Rolly Brown_edited.jpg

Rolly Brown

transcript

July 8, 2021

ROLLY BROWN  

My wife, Janice MacKenzie, was practicing down in Delaware, where there was no law. No law said acupuncture was either legal or illegal. But she was practicing under the auspices of a doctor's office down there. And she and Lynn Mitchell, both were practicing there. They had both studied in England with J.R. Worsley, who is this influential acupuncturist in the West who developed a system of acupuncture--developed is a strong word, but he was interpreting acupuncture in a way that ended up being very friendly to Americans and Europeans as well. At that time TCM was trying to be very medically focused, so there was no recognition of the psycho-emotional aspects of acupuncture, which you could find if you look back. In the Dacheng, which was the 16th-century book that George Soulié de Morant ended up translating, there was a lot more stuff about the psycho-emotional aspect and the spiritual aspects of acupuncture. And the Chinese government wanted to sell acupuncture to the Western medical community, so they ignored all of that. Worsley focused on all of that--on kind of the spiritual aspect of it, and Americans suck that right up. We're very open to that. So he was very successful in doing that. 

 

Jan and Lynn both studied with him in England. The third person Nancy Post, who was the other acupuncturist who was heavily involved in getting acupuncture legalized, either studied in the last class that Worsley taught in England for Americans, or else, the first class of what became what was it originally called Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Maryland, which was a "five-element" school which is what everybody calls Worsley Style of Acupuncture, "five-element acupuncture," and the first school in America for it was run by this couple Bob Duggan and Diane Connelly in Maryland. 

 

Bob Duggan had been a Jesuit priest who left the order, but as is the case with Jesuits, he was very politically savvy, and probably did a good bit of advising, when Janice and Lynn and Nancy decided to try to climb this mountain, to try to get acupuncture legalized in this state. 

 

Jan and Lynn were practicing down in Delaware. In Pennsylvania, there was no law, but there was an attorney general's decision, which said that since acupuncture punctured the skin, it was a medical procedure, and could only be done by medical doctors. So that's where we stood around the time that they launched this campaign. 

 

LAN LI

Who was George Soulié de Morant?

ROLLY BROWN  

George Soulié de Morant is usually credited with having "discovered" acupuncture for the West. So he went to China and lived there. I forget what his purpose was in going there. He was kind of the first man in and he translated the Dacheng and brought it back to France. 

 

One of his students, or acolytes, was a guy named Albert Chamfrault, who was also considered very instrumental in bringing acupuncture from Vietnam because the French were in Vietnam. So, though, that was an early kind of part of how acupuncture came to the West.

 

LAN LI

That is so fascinating, that Vietnam is also part of this story. How did your wife Janice become interested in acupuncture? 

 

ROLLY BROWN  

It's a long story, but she had broken her leg when she was about 22 and had a lot of trouble, the joint had become necrotic. She became friends through a friend of hers with Diane Connelly, who was one of Worsley's students who had come to America, and her husband, Bob Duggan, who I mentioned previously. She got treated, and it really helped her leg. Then she got interested in becoming a practitioner. So she went to England, and that program was like a correspondence school. She went to England for a month at the beginning of it, and then she came back to the states and distant learning, with meetings down in Maryland, which is two and a half hours from here. She did meetings down there with Bob Duggan and Diane, they were kind of her advisors. Then at the end of the two-year program, she went back to England for six weeks, and they did an intensive six-week clinical training. Then she came back with a diploma. 

 

And at that time, there was no national commission for certification of acupuncture and none of that stuff that started happening yet. And so she was kind of left out here adrift, there was no legal way to practice in Pennsylvania. So she started practicing in Delaware, where she was under the office of a guy named Bob Hall, who was the doctor who I looked him up today and he's still down in Delaware somewhere. He's a homeopathy practitioner, but he's a medical doctor. I think he does family medicine. They kind of established a friendship with him, and were able to practice there, one or two days a week. At the same time, she was quietly seeing people in her apartment and in Philadelphia, we lived in West Philly at that time. 

