I recently had a chance to sit down with Jasmine Stine, LAc, MAc to ask her about her journey, practice, and philosophy. Jasmine is a Five Element Acupuncturist and Clinical Herbalist in New York City who is passionate about sustainability, social justice, entrepreneurship.
Charles: Your specialties are working with chronic pain, with illness marked by personal upheaval (Anxiety, grief, PTSD, etc.), and special concerns of the LGBTQ community, as well as menstrual imbalance. Could we talk about how you found your specialties?
Jasmine: There’s a growing trend toward specialization, especially as a certain sect of the acupuncture community strives to achieve equal footing with Western Medicine. But I actually hope to be a generalist for as long as I can, because for me, that’s what it truly means to be holistic. I’m always hoping to hold people within context of their entire life, within their culture, within our society, with the current moment in time, and with the forces of nature. And I have no problem referring out if I think another practitioner is better suited or more experience than I am.
The specialties I call out on my website I call out because I see them as left orphaned by Western Medicine at the current moment. For example, in women’s health, there’s a well-developed branch of Western Medicine devoted to women’s health and so many really amazing doctors and nurses (my mother, two sisters, one brother and father are all practice in Western Medicine, by the way), but the prevailing model of gynecology in Western Medicine is one of domination: manipulating the cycle or making the body do things. Whereas Chinese Medicine really excels at helping the body regulate itself.
Western medicine excels at emergency care but continues to struggle to wrap its head around chronic pain, and the same with spiritual and emotional causes of disease. My father is an acupuncturist and a psychiatrist, by the way, and that was a big part of his draw to Chinese Medicine. He’s an excellent psychiatrist and still felt that there was something missing.
Regarding the concerns of the LGBT community, I plan to offer a course around this. I have had the great privilege of treating a number of transgender people, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to show them that I take their bodies, their choices, and their health concerns seriously.
Charles: Through your father, you’re a second-generation acupuncturist. How do you think that early exposure to Eastern medicine shaped the way you think about healthcare?
Jasmine: It wasn’t just my early exposure to acupuncture; growing up, both my parents were very spiritual. Their bookshelves were filled with books on Daoism, Buddhism, psychedelic writers like Carlos Castaneda. So, from a very young age, I had an understanding that there was more to wellbeing than just not having symptoms. That has continued to this day to profoundly impact my practice and medicine.
Charles: And then before becoming an acupuncturist yourself, you studied in India, you worked in an orphanage in Bangkok… Tell me how your trajectory has impacted your practice.
Jasmine: My career path was very, very non-linear. It was always driven by deeper by questions about who I am, who we are as humans, and what an upright life looks like: how we create meaning and how do I contribute to society. I think that serves me in clinic because I treat people from all walks of life; I can relate readily whether someone is a fisherman, an actor, or a CEO. I have entree into their world and how that’s contributing to the context of their wellbeing.
Charles: I’d like to talk about your business, Jasmine Stine Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine. Could you take me through the major steps you took to open up your own dispensary? And the challenges?
Jasmine: I was practicing in SOHO with a group of wonderful practitioners. I opened the dispensary just one month after I started practicing because the owner offered me a storage area -- so generously, because even a tiny little space in SOHO is worth a lot of money rent-wise. She really encouraged me to go for it, and I did. I started filling custom scripts for formulas and filling for other practitioners as well.
I developed my own label, looked for packaging, and bought a scale; it was great fun for me to get it all going. Kamwo, where I worked when I was in school, is also in New York. They do such a good job filling formula: they’re super-fast and have an easy online system. I didn’t have a lot of other customers at first, which was fine because I was very happy to be able to make my own formulas for my patients.
But then during quarantine, I was so busy filling formulas because all the major dispensaries where backed up by 2 weeks. All the sudden, I had this niche to fill. Not only could I fill for my own patients I was no longer able to see in person, but I was able to fill for other people as well, doing my part to keep the flow of formulas going to the really sick COVID patients.
It was awesome. It was absolutely worth it to have a dispensary just for that time alone. It saved me financially, and I think it saved a few peoples’ lives because their practitioners were able to get them granules in a timely manner.
