Dymystifying Clark Zimmerman
by Barbara J. Stankus
For eight weeks, a group of OLLI students settled into their chairs in Room D in anticipation of Clark Zimmerman’s lively discussions of some of the fundamental ideas behind the mysteries of Chinese medicine. Clark’s exuberance and enthusiasm lit up the room as he led us through the fundamentals of Qi, Yin and Yang, Chinese herbs, tongue and pulse diagnosis, acupuncture, moxibustion, and the 5 phases/elements. He explained why an acupuncture is placed in the foot to treat a headache, but he really got our attention when he told us that one of Qi’s functions is to protect us from “evil pernicious influences.” Who among us does not need such protection?
Just who is this spirited, dynamic, and playful individual? Clark and his 5 siblings grew up in a loving and supportive environment in Indianapolis. Interestingly, his parents and stepfather were Western medicine practitioners! Following in his parents’ footsteps, Clark was a pre-Med student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio until his senior year when he switched majors to English Literature.
It was in Portland, Oregon, while working in a health foods store surround by staff and patrons interested in this “organic,” “natural,” and “local,” that Clark was attracted to the connection between lifestyle, diet, and health. He went on to study massage and was introduced to the Asian practice of working with energetics as well as the physical body. Shortly he enrolled in the 4-year graduate program at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, one of the top Chinese Medicine school in the U.S. There, where half of the faculty was from China, one professor in particular influenced his outlook: Satya Ambrose, founder of a naturopathic and acupuncture school, impressed him with her humble manner and delightful, lyrical, playful, and mesmerizing style. We OLLI students were fortunate to enjoy these same characteristics in Clark. Classes were lively and filled with laughter and, at times, downright silliness!
Clark told me that for him the beauty of the practice of Eastern medicine is that the practitioner evaluates and treats the whole person. Practitioners of western medicine, on the other hand, specialize and compartmentalize. For example, they are cardiologists, pulmonologists, podiatrists, surgeons, and the like. The family physician, who used to be a patient’s “point person,” has all but disappeared and often patients’ medicical histories are scattered and disorganized.
Clark is thrilled when he is able to empower his patients to reach their potential. Following an evaluate, he sits with the patient, determines what they need, and the encourages, inspires and energizes them to make choices that will enable them to achieve their goals. He considers himself the navigator and the patient the driver. He finds it frustrating when people don’t recognize their power.
Soon after graduation, Clark married his classmate, Ann and the two practiced in Portland for a year. They moved to Oregon in April, 2006 and establish their practice, Middleway Medicine, in Talent where they enjoy Southern Oregon’s rich culture, its weather, and it quiet, small-town feel.
Clark and Ann have traveled the world, and have been able to be of service in some of the places they visited. One of Clark’s most memorable experiences was of being asked to treat a Fijian woman who had had a stroke. Much was at stake since the woman was the wife of the village Chief! Fortunately for Clark, the outcome was positive. He and Ann obtained a grant that enabled them to return to Fiji to continue their service work. Clark is always impressed with the goodness and the innocence of people he’s met in his travels.
For fun, Clark likes to garden on their 6 acres. He plays the mandolin and guitar and he’s been juggling since he was 5 years old. He entertained is with a brief juggling act at the end of our last class! His repertoire also includes making HUGE, complex balloon art pieces and….deep breath….being a clown! Why was I not surprised to learn that he put himself through medical school by working as a clown at McMenamin’s in downtown Portland? I WAS surprised, however to learn taht it is his wife, Ann, who helps keep him in the play mode.
Clark wants OLLI members to know how blessed he is. He is often in a state of disbelief about how food people are and how good life is. It’s his mission to ensure that everyone is able to experience such fulfillment. Clark says he is honored to be a part of OLLI, one of the most unique programs he’s every experienced. Contraty to the typical stereotype of bored aged folk in rocking, he saw in us a great deal of joy and a tremendous thirst for knowledge. We “rock” but not in chairs!
A true juggler, Clark has many balls in the air. His plans for the future include opening a “healing clinic” that would include other practitioners of Eastern medicine such as naturopaths, midwifes, yoga instructors, massage therapists, and classrooms for community programs. He plans to do service work in Central America and finally, he plans to add yet more letter to the MAC.OM, L.Ac., LMT, currently behind his name by studying for his PhD!
Clark will be back at OLLI this sememster to demystify Chinese Medicine for another OLLI group. He has plans for a follow-yp class in the Fall for the enlightened members of the first two classes. Make a point to meet Clark-I promise, you won’t be disappointed.