This January, we sat down with Leonie Wims, L.Ac, to discuss health, navigating being an acupuncturist during a pandemic, auricular acupuncture, her Jamaican roots, acupuncture products, her connection with the veteran community, and more!
Get the full Acupuncturist of the Month interview below!
“Dr. Leonie”, as she is affectionately called by patients and colleagues, is passionate about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her daily inspiration comes from knowing that she has the opportunity to make a sometimes-unexpected difference in someone’s life.
The journey to becoming an Acupuncturist began many years ago with a Home Health Aide (HHA) certification, and then a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) certification.
As a CNA, Leonie specialized in wound care, dementia, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It was during these times that Leonie came to realize her passion and skill for taking care of others. Being a CNA was just the beginning, and she went on to study at Broward College, where completed her prerequisites for nursing and graduated with the intention of pursuing a nursing degree at her dream school, Nova Southeastern University. However, after the tour, visits with counsellors, submission of transcripts, and acceptance, Leonie decided to do something different. Something different became acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
Leonie Wims, L.Ac began her career when she graduated from Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine in the Fall of 2016 with a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine and Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration. She went on to further her studies in the doctoral program, and she looks forward to the completion of her Capstone soon.
Since graduation, she has worked in a few clinics and wellness centers, but most of her experience and knowledge was gained while working with the Veteran community at the VFW post 8195, and by volunteering at the Poverello Wellness Centre in Ft Lauderdale. Veterans hold a very special place in her heart, because she believes they pay, and continue to pay, the ultimate sacrifice because of a love for their country.
Currently, Leonie Wims, L.Ac. practices in Ft Lauderdale at Inline Health and Wellness where she specializes in pain management, internal medicine and herbal therapy.
We really enjoyed this interview with Leonie, and think you will, too.
Welcome, Leonie Wims, L.Ac! Thank you for joining us for Acupuncturist of the Month!
So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for, and what are your specialties?
Well, I have been practicing acupuncture since my second year in school. My alma mater ( ATOM) has a working clinic, and students in their second year were allowed to minimally practice acupuncture. Certainly, this was done under heavy supervision, and a second-year student could only assist the primary which would be a student of the attending doctor.
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
To be honest, I was never inspired to become an Acupuncturist. My journey to become an Acupuncturist came from curiosity, and a desire to do something different. I was ignorant of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine before going to ATOM. However, I was at a point in my life where just working to get paid, be it well-paid or not, was not satisfactory to me. I wanted to do something that felt right to me, and serendipitously, I found ATOM. I decided to take a leap of faith going against what was expected of me, and what I had studied for, which was Nursing.
Tell us about your acupuncture brand, Leesvilla! What sparked your idea to develop Leesvilla?
My idea for LeesVilla came about when searching for a t-shirt for an event. There was nothing that stood out, all the designs were repetitive, and I have always wanted to design my own t-shirts, so, I married both ideas. Now, what began as a simple t-shirt store with a few designs has grown into an online boutique. I would love for people to be more comfortable with acupuncture, and creating wearable designs is my way of bringing an awareness to this healing art. What better way to bring our medicine to the public in general than to wear a t-shirt or have a notebook, blanket, or clock stating, “Acupuncture, It’s Dope!” The funny thing is, I have gotten a few patients from wearing my designs! Now there is a thought!
On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
My journey to become an Acupuncturist was quite an experience. The obstacles I faced were really personal, and I say this because your question asks about a journey. Well, in order to become who I am today (including an Acupuncturist), I had to face a lot of things about myself I had neglected because I was young and ignorant. However, starting a career in one’s 30’s does not allow much room for error. So, I had to really dig deep, and be honest with myself about what I really wanted out of life. Did I want to be a social butterfly – is not being able to go shopping every week a sacrifice I am willing to make? There are other personal battles I had to overcome, but, I can smile and say it was all worth it.
Share a recent success story you had with a patient. What acupuncture points, herbs, or other interventions (meditation, yoga, nutrition, etc) did you use to help them achieve results?
One of my favorite success stories is with a Veteran. I choose this story because Vets are dear to my heart, and I have worked with them extensively through the VFW, and in private practice. I had recently started a new position at a wonderful wellness center in Ft Lauderdale. On this particular day I was given the chart of “Mr. Brown.” While reading his chart, what caught my immediate attention was “drop foot.” I got excited because I had never treated this condition before, but on my way to the patient’s room, I started second guessing myself. Well, it was too late, I had automatically knocked the door, opened it, and introduced myself. “Mr. Brown” had been a patient for several years, and his recovery from previous trauma was remarkable. Through acupuncture he had regained most of his mobility, however, from surgery, he had developed a “dropped” left foot. I was honest, and told the patient I had not treated this condition before, but that I would help him as best as I could. My secret weapon was “NAO QING”. I used this point along with others such as: TONG SHAN, YANG LING QUAN, and XUE HAI for my treatment that day. Then the wait began, “Mr. Brown’s” next appointment was eight days away, and there was no guarantee I would be able to follow up with him because doctors were not allowed to follow up or have patients at this center. However, as fate would have it, I got the opportunity to follow up and the news was astounding. I was even shocked. Ambulation, swelling, sensitivity, and range of motion had all improved exponentially. The patient was elated, and thanked me vehemently again and again.
