers PhD MPH Lic Ac is based in the Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities Program of Boston Medical Center. She is an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine in Family Medicine. She has published in the areas of acupuncture detoxification, health economics and HIV/AIDS.

She is currently co-editing a special issue on public health of the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine.

As a founder and former chair of the American Public Health Association’s Section on Integrative, Complementary and Traditional Health Practices, she currently serves on APHA’s Governing Council. She is committed to ensuring that healthcare including wellness is a right not a privilege.


Links and Resources

You can purchase Rachel's book Acupuncture as Revolution at Barnes & Noble, the Big River of Books or order it through your favorite local bookstore.

You can visit Rachel on Twitter
Beth is also on Twitter

More resources for you to dive deep into this history:
Dope is Death podcast and documentary – Director Mia Donovan.
Dr. Tenisha Dandridge, L.Ac. teaches a Racial Justice and East Asian Medicine series.
Eana Meng, a Harvard researcher, wrote a paper titled, “Patients in Pain: The Rise of Acupuncture in the Opioid Epidemic.”

Pain and Opioid Use: Evidence for Integrating Acupuncture Into Treatment Planning – Elizabeth Sommers, Sivarama Prasad Vinjamury, Jennifer Noborikawa, 2021 (


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