Probably the longest break from my blog so far. Apologies. Here for you is a copy of the latest news letter from ACMAC about the affordable acupuncture I have been doing. Love you guys!
Damien Bodnarchuk is an ACMAC member and practices from Bondi Beach Not-for-profit Community Acupuncture Clinic.
Interviewed by Charlotte Whitestone.
CW: Hi Damien. Could you start off by telling me a little about yourself and how you came to be practicing acupuncture?
DB: My name is Damien Bodnarchuk. I studied at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) where they have the
Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine 4 year
undergraduate degree. This has been at this university for over 15
years. I graduated recently but have always been involved with working
with humans and health! I have a love of yoga and gained a diploma in
yoga and taught for a few years prior. Basically I wanted to focus one
on one with people. When I found out that Eastern medicine was being
taught in a Western context at university, it blew my mind! It gave me
an alternative medicine to work one on one with people with a mainstream
path. I couldn’t resist the combination!
CW: When did you first open your clinic?
DB: I wanted to jump straight into community acupuncture as I wanted
to treat as many people as possible. I first opened my community clinic
in June 2011. I was inspired by the ideas of ‘community and treatment’.
Community is what truly inspired me in the context of not for profit:
reaching out to those who needed it. I decided to go with a full
community ideal. I actually wrote a blog entry: “Community acupuncture:
the McDonalds of Acupuncture?” to try to whip up some interest and
opinions about it, but it didn’t get any comments! I was comparing a
business model to a not-for-profit model. What cemented the
not-for-profit angle for me was the fact the location I had found was
an old church building set up as community healing centre and they
weren’t charging me any rent. So I decided to charge $29 for each
appointment and donate to the church organization – I was treating
one-to-one. It wasn’t too soon after this that I got an angry phone call
from a multibed clinic in town saying I couldn’t use the words
‘community acupuncture’ and that I was stealing their idea etc. Yeah, I
know drama from our own kind! Anyway I told them not to worry as it was a
totally different angle anyway and never heard back.
CW: What kind of experiences did you have getting off the ground?
DB: The setting was an amazing place. The congregation was too small to keep the church going but the religious group
decided to use the space as a healing centre. High ceilings, stained
glass windows and that amazing peaceful feel a church has… Actually it
was a bit too peaceful! I was treating one patient an hour and soon I
was in the back room. Still nice surroundings and I would contemplate
the world in dusty coloured sun-beams… Anyway after about 3 months I was
getting some regular patients on the hour. I would get some patients
who would travel for an hour to get there. Actually I realised that
maybe more bargain hunters were coming instead of needy types! I
discovered a definite flavour of these patients too. Details. Detailed
questions. Detailed responses. One patient would record a diary of all
their post-acupuncture reactions for the week after treatment and
present it to me before his next treatment. Oh my gosh! Luckily he would
record what movies he saw too. Thank goodness we could talk about them
Even though this place was a great premises I decided to approach
another church, in Bondi Beach, run by the same religious group. It was a
bit closer to where the action was. Eventually the minister there could
see the benefit of a potential increase in the numbers of people
visiting his church. From the beginning of January 2012 I started at
this new premises with a new approach. Here I offered $5 acupuncture
treatments. Again for the first 3 months it was fairly slow going with
mainly eccentric types coming in to find some peace off the street. The
minister sent out a group email to a years-old database and I had a few
people turn up. From this time onwards I picked up some momentum. My
first busy day people were waiting for me before I got there.
CW: What kind of model do you use?
DB: The way I set it up was on tables in an open room. One booking
every 15 minutes, which I stuck to with the other practitioner working
there too (very busy when I was on my own for a while!) I was also
approached by an on-line booking company and we did a free trial for a
period of time to try it out. Great idea, but the majority of my
patients had very little computer access or computer literacy. This took
me by surprise and mainly the on-line bookings were not used by
CW: What kinds of conditions and patients do you treat?
Bondi Beach Not-for-profit CA Clinic
DB: At the Bondi Beach place I began treating some exceptional cases.
People who had slipped through the medical system because of lack of
finance or psychological issues. I have treated 100s of cases now.
