Blindness Didn't Diminish NESA Alum’s Acupuncture AmbitionBy Emily Halnon
Vision loss became Allison Camire’s strength, shaping a unique approach to acupuncture and healing.
Allison Camire’s path to acupuncture started when she lost her vision almost overnight during college.
Camire, a 2019 graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) at MCPHS, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was young, which is a rare degenerative eye disease that can cause severe vision impairment. She always knew vision loss was a possibility, but she didn’t experience many symptoms growing up and hoped she could overcome it.
“I had developed a bit of teenage invincibility, and it came as a shock when, all of a sudden, I was legally blind,” Camire said.
She had to adjust to her new life rapidly. Her vision loss was just one of several health challenges that Camire had to navigate as soon as her vision deteriorated. Anxiety and stress riddled her. Depression set in. She experienced severe digestive issues. Her periods became excruciatingly painful. She tried all kinds of health and dietary interventions, but nothing worked—until she tried acupuncture.
“It made a huge difference,” Camire said. “It relieved many of my symptoms, but it also brought me a tremendous sense of peace with both my vision loss and who I was becoming as a person.”
Acupuncture made such a profound difference that Camire wanted to pursue it as a career. She was determined not to let her vision loss stop her, so she did not reveal that information when she applied to schools. She was concerned she wouldn’t get accepted if they knew she was legally blind.
But, when Camire finally revealed her vision impairment to someone at NESA, she found out that vision loss isn’t a detriment in the field of acupuncture. In fact, in Japan, acupuncture is a profession reserved for people who are blind.
“Japanese acupuncture recognizes that vision impairment can heighten your other senses and enhance your ability to use them in acupuncture,” she said. “It’s recognized as a great advantage in Japanese culture. I was completely floored. It felt like I was finally on the right path and not fighting the current anymore.”
Japanese acupuncture is known for using thinner needles than Chinese acupuncture and a gentler technique for needling. Daniel Chace, who also holds a master’s of acupuncture degree and is adjunct faculty at NESA, explains that the subtle differences in Japanese acupuncture grew out of the Edo period more than 400 years ago, when Japan closed its borders to trade and the practice started to diverge from Chinese traditions. One of the most significant differences that developed is a greater use of palpation, which is when a practitioner uses their fingers and hands to treat and diagnose a patient.
“Strong emphasis was placed on palpation and questioning to form a diagnosis and treatment strategy,” he explained. “The changes made during the Edo period created a style of acupuncture more suitable for visually impaired practitioners, resulting in the practice of acupuncture becoming mostly a profession for the visually impaired during this time.”
That idea resonated with Camire as soon as she heard it because she’d felt how her sensation of physical touch had significantly changed after losing her sight.
“I could feel so many more things through my hands,” she said. “My personal experience validated the truth in this principle of Japanese acupuncture.”
Camire enrolled at NESA and got her dual master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, with a minor in Japanese acupuncture. Her academic journey was not easy, as she had to deal with the challenges of assisted technology on top of the rigorous nature of a master’s program. However, she loved how the education and mentorship she found at NESA helped her learn how to leverage her enhanced sensory abilities through acupuncture and use them to treat patient’s needs.
In the five years since graduation, Camire opened her own practice, North Shore Acupuncture and Natural Medicine in Beverly, Mass. She aims to help people gain as much as she did through acupuncture. Camire turned her condition into a strength. She said her vision loss led to a heightened perception that has shaped and strengthened her abilities to treat people.
“After losing my vision, I listen to people on a deeper level, and it helps me guide them through acupuncture based on their individual needs,” she said.
“Beyond my vision loss, I’ve been through something that felt horrendous,” Camire said. “When a patient comes to see me because they’re in their low, whether that’s physical pain, crippling anxiety, or emotional trauma, I can reassure them that I’ve been there, too, and I can help them move to the other side of it.”
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