Dr. Miriam Lee, OMD (Lee Chuan Djin)
In 1976, Miriam Lee was one of the first people to be licensed as an acupuncturist in the state of California. In 1974, she was arrested for practicing medicine without a license.
At her trial, her patients filled the courtroom in protest of her arrest, claiming their right to the only medicine that had truly helped them. Within a few days of Dr. Lee’s trial, acupuncture was authorized as an experimental procedure in California. In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation that finally legalized acupuncture.
The Acupuncture Association of America was founded by Dr. Miriam Lee in July 1980; Dr. Lee continued to lead the organization until her retirement in 1998. The Acupuncture Association of America was created to promote public education about acupuncture, provide continuing education classes for licensed practitioners, to guide and support legislative advocacy, and to promote research in the field of acupuncture.
For nearly a decade, the Acupuncture Association of America supported Art Krause, a California lobbyist whose primary work has been on behalf of acupuncturists. Dr. Lee offered classes in order to raise funds needed to support this legislative work. Mr. Krause, well respected in Sacramento, was able to negotiate agreements with influential politicians. Among the friends of the Acupuncture Association of America and acupuncture were Dr. Bill Filante, Senators Art Torres and Herschel Rosenthal, all instrumental in getting many acupuncture bills made into law. It is because of the monumental efforts of Dr. Miriam Lee, Art Krause and others that California acupuncturists are now licensed, have a very comprehensive scope of practice, primary care physician status, primary insurance coverage and have been able to accept Medi-Cal.
In 1989, the Council of Acupuncture Organizations was formed to unite the profession in the legislative process. This group was composed of nine different acupuncture organizations throughout California, including three Chinese, two Japanese, two Korean and two Caucasian groups. This was the first attempt to bring together these different acupuncture communities. Unfortunately, the group met for only two years, but during that time, the Council of Acupuncture Organizations was able to procure acupuncture coverage through Worker’s Compensation.
Many new acupuncture organizations were formed during the 1990’s, both in California and nationwide. The Acupuncture Association of America, having had a very significant role in the early formation and legalization of California acupuncture, was then able to focus on providing continuing education classes. Dr. Miriam Lee sponsored many well-known practitioners from China to come to her clinic in Palo Alto to teach seminars. These courses covered a variety of topics such as Tung’s Points, herbal formulation, scalp acupuncture, wrist and ankle points, and Traditional Chinese Medicine gynecology and oncology.
Dr. Miriam Lee retired in 1998, and moved to Southern California to be with her family. Dr. Lee passed away June 24th, 2009. Miriam Lee was a pioneering doctor whose tireless work led to the recognition and legalization of the medical practice of acupuncture in California.