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Becoming an Experienced Acupuncturist by Volunteering in India

by Brad Whisnant

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain.

One Day Closer (ODC) operates nationally and internationally providing free health care. ODC works in conjunction and collaboration with all types of health care providers. With our non-profit status, donations, and generous sponsors, we are starting to take free acupuncture and Chinese medicine to the world. At ODC, we seek to educate, remove obstacles to health, and give free health care to those in need.

"Is it just the heat or did I just walk into an oven?" I asked my friend as we stepped off the plane in India. "Oh, get used it, its September, it doesn't cool down In India till November." she replied. So began our journey into the heart of India to treat the untreated masses.

This trip was the inaugural voyage of One Day Closer (ODC), a non-profit that provides acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to those in need. We had raised over $44,000 in herbal supplies from Evergreen Herbs, another $8,000 in cash, and 400,000 needles from Helio. Our community generously supported this endeavour; we asked companies, schools, teachers, friends, families, and we even donated ourselves. We took numerous seminars to help us with all the difficult situations we would see.

This was going to be my first experience providing acupuncture and herbal treatments outside of my home country, America, and outside of the clinical setting of my school. Ripe from the spoils of our graduation ceremony, we were sky bound to Repalle, India for a 3-month Acupuncture/Herbal free medical camp. Repalle, a town in southeast India, with a population of 100,000, was about to receive their first ever acupuncturists. A fellow student had brought to our attention the lack of day-to-day medical services. An intense need for medical assistance coupled with our passion to give back for the incredible skill we had learned, drove us to commit to a 3-month stint.

The first day? Overwhelming, simply overwhelming. The river of people flowed down the dusty, dog-ridden street. The simmering heat cooked the open sewers so the sweet sticky scent shrouded the crowd. Shoulder to shoulder people stood, reporters lingered, all anticipating the first day of free acupuncture treatment. People were everywhere, upstairs, downstairs, sitting on ledges, crippled, sitting down, and mothers holding their children, kids were crying, almost to the point of insanity. A rainbow of conditions confronted us, from headaches to paralysis, to seizures and cerebral oedema. Regardless, we had made a commitment that we would not turn anyone away; no one would be refused treatment regardless of their condition or caste level. Seeing the hope lifting the snakes of despair from their bent backs, I cried for the first time in 15 years.

During one of the 30 day medical camps we treated numerous medical problems. Here are just a few:

  • Auto-immune Disorders
  • High & Low Blood Pressure
  • Seizures
  • Poor Circulation
  • Infertility
  • Peripheral Neuropathies
  • Constipation & Digestion issues
  • Paralysis, Stroke, Bellís Palsy, Hemiplegia
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Asthma, Allergies, Respiratory Disorders
  • Diabetes with poor wound healing
  • Hyper/Hypoactive thyroid
  • Cardiac, Pulmonary, & Immune disorders
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Pain - burning, numbness, tingling, acuteÖyou name it.

We worked 6 days a week, and worked in two shifts. We treated from 9am to 12pm. We took a break from 1pm to 3pm. Then we returned at 3pm and treated till 6pm. In the evening we would review cases, strategize for the next day, and then fall fast asleep from a hard dayís work.

During one of the 30 day medical camps we treated numerous medical problems. Here are just a few:

After the first 3 days treating 180 people each day, our bodies wracked with physical and mental exhaustion, we realized our roles had morphed from the academic acupuncturist to a two-person hospital: emergency paramedic, family physician, gastroenterologist, nutritionist, physical therapist, and counsellor. We educated people about basic hygiene and sanitation, food preparation to avoid E. Coli and infection, proper dressing of wounds, and basic first aid; We had truly become "doctors" in the original sense of the word; the original Latin word meaning Doctor as "Teacher".

Some of our treatments were conventional TCM, such as Zusanli (ST 36) for Stomach Pain, or Neiguan (PC 6) for Nausea. But the unusual variety of illnesses demanded our flexibility; Bleeding thumb to rapidly facilitate the healing of open diabetic sores, and the case of the man with the short leg. How bizarre to refer to the local cobbler as part of our medical practice! While treating for his main complaint of back pain, one of our assistants noticed unequal lengths in his legs. We walked down the street to the shoemaker, and had him design a new shoe with a higher lift in the heel of the short leg. Back Pain gone! We were constantly challenged to view the whole picture from the in-depth medical, to the common sense; to not be locked into a medical vacuum, but to discover the multi-layered individuality of each case.

Fast forward to 150,000 needles used, over 8000 treatments given, 600 different patients, 350 bottles of herbal powders prescribed, 42 spiritual ceremonies, and one awakened heart of compassion.

The experience, the modesty, the education and the journey (into mind and spirit) were very much worth it. Iím eternally grateful to my patients and people of India. I hope in the future that Iím able to serve again to those in need.

You can visit for more information about volunteering, future trips and One Day Closer. One Day Closer ( will be continuing to volunteer both domestically and intentionally in the years to come. You can contact Brad via his email address:

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