Chinese Medicine in the Media

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Ever since Oprah devoted a segment of her show to acupuncture in 2007, Chinese medicine seems to be getting a growing amount of attention in the mainstream media.  The coverage extends beyond standard health reports on news programs, with acupuncturists being featured as main characters in some primetime dramas.

This year, ABC has two new shows featuring Chinese medicine.  In Private Practice, actor Tim Daly plays Dr. Pete Wilder.  Dr. Wilder’s character is somewhat arrogant and too casually dressed for most practices.  However, the show makes a point of stating that he has advanced training in holistic medicine and his techniques are portrayed as helpful for many patients.   In Eli Stone, the acupuncturist is Dr. Chen.  Dr. Chen’s character plays on a common stereotype—that good acupuncturists have to be from China and act like mystics.  Late in the first episode, the viewer finds out that Dr. Chen is actually from California, has no accent, and acts the clichéd role in order to be more appealing to patients.  Again, the show stresses Dr. Chen’s advanced holistic credentials.

While not always completely accurate, these figures do bring acupuncture to the forefront of American awareness.  Time will tell if these media representations are enough to influence acupuncture as a profession, by persuading more people to try Chinese medicine.

Now that the writers’ strike is over and new shows will be back on the air soon, perhaps more networks will decide to showcase acupuncturists as main characters.  Leave a comment or contact us with other instances of acupuncture in the media that you’ve noticed.

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