 

That's when I met her. At that time she was doing that. Then it became clear that they were going to have to move towards getting acupuncture legalized. So at some point early on, there's a magazine, I'm forgetting the name of it, but it was kind of one of the chief natural medicine magazines at the time and they wanted to do an article on acupuncture and somebody sent him to Jan. She had this article done on her, it was the Rodale Press, the magazine was “Prevention Magazine” I forget what the name of the magazine was. And she instantaneously had a full practice. But she was still illegal. So they kind of banded together. 

 

Here's kind of where the rubber meets the road. Lynn had a client and I don't remember their name. It was a married couple, an older couple, and they were traveling down to Delaware to get treated. They were kind of, you know, complaining about it not being available in Pennsylvania, and so, Lynn and Jan and Nancy Post started this movement and they had this woman volunteer to go to her state senator, who is a guy named John Stauffer.

 

In the photo I sent you, sitting at the table, you have Dick Thornburg, the governor in the middle. On the right, you'll see Lynn, and on the left is John Strauffer. He was not only a state senator, but he was like the state senator, he was the leader of the Republican Senate. So he had a lot of clout. They started campaigning to get him to sponsor an acupuncture bill. So time gradually went by and this happened over the matter of a year or two. They formed an acupuncture organization, which at the time was called ASOP, Acupuncture Society of Pennsylvania, and started banding together this ragtag bunch of non-MD acupuncturists who were sneakily practicing in various places around the state, and organized them to have their clients reach out to the Senate to try to get a law passed. 

 

In essence, that's what happened. Eventually, with John Stauffer behind it, sponsoring it, because he was such a powerful political figure in state politics, they got a law drafted. And of course, it was a compromise. So at the time, the law went into effect. They were allowed to practice acupuncture, but they had to be under the direct supervision of an MD. This is where I'm sketchy, but even from the beginning, either, originally, that meant you had to be on-site, and then pretty soon after that, they got to change to be that the definition of being the "under direct supervision" just meant that you had to run all your records by the doctor and get his okay. 

 

At that time, doctors were not generally on board with acupuncture as a modality. They thought it was Voodoo. So it was still pretty difficult to do it legally. You could practice it, but you were supposed to have filled out paperwork and have a doctor sign it. We were lucky because there was a doctor here in Bucks County at that time, a guy named Sal D'Angio, and he became our supervisor. He's down in North Carolina now. For the first couple years, he was our supervisor because he was a student of Jan and all three of them Jan and Nancy Post and Lynn Mitchell, had all kind of taught layman's courses in five element theory and acupuncture. Sal D'Angio had studied with them, so he was very respectful of what they were doing. So he became our supervisor. 

 

You know, the truth of the matter is nobody paid much attention to whether we were getting all our little documents signed and whether every person who came in with a sore shoulder had to like you know, go see Sal for a medical examination and pop Blah, blah. But that's the way it was. When it was first passed, the scope was limited in the sense that you had to be under the supervision of a doctor. I don't even know when there might be people now who could tell you more about the current situation. Maybe Ben Griffith, who is one of the leaders. 



 

“The Bill”

 

ROLLY BROWN  

So, if you want more information on how the law changed over time, there grew up a kind of continuing lobbying effort to remove some of the restrictions. The guy who might know most about that is a guy named Ben Griffith. I guess he's the acupuncture chair at the Won Institute. He also was heavily involved in lobbying. He spent a lot of time in Harrisburg, which is the state capital, and organized the hiring of a lobbyist and all that kind of stuff. He might have a better record of what happened, say after 1995 or so or 2000.

Stauffer was a state senator in Pennsylvania. If you search if you Google, John Stauffer for the republican state, Senator Pennsylvania, you'll get a bunch of info on it. He was the Senate Majority Whip for several years. Then he was the Republican leader, which might be what you would be if you were the minority party. In any event, he was considered a powerful figure, which is how the whole thing happened.

