Years before Jennifer Stukey became a licensed acupuncturist and wellness practitioner, she embarked on her own personal quest for healing.
“I had a car accident in high school and had a herniated disc,” recalls the CEO of Awaken Wellness, a holistic wellness center in Columbia. “I was in a lot of pain, and even physiotherapy didn’t help.”
Soon after, Stukey started college and the pains didn’t subside. She learned about acupuncture and decided to try it. His initial treatment was a revelation.
“The pain went down after the first session,” she said. “And there were other benefits for my sleep and my menstrual system. Emotionally, I felt more balanced.
Acupuncture, which is part of traditional Chinese medicine, dates back thousands of years. The ancient practice is to insert thin needles through the skin at specific anatomical points on the body. The goal is to remove blockages and increase the flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), often defined as life force and health-related “life energy”.
For Stukey, the acupuncture experience opened up an unexpected career path. In 2009, she co-founded Awaken Wellness, which focuses on women’s health with offerings including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, holistic skin care, and nutrition.
“I am dedicated to helping women live lives of joy and ease,” Stukey said. “It’s always been important, but the pandemic has put even more emphasis on health and well-being and how we take care of ourselves and each other.”
Data suggests that more and more Americans are turning to acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from back, neck and knee pain, to osteoarthritis, migraines and certain symptoms associated with cancer treatments. cancer.
Johns Hopkins Medicine offers acupuncture services at some of its Howard County locations, including the Johns Hopkins Musculoskeletal Center and the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center.
“Acupuncture may be useful as a noninvasive adjunctive therapy in pain management,” said Dr. Tina Tuong-Vi Le Doshi, assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine. “It’s not often used as a single treatment, but it can certainly help patients as part of a more comprehensive treatment regimen that can also include things like procedures, medications, physical therapy, and body modifications. way of life.”
Doshi, who specializes in treating chronic pain, said more patients seem willing to explore acupuncture.
“I think more patients are interested and accepting acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment option,” she said in an email. “A barrier to acupuncture has always been insurance coverage, but I think more and more insurance companies are covering acupuncture services. Not a lot, but more than in the past.
Among the schools preparing students for careers in acupuncture is the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), which combines medical and science education with consideration of physical, mental, spiritual, and human influences. way of life.
Stukey earned a master’s degree in acupuncture from the school when it was known as Tai Sophia Institute; the name change came in 2013 after the Maryland Commission on Higher Education granted the institution university status.
Located on a 12-acre campus in Laurel, MUIH is the nation’s oldest accredited acupuncture school and has established itself as a leader in the study and practice of integrative health and wellness.
The university has seen enrollment increase and academic programs expand. Today, MUIH offers more than 20 progressive graduate and certificate programs in a wide range of disciplines, from herbal medicine and nutrition to acupuncture.
Rooted in a holistic philosophy, teaching is grounded in both traditional wisdom and contemporary science. Professors tout what they describe as a holistic, relationship-focused approach to health and wellness.
“We are training the next generation of healers,” said Sharon Jennings-Rojas, chair of the Department of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine. “We are called to do this work. It is truly a spiritual mission.
Jennings-Rojas holds an M.A. in Acupuncture and a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from MUIH, as well as a BA in Oriental Philosophy from Vassar College.
To prepare students to achieve full clinical competence in acupuncture, she and her colleagues aim to provide an understanding of the classical and theoretical foundations of the field. Classes incorporate a blend of what is known as Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture, which is linked to the traditional elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water; traditional Chinese medicine, which includes tai chi and Chinese herbal products; and contemporary science.
Additionally, students receive supervised hands-on clinical experience. In the natural healing center on campus and in community settings, student interns and professional practitioners provide thousands of treatments and consultations each year.
For example, there is a free ear acupuncture clinic that the public can visit several days a week. In the field of acupuncture, the ear is considered a map of the whole body, which can help stimulate healing emotionally and physically.
“Nowadays, this new level of compassionate care calls on all of us to take action in making integrative health, including acupuncture and other forms of global medicine, accessible to everyone, including marginalized populations,” Jennings said. -Rojas.
His own career spanning three decades and more has focused on outreach to grassroots communities. Since 2001, she has maintained a private practice providing care to individuals, families and communities. Among his roles, he is an acupuncturist and educator at the Howard County Detention Center; it treats the population as well as correctional officers and other personnel.
His work has also run the gamut, from directing a maternal addiction acupuncture program as part of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, to advocating for the welfare of wounded warriors at various facilities. military.
“Education and access are key,” Jennings-Rojas said. “Once communities and the people within them know their natural health care options and holistic ways to support their health, they are better able to take charge of their health care and well-being.”
Stukey agrees. She not only brings a passion for improving the health and well-being of her clients, but also extensive training.
“Before taking acupuncture classes, I took prerequisite courses in anatomy and physiology,” said Stukey, a licensed acupuncturist, who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
In addition to her degree in acupuncture, she completed a Chinese herbal medicine program at MUIH and also holds a master’s degree in oriental medicine, as well as a certification. And she completed a yoga teacher training program at Columbia Yoga Center.
Her upbringing was “difficult” at times, she said, comparing acupuncture to learning a foreign language. “The body has thousands of meridians and channels. It requires study, lots of memorization, and just like training doctors, hands-on clinical assessments of patients.
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Stukey said she strives to make the environment of Awaken Wellness evoke peace, kindness and compassion. The center, which Stukey started with her husband and business partner, Brian Bieda, has 14 practitioners “trained in the healing arts.”
Among them is wellness pioneer Dianne Connelly, who in 1975 co-founded with Robert “Bob” Duggan one of the first American acupuncture clinics in Colombia – the College for Chinese Acupuncture, which became the Center for Traditional Acupuncture, then Tai Sophia and finally MUIH.
These days, Connelly lends his wise wisdom to the group and praises his protege. “Jennifer leads with love.”
Indeed, a loving approach, sensitivity and discretion are important as the centre’s treatments for women can address infertility and gynecological issues, or headaches, backaches, insomnia and emotional disturbances.
“We’re really looking at the medical history and the whole person, because everything that’s going on in the body is connected,” Stukey said. “The conversations we have beforehand are just as important as the treatments themselves.”
Helene Kass, a longtime acupuncture enthusiast, agrees. The Columbia resident has worked with Stukey for about 14 years and describes herself as a “strong, healthy woman” who considers regular treatments an essential part of her overall health.
“I can tell when my energy is stuck and not moving freely,” said Kass, a semi-retired mother, grandmother and leadership development professional. “What amazes me about acupuncture is that I feel like I’m opening a door that’s been rusting for 1,000 years. You feel better.”