Only seasoned locals would guess the serene setting inside Grass Valley Community Acupuncture was once the site of a lively bar.
Soft lighting, Asian minimalism and a peaceful quiet set the tone of the spacious clinic, in sharp contrast to the busy Grass Valley intersection just outside.
For the past year, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist Reneé Klorman has been quietly making a mark on Nevada County’s overall health, as her mission from day one has been to offer accessible, affordable acupuncture to patients on a sliding pay scale.
Since she opened her doors last October, the clinic has provided more than 1,300 treatments. In addition to acupuncture, a treatment plan might include Chinese herbal prescriptions, cupping, dietary recommendations and exercises.
“I always knew I would start a community acupuncture clinic,” said Klorman. “I felt I couldn’t be genuine if I charged too much. I wanted a model that offered affordable treatments, so people could come in for more than one, which is common in China. I just wanted to focus on medicine.”
Initially, the “trust piece” of offering treatments for as little as $20 for returning patients was a leap of faith, added Klorman, but she has never regretted her decision.
While initial “intake” appointments are conducted in a private room, Klorman says she’s able to keep costs down by offering treatments in a peaceful group setting — also common in China — where patients comfortably recline in zero-gravity chairs or lie on tables.
Acupuncture points found on the head, abdomen and limbs are used to treat the entire body, allowing patients to remain clothed.
“The first week I was worried about being in a room with other people,” said Penn Valley patient Cheryl Pirtle, who suffers from chronic arthritis and joint pain.
“I thought it might be weird, but it’s totally fine. It’s very peaceful. I’m retired and on a fixed income — I truly appreciate the sliding scale. I used to go to an acupuncturist and pay $80 per session, so I couldn’t go that often. Now I come here twice a week and I feel great.”
There’s a certain group calm that settles over the room, said Klorman, adding that some who are isolated at home with chronic conditions grow to appreciate the unconventional setting.
“Certain kinds of chronic illness can cause people to feel very alone,” she explained.
“Because the community setting includes other patients, it encourages people to interact with their conditions in ways that are not possible in a one-on-one private setting. Being treated with other people can be healing.”
“Renee has a very quiet, caring demeanor and she’s extremely intelligent,” said Grass Valley patient Norma Nielsen. “She’s helped me in ways no doctor ever could. I’m so grateful.”
After earning a master’s degree in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, Klorman landed an extremely stressful job working for a high-profile billionaire in midtown Manhattan.
“Making errors was not an option,” she said. “My job was making me sick. The first time I encountered Chinese medicine was as a patient in a lot of pain.”
Her experience changed her life and launched her now-insatiable interest in Chinese medicine. Klorman holds a master of science degree in Chinese medicine and is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist and herbalist.
She practices family medicine, with a special focus on women’s health.
In addition to the 3,100 hours of training she received in acupuncture and herbology, she also has 1,200 hours of training in medical massage and Asian body work. She continues studying medicine and is currently in a two-year graduate mentorship program with Sharon Weizenbaum, a renowned New England scholar and practitioner of Chinese medicine.
Grass Valley Community Acupuncture is a member of a national cooperative called the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture, which means the Nevada County clinic is part of a huge network of other clinics with the same approach and philosophy.
“We refer patients to one another all the time to help people remain consistent with their care,” said Klorman. “For instance, I referred someone to a clinic in Ireland while she is traveling for five weeks. The best part is that I know many of the people I refer patients to because we all stay connected through a vibrant online community, and meet twice a year for a conference.”
Acupuncturists who have private practices can find it quite isolating, she continued, and community acupuncture is exactly the opposite. Clinics within the network share information openly and the tone is never competitive.
“We share the common goal to make acupuncture accessible and that shared passion makes each clinic better,” said Klorman. “I feel completely supported and know that I will never face a challenge alone. It is truly the most fulfilling work I have ever done.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4203.