 

LAN LI

How did Jan and Lynn approach him?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

One of Lynn’s clients was a constituent of Stauffer's, and so Lynn had the client approach him. Then we started a campaign, everybody talked to their clients, who are Pennsylvania residents, and asked them to write letters to Stauffer complaining about acupuncture not being available legally in Pennsylvania. So they started a letter-writing campaign. That gave him ammunition to draft the legislation.

 

LAN LI

What year was the photo that you sent me?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

That was 1985, I believe. The bill was signed in 1985. The bill stipulated that there would be regulations written, but then the states, you know, the state government or the medical board. They didn't create an Acupuncture Board. They put acupuncture under the Medical Board. And of course, the medical board wanted nothing to do with it. They were just stuck with it, so they dragged their feet for a couple of years about putting together regulations. So there was a long period of time where it was technically legal, but there were no regulations that defined how you could do it. So the medical profession was dragged, kicking and screaming, into this thing; they didn't want any part of it and in every way that they could obfuscate they did. 

 

LAN LI

Was there anything about moxabustion? Did Jan learn moxa? Was there anything in the legislation about moxa?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

There might be a way online for you to find a copy of the legislation. Janice saved reams and reams. There were 60 or 70 file boxes full of various kinds of correspondence from various parts of her life. That's not even to mention, her 40 years of client records that she saved. But for 35 years, nobody asked, so I'm throwing it out, you know?

 

LAN LI

Did you clear that out? All recently?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

She passed away in December. Little by little I've been trying to make inroads into an incredible amount of things, which came under the heading of what she considered her important papers. Those included everything from the most mundane correspondences from 1970, when she was in California for the Summer of Love to the latest treatment plan she had for teaching at the Won School and stuff like that. It's a whole, it's a whole life. And I can't save all of it. If you had gotten in touch with me, eight months ago, then I might have been able to find it. I'm not sure but I might have, but I know now that it's gone…

 

For a long time in Pennsylvania, there was no legislation about herbs. So people could do whatever they wanted to do. At some point, I believe, that has started to change. I'm not an herbalist; I'm just an acupuncturist. But I believe that there is legislation now. The National Commission was formed, right around the time acupuncture got legalized like around the mid to late 80s. The National Commission for Certification of Acupuncture is what it was originally called. Now, it's the National Commission for Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. So, when it was first formed, it was just for acupuncture. 

 

People like Bob Duggan and Mark Seem who was my teacher in New York, at Tristate College of Acupuncture and, and teachers from other schools around the country from the New England School of Acupuncture, those people kind of banded together, and got the ball rolling for there to be a national exam. There weren't that many states who were legalizing acupuncture. They knew that once those states started getting pressured to legalize, they would resist that pressure by saying, we don't have any way of judging what a competent acupuncturist is. So the people in the acupuncture education world moved towards getting a national exam, which would allow them to then say, "Oh, you don't have to know how to do it. There's a national board that does that." So that's when the national board was formed, which was a huge step forward in having acupuncture get more easily legalized in various states.


 

Tristate 


 

LAN LI

How did you and Jan meet? And were you already interested in Tai Chi before then?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

I had studied kung fu and Tai Chi in San Francisco, starting in the early 70s. Jan and I met because we were both part of the other hats I wear in the world that are most visible as a guitar player. When I moved to Philadelphia, I started frequenting a nonprofit coffee house that ran every week on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Jan was a volunteer there, she kind of helped. It was a cooperative, and some volunteers helped run it and did baked goods and helped set it up every week and stuff like that. So Jan was one of them. This was 1980, 80-81. She was just finishing up her studies in England. And part of that was that she had to take a lot of pulses. So every week at the Cherry Tree Folk Music Co-op, there would be around fifteen people who were regular volunteers, and they'd all have to line up and have Jan take their puzzles. 

 

LAN LI

That is so cool. 

