“If you make it through two years, you’ll be OK,” was the advice Caiping Tang, Ph.D., received as she registered her new business at the in 2008. Nearly two years later, Tang says the advice rang true.
“At the beginning, sitting in the room, I was worried that there were no patients, and it was just empty there,” said Tang. “Now I’m OK.”
Tang, the eponymous owner of at 21070 Homestead Rd., specializes in endocrinology and has 10 full-time patients right now. The clinic also offers natural remedies for diabetes, pediatrics, pain management, gynecology and sports injuries.
After an initial consultation, treatments average $65, but senior citizens and Kaiser-insured patients receive treatments discounted to $45.
Tang’s transformation into a small business owner is remarkable. As a young girl from the Hubei province of China, she was the only girl in her medical school class at Wuhan University School of Medicine. Like many immigrants, Tang knew the key to success was higher education. She studied her for Masters and her Ph.D. in Chinese medicine at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, the top medicine hospital in China.
“I was very lucky that I studied in China and experienced the revolutionary changes, which opened the doors to getting a great public education there,” Tang said. “All my teachers put their hearts into it; they taught you as if you are more important than their kid. I strive for that.”
In addition to her personal clinic, Tang is a professor at and department chairwoman of the doctoral program of Traditional Chinese Medicine, training the next generation of acupuncturists locally.
Acupuncture is a growing business, particularly in California. This state has the largest number of acupuncturists by a long stretch—6,632 as of 2010, according to Acupuncture Today, an acupuncture-focused paper that bases its calculation on its circulation. Florida is second-largest, with 1,790 acupuncturists.
Likewise, patients seem more receptive to alternative remedies than they used to be. According to the 2007 National Health Survey, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children used acupuncture in the previous year. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also reported that between 2002 and 2007, approximately 1 million more people started using acupuncture.
Joseph Salamon, 46, has been seeing Tang since January after trying many traditional treatments for sciatic pain and is now turning to natural remedies. Salamon says Tang creates a peaceful environment to relax and recuperate.
“I couldn’t really walk before,” said Salamon. “I had a herniated disc and chronic back pain. But coming here helps me mentally. You come here, and it’s a little oasis, a little zen. I’m now walking, so I think it’s working.”
Tang says she doesn’t measure her success by the number of patients she sees and, thus, has no stated goal of company growth in that regard. Instead, Tang says she focuses on the service itself: fixing the patient’s problem.
“My goal is to personally take care of my patient and get the best results,” Tang said. “Of course, you want to earn money, but you want to take care of the patient first, and they will automatically come back to you.”
Her efforts do not go unnoticed by patients. “Dr. Tang is really attentive, and she really cares about people, about the patients and wants to make sure you are comfortable,” Salamon said.
In fact, Tang pointed out that more than 80 percent of her patients are not Chinese, a sign of how much alternative medicine has been embraced by the Bay Area.
“It’s not limited to just Chinese patients,“ Tang said. “Everyone can gain something from acupuncture.”
Tang observes the growing competition in the area, but it does not phase her.
“Everybody is trained in a different specialty,” said Tang. “No one person can take care of everybody. Like a hospital, you have a lot of doctors, and the patients choose their own doctors. You just do the best you can.”
Tang says it is important to research the doctor’s credentials and have a preliminary consultation before deciding to do acupuncture.
The future of acupuncture looks bright, according to Tang. She said, ironically enough, that the Chinese medicine she practices in the U.S. is more traditional than what she did in China. Tang hopes the integration of Western and Eastern medicine reaches the same level as it has in certain parts of China.
“In China, the acupuncturists are like MD’s," she says. "There are herbal syrups, capsules, facial creams, even use of IVs and dialysis. It’s like real medicine that can be used in an emergency room, but in America they haven’t accepted that yet.”
There is more exchange taking place between Eastern and Western medicinal practices, but acceptance may be stalled because of a lack of belief in alternative medicine.
However, things are changing slowly. At the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is part of the standard care for all patients in the Joint Replacement Center. Recent research has also shown that acupuncture may work for women suffering from hot flashes and other ailments.
“Part of it is mental acceptance,” said Salamon. “This has existed for thousands of years, so there’s got to be something to it.”