My Journey in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine


I have always been interested in medicine from childhood onward.

I took pre-medical curriculum in university, but sometime late in my undergraduate studies I became somewhat disillusioned with going to medical school.

I completed my bachelors degree in psychology and thought that I might go into some kind of counseling. During the latter part of my college studies I began to study the Chinese martial art form tai ji chuan. Most people are familiar with the form that is practiced slowly and gracefully in parks in China.

I became fascinated with this art and began to feel the movement in my body of what I was told was “qi” or energy.  After college I went to study in Los Angeles with the teacher of my first tai ji chuan teacher to learn more about this amazing martial art. I saw and felt many amazing things that the senior students were able to do. And it was at this studio that I met someone who was an acupuncturist and I overheard that he was starting to teach a small class in beginning acupuncture. This was 1975 and I thought to myself that, although there probably was nothing to this acupuncture, I should sit in on a few classes just to be able to debunk it from a place of knowing something about it. To my surprise, I became fascinated with it. It was as if a wall in the room of knowledge that I had previously known had revealed itself as a door and opened up to a whole new way of looking at human functioning. I began going to my teacher’s clinic, saw the benefit that people were receiving, many of whom had been told that they were hopeless, and realized that I could really make a positive difference in people’s health and lives through this medicine.

After spending more than three years studying with my teacher, I sat for the first California acupuncture licensure examination in 1979 and passed. In 1980 I sat for and passed the Oregon licensure examination given by the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. I moved to Oregon to live and practice in Portland and have been in practice in downtown Portland ever since.

In 1983 a colleague approached me about starting a proper school for training acupuncturists. There were very few schools at that time and most had only been in existence for a few years. After some lengthy discussions, my colleague, Dr. Satya Ambrose, and I decided to start the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. There were just a handful of students and no money but we launched the college anyway.  What we did have was a lot energy and a deeply held belief in the power of the medicine and the benefit that we could generate for the people of Oregon and beyond if we provided a quality education in acupuncture and other aspects of Oriental medicine. 

In the beginning it was just the two of us working out of a small office that we rented from the National College of Natural Medicine.  We taught most of the classes in classrooms we rented by the hour from NCNM and all of the students did their clinical training in our private practices. We gratefully didn’t know all of the challenges awaiting us, but took each one as it presented itself, and with our hard work, our sense of humor and the help of a community of other wonderful individuals that believed in the mission of the College, it continued to grow and develop into a premier place for professional education in the field.

I was the College’s first President and was Chair of the Board of Trustees for thirteen years. Since that small start in 1983, the college has grown into highly respected and accredited College with approximately 300 students, in a newly renovated five story building in Old Town/Chinatown, Portland. I am proud that hundreds of acupuncturists have received a great education at OCOM and have gone into practice and helped thousands more people through their work.

At about the same time as I co-founded OCOM, the national organizations for acupuncture and Oriental medicine were beginning to take shape. I became involved in that early work and became the second President of the National Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and helped to shape the curricula and degree standards of the profession. I also spent a term as President of the Oregon Acupuncture Association. I used my expertise in education in this field by serving for decades as a site visitor and team leader for the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which accredits programs of the various acupuncture and Oriental medicine colleges.

In 1991 I was in the first group of acupuncturists to be awarded the national board certification in acupuncture when it became available, Diplomate in Acupuncture, by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. And when national board certification became available in Chinese herbology three years later, I was in the first group to receive my Diplomate in Chinese Herbology by the NCCAOM as well.

I have been teaching acupuncture for over thirty years. In addition to teaching in the Masters degree program at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, I have taught at colleges around the country. I taught at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture in New York City for twenty five years and also at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, the Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, NM, and also for the doctoral degree programs at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco and the doctoral program at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.

Since my first training in the 1970's, I have continued to study with many respected teachers of this medicine around the country and abroad. I was in the first cohort of students to earn the Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, with a specialization in the treatment of pain disorders. As part of that program, I studied at the renowned Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China. I have also studied many other styles of Oriental medicine including Japanese techniques as well as applications of acupuncture for pain and injuries using the modern insights of anatomy and muscle function.

I have participated in research projects on topics including the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in the treatment of pain of endometriosis, acupuncture for post-surgical pain in women with breast cancer, as well as an innovative study in the use of acupuncture for those with complicated bereavement. These studies were sponsored by the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health.   

My passion for this medicine still expresses itself in my work with my patients on a daily basis. As someone who has had several painful conditions in my life, I know how debilitating pain can be. One of the key focuses of my practice is to help people who are dealing with painful conditions find relief. Whether the pain is from a car accident, a sports injury, a chronic inflammatory condition such as arthritis, menstrual pain, or even the pain of bereavement, helping you alleviate your pain and move toward feeling the way you want to feel is one the great joys of my practice. I also enjoy helping people regulate and normalize digestive, respiratory, gynecologic, and other systems of their bodies. I am particularly glad when I have the opportunity to work with people on a regular basis after an acute problem is resolved to help them feel their best. Many patients have seen me for decades for regular tune-ups.  They tell me that their health and quality of life is the envy of their friends.

I still love learning about this medicine and putting my expertise to work helping each person feel his or her best. I also enjoy working collaboratively with other doctors and health care providers. Some health concerns need a team approach, and I always tell my patients that if I can’t help you, I will try and help you find someone who can.   

Whether you have a pain problem, a dysfunction that troubles you, or you would like to benefit from a regular tune-up to keep you feeling your best, it would be my honor and pleasure to work with you. Please click here to schedule an appointment online. You can also call me at 503-223-2845 with your questions or concerns. You may also e-mail with questions you may have.

I hope to have the opportunity to be of service to you soon. If you would like to know more about what it’s like to see me for an appointment, click here.


Dr. Stephens