To say that Paul Kempisty is an acupuncturist doesn’t quite encompass all that he does. Yes, he practices acupuncture, and yes, he works with herbs, but he also has a solid understand of Western medicine that allows him to combine the best of the West with the best of the East. The result is an open-minded and holistic approach to wellness that’s tailored to each and every patient’s body and condition. He says, “In acupuncture, there’s a fairly basic skill set. People either choose to stay with that skill set, or expand it. I spent 11 years trying to take it further and expanding it.” For more about acupuncture and whole body health, read on!
How would you describe what you do?
I do acupuncture, herbs, vitamin supplements, dietary things. When a person goes to school for acupuncture, they learn Chinese medicine, they learn Western medicine, and they learn how to combine those two things.
Did you go to medical school or think about going to medical school?
When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor or a dentist. Then I became a hippie and an artist for a while. I grew up in Australia, and then we came to America. I traveled around the country here. I decided that I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t feel so aligned with Western medicine. I was interested in meditation and herbs and yoga—holistic methods of taking care of yourself.
So you were a hippie by then?
I painted a lot, I traveled a lot, I exhibited work. I was figuring out what would be next. So when it came time to choose the path, an alternative to traditional medicine resonated with me. When you go to acupuncture school, it’s a four-year full-time master’s. I had to do an undergraduate degree, do my cadavers, chopping up dead bodies. Then I learned physiology and all of that. Then I went to acupuncture school, and at the school I went to there was a lot of Western medicine. About half the degree was Western science, clinical science. By that point I was refreshed by how much I love anatomy and science.
Right. It’s got a more factual basis.
For sure. If there’s something I might have learned that says, 1200 years ago in China this person discovered that this herb was good for this symptom, I’ll always looked for the research. And there’s not a lot of study of herbs the way that we know drugs get studied, like placebo control, double-blind trials, five thousand people getting tested. So there’s not always that kind of information, but when you’re familiar with enough anatomy and biology and pathophysiology, just knowing what the constituents inside the herb are, the chemicals naturally inside it and what they do to the body, you can infer its ability to interact with the symptom, or the condition, and you can really create a finessed approach to these things.
That in and of itself is sort of a Western approach. But not a typical Western approach—it’s sort of a preventative approach as opposed to a reactionary approach.
It’s actually a little bit of both. You have to remember how we tend to put things in opposition in this culture. In acupuncture, there are people who are totally anti-Western medicine, who think alternative medicine is the only way to go. I don’t think that’s wise. Then there are the people who think that they kind of interact. There are certain elements that are exceptionally suitable for Chinese medicine. There are also things that are exceptionally suitable for Western medicine. And not a in bad way. In this society, we find that we’re often preventing a cascade of health events that have been charted in a Western medicine scenario, and we’re trying to help a person with those realities in a productive and healthful way. Or the person is already into the Western medicine system, but it’s not fully or not at all addressing what they’re trying to work with. In that case, it’s more reactionary. Sometimes we’re just kind of trimming the tree, addressing the branches that are still sticking out.
So let’s back up a little bit. Can you define what acupuncture is? Because I know it has to do with Chinese medicine, and I know it has to do with herbs, but what is the reality of it?
The reality of acupuncture is you put needles in a patient’s body. That’s the only thing that everyone can potentially agree upon, and then it becomes a matter of determining the vocabulary and the nomenclature of your narrative. How are you choosing to look at situation? They say there are two sides to every story. If you use the Chinese medicine world view and vocabulary, the narrative says that the body is full of energy, and that energy moves through the body and is concentrated in certain areas and certain regions—we think of these as the points and the meridians.
What is a meridian?
Again, it’s the vocabulary. A meridian is nothing, it doesn’t exist. You can’t measure a meridian, not yet. There’s no X-ray, no CTC, MRI or sonogram that says, yes, there’s a meridian. There nothing of substance there, but it makes sense to the Chinese. The image of the meridian allows them to understand what they can see and observe already, and to predict further from those observations. Every part of the skin’s surface is wired to your cortex, to your brain. Certain areas, like your funny bone, are a little bit more sensitive, or a lot more sensitive. They have a more dramatic effect on the body. That’s what acupuncture points are. There are certain areas that when you stimulate them or irritate them they produce more of an effect. Chinese medicine has existed for 5,000 years, so over that time they’ve observed people, and over time they’re mapping out these zones and adding points. When they draw them in a map around the body, there’s a certain linearity to how the points are scattered and located. They start to see that certain groups of them have a functional similarity. We can do similar things with points that run across the medial aspect as opposed to the lateral aspect. The idea is to connect them in a story or a narrative that makes cohesive sense.
What are three of the largest benefits you’ve seen in your patients?
- People getting better. A lot of times they’ve been through Western medicine, through surgery, medication, all kinds of things, and they haven’t seen improvement. And then they come in and see, relatively speaking, a flimsy arrangement when compared to a big hospital scenario. There’s not much happening here that you couldn’t do 500 years ago. But it works.
- Dramatic and unexpected surprises—patients who come in with really serious illnesses. I had a patient who had two aggressive breast cancers growing simultaneously. A very serious illness. I had to really encourage her to see a surgeon and an oncologist. The protocol suggested was to do six months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors, so that when she had surgery, they wouldn’t have to cut into the chest wall. She was very willing, and she also did the supplements and the acupuncture—she came twice a week for six months for a very intensive treatment, and not cheap. It all added up. When she went in for her mastectomy, there was no cancer at all. There was nothing in her breasts, tissues or lymph nodes.
- An inner experience. Whether you’re getting treated for a backache of a tummy ache or whatever, after the first, second or third session, people report that they had some of the deepest relaxation—inner connectedness—than they’ve ever had in their lives. When a person realizes there’s a whole world of inner goodness that they can tap into—that’s life changing stuff.