The following is a short interview of Dr. Peter Kadar L.Ac. DOM the founder of ACNJ, interviewed by his son, Lucas Kadar. Lucas has successfully completed his first year of training at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine to become an acupuncturist in New York City, NY.
Can you recall the circumstances that led you to study acupuncture, especially at a time when it was so unknown and strange in the USA?
The 1970s was a time of exploration, adventure and discovery for me and for most of the country. So many new things were opening up in our society and natural healing and alternative health care were very intriguing to me. I was looking for something that satisfied and challenged my intellectual and spiritual curiosity. After studying yoga, meditation, macrobiotics and other ideas and forms I was introduced to acupuncture and Chinese medicine and felt an immediate connection and excitement to study and get involved. I recall the moment I looked at an acupuncture textbook for the first time and immediately felt I found what I was looking for. Or that it had found me.
How did your parents and friends respond to your decision?
My Hungarian parents were supportive and not surprised as I had always been a free thinker and seeker of alternatives to conventional thinking and living. They were concerned whether acupuncture would be accepted in the US and whether it could be a pathway to a successful career. These are concerns I can relate to as a parent now when I think of my children and their career options. My parents left Hungary with me and my brother so they recognized the value of having faith when stepping into the unknown so they fully supported me. My friends felt it was strange and unusual and therefore a perfect fit for me and a very cool thing to do.
What do you see when you look at the state of acupuncture now, and how have you contributed to that?
Acupuncture and TCM have enjoyed a very robust period of growth since I began practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 and it seems to accelerate every year. When I began practice there were very few states offering full licensure, no hospital acupuncture services and no insurance reimbursement. There were only 2 acupuncture schools and very few reliable textbooks or sources in English. All of this has enlarged exponentially. I’m glad that I was present at the beginning and that my efforts as a practitioner, teacher, and professional leader helped create this growth and inspire others to join the profession. I’ve seen so many areas of growth that I and other colleagues have contributed in order to make acupuncture and integrative wellness become part of the fabric of a more health society.
Who were your influences as an early acupuncturist? Who did you look up to?
My initial influences were my teachers particularly James Tin Yao So and Ted Kaptchuk. Dr. So’s approach was very straight-forward and Chinese while Ted’s was very philosophical and multi-cultural. His book The Web That Has No Weaver is must reading for anyone who wants to become a practitioner. My greatest early influences were my patients from whom I learned so much humility, compassion, dedication and insight into healing and wellness.
Lucas, your son is currently in acupuncture school.
Do you feel that you were an influence in his decision, and is it gratifying to know that he is following in your footsteps?
Certainly. Lucas grew up in a home where natural healing, whole foods and physical and emotional wellness was a vital part of our lives. He worked in our office for several years and saw first-hand how so many people were being helped by acupuncture and TCM and how becoming an acupuncturist could be an important way to make a lasting contribution and practice “right livelihood”. I’m grateful and excited that he has become a musician and is now turning his talents and energies to carry on what I started and nurtured.
What qualities/attributes make a great acupuncturist?
Certainly knowledge and training are important. More vital are sensitivity, compassion, curiosity, attention to detail, being able to think and respond creatively from the heart as well as the head. Having a strong desire to help and an ability to remain focused and present to each patient every moment.
What do you think acupuncture, TCM, eastern medicine and philosophy can contribute to Western society in general?
We have seen how contemporary society has shifted dramatically in the last 30 years to embrace a holistic, mindful notion of reality in almost every aspect of our lives. This is a far more responsible and sustainable approach that holds the promise for much more healthy, peaceful and just society. The philosophy of the Far East has shown us how to integrate and balance our medicine, food choices, work and home responsibilities and so many other pieces. On a practical level, acupuncture is so much more cost-effective than conventional medicine and provides great healing with no negative side-effects.
What obstacles did you face when starting your practice, and how did you overcome them?
Our initial training was quite sparse so I studied in China for 6 months and continued intensive study for several years. Licensing issues were a problem as well so patience and focus were my greatest allies. I tried several ways to create the practice I wanted and found the best way to express my practice of acupuncture and TCM when I opened my office in Morristown, NJ in 1987.
Are there any specific situations or anecdotes you can recall, like dealing with skeptics or dismissive/hostile MDs?
The first NJ licensing exam was given in 1985 and I failed it because it was a really poorly written and graded exam. A group of us sued the state and forced it to improve their exam to reflect what acupuncturists were actually trained for. It took over a year of legal wrangling but eventually a new exam was given and I passed in 1986. There were many challenges involving resistance by insurance companies, MDs, regulators, etc., but I learned to be confident that the power and value of acupuncture and TCM would overcome each situation.
What do you hope to see for the future of acupuncture, herbalism and eastern medicine in this country?
Continued growth will depend on expanded insurance coverage, especially Medicare as so many seniors could benefit from acupuncture and it’s so much more cost effective than conventional medicine. Acupuncture is becoming very specialized in fields of gynecology, orthopedics, addictions, mental health, etc. While this is necessary and generally positive I like to emphasize that practitioners remain true to the essential spirit of integration and balance of TCM.
What are some of your most memorable career moments?
I recall the first time I treated someone for headaches and they immediately felt better. Also the numerous times I helped women get pregnant after multiple failures. I’ve held numerous positions of professional leadership over the years and I’ve enjoyed teaching a great deal. Building a busy and successful practice in Morristown that helps people of all ages and backgrounds is an ongoing source of satisfaction. I’m excited about the next phase of my career when Lucas joins the practice.
How have you integrated the concepts of Chinese and eastern medicine into your lifestyle?
TCM and eastern ways have been part of my life since college when I first encountered Daoism and Buddhism, meditation, Chinese and Japanese poetry, Asian cuisine, yoga, tai chi and other teachings. My whole life has been deeply influenced by the wisdom and perspectives I’ve learned from studying and practicing. I can confidently say that every aspect of my being has thoroughly absorbed the philosophy and practice of Eastern healing.
What changes have you seen at the political level to allow acupuncture to flourish in the way that it has, and do you feel your time as head of the Massachusetts Acupuncture Society and member of the NJ Acupuncture Examining Board contributed to these positive changes?
I sure hope that I’ve made a contribution! Our drive for professional licensure was the first important political achievements starting in the 1980s. Now every state has a form of legal, professional certification for acupuncturists, many on par with physicians. The other milestones of progress have been increased insurance coverage for acupuncture, the acceptance of our practice by most MDs and hospitals, and the growth in the number of acupuncture schools and training programs. All of this progress has been in response to the needs and demands of people all over the US who have been the greatest beneficiaries and champions for the growth of acupuncture and TCM. I’m glad to continue to be part of this progress!