Interview with Rand Dennis (Acupuncturist)
Interviewer: Xia Russell (Student)
Interviewee: Rand Dennis (Acupuncturist)
Date of Interview: December 9, 2017
Background: Rand Dennis is a Licensed Acupuncturist and a Certified Chinese Medicine Practitioner. She operates her business, Affordable Acupuncture Community Clinic, in Bellingham, WA.
XR: What motivated you to enter into this profession?
RD: I was always drawn to medicine and I was particularly interested in multicultural healing practices. My undergraduate degree was in anthropology with a specialty in medical anthropology. After a personal medical crisis where western medicine was ineffective, I was fortunate enough to find a Chinese Medicine Herbalist who basically cured me, and that’s how I got specifically interested in Chinese medicine. You know how when you are on the right path how the doors start opening? I found a school in Seattle that was perfect for me and all of the opportunities started to arise.
XR: Where did you go to study and why did you choose those schools?
RD: I studied at the Seattle institute of Oriental Medicine (SIOM), in Seattle. I chose SIOM because I had children and I could commute there from Bellingham. It was hard, but I managed to do it. SIOM, I felt, at the time had a superior reputation and it was pretty focused. What I mean is SIOM has an excellent curriculum, very high caliber instructors and a student clinic program that exceeds the state required norms.
XR: How was entering the job market after graduation?
RD: I was fortunate that I was able to do an internship here in this building with a practitioner while I was a student; so when I graduated that gave me an opportunity to join the clinic full time as a practitioner, then we formed affordable acupuncture that year — and I became a owner of it in 2013. I would say a lot of practitioners face difficulty starting a clinic right off the bat after graduating because the overhead is high to start a clinic; so, because I did an internship here as a student I was really fortunate not to face those same obstacles right away when I graduated.
XR: What is the best part about your job?
RD: So many things to say about that. I really love that I get to work with people everyday and hear their stories and I’m really honored to be someone people can share their real innermost feelings and thoughts and their… worries with. I’m really fortunate to be a sounding board for people to list. Everyday I always think I learn so much more from my patients. It’s really fulfilling.
XR: What are the biggest challenges that you face at your job?
RD: Well, I think the healthcare industry as a whole has a lot of challenges. Finding time to listen to people can be a challenge. Sometimes in the healthcare industry we are rushed and can’t really listen to people. I’ve done my best creating a clinic where I don’t have to do a lot of paperwork; I have some experience dealing with the red tape of bureaucracy… I think my biggest challenge is dealing with insurance companies and the paper work involved.
XR: What is it like owning your own business? Is it challenging at times?
RD: It’s great. I think there are a lot of skills that you learn by dealing with end of year taxes, banking, accounting and all of that. I really like it. There are some yin and yangs. You can set your own schedule; by the same token, you have to do it all. You have to be your own accountant, PR person, marker everything; making sure you do you’re whole inventory right. It’s like you are your own assistant plus your own PR firm and all of that stuff. So it’s obviously great but it does involve a lot of work-and the more practice you get the better you get at it-and you’re also on the line if something happens to the business. Like, I have two independent contractors here so if they make a mistake I’m on the line-or employees, I’m on the line.
XR: Are their many opportunities for acupuncture that don’t involve owning your own business?
RD: Yeah, a lot of clinics take on (generally speaking) an independent contractor acupuncturist (a few shifts/week where they see patients and give a split to the fee to the umbrella company to use the space to attract patients.)
XR: What are your goals for the future?
RD: I would certainly like this clinic to be ongoing and continue to serve the community with effective treatments for a reasonable price. We kind of fill the gap, we have a lot of students and seniors who wouldn’t be able to afford acupuncture otherwise. In the distant future, I’d possibly like to pass it on to another acupuncturist and set up a clinic in Mexico.
XR: What would you recommend to someone who is interested in this profession?
RD: It’s an extremely fulfilling profession and our healthcare situation in the U.S. right now is in dire need for practitioners who can listen and thoughtfully treat people.
XR: Any last words?
RD: Thanks for interviewing me Xia! That was really fun.