Ah yes, the dreaded bio: do I really have to talk about myself in the third person?
RUSSELL BROWN, L.Ac., MTOM
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in journalism, I maintained a successful career in feature film development, working on such near-Academy Award-nominated films as The Fast and the Furious franchise, Not Another Teen Movie, and Cruel Intentions. (There were several lesser films, as well, that should be considered nothing less than crimes against humanity.)
I was really enjoying working in the film industry when one day at breakfast, I intentionally and shamelessly eavesdropped on the conversation at the table next to me where a woman was talking about acupuncture. Having never experienced it myself or even really thought about it, something in me sparked.
A door opened, and I knew I was being prompted to re-prioritize my life and dedicate myself to the betterment of others. If I had time to think about it, or do a pros and cons list, I never would have made the jump, but as it is, I enrolled at Emperor’s College of Traditional Chinese Medicine the next day and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master’s Degree in TCM four years later, and certified by the California State Board of Acupuncture shortly thereafter.
I have a fairly different attitude about this medicine than a lot of my peers. I’m not a hippie and never was. I’m a regular guy who was born and raised here in L.A. I have crow tattoos because I’m a “hipster cliche,” NOT because I’m a “pseudo-spiritualist.” I don’t own billowy yoga pants or lavender crystals and I’ve never heard a Caucasian person use the words “Namaste” or “Love and Light” in a way that doesn’t sound completely deranged. That said, I think this medicine is absolutely amazing, and is grounded in a lot more science than the woo-woo hippie-ness, faux-asian zen-ness, or strip-mall sketchiness that would personally make me uncomfortable as a patient.
I believe pain and disease are not simply an inconvenience but rather information: our body’s only way of telling our brain that we’re doing something it doesn’t like. Your discomfort is your body calling for help, and just taking a pill or injection to silence that call does not necessarily service you. I spent years eating lunch at my desk while working and having dinner after 9pm on-the-go, wondering why my stomach was a mess and my bowels were totally erratic.
Now I know that health and wellness are about education, slowing down our busy lives to pay attention to what’s happening, having compassion for ourselves -instead of the constant rut of beating ourselves up- and a bit of sense of humor about the whole thing, and not just sentencing our lives to pharmaceutical addictions and kowtowing to what insurance companies think is best.
I’m generally a little cynical and have a pretty grounded world-view, but I’ve seen acupuncture work, time and time again, and I love to be able to bring that miracle to people like myself.
Acupuncturists don’t typically “specialize” in schooling like western doctors but the areas I’ve had the most experience and enjoy treating are pain conditions, sports injury, stress-related conditions and emotional disorders.
ALEX BRUEHL, L.Ac., MTOM
I came to acupuncture via a circuitous route. After studying Medical Anthropology as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, I started a Ph.D. at Emory University, but left after earning my Masters, disillusioned with how much of what we learned never seemed to help anyone. I moved to Los Angeles and started working for the government, thinking I could do that job while I figured out what I really wanted to do.
It took a while. I did a lot of informational interviews in different fields, but nothing clicked. I developed a health problem for which my physician recommended invasive treatment, so I decided to try acupuncture instead. Serendipity brought me to Poke. As I lay there with my needles in, I thought, “What about doing this for a living?” I come from a family of doctors and I had spent a significant portion of my life studying other cultures’ medical systems. And acupuncture seemed to satisfy my more superficial needs (avoiding cubicles), but also my deeper ones (critical thinking, problem solving, an interest in health and medicine, and–most importantly–the ability to actually help people). Like Russell, I’m not a hippie or “pseudo-spiritualist” and I believe that having him as my practitioner allowed me to see myself in his shoes. I asked him to lunch and then peppered him with questions about the field.
Not long after, I enrolled at Dongguk University, eventually graduating summa cum laude with an MSOM degree and passing the California licensing boards a few months later. I’ll admit to initially thinking that some of the things I was learning in school were a bit strange, but I reminded myself, “This medicine has been used for thousands of years. People don’t do things that don’t work for thousands of years.” And, as I started my internship, I saw that it did work. Many patients’ issues were alleviated instantly, others took a little more time. But nearly everyone left feeling better than they had when they came in and it felt really great to be a part of that.
I believe in the effectiveness of both Eastern and Western medicine. Both can be powerful tools, and I’m a proponent of having as many tools in your toolbox as possible. My parents were both raised by Western medical doctors, so it took some convincing to make them realize that Eastern medicine is not some sort of voodoo practice. My mother, adorably, went to all the acupuncturists in their small town (there are three!) to learn more. This helped, but I could tell they were still worried. Then they talked to my uncle, a world-renowned gastroenterologist who is fascinated by the contributions of Eastern medicine to his field, and things swung in my favor. (Thanks, Uncle Steve!) This understanding, that both these medicines have their own merits and can work together, coupled with the belief that treating the root of the problem is the only way holistically address the outward manifestations of it, guide my practice.
También hablo español, si Ud. prefiere eso.