Dr. Chase KinseyAs President Barack Obama tries to reshape the U.S. health-care system into one that is based on prevention rather than on reaction to disease, Shadidi Beatrice Chase Kinsey, D. Ac., sees a valuable role for acupuncture.

“Acupuncture works on the premise of balancing the body’s energy,” says Dr. Kinsey, co-founder and executive director of P.E.A.C.E. Health Center in the Bedford- Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. “When there is an imbalance in the body’s energy, certain manifestations and disharmonies occur such as respiratory, digestive and circulatory disorders.” These disorders, she says, show up as breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, all of which plague the Black community.

In 1992, Kinsey became the first African-American to be licensed by New York State to practice acupuncture. Her interest in acupuncture began in 1981, when she read a story in the New York Amsterdam News about the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture. She subsequently enrolled in the school, but it closed down in 1982, and for the next two years Kinsey studied acupuncture independently. In 1984, she enrolled at the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine of New York City and received a Diploma of Acupuncture three years later. A year after that she became a certified doctor of acupuncture at the International Institute of Acupuncture and Traditional Medicine in Canada, and in 1989 was certified by the National Commission for Certification of Acupuncturist and Oriental Medicine.

Kinsey, who co-founded the P.E.A.C.E. Center with family practitioner Sheila George, M.D., and the late Dafina Biteye, D.Ac, celebrated 20 years of service last year. Her patient roster includes all age groups, from children to seniors, 70 percent of whom are women. Thanks to a vigorous outreach program that includes workshops and “healing days,” people are becoming more receptive to being treated with acupuncture, she says, but she concedes that “word of mouth” has been the center’s best friend. The center also employs two naturopathic doctors and a licensed clinical social worker who offer psychotherapy and counseling.

Most insurance plans do not cover acupuncture, but Kinsey hopes that Medicare and Medicaid will do so in the near future. In the meantime, she makes sure that her services are affordable for everyone. “I’m a healer activist,” she exclaims. “I love bringing this healing technique to my people. This is why I’m in it.”