For the past three decades, Lixin Huang has been an integral part of Chinese medicine’s evolution, sustainability practices, education, and global conservation efforts. This past summer she retired as Vice President of China Projects at CIIS, though she has held many additional positions: President of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM); President of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; and a member of CIIS Board of Trustees. She has also been actively involved with the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). As ACTCM celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, we also honor her beautiful story as an immigrant woman in leadership, whose legacy is an integral part of the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the United States.
Lixin Huang’s Story Is One for the Ages
Born in the ancient city of Xian, China, home to the trove of terracotta soldiers and horses discovered in the 1970s, Lixin came of age during the Cultural Revolution. “When I finished high school,” she recalls, “my classmates and I were sent to the countryside to work on farms for three years. There were many hardships, but we learned how Chinese farmers survive through their labor.” TCM was an important part of her childhood. “This profound healing art that originated more than 3,000 years ago was very much a part of our Chinese culture, food, daily life, and philosophy.”
As a teenager, Lixin was selected out of 1,000 young farmers in her community to complete university studies. After graduating with a degree in English, she taught and worked in administration at colleges throughout China. In 1986, she was offered a full scholarship for graduate study in the U.S., but accepting it meant that Lixin would have to be separated from her family and young child. Though this was an anguishing decision, she determined that the long-term prospects for everyone would be greater if she went. Her hopes were realized; eventually, she was able to move her entire family to the U.S.
Lixin also found her way to ACTCM, working as a student advisor, registrar, and admissions officer. This experience solidified her dedication to both the college and the field of TCM. “The stories students shared with me of how acupuncture or tai chi or Chinese herbal medicine improved or even helped save their lives was incredibly meaningful. They also gave me a sense of pride about my heritage and passion about the mission of ACTCM.”
A Focus on Sustainable Practices for TCM
After three years of working at ACTCM, Lixin rose to become president. She also began to use her voice at international conferences and TEDx talks to advocate for TCM. Since 1997, she has worked with The World Wildlife Fund on campaigns to educate people in China about ending the commercial trade and use of endangered-animal parts for medicine. She continues today to serve as a WWF advisor. Lixin also helped to organize a major conference in Beijing that was instrumental in persuading Chinese officials to enact and support legal restrictions to curtail the trade of tiger parts in China. During the Obama Administration, Lixin was appointed an advisor to the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Advisory Council. She has also worked with Chinese leadership, national media, as well as local Bay Area schools and the San Francisco Zoo to raise awareness of the illegal animal trafficking trade and its history in TCM.
A Chinese Mental Health Leader
After overseeing the merger between ACTCM and CIIS in 2015, Lixin became Vice President for China Projects. China Projects is an initiative that brings together Chinese students, health professionals, and U.S. psychology faculty through a series of certificate programs, lectures, and workshops, academic exchanges, and social outreach at CIIS. "Psychology is new to China, and as such, there is little education for those interested in the field and little training for those who wish to become counselors,”says Lixin. “Because of CIIS’ East-meets-West roots, leading-edge research, gifted faculty, and commitment to producing clinical practitioners, China Projects is fast becoming a model for others to adapt."
Lixin’s efforts have come to fruition, many overseas students from China now have the opportunity to study at CIIS and become oriented in clinical mental health work; for instance, in expressive arts and drama therapies, Aikido, transpersonal psychology, human sexuality, loss and crisis, dreamwork, somatic psychotherapy and Gestalt therapy. China Projects is in its early days. And, as Lixin acknowledges, there is much more work to be done to bridge the world of psychology between the East and the West; moreover, to embed mental health into the fabric of Chinese culture. Thanks to her groundbreaking work, these foundations have been laid.
She is an educator first and full of love always
From CIIS President Judie Wexler
“Simplicity, patience, and compassion. These three are your greatest treasures,’ said Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. They are Lixin’s as well, for which our community has been the fortunate beneficiary. As Judie Wexler said of Lixin, ‘She is an educator first and full of love always.’ We will miss Lixin’ s daily presence at CIIS, but will continue to be inspired by her legacy and passion. With heartfelt congratulations and appreciation, we wish Lixin the best going forward”.
From the CIIS and ACTCM Community
Liz Beaven EdD
Thank you for the many, many ways you have served the ACTCM and CIIS communities and the wider world of Chinese medicine and wildlife conservation. Thanks to you, my current position began with a lightning-fast trip to Beijing. I have appreciated our many exchanges in meetings and around the building and have watched your deep care for the ACTCM faculty and staff (tea eggs for all!) Like others, I suspect that you will reinvent retirement. May it be happy and fulfilling.
Dr. Carla Wilson PhD, DAOM
Dean, ACTCM at CIIS
Your day-to-day presence will be missed by so many people! You are a true inspiration and are always ready to give love and support of those you come into contact with. I thank you for the many doses of love medicine that you have given me.
We have been friends and colleagues since 1997. We stood back to back as political allies and have had a good many adventures together. I will feel forever blessed by our friendship. I know our journey along the path of TCM will continue and I look forward to continuing our work.
May this new phase in your very busy and interesting life give rise to much happiness and fulfillment with your family and grandchildren.
