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Tom Riihimaki

by Bob Felt

Tom Riihimaki, age 61, died May 23, 2006 at home.

Tom founded OMS (Oriental Medical Supplies), now the oldest supplier of acupuncture needles and alternative healthcare supplies in the U.S. Tom is one of the founders of our field but was a quiet and private person who preferred rock climbing and judo to a public presence. Thus, he is virtually unknown.

Tom graduated from the New England School of Acupuncture. As Dr. Tin Yao So's student, Tom responded to the difficulty of acquiring acupuncture supplies by "sweat capitalizing" the importation of acupuncture needles into the U.S. Although there are now many equipment suppliers, when Tom started, acupuncture needles were "investigational devices" and acupuncturists were being arrested for practising medicine without a license. Tom individually accepted the risks of importation and made further contributions that were critical for the development of this field.

In the early 1980's when T.C.M. was introduced in the U.S., controversy concerning Dr. So's teachings contributed to the near failure of the New England School of Acupuncture. At that time it was one of two schools in the U.S. The other, the California Acupuncture College, later failed. Tom was one of only two people who risked their own homes and businesses to insure the school's tuition bond, thus saving it for future generations of students.

Tom's funeral will be private and there will be no memorial funds established by his family. But, I though people should know of his life of contribution and dedication to our field.

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