Flicking through the patient cards I can see mainly back pain, shoulder
and knee pain. Some very complex cases of ear and nose issues with
additional issues such as dry mouth, digestion problems. The exceptional
cases included the worst psoriasis case I had ever witnessed, even
worse than in the text books, the main areas effected being knees and
elbows and general body but with a thick crusting. Other stand-out cases
included a shocking ascites case due to ovarian cancer, and a post
breast cancer patient who stopped taking her medications. I had plenty
of patients with psychological issues too, like schizophrenic cases. I
would treat the symptoms from the medications, usually nausea, fuzzy
brain sensation etc, Sp diagnosis and underlying Kd xu (fear). Anxiety
and stress, some depression cases. I treated one head scar, post
operation, very successfully. Her hair was regrowing fully after weeks
of not growing back. Mainly I just met awesome people who appreciated
any help at a low cost.
CW: How has your clinic developed since the early days, and what have you learned that you didn’t know you didn’t know?
DB: After getting up to treating 20 patients in an afternoon I was
pretty happy with the experiences and development of cases. I was
presuming something though. One day I had a very well-off patient booked
in and other people were waiting. As I honoured bookings over walks in I
treated her but I wasn’t happy. The reason why I was charging $5 was so
that people who couldn’t afford acupuncture could get a treatment!
Suddenly I realised that anybody was getting a treatment! It hadn’t
occurred to me that even people with money would bother to get a $5
treatment if they could afford a regular price. Yes they would! This
developed another re-think. Also I’d put an advert out for another
practitioner to help out (a more involved process than you would
realise! But an awesome person came along to play). From this point on,
instead of $5 treatments with all proceeds going to charity I decided to
develop a pricing system and also develop some income for the clinic
and donate to charity. I doubled my prices! $10 for concession treatment
(proven with a concession card) and $29 for full income.
CW: And what happened?
DB: Numbers dropped! 3 months later I had a third of the number of
patients and maybe one waged patient attending and I let the awesome
person who joined me go. Currently I have put the clinic in recess to
re-evaluate! In the end I think the location dictated a charity-type
feel for the patients coming. So people didn’t mind getting $5
treatment, which included a lot of needy people. However paying $10 was a
bit of a stretch for people with no money at all! Anyway that is my
CW: What really makes you buzz about your clinic?
DB: One of the things I enjoyed the most about the way the clinic was set up was the casual relaxed atmosphere.
A deserving patient receives treatment
Not running it as a business created this. I would rarely get
demanding patients and if I did I would keep it pretty casual. If they
didn’t show up again it wouldn’t really matter. Sometimes I would put my
favourite radio station on and listen to whatever I liked in the
moment. Awesome people would turn up and swap playing the piano in the
room for a treatment and other types of practitioners would come along
to practice. After a while we had a person doing energetic healing, two
massage people (one doing Swedish massage, who was from Sweden-can’t
avoid mentioning that), someone else doing Qi Gong and meditation. A
very creative and progressive atmosphere developed. Soon my vision of a
room full of people getting treatments went way beyond what I had
imagined. It was a room full of patients and different types of
Most patients felt great. Some returned a dozen times or more. Some
definitely stating the positive effects from repetitive weekly
treatments that they would not be able to normally afford. The clinic
also afforded a lot of flexibility. One patient I will never forget had a
knee pain issue. After the fifth treatment I’d done with no effect we
started playing with different ideas. I was able to play with some
theories and deducted a kidney issue. After normal local and distal
kidney points I decided to do the radical Kidney 1 point with a
grounding kidney theory; according to Deadman there are some pain
treatment associations for Kd 1 too. So in this generous and flexible
space I tried it. No problem. A point I had never done outside of uni
became a semi favourite! In the end I used this technique for a handful
of patients, mostly ungrounded types with a sense detachment or
disassociation. Anyone who seemed ultra-spaced actually!
CW: What has your experience been of fitting the community
acupuncture model into mainstream healthcare and/or mainstream
DB: Initially I tried to tie the clinic to the university I graduated
from. The idea being they could support me with their name and students
could attend the clinic as a stepping stone to their own clinic. After
talking to the head of the faculty and getting a maybe I ploughed on and
addressed a meeting of faculty representatives for the Chinese medicine
faculty (mainly teachers) through a letter but nothing got up. After
that I also tried to engage the professional association of which I am a
member and active committee member, with the idea of community
acupuncture. As a committee member I tried to put this on the agenda but
after two meetings it got bogged down and then fizzled as an idea.
