Photo by Don Nolte

Photo by Don Nolte

Lixin Huang, ACTCM’s president.

November 2012

American College for Traditional Chinese Medicine May Cure What Ails You

Paul McDonald

Opened in Potrero Hill in 1987 in a former elementary school straddling Arkansas and Connecticut streets, the American College for Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) provides masters and doctoral level training in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine to some 280 students. In addition to the college, ACTCM runs a community clinic, and offers public classes in such things as conversational Mandarin, Feng Shui, Chinese medicine, Tai Ji – an internal exercise promoting health – herbal medicines and cooking.

The college is headed by Lixin – pronounced “Lee Sheeng” – Huang, a native of Xi’an, China, who came to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in educational studies from Northern Illinois University in 1986. She originally intended to return to China, but, while attending a political science conference at the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, was recruited by ACTCM board members. The board members told Huang that the college needed someone who knew Chinese languages and culture, and offered her the opportunity to complete her doctoral dissertation while working at the school.

The interaction occurred around the time of the Tiananmen Square protests, which deeply affected Huang, who was shaken by the events in her native China. When Huang started at the college in an administrative role, it had just five staff members and a meager student body of some 60 students. By 1994 she was president. Today, ACTCM has 40 full- and part-time staff running the college, clinic, and a 12,000 square foot satellite campus at 555 De Haro Street.

ACTCM was the first American school of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine to be nationally accredited by the U.S. Department of Education to graduate licensed acupuncturists. Students come from all over the world to participate in four year programs to obtain a masters or doctorate degree. The college has an impressive list of alumni who have become well-known leaders in Chinese medicine and herbs, including Chinese herbal expert Robert Newman, who has lectured in China. The typical student is European-American, in their mid-30s to mid-40s. Nearly 80 percent are female, as, according to Huang, “Women tend to pay more attention to health care and wellness.”

ACTCM’s motto is “Ancient Medicine For Your Mind, Body & Spirit,” an adage the college practices through its 450 Connecticut Street clinic. That facility is run by Tracy Tongetti, who manages an herbal pharmacy, medical staff and 13 patient rooms which receive roughly 350 patients weekly. The clinic treats a wide range of symptoms – fatigue, back pain, addiction, emotional problems, respiratory diseases, even strokes – with acupuncture and herbs. The pharmacy features hundreds of small wooden drawers containing different Chinese herbs, some 371 in all. Each plant has both specific and general uses; when mixed together the herbs provide an endless collage of treatments, making Chinese herbs an ever changing science. In addition to being useful in their raw form, the plants can be cooked, powdered and granulated. The clinic also sells herbs in lotions, potions and tablets, offering bottles and pills not seen at Walgreens.

ACTCM provides acupuncture programs in collaboration with the California Pacific Medical Center, and works with hospice patients through another partnership. In the future, the college hopes to add animal acupuncture classes to their offerings, and encourage continuing penetration of the ancient intervention into traditional hospitals.

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