I enjoyed the interesting cases, but by far the most thought-provoking presentation came from Sheria Chan, an acupuncturist who helped organise free emergency acupuncture clinics for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 (a fire in a 24-storey block of flats in west London that claimed 72 lives and shocked the UK).
I always knew that this 2,000-year-old medicine is used in disaster situations. I have heard of acupuncture used to help people suffering from post 9/11 trauma in New York City. Battlefield acupuncture is used by the US military to give rapid pain relief, enabling medical personnel to get wounded soldiers away from the battlefield quickly. I regularly treat patients for symptoms of trauma in my clinic. But as I listened to Sheria talk about the the immense challenges of setting up emergency acupuncture clinics in a chaotic disaster environment, I was moved and inspired.
In the Grenfell case, volunteer acupuncturists used ear acupuncture to treat shock, trauma and anxiety at three clinics for more than a year. This is an emergency measure, to help people caught up in the chaos after the fire, to help them cope until they can get formal treatment. It is a reminder of the power and flexibility of this ancient medicine.