Currently the committee is addressing an idea that a new member has
suggested: treating in a highly medicalised setting through an
established charity for free. The emphasis being that university
student-mentoring may be established more easily in a state-of –the-art
medical setting. Personally I am also pursuing treating at the
Aboriginal Medical Service Co-Op in Redfern, but this is turning out to
be a very long, drawn-out committee-based process!
CW: And how have other practitioners responded to what you’ve been doing?
DB: Most of the response has been very positive. I deliberately made
sure people knew I was treating mainly concession patients at a low
rate. This was to make sure other practitioners in the area knew they
weren’t being under-cut. I heard one response about ‘training for years
not to treat cheap’, but I only heard that through a third person. I
presume they didn’t realise it was mainly concession treatments. CW:
Do you think community/multibed practice is transforming the provision
of Australian acupuncture, or is there some way to go?
DB: The original people I checked out now have 4 multibed clinics
around Sydney. They are expanding their business. A lot practitioners
love the idea of community acupuncture as a not-for-profit as well.
However when I put a email out on a well known database in Australia
asking for help (maybe 2000 Chinese medicine practitioners on it) I got 5
responses about volunteering to do acupuncture. It only occurred to me
then that this was more of an exception than I’d thought!
CW: Why did you join ACMAC?
DB: When I saw ACMAC I thought it would be great to align myself with
a bunch of people doing something similar and I must say you
[Charlotte] have been a beacon of positivity.
CW: Why thank you!
DB: I wear my ACMAC t-shirt with a lot of pride. Straight away there
was support, fun and a sense that I was not so independent. Probably my
greatest fear is that acupuncture can be a lonely process. It’s you and
your patient, and then you and your next patient, and so on. There’s not
much camaraderie and in fact I think there is a lot of competition!
With the community aspect you can have a go and if someone else wants to
have a go you let them as you are not competing for a dollar. You are
collaborating to the end goal of helping patients and each other. That
is the beauty of it, and along with it your mind and heart are expanded
by looking through someone else’s eyes.
CW: Well, that’s what I think is important too. By collaborating we
can be stronger as individuals and as a movement. Your work sounds great
and I wish you all the best in the future. Thanks for sharing your
story with us, Damien.
I have been running around and now I have some time to give you an update!
This is me in a sequined red bow tie..! Thanks to the clinic manager at Gp on Ebley. This was for fashion forward Friday!
Not for the squeamish! During a break in tutorial I was teaching ( the professor had gone next door to do one on one point location) we had some down time. Just so happens I brought along some 6 inch needles to play with. What a brave year! Two people did self acupuncture with a through and through technique from St 37 to Bl58. Good for shoulder pain.
Showing how much of the needle has gone in
Here we have a brave student!
Needle all the way in
Just about poking through on the other side, through the calf muscle (bump in middle of calf muscle)
Gosh, during some slight stress recently and changeable weather conditions I picked up a nasty cough. Slightly productive from a dry start. Had for over a week now! I am my own worst patient and did nothing about it. I especially didn’t want all the western mixtures for it, although it was generously offered to me by the practice nurse where I am working in the medical surgery.
I spoke to a TCM practitioner friend of mine and he offered for me to try some China import herbs he had in his dispensary. They are in tablet form. Surprisingly its is one herb: Gan Cao or liquorice.
I have been taking them and they have been extremely effective in taking the phlegm out of my cough and therefore reducing irritation and reducing my cough. I love them!
Yesterday was the second week I practiced from Bondi Beach with the not for profit communal community acupuncture experience!
Here a stream of thought overview:
Sunlight, warm weather. I got in at 12pm with two people waiting. Saying hello re-arranging the tables and chairs and setting up my massage table. Only one table due to organising difficulties. Using floor for as second table!
First patient calls daughter to come for treatment. Another person arrives. Take out needles of first 2 people and start new person. People coming and going in the open room. I make a cup of tea. A lovely girl from Germany turns up. Met before: she is on a mission to learn about acupuncture. No problem. Get permissions for her to observe and she happily chats to the next patient as he is face down on the table getting acupuncture. I’m treating his tiredness.