 

ROLLY BROWN  

So she was writing down pulse descriptions. I met her through that, and we were collegial friends. I knew that she was studying acupuncture, and I'm not sure when she found out that I was studying Tai Chi. I lived in Australia for a year, and then when I came back, was when Jan and I got together and became a couple. That was 1983. By that time, Jan was successfully practicing when the article came out. She was a busy acupuncturist and after a while, we moved in 1985, out of Philadelphia into the country. Probably 1985 might have been the first year they gave the national boards. Jan took them that year. In 1986 I decided to go to acupuncture school. Jan was already in practice, so I kind of said "Would you find that threatening if I got into acupuncture too," and she said, "No, that'd be great." So, then I started a slow process. I started school in 1985 or 86, and I had to commute to Connecticut to go to school. I had like a 350-mile commute every week round trip because acupuncture wasn't legal in New York, so the school I went to which was based in New York, had to hold their classes in Connecticut

 

Mark Seem, who was my teacher, was very active in lobbying to get acupuncture legalized in New York. If you wanted to talk about that, the person to talk to would be Arya Nielsen, who's a very well-known acupuncturist and wrote one of the main texts on moxibustion in the United States.

 

LAN LI

I've made that drive from Boston to New York to Philly. Did you say that Mark Seem was running the school?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

Mark Seem was the co-owner of the school. It was originally called Tristate Institute of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, TSITCA, then later became a college. It was Tri-State College of Acupuncture. So I got my original certification from the earlier version, and I got my master's degree from the later version, from the college. And I taught there for 17 years.

 

LAN LI

Wow. Was the New England School of Acupuncture in Boston?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

Boston. They might have been even earlier like Mark had studied in Montreal with the Wexu family who was Romanian. It's Oscar Wexu. I'm not sure if it's his father and son or brothers. He had studied with them and they were running a distance program in New York. And when they moved back to Europe, the other students asked Mark (he was the most knowledgeable at that time) they asked him if he would run the program. So he started that, and that eventually became the school. And that school ran until about a year ago, Mark had a bunch of psycho-emotional problems. He had dropped out of running the school, around 2012, I think. Then about a year ago, or a year and a half ago, he was having a severe mental illness. He still owned the school, and he came back in and took it over and fired everybody in the school just died. It was a horrible thing for the students there. That school ran from, I think, from 1983 until 2019 or so. So it had a long life. 

LAN LI

This is just opening up all of these relationships and pockets of people. And when you're talking about this, Montreal and Romania, it's so transnational. It's like, how does this happen? Because most of the narrative about acupuncture starts with the New York Times 1971 or Nixon, and then some kind of percolating. Have you seen changes in acupuncture pedagogy and learning? Like, who has been taking these classes? 

 

ROLLY BROWN  

Here are some things I would say, randomly throw them out. When I first started studying, TCM was very invested in making TCM the official acupuncture of the United States. They were particularly campaigning for that on the West Coast, as it's closer to Asia. So the West Coast schools that started up were mostly very strictly TCM, while on the East Coast, the three main schools were New England School of Acupuncture, which was kind of pre-TCM, classical acupuncture, Tri-State, Mark Seem, you know, that mental illness was the flip side of his brilliance, he had a clear vision of what a lot of Americans were missing, which is the physical side of acupuncture. If you look at Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion by the Beijing Foreign Languages Press and look at how much information there is about palpation there's like one page on it out of the 600 pages of the book, because it was assumed in China that you would learn palpation hands-on so those books came to the United States, where people did not make that assumption. They just got all tied up in the in pattern discrimination Ted Kaptchuk's early book, The Web That Has no Weaver (which he later repudiated by the way) and they got all tied up in that vision of what TCM was. So on the West Coast, that was the big influence. 

 

Mark had studied with Michel Foucault, so he was coming from a very different place. And he ended up getting interested in Japanese acupuncture with Kikko Matsumoto, who is a very well-known Japanese acupuncturist coming down and teaching at the school. And she also taught a lot at the New England School, and around the country, but her acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture in general, pays much more attention to the phenomenology of the surface of the body, which TCM was pretty much ignoring. They were kind of, well get your ruler and seven inches up, that's where small intestine seven is. And the Japanese were teaching you how to palpate and feel for where the point might actually be. Mark became very interested in that, in what he called tender point acupuncture, which was, you could call it ashi points or whatever you want to. And in doing so, he ended up establishing a relationship with Dr. Janet Travell. 