What makes you feel inspired about acupuncture?
Patients who are deathly afraid of needles inspire me. Why? To watch a patient’s disposition, go from total apprehension, doubt, and fear to relaxed and comfortable is something I never tire of. Through Acupuncture, I am given the opportunity to change people’s lives daily. Be it with nutritional counseling, herbal therapy, or acupuncture.
Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?
Haha! The advice I would give my younger self is; “Do not take that job they are going to steal all of your herbal pharmacy!” On a serious note, I would tell my younger self to be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and keep pushing, you are doing exactly what you should be doing to fulfill your purpose.
What keeps an acupuncture practice going?
I have come to learn that to keep an acupuncture practice busy is not easy, and there are many elements needed for success. From my experience, I believe the most important element is an environment of healing. There is a pseudo- effect that happens when a patient enters your office, either for the first time or as a repeat patient. After the environment, I believe the doctor has to be calm and knowledgeable. I believe it is an oxymoron to have an Acupuncturist that looks and is frazzled. Once the environment is conducive to healing, the doctor must listen well and be able to help their patient. Lastly, I think follow up is one of the most important aspects of a practice. Patients appreciate a call the day after to see how they are feeling after their treatment. I do this to establish genuine relationships with my patients.
What are specific roadblocks to watch out for as a new acupuncturist?
-Insurance credentialing is a nightmare.
-Finding a work space is not as easy as you think.
-Everything costs, so, put money aside while in school because everything is super expensive.
We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it’s from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with situations like these?
My advice about how to deal with upset patients really varies by patient and situation. A rule of thumb for me is, always allow the patient to feel comfortable expressing themselves, respectfully. Be calm and never lose control of my space (room) clinic. Whatever that means for you as a professional, you will have to decide.
What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?
My favorite acupuncture point is Shen Men in the ear. It is my favorite because it calms the patient, and the effect is almost immediate. Going back to the above question, one thing that works for me and the reason I like Shen Men. If a patient walks in venting, I allow them to vent while guiding them to get ready for their treatment. Before I even address their chief complaint, I place ear Shen Men and then give them a few moments. Once the patient stops venting, I express empathy for their situation, and leave the room for a few minutes. Once I return a few minutes later we begin addressing the chief complaint.
Why is auricular acupuncture so helpful and important?
From my experience, patients who have a very high pain tolerance, those on psych medications, and those on very high doses of pain medications take longer to respond to body acupuncture. I have found the positive response to treatments for back, shoulder, knee, hip pain is better with auricular therapy. Auricular therapy is important for many reasons. One of which is community acupuncture. When doing community style acupuncture, auricular therapy is most time efficient, and is as effective; sometimes more than body acupuncture. Being able to effectively treat a patient with auricular therapy allows you to reach and treat very old injuries that will manifest in the ear. Whereas these old injuries may not show doing body acupuncture.
Sometimes, the best resource for improving our skills is by learning from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one thing you learned from a fellow acupuncturist or holistic practitioner, that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?
I have had the opportunity to learn from very experienced practitioners. One thing that has stuck with me, and I refer to specifically for complicated cases is, “treat what you see”. When a patient presents with a plethora of symptoms and many layers, it has always helped to stick to the basics and treat what I see. Starting there allows me to peel away layers slowly, and treat effectively each symptom or group of symptoms at a time.
”Herbal Therapy is an integral part of Oriental Medicine , and I have missed it’s application in treatments”. “ While studying at ATOM, I met Di Fu, and adopted him as my mentor, I interned with him for most of my graduate and postgraduate studies, and I still do when time allows. I attribute all my herbal and formula application knowledge to him and I am excited to be able to use this at my new office”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a significant impact on the acupuncture practice community and small businesses alike. How have you been handling the COVID-19 situation as an acupuncture practitioner? What advice or wisdom would you like to share with other acupuncturists who are also navigating through these sensitive times?
COVID-19 was, and still is a shock and major inconvenience to our field of medicine. Our field of medicine requires us to touch our patients a lot. My advice is put on your mask first; meaning, protect yourself at all times. Assume that every patient is potentially infected. Which means constant and consistent washing of hands, I use the brand Thieves for cleansing my hands and my room between treatments. Putting your mask on first includes strengthening your immune system daily. I incorporate a combination of chelated zinc, B12 injections, Engystol, Vitamin C injections, Guinea Hen Weed Tea, and sea moss into my daily routine. So far, I have been COVID free, even during March when all the shut downs and curfews were happening throughout Florida. I was doing home visits with Veterans, and I thank God daily that I was able to still help people while staying healthy.
Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?
My daily routine begins with morning prayer, and a ten-minute positive affirmation meditation. I also practice Tai Chi, and do this as a form of moving meditation as well at least three times a week. A significant part of my day is seeing my pitbull mix Luna-Belle. She is always happy to see me in the mornings and we do our exercises together. She also gets a back massage every morning before her walk. Without her, my day would be very difficult and might I say, empty. Another habit I have consciously incorporated in my daily routine is a spirit of gratitude. Being grateful leaves little or no room for negative thoughts. A spirit of gratitude keeps me uplifted throughout the day, and allows me to notice the nature and beauty that I am surrounded by. It may seem insignificant, but a spirit of gratitude allows me to be calm instead of reactive. This disposition is one of my assets in creating and maintaining client/patient relationships.
The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:
“Thank you so much Dr. Leonie, I feel normal again.” This came from a patient I was recently treating for shoulder pain. Structurally her body had begun overcompensating on one side for the deficit on the other side. This patient had been in pain for months. Sleeping was difficult, working was unbearable, and she was despondent about ever being able to just lay with her shoulders flat. Well, after the fourth or fifth treatment, she positioned herself so that I could see she was no longer lop-sided, and she was able to lay flat with her shoulders touching the bed.
The funniest thing a patient said to you recently:
My patients make me laugh out loud, sometimes I get in trouble with other doctors because the patients and I are giggling so hard. Here is one funny story I was told recently. My new patient is pregnant with her third child. I am treating her for sciatic nerve pain and headaches. After the Christmas break she came in for her appointment, We chatted for a bit and exchanged pleasantries about the COVID holiday. My patient told me that her children have a somewhat strict diet and they are not allowed butter. Well, for Christmas, their grandmother (her mother) gave each child an artisan loaf of bread and, yes, a stick of butter! When she asked her mother why she would do that, the response was “It was not just ANY stick of butter, and there was money under the loaf of bread.” Now, tell me, is that not funny?
As an acupuncturist, what are you most proud of thus far in your professional journey?
As an Acupuncturist I am most proud of my growth in public speaking. I took this course while in undergrad “just because”. Well, life is a huge circle. Here I am now, given a platform where I have had to address a room full of strangers. I was never afraid of speaking in public, my dilemma is speaking hurriedly and being inaudible Talking to patients and other professionals daily has allowed me to get better while becoming more confident in my ability to effectively communicate with an audience.
How have your Jamaican roots influenced your acupuncture practice?
Being Jamaican has greatly influenced the way I practice. You see, when I was growing up in Jamaica, what is now labeled as non-gmo and organic is what I ate on a daily basis. I grew up in a home that had a yard filled with fruit trees. Although we have no winter, I could tell the time of year by the fruit that was in season. Medicine was “bush tea” some of which we use now in herbal therapy. For example, when I first arrived in America, I remember hearing ads for weed killers and seeing pictures of dandelions. I was so confused, because I knew this was medicine. Growing up in a culture that embraced simple living, being at peace with the environment, and good old “bush remedies” allows me to understand herbal therapy, communicate with my Caribbean patients like other doctors may not be able to, and educate my patients that are not from the Caribbean.
If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why?
A billboard with Anything! Hmm, at this moment, I would say, my billboard would be accordion style, featuring Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell, Usain Bolt, Sheryl Crow, Robert Downey Jr., and Luna-Belle all wearing designs from my online boutique. To have a billboard featuring t-shirts, hoodies and totes with my celebrities supporting acupuncture and showing my designs would be heart stopping, almost.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success is going after a goal and achieving it. Some would say that not achieving the goal does not necessarily make you unsuccessful. Well, I disagree, if your goal was to make an omelet, and what you serve is scrambled eggs, well, you were unsuccessful at making an omelet.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Without a doubt my superpower would be the ability to teleport myself to any desired location with COVID and the new strain of COVID, being able to fly where and when I want is a superpower I think would be very useful right now.
*Rapid fire questions! *:
Morning or night? Both morning and night
Tea or coffee? Tea, never coffee
Sun or moon? Moon
Cupping or Tui na? Cupping
Meditation or exercise? Exercise
Instagram or Facebook? Instagram
Where can other licensed acupuncturists, students, and patients go to learn more about your work?
My website is www.longsvilleacu.com
Anyone can follow me on IG @longville_acu_wellness
To shop for cool Acupuncture wear, home decor, and stationery, please visit www.leesvilla.com
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