Holocaust survivors try acupuncture in Jamaica

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The nursing home, which was founded in 1971 to treat Holocaust survivors, has just finished the first year of its Chinese Integrated Medicine program, and doctors and administrators are calling it an unqualified success.

Nursing home residents used to being stuck with intravenous needles and treated with antibiotics are now talking to doctors about their "Qui," or life energy and electricity flowing through the body.

"My staff is not afraid of this - they are very open-minded," said Dr. Gail Lowenstein, the medical director of the Tietz center.

While more and more Americans have turned to Eastern medicine in recent years, the medical establishment has been wary of embracing Chinese medicine and importing it into their own medical practices.

Several years ago Lowenstein had a knee ailment and she could not find a treatment that would subdue the pain. Despite her initial misgivings she visited the Flushing office of noted acupuncturist William Young, and after several visits the pain in her knee was gone.

"I thought if he could do this for me, he could do this for my patients," said Lowenstein.

The Tietz center obtained a $35,000 grant from the United Hospital Fund and in November 1999 hired Young, a Flushing resident, to come in several days a week and work with nursing home patients whose ailments and pains had not responded to Western medicine.

Over the past year Young has treated 61 patients who were suffering from the effects of stroke, gastrointestinal problems and general pain management.

"He had only the hardest luck cases," said Lowenstein. "And with those cases he had a 66 percent success rate."

Lowenstein said that percentage came from interviews with patients and their families.

"The combination of the two work better than each alone," said Young, who also has a Manhattan office and has helped introduce Chinese medicine to Elmhurst Hospital.

Young was born in China but attended school in Taiwan and later become a successful businessman.

"I became overweight and had heart problems," said Young. "Western medicine could not help."

Young regained his health with the aid of acupuncture and herbal therapy, and when he came to the United States 23 years ago, he decided he wanted to help people in the same manner he was helped.

Young said he and Lowenstein have been teaching each other about their respective disciplines, which has been exciting for both of them.

"I just read this book he recommended called 'Encounter With Qui.' It was amazing," said Lowenstein, who treated patients at the Tietz center for 16 years.

Now the Tietz center wants to expand its Chinese medicine program and hopes to hire two more licensed acupuncturists, but to do this takes money.

On Dec. 17 the Tietz center is hosting a gala dinner in downtown Flushing to raise funds for expanding the program. Young is being honored at the dinner, along with Flushing businessman Jimmy Meng, former president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association. At press time Meng was in Taiwan and could not be reached for comment.

"There has been a big outreach into the Flushing community," said Linda Spiegel, the outreach coordinator for the Tietz center.

Members of the Flushing business community have served as an advisory board to the Tietz center, helping them to implement the Chinese medicine program.

Ken Brown, the chief executive officer of the Tietz center, said the nursing home where 55 percent of the patients are Jewish Holocaust survivors is trying to present itself as a viable option for the Asian community. As Holocaust survivors get older and die in greater numbers, the Tietz center plans to broaden its mission to serve elderly patients from Queens' diverse communities.

Last year there were no Asian patients being treated at the non-profit organization's day-care center in Flushing. Now 25 are being treated at the site on Parsons Boulevard and 72nd Avenue.

The nursing home has hired several staff members who speak Mandarin, and Young and Spiegel appear on Chinese radio each week speaking about the innovations taking place at the Tietz center.

"Dr. Young has really gone above and beyond the call of duty, he deserves to be honored," said Spiegel.

Young refused to take any credit. "I am being honored as a representative of the entire staff," he said.

But Fred Fu, the newly elected president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, said the Asian community was getting involved simply to help its neighbors in Jamaica.

"This dinner is not to help people in my community," said Fu. "It is to help this project.

Fu said elderly Chinese residents in Flushing do not need to go to a Jamaica nursing home for acupuncture.

"It is relatively easy to get acupuncture treatment in Flushing," said Fu.

For more information about the gala dinner call Linda Spiegal at 298-7838.

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