On average a busy acupuncturist will treat between 1,000-2,000 patients in a year. Last year Oakland Acupuncture Project's two Oakland locations treated nearly 26,000 patients. They have been around since 2008 and just last October they opened their third location in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee's gleaming report of the new clinic has helped to already have them hustling. Being somewhat neighbors to Sacramento Acupuncture Project, I decided to gain some information on how things are going so well by asking Molly Fread some questions regarding their growth, patient response, and thoughts on how fellow Acu-Punks across the country are potentially spearheading a reform in the way Americans utilize healthcare.
Glossary Note: Punk = Community Acupuncturist (Simplicity and a redundant use of time tested systems are a key to the community acupuncturist's success... and acupuncture is rarely spelled correctly.)
1. How many Acupuncturists did you start out with and how many work there now?
Oakland Acupuncture Project was founded in 2008 by two acupuncturists, Whitney Thorniley and Roselle McNeilly (now of El Dorado Community Acupuncture in Shingle Springs, CA). In 2016 there are now nine acupuncturists staffing our three locations (two clinics in Oakland and one in Sacramento). We have seven full time punks and two part time punks, as well as a small crew of subs and one part time administrative assistant based in Oakland. Two of those acupuncturists are the current owners (Whitney Thorniley and Jeff Levin).
2. Did the founders ever believe that their vision of an acupuncture practice would expand so immensely?
Our 3 clinic locations gave a total of 26,678 treatments in 2015. It's probably safe to say that Whitney and Roselle never imagined their clinic would grow to serve that many patients and offer that many treatments eight years in. When they were just starting out, there was no such known Community Acupuncture clinic yet reaching those high treatment figures. Whitney and Roselle were intent on creating quality, living wage jobs for themselves as well as establishing a solid affordable community health resource in their community. In 2008 they were new business owners trying an alternative business model to the Western medicine norm of treating one patient at a time in a private room (and charging accordingly). However, every year since opening, starting with just a couple thousand treatments in year 1, our overall numbers have increased. In 2011 Whitney and Roselle were locally awarded the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and in that year we added a third owner (Jeff Levin) and our second Oakland location on Grand Avenue. In 2015 we launched our first office in Sacramento.
3. Can you explain a few of the reasons why your community acupuncture practice has grown to treating such high volume?
There is strength in numbers! Thanks to excellent management and HR, our staff has continually grown, which is how we can be open every day of the week and be accessible to so many patients. The fact that we have a sliding scale of $15-35 makes it possible for a wide range of our community to utilize our services, and over the years we've had great word-of-mouth around town and many referrals of family and friends. Our goal is to continue to hire capable, warm, compassionate, and energetic acupunks so that we can expand our hours and be even more accessible to the community.
4. With such a large patient base, you must be doing a lot of things right. What are a few of the most common conditions that your acupuncturists treat, and what are some of your secrets to success?
We treat a lot of low back pain, neck pain, arthritis, stress, anxiety, and depression, among many other things. Our key to success is letting patients know that acupuncture can work best for them when they can receive regular treatments, so sticking to a treatment plan and using the clinic regularly, and even multiple times per week when discomfort and distress is severe is how they will get the most relief. Being affordable and being open 7 days a week makes it easier for patients to get in when they need to truly feel better. Acupuncture is a wonderful pain and stress management tool, and it's empowering to patients to hear that they can come in whenever they need to, and that they can utilize acupuncture as a tool to improve their quality of life.
5. There are now over 150 community acupuncture clinics across the United States practicing community acupuncture that are recognized to meet the standards set forth by POCA. This organization and the community acupuncture model has grown despite some serious adversity, most notably from colleagues in the same field that do not practice in the community style, and also acupuncture publications and organizations. There is now a sense of "power in numbers" as community clinics are in most major cities and even many small towns too. Are there any thoughts you may have on Community Acupuncture's role as a leader in the reform of health care in our country?
When people can access healthcare, they do. Americans are chronically over-stressed, overworked, and underpaid. We POCA members strive to take down barriers to accessing care, and thrive on helping regular people in our lives and our communities to feel better using the simple, inexpensive, and effective tool of acupuncture. I'm very glad that the Redding area now has a local clinic to access and enjoy! Because as we say... the more people get acupuncture, the more people GET acupuncture. Try it real soon- you'll be glad you did.
Click on the links below for more information:
Oakland Acupuncture Project
Sacramento Acupuncture Project
Shasta Community Acupuncture
El Dorado Community Acupuncture
People's Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA)
To find a POCA (Community Acupuncture) clinic near you click here.