Dr. Valerie Hobbs, DAOM
Director of Postgraduate Doctoral Programs
ACTCM at CIIS
I have had a friendship with Lixin that predates my coming to ACTCM, and working with her is the reason for my taking the job offer here. She is a giant in the TCM profession in the United States, and there was a time when her grace and tenacity carried the space for all our national acupuncture professional associations to pull together and develop a new generation of leaders. The CIIS community may not know to what extent these associations have been responding to the acupuncturists across the country who have all incurred a devastating loss of practice and have had to quickly and quite professionally lead the country in creating new guidelines for close contact medical care in the absence of the support that equal status in US healthcare affords. And that’s only the most recent advance in the face of challenge. The development of the organizations and talent to support an entire profession is directly traceable to Lixin’s foresight and vision for the profession for which she devoted a lifetime of advocacy and leadership.
I receive this news with great appreciation, sadness, admiration, congratulations, and recognition of the difference Lixin’s work has made in the lives of so many professionals and through them, in an unimaginable population of healed patients. She transformed a far and wide reach into an immense embrace, I remain humbled to be within it.
Lixin, I hope that when times transform, this transition yields means many more trips to the zoo with your grandchildren.
ACTCM Clinic Operations Director
Thank you for all that you’ve done for ACTCM, CIIS: especially for thousands of practicing alumni acupuncturists stretched all over the globe.
Sixteen years ago, I started working at the ACTCM Community Acupuncture Clinic having never worked in a medical office before. One of the person’s who interviewed me was Lixin Huang. Meeting her, I was taken by her by kindness and warmth. She inquired about my family and found an affinity with my mother, another strong woman who had lived through great adversity. ACTCM was a much smaller institution at that time, so her inquiries into how I was doing and how my mother was doing contributed to the coziness of the environment, making it somewhat familial. There were several occasions even, where she insisted on sharing her lunch with me, both of us taking late afternoon lunches that would have been disapproved of in TCM terms. I have always appreciated her advocacy for animal rights through the World Wildlife Fund. I was also well aware that many of our study abroad programs wouldn’t have thrived or even gotten off the ground if it weren’t for her initiative to advance ACTCM in standing and along with it, acupuncture and holistic wellbeing.
In these last few years, after the merger with CIIS and her new positions taking her to the Mission Street campus, Lixin would always make sure that we knew that ACTCM was always on her mind. She was still an advocate for holistic medicine, but now she wanted it to be integrated with CIIS’ strengths, mental healthcare.
Lixin, the longstanding relationships you’ve cultivated in the Bay Area and abroad are a testament to the love of what you do and strive for. I have no doubt that even in retirement you will still be in service of making education and healthcare better.”
On behalf of the entire Operations team, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for your amazing kindness and generosity over these past few years that we’ve worked together.
None of us will forget the care and compassion you have shown us, especially when one of us was going through a difficult time. We will all miss your maternal warmth and daily thoughtful gestures, like bringing your famous tea eggs or other healthy snacks for us, or bringing us back mementos from your travels. You have infused all of your work with passion and humanity and that legacy will remain in all of the hearts you have touched over your long career here.
It’s impossible to imagine you retiring, but our wish for you is that this next phase brings everything you are hoping for, whether that’s rest and relaxation, time with your family, or another exciting adventure. You have more than earned time to focus on yourself after 30+ years of hard work and dedication to others.”
Janis Phelps, PhD
Professor, East-West Psychology, Director of the Center for Psychedelic Therapy & Research
Your gracious ways and wisdom will be missed sorely here. Every time we crossed paths in hallways and elevators, you were an ambassador of whimsy and pragmatic ways of living. You helped me know how to carry my large book bag better and my back pain has not returned since you gave me pointers that day walking together. Bows to you. You have helped countless people live better and healthier lives.
Thank you for your contributions to many fields and may your "retirement" bring you to doing much more of your favorite activities in life. Much deserved.
Meg Jordan, PhD, RN
Chair, Professor, Integrative Health Studies
Oh, how I will miss you! At the same time, I'm celebrating this next passage in your life as you enjoy more freedom to spend your time just as you want. I can't help but think that there are a lot more rhinos with horns intact, due to your fierce advocacy. You're an exceptional leader, speaking scientific truth to outdated traditions, moving entire systems of medicine into a more progressive stance. I will always value how you recognized possibilities for more integrative work between the schools and programs, and how you strived to make as many connections as possible. To me, you have the heart and mind of an "essential worker," one who understands the constrains of a current reality but continues to strive for the best possible outcome. I will be watching for your next brilliant moves!”
Daniel Deslauriers, PhD
Professor, Transformative Studies
Lixin, I wish you the best in your path forward. I can't imagine that you will "retire", even though you are leaving our beloved Institute/ACTCM. It was an honor and pleasure to work alongside you with the China Project, and see the fruits of your leadership across nations!
With deep gratitude for your dedication and service for the greater good, here and globally!
Marketing and Communications
As a team and department, Marketing and Communications has always appreciated your support in our supporting all of your work for CIIS and ACTCM, China, and the world. You have shown us incredible respect and kindness in the way you work with all of us, and the alacrity and acumen with which you respond to any request for your words, wisdom, strategies, PR interviews, and time. Thank you for greeting all of us on the team with such warmth and welcome. We have all learned so much from you--especially as you have said many, many times: "It's about the students first. That is always my first concern."
A Final Word...
I feel fortunate that I was able to work in a profession that provides healing modalities and trains people to become healers. To see the embrace of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the medical community and witness the creation of the doctorate has been amazing! I have worked with the doctors throughout a global medical community, which was unimaginable in the early years, and saw many “firsts”, such as treating patients with HIV. I am very honored to help people so much.
- Lixin Huang