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I am often asked how my interest in acupuncture began.

Just before I started medical school I spent some time in Paris, where a friend gave me a book about acupuncture. The cover photograph showed a man's face sporting a dozen needles. I had never seen nor imagined such a phenomenon and was astonished by the image and the idea. I soon discovered that acupuncture was an integral part of everyday medical practice in France and across Europe.

I started practicing medicine in 1973. Although I had good training and the appropriate diplomas and certificates, much of what brought people to see me had not been covered in my clinical training. Their complaints seemed legitimate, but they didn't have the full-fledged diseases I'd been taught to diagnose and treat. I knew there was something wrong that deserved attention, and was frustrated by the limitations of my skills.

I remembered the acupuncture book from Paris. As I reread it, I came to realize that acupuncture offered something that my conventional medical approaches were overlooking. Acupuncture's understanding of people is that our constitutional makeup not only embodies our strengths of physical body and personality, but also creates the likely pattern of breakdown as we encounter the physical and emotional stresses and strains of life. As we are made up, so do we break down. Our strongest qualities and characteristics often mirror our weakest links.

This simple difference in approach to medicine put me at ease. I finally felt I had found my place in the practice of medicine. My study and practice of acupuncture has confirmed this for me on a daily basis.

Abstracted from Chapter 1, of Getting to Know You, by Joseph M. Helms, MD

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