Rizwan (Riz) Lakhani

riz-cutoutI first learned about acupuncture as a young, inquisitive child, spending much of my time studying all sorts of subjects that sparked my interest. My parents were immigrants from India that came over to the United States in the 1970’s. Along with them, they brought their deep respect for education, and made it a priority to pass this reverence for learning down to me. As a young one, I was especially attracted to the subjects of eastern philosophy and martial arts, and I voraciously read everything about them that I could find.  Many a summer, my father would drop me off at the library in the morning on his way to work and pick me up on his way home at the end of the day, and I was free to roam the library and absorb whatever knowledge I chose to.

I grew up in a suburban Maryland community that exposed me to the values of diversity, hard work, and striving for the best. When I was in the fifth grade, I took a trip to India to visit family that opened my eyes about the realities of the world that most of the global population contends with – dire poverty, lack of resources, rampant disease, and endless other problems that most would never think of unless they saw for themselves. Every day I saw naked kids begging for money, living on the street, and it broke my heart. I couldn’t help but feel that they were too young to have to deal with that. I began pondering the nature of life, and that was when I first realized the deep desire in my heart to help others and live a life of service and compassion. This was my first step on the humbling path towards becoming a healthcare provider.

After graduating from the University of Maryland, I spent some time working for large telecommunications companies. For several years I was at the forefront of the wireless world, observing the way that technology like text messaging, camera phones, social networking, and so on spread like wildfire. It was an important time in my life in which I got to learn about the ways in which people connect with one another. However, despite being involved in a fascinating industry, I knew that a career in a corporate office was not enough for me. I knew I could make much more of a direct impact in people’s lives. I saw suffering everywhere I looked, and watched as epidemics skyrocketed from being uncommon during the time of my childhood to becoming the norm in my adulthood – obesity, diabetes, out of control blood pressure, heart problems, cancers, PTSD, drug/narcotic dependence, decreasing quality of nutrition, mental illnesses; the list goes on. I knew that I had a role to play in all of this, but did not know quite yet what that specific role would be.

It turned out that the local acupuncture school was nearby, just a few buildings away from my corporate office. One day, I got curious and drove by it. I discovered a few amazing things – one, that they were the first school in the nation to teach acupuncture (they opened their doors in 1974), and two, that they actually offered an accredited Master’s degree in acupuncture. Learning the art and science of acupuncture in this fashion immediately became a tempting option for me, even though it meant sacrificing the lucrative career that I was already successful in. However, the notion of becoming a healer that would spend all my time working with people, using the gift of human hands to deliver care and reduce suffering, was worth it to me. My childhood dreams were coming back to me full circle in this opportunity to devote myself to a four-year graduate school education and make a change in my professional life that would certainly be more fulfilling.

As acupuncturists, we often tend to look at health issues from a different perspective. We are taught that the symptoms we experience are actually the design of nature, to teach us something about how we are living. The body is truly an amazing mechanism, and we can do great work and live high quality lives if we pay attention and take care of ourselves the way we were designed to. I’m proud to be able to do this work and be a part of the global community of acupuncturists who have been helping people to heal and feel better for ages. One of my greatest honors as a practitioner has been working with individuals who come in seeking treatment for a particular issue, and find that other health issues they had long been dealing with also resolved. That’s because we don’t attempt to simply cover symptoms, we restore balance to the internal environment, which then promotes homeostasis and optimal function. Acupuncture is a wonderful tool that facilitates true healing.