by Sheila Julson
For many people, college opens up a new world of expanded ideas and awareness. So it was for Karen Wilson, who in her early 20s joined the Sunbelt Alliance movement to stop construction of the Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant. The project was proposed around the same time as the partial nuclear meltdown accident at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in 1979.
“That’s what led to my interest in health and well-being,” Wilson recalls. Her quest to ensure comfort and happiness is within reach for all continues today through the pay-what-you-can fee structure at her practice, Central Oklahoma Community Acupuncture (COCA).
Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in business from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Her activism with the Sunbelt Alliance led her to Washington, D.C., where she met people in need of basic human services. During her early years in the nation’s capital, she served as director of the National Committee for Radiation Victims. She also taught women’s self-defense classes and served on the board and volunteered at Zacchaeus Free Medical Clinic.
While at a potluck dinner, Wilson met a student in the graduate program at the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (now Maryland University of Integrative Health). “He explained acupuncture to me, and it made sense in that it worked with the body’s natural immune response,” she recalls. “I was curious and began receiving treatment.”
Impressed, Wilson enrolled at Traditional Acupuncture Institute and four years later, she earned a master’s of acupuncture degree. She returned to Oklahoma in 2002 to practice acupuncture in her home state. Yet she still yearned to see other places, so in 2007, she and her husband moved to Eugene, Oregon.
Wilson loved Oregon and compared her neighbors’ lush gardens to the Garden of Eden. She also connected with a group of acupuncturists concerned about the accessibility of affordable health care. That group morphed into People’s Organization for Community Acupuncture (POCA) and focused on making acupuncture more accessible and affordable. “It became a co-op of which I’m a member,” she says. “To be a member, the agreement is to let people choose what they pay for their treatment.”
Wilson returned to Oklahoma City in 2013 and opened COCA. She observes how the city’s natural health community had substantially grown, giving her options to refer patients for other services, such as nutrition consulting, massage and more.
COCA patients pay $15 to $40 per treatment. They decide what they can afford, and there is no income verification. “With acupuncture, it typically takes a series of treatments for people to really respond fully. If you can’t afford to get in for the regular treatments, acupuncture really won’t work,” Wilson explains. “This model makes acupuncture more affordable to more people.”
After a confidential consult and initial interview, the patient is led to a community treatment room with six recliners. Pant legs and shirtsleeves are rolled up to access acupuncture points on the lower arms and legs. Wilson says acupuncture works on a wide range of conditions, including digestive issues, migraines, asthma, menstrual irregularity, fibromyalgia, arthritis and autoimmune disorders. It can also help alleviate symptoms from cancer treatment and discomfort during pregnancy.
“A lot of people are living with chronic conditions,” Wilson observes. “Acupuncture can be a source of pain management for those concerned about the length of time they are using pharmaceutical drugs, which can have long-term effects on the body.”
Wilson encounters people that would not have considered acupuncture at one time but find COCA’s sliding-scale payment system more affordable than other healthcare options. Many of those people ultimately find relief, she says.
Through the years, Wilson has volunteered with veterans’ groups, community detox centers and while in Eugene was voted as one of the area’s top acupuncturists as chosen by other healthcare professionals. She says she’s fortunate to work with a wide range of people from all walks of life. “We have a lot more in common than we think, and I just enjoy and appreciate people,” she says. “Through acupuncture, people see improvement in their health, realize that their bodies can still respond, and they don’t have to be in pain.”
Central Oklahoma Community Acupuncture is located at 2525 Northwest Expressway, Ste. 201, Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-255-3193 or visit CentralOklahomaAcupuncture.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.