Daughter of first patient arrives. She has viral conjunctivitis, just like one of my patients from last week! Guess what? Turns out by coincidence she is a doctor too, just like the patient last week! I do the same treatment around her eyes and she is on the towel on the floor face up. The only available space.
Soon another patient. Girl with a fairy tattoo on her back, in tow her blond haired 10 year old son who starts to open my needle packets…Thanks for the help, but I don’t think I need that assistance right now! Haha. 9 patients later Lance and his dog Elvis turn up at 5pm to start their group for environmental sustainability (Transitions Bondi, here's their link: http://www.transitionsydney.org.au/tsgroup/transition-bondi). They both need a treatment. No problem…
The lovely person from Germany, Lance(on the ground) and Elvis the dog getting acupuncture at Bondi
I saw my viral conjunctivitis patient again. She stated, “It’s worked!”,
I felt a little bit under stress with my last patient, who was also a doctor. I decided to go for a rather dramatic treatment with some close to the eye acupuncture points.
I’m very happy to say that this patient got a lot of relief the next day and signs and symptoms had cleared up for her. This was great as she was in a lot of discomfort.
As we chatted she reflected that when she has had the issue in the past it would take 2 weeks to clear up. I saw her on day 5 of her condition and it was all ok by day 6. That’s a reduction by half the time of recovery. Overjoyed!
Also I didn’t give her a black eye. Double bonus :P
Another week and another momentous amount of discovery as I forge on to be a great positive, courageous, outrageous success at what I do in Chinese medicine!
Firstly I had a lovely patient who came in to clinic. Brand new business owner under all sorts of financial and business pressure. Ouch. He came in for a chat and I decided to do an acupuncture treatment for him. The day before he got a check in the same clinic, that I work in, with one of the doctors. His blood pressure was through the roof! I mainly did calming points and some well known blood pressure points.
Like “hunting a tiger”. Why do I say that? I’m always trying to broach that gap between theory and reality in Chinese medicine. What is reality in Chinese medicine come to think of it!? Ha ha. It depends… The patient came back to clinic the day after for a follow up with the same doctor and I happened to be in clinic too. What do you know? He isn’t on meds and his blood pressure was dramatically reduced. I chatted to the doctor about it. We like it!
Another lovely patient came into clinic. This time a doctor as a patient. Me: a little bit nervous. We chatted. Turns out this person has a bad case of viral conjunctivitis, both eyes. In fact I could clearly see it. The redness and the discomfort was obvious.
As you would expect with any professional, they follow their profession, as would I. Anyway after using steroid drops and so on the eyes were still very uncomfortable. What do I do? Well firstly the face is a tough place. I know some people who can’t go near the throat, let alone the face. However luckily for me one of my most constant patients at the UTS clinic when I was at university as a student was a face patient. They had terrible jaw pain that I was constantly treating them each to give them relief. Back to the doctor. I decide to go for all the indicated points for such a case. Mainly around the eyes. Ever done Stomach one? It’s above the eye socket bone, in the hollow below the actual eye. I suddenly realise I am doing this to a doctor. “What is the mechanism for this and that”, “How can you prove that a meridian is real?”.
Anyway I went for it. I did Gall Bladder 1, Stomach 1. Actually I backed out of Bladder 1. I decided on Bladder 2 as I have read that this can be just as effective. I did go through informed consent with the fact that there maybe micro bruising though… I hope that there isn’t a black eye..! After I put the needles in I left, but turning off the lights as requested, poor old Liver energy stress. When I came back in to check there was deep snoring. All was well. I’ll have to give you and update of results next week!
There is a group of people who really want to close down alternative medicine in Australia.
This is influenced from the UK, which has closed public funded alternative medicine Uni courses.
Now the article claims there may be a rethink with private health funds and rebates in Australia, as English medical insurers have removed rebates for alternatives.
With Euro austerity measures developing there are bound to be cuts.
It would be great to see more open mindedness at these times of change though. What will help? Relying on just one way of thinking similar to a monoculture or broadening vision and using as many dynamic points of view as possible to develop and respond?