 

Janet Travell was John F. Kennedy's cardiologist, but she also treated him for a lot of his myofascial problems. She’s the person who invented the term "trigger point." So, there are two very thick books on treating myofascial pain, which are the trigger point manuals. The whole idea of trigger point treatment to Mark was just a reinvention of what acupuncture already is, if you didn't follow that Chinese model, which essentially overlaid a very specific template for the body over what were never specific templates in the past. 

 

You see those old photos of acupuncture meridians, and it's, you know, a little guy who looks like the Buddha with a little belly and his hand up in the air, and there are dots, there are no measurements there, you know. So what TCM did was they overlaid this template over that and said, it's exactly one and a half inches from here. 

 

So, Mark was very against that and very into understanding treating at the surface level. One of his big points was, acupuncture may affect the body, mind, and spirit. But in the end, the entry point is the body. So you should understand as much about the body as you can, you know, and about. So there, he has several books, there's one called “A New American Acupuncture'', and there's one called “Acupuncture Physical Medicine”, which laid out his system. And largely, that's what I taught at the Won School for years, you know, in and I taught basic TCM theory, too.

 

LAN LI

That's so interesting, because one of the acupuncturists I talked to when I was in grad school in Boston, described himself as a Japanese acupuncturist and focused mostly on palpation, but I didn't make that connection.

 

ROLLY BROWN  

So, on the East Coast, you had the people at New England School, you had Mark who had this very clear vision of “we will teach you TCM so you will pass National Boards, but we're going to also teach you this: acupuncture, physical medicine.” And then in Maryland, you had the Worsley students who were absolutely pre-TCM, classical acupuncture, you know. If you look at acupuncture theory as having a constitutional component, where you treat the individuals' constitution, and also having a long history of books, which are prescription acupuncture: "If you have a headache, do large intestine 4," stuff like that, those are two kinds of opposites. They're like a yin yang relationship. They're, they're two sides of the same coin, but the proponents don't always agree with each other. So Worsley's school, what he called five-element acupuncture, was strictly constitutional, and he repudiated any prescription acupuncture. TCM is essentially prescription acupuncture. "Here's a bunch of symptoms. These symptoms; here are a bunch of points to use." It's a slippery slope, but there was a fine line between them.

 

So on the East Coast, you had constitutional acupuncture, myofascial acupuncture, Japanese Acupuncture on the West Coast you had mostly TCM, which I'm sure it's a simplification.

 

LAN LI

I would love to follow up and check out some folks on the west coast to see if they see that contrast as well.

 

ROLLY BROWN  

The Chinese government did everything they could to make it a TCM exam, but you had Bob Duggan, who was a former Jesuit priest, Mark Seem who was a political activist, and those people insisted on their views, and Japanese acupuncture being represented. So in the national boards, back when I was paying attention, it was like 70%, TCM, and 30% these pre-TCM classical modalities.

 

Lan Li  LAN LI

Do the board exams assume that anyone who trained would have some exposure to TCM and beyond?

 

ROLLY BROWN  

I think it was pretty much accepted that if you were going to pass national boards, you better understand TCM.

 

There's the Magic Tortoise System, and there's Astrological Chinese Medicine, and there are all these different approaches, each of which could be a separate system. So somebody could learn astrological acupuncture and never learn TCM. So what the NCCAOM did was set out a standard where you had to at least understand 70% of a 200 question exam was plenty to make sure you had an entry-level of knowledge of TCM and then also these other traditions were represented.

Dr. Rolly Brown is an acupuncturist, Tai Chi instructor, and guitarist. He is a National Guitar Fingerpicking Champion and a Philadelphia Music Award nominee from Bucks County PA. In his music career, Brown has been a solo performer, sideman, studio musician, radio producer, and teacher. Brown was instrumental in getting acupuncture legally approved in the United States.