A One-on-One with Duke’s New World-Renowned Acupuncturist

As a child, he woke up every morning hearing his father reading and reciting classic textbooks of traditional medicine. And at the age of 16, he vividly recalls the moment his father had him insert an acupuncture needle into his body. It’s memories like those that to this day, Dr. Jongbae “Jay” Park, PhD, LAc, reflects upon when seeking spiritual guidance during his acupuncture treatments which have become recognized around the world and are now being offered to patients at Duke.

“Having learned the circumstances that affected my father’s pursuit of practicing medicine, I made the whole-hearted decision to become a doctor,” says Dr. Park, who took his first step to “fulfill his inherited calling” by leaving Korea for England to equip himself with universal principles of medical research to apply to the research of traditional medicine.

Around 1998, Professor Edzard Ernst at the University of Exeter was the only chair professor in the world who could supervise a PhD in medical sciences (clinical sciences) with an interest in evaluation of acupuncture effectiveness, according to Dr. Park.  While being an outspoken clinical researcher with critical views on acupuncture and many other subjects, Dr. Park believes Professor Ernst made substantial contributions to leading him where he is now – the new director of acupuncture and Asian medicine at Duke Anesthesiology.

On October 31, 2015, Dr. Park officially joined Duke and the team that is leading the department’s new Center for Translational Pain Medicine with the shared goal of transforming the way Duke diagnoses and treats pain patients. The new center will further expand Duke’s existing clinical and research program in innovative pain therapies by bringing together, under one umbrella, leading basic scientists, clinicians and clinical researchers who have a common core mission of unraveling the causes of painful conditions to better improve patient care. Dr. Park is also one of the internationally-respected clinicians with Duke Anesthesiology who will treat patients at Duke Health’s new pain clinic set to open in Brier Creek in August. This clinic is the first-of-its-kind in the world to offer patients a multi-disciplinary approach to pain treatment, all under one roof.

According to Dr. Park, he is the only Korean Medicine Doctor practicing in a university-based hospital, worldwide. He’s also known for developing the Park Sham device which has become one of the most validated sham methods used by world acupuncture researchers.

“The Duke community welcomes innovation and creative initiative, and has been very supportive of my efforts to incorporate Eastern medicine into modern health care,” says Dr. Park. “I seek to innovate traditional methods and make them more available in patient care.”

Over the years, Dr. Park says many of his patients have come to him after trying conventional approaches of treatment which have failed, but one of his missions is to change that way of thinking. He strongly believes in the interconnectivity of human being and beyond. Through his work at Duke, he hopes to raise awareness about the healing abilities of acupuncture (Asian medicine), and educate both patients and clinicians about why this pain therapy should not be viewed as a “last resort.”

“Acupuncture utilizes the body’s innate capacity for self-healing,” he says. “When practiced by qualified care providers, these modalities provide a treatment plan that can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life. And, more often than not, these approaches offer additional insights and perspectives of the illness.”

For Dr. Park, acupuncture and herbal medicine were the only treatments that he received when growing up, including his two cases of facial palsy, which his father treated with acupuncture. “I have seen and experienced many remarkable improvements in the conditions of patients through the use of acupuncture,” says Dr. Park. “I believe acupuncture can lead to patient-centered healing without depending on external substances, such as medication.”

When asked why he is so passionate about acupuncture, Dr. Park says it’s because at the end of the day, people can learn to be the masters of their own healing and well-being. He adds that acupuncture does not leave any residual, active ingredients. Instead, it initiates a surge of the body’s own healing mechanisms “which ultimately restores the natural flow of vitality, without which the body can evolve various pathophysiological phenomena.”

“I look forward to improving the health of the growing community at Duke and in the Triangle, along with building therapeutic partnerships with my patients,” concludes Dr. Park. “I also hope to establish safe and effective healing protocols, and to share them with clinicians through continuing education.”

To learn more about Dr. Park and where he currently provides care, visit his Duke Health bio page. Stay tuned for more details about pain therapies provided by Dr. Park and other internationally-respected clinicians at the new pain clinic set to open in Brier Creek on August 8!

Chris KeithA One-on-One with Duke’s New World-Renowned Acupuncturist