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Gentle medicine: Jade Fang, community acupuncture thriving in downtown Winona

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When patients come into Jade Community Acupuncture, a small clinic on Third Street in downtown Winona, they’re greeted by soothing music and a quiet hello from owner Jade Fang.

“What do you want to work on today?” she asks, as she guides them behind a curtain into her treatment room. She helps them recline in the clinic’s comfortable chairs, places a cloth over their forehead, offers a pillow and heat lamp.

Then Fang casually opens a pack of hair-thin needles and expertly places them in the patient’s skin, making sure to ask how the patient is feeling.

“Call if you need anything,” she says, as she leaves the room to welcome another patient.

But the patients will probably fall asleep just as soon as they close their eyes. Fang says, laughing, that she spends her days watching a room full of sleeping people.

If they snore, she makes a little note to treat the snoring next time.

“It’s really peaceful,” she says. “People come and they just, like, chill.”

The practice

Fang, 32, was born in Taiwan and came to the United States at age 6, settling in Florida. Both her parents are acupuncturists, so the practice has been a constant part of her life, she said.

After getting her bachelor’s degree in sociology, Fang decided acupuncture could be her career as well. She graduated with a master’s degree from the Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine in Florida and, looking for a different place to live, opened her clinic in Winona about five years ago amid a national growing acceptance of acupuncture as a gentle way to treat a variety of ailments without drugs or traditional methods.

It’s not your typical acupuncture clinic.

Fang’s practice is community acupuncture, which is based on the principles of accessibility and sustainability. She belongs to the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture, a cooperative focused on making oriental medicine accessible and sustainable in North America and around the world.

At Fang’s clinic, patients share the treatment room, and treatments are available on a sliding fee scale between $15 and $40, so patients can pay what they can.

“It gives people the flexibility to get the care that they need,” she said. For some, acupuncture is the only way to manage chronic pain. For others, it’s an alternative to expensive medications.

Fang said community acupuncture is also a perfect fit for her as a practitioner. She’s trained in acupuncture, not running a business, and she said it’s easier to make a modest, sustainable living with the community of clients she serves rather than giving expensive treatments to a few.

Fang’s affordable rates give patients the opportunity to take charge of their own health, too.

“People are really thankful, I think,” Fang said. “It’s a new kind of relating, where people are really taking care of themselves.”

The community

When Fang first began her practice, she heard the usual feedback from people who were unfamiliar with acupuncture. Will I get hepatitis? Won’t it hurt?

But acupuncture has a way of soothing those fears.

“Acupuncture works really well for stress,” Fang said. “It takes you out of that fight-or-flight.”

Over the past four years, Fang has seen a steadily expanding base of patients. She sees retired farmers who drive in from rural Winona County. She sees factory workers and bankers. She sees kids. She sees couples.

“It’s a really tight-knit community, so there’s a lot of word-of-mouth,” she said.

People still sometimes misconceive acupuncture solely as a last resort when all of western medicine has failed, but Fang’s practice serves people with more commonplace concerns too, such as allergies, or shin splints on high-school athletes.

“Then you know you’re getting somewhere,” Fang said, laughing.

She sees the cancer patients too, and those suffering from chronic conditions. Acupuncture can help surgery wounds heal faster, boost the immune system, and improve the effectiveness of physical therapy, Fang said.

It’s a regulator — helping the body do what it knows how to do, and it reaches deeper than treating symptoms. “I don’t want to just take away the pain,” she said.

She doesn’t give up, even with stubborn ailments that take time to heal.

“I think that really empowers people,” she said. “It’s a different way of looking at health care.”

Each patient interaction is different, and Fang admitted she doesn’t always get things perfect the first time. Sometimes patients don’t say what’s really wrong, and it takes them a few treatments before they feel comfortable bringing their deeper concerns, like depression or stress, to Fang.

“It’s always kind of a talking, a relating, a figuring out,” she said.

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