Acupuncture Alumna Leah Olson Builds Successful Practice

Kathy Hagens, Vice President, Marketing | October 11, 2017

NWHSU alumna Leah Olson, MSOM shares her story on how she got started as an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practitioner in Appleton, Wisconsin. She also lends advice and insight for those considering the field.

Stepping into the lobby of the shared office space of Whole Family Health in Appleton, Wisconsin, is total and complete Zen.  The area was designed with Feng shui principals in mind, and it couldn’t have been more comforting.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Appleton native and alumna of Northwestern Health Sciences University, Leah Olson, MSOM.‌

Leah graduated in 2007 with a Master of Oriental Medicine degree and now leases space in an office with multiple integrated health disciplines including chiropractic, massage and wellness, yoga, and reflexology. 

Leah and I talked about her education at Northwestern, the growth of her practice, and the advice she would give to students or potential students who desire to go into the field of acupuncture.  She was open about the rewards as well as the challenges, and our conversation relays excellent insight for someone considering the field.  

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Leah became intrigued by Chinese medicine and found her way to Northwestern.  She felt her education left her well prepared for practice, and specifically called out Dr. John Pirog as a fantastic teacher.  Leah felt that Dr. Pirog, along with a number of other professors, provided her with the tools and preparation required to apply acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a practitioner. 

While Leah has a very successful and lucrative practice now, she is quick to note that it did not come easy, and was built slowly over the years.  As is common with many students, she had accumulated debt through student loans during her studies at Northwestern, and her income during the first three to five years was minimal.  Without the support of her husband’s income she may not have been able to take the time to build her practice to the extent it is today. 

In discussing what has made her practice successful, Leah cited three key areas:  

1) A strong website that includes good information and numerous positive reviews by clients, which she actively solicited as her clients continually expressed feedback to her regarding the benefits of her services;

2) Locating her practice in a market that is not heavily saturated like some of the larger cities may be; and

3) Personal integrity. 

Throughout the years, Leah has