Photos by Res, www.reslikeyes.com
Charles: I know you studied Community Development for Social Change at Hampshire College. With your background is social justice, can you comment on the opportunities that Chinese medicine present towards the goal of medical justice – making healthcare available to everyone, regardless of income, race, or sexual orientation?
Jasmine: Medical justice is such a deep, deep problem. Acupuncture school is expensive, but practicing doesn’t really doesn’t cost that much. Needles don’t cost much and chairs in a circle don’t cost much. Chinese Medicine is affordable, it’s preventative, it’s personal, it engages people in their own self-care, it’s non-invasive, it’s everything you could want for a healthy community.
Unfortunately, the cost of acupuncture is also going way, way up because the cost of schools is going way, way up. It’s one of my big concerns in terms of the integration of Eastern and Western medicine – I don’t want to see Eastern medicine go the way of Western medicine because Western medicine has so many problems around cost, billing, and insurance.
I accept insurance but I’d rather not. I’d rather our entire medical system be on a cash payment system. I'd rather we all be forced to have business models that reflect what is really reasonable for people to pay. If we’re not going to have socialized medicine, then we should at least have a medical system that is beholden to the same laws of the market as a donut or coffee. If it’s too expensive for someone to pay for it, then you’re making it too expensive.
The way I’ve made it work for me in NY is I have my private practice and then I also worked several days a week at an awesome community clinic called the Brooklyn Acupuncture Project that works on a sliding scale.
A lot of people don’t know that acupuncture in the United States has deep roots in community acupuncture. If you’re not familiar with the Lincoln Detox Program, it was one of the first acupuncture clinics in the US and it was organized by a group of Latino and African American liberation activists at the Lincoln Detox facility in NY. They basically developed the NADA protocol, which is now used all over the world. And Matulu Shakur, who was the acupuncturist there, inspired a generation of black panthers, black acupuncturists, and community clinic organizers. It was big in Chicago, with Fred Hampton’s chapter of the Black Panthers. They brought together a big Rainbow Coalition of rival gangs, different ethnic groups, and they started community health clinics.
There’s no denying that immigrant communities, black communities, and queer communities have been neglected and harmed by our culture of wellness. That starts all the way with food deserts and leads all the way up to inadequate care and through horrible chapters in our history like forced sterilizations and the ignored AIDS crisis. Because Chinese Medicine so takes an interest in the meaningful life that is promised to each of us, it’s just poised for community medicine.
In terms of next steps, I think the Chinese medicine community needs to get its act together around tuition costs. I want to see racial justice scholarship funds set up to make sure that people from diverse communities have the opportunities to go to school because they are in the best position to go back and treat people in their own communities.
When you’re starting out, it’s not easy. It’s a very entrepreneurial field. It’s really expensive to take the test, it’s really expensive to get licensed, you have all of these loans, then you have to go out and start your own business and be able to support yourself while you’re doing it. It’s class exclusive at this point. If you don’t have a financial safety net, no matter what your background is, it’s difficult [to get established].
I had a wealthy friend generously help me and make it possible for me. She has inherited wealth and decided to support me through school because I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own. It takes that kind of commitment from all of us to make sure our resources are being shared so people can follow the path they’re meant to follow and give the service they’re meant to give if we want to see our society turn around and be more just.
There has to be more diversity in our field. I’ve done a lot of anti-racist work myself, with myself and with others who are very, very passionate about the same issues, but we can as a profession be better informed about the medical history and experience of trauma in other communities. How to be sensitive to other communities and what their needs are, to understand how hard it may be to even come to me, a white practitioner, to bare themselves, to bare their issues and what bad experiences they may have had with medicine in the past so we can really support them and create a safe space for them.
Charles: My last question for you is do you have anything you’d want say to yourself when you were gearing up to begin a practice?
Jasmine: When you’re starting out, there’s a lot of pressure on should’s: it should look like this, it should feel like this, I should use this language on my website. What I would say is to set yourself free to be yourself. Be really sincere in what you’re putting forward, and the right kinds of patients will come to you. And seek mentorship and coaching. I love mentoring new practitioners and I really couldn’t have done it without my own mentors either.
To hear more from Jasmine, join us and Lhasa OMS on October 20th for her webinar on “Quarantine Shmorantine: How I Survived, Then Thrived After COVID Closed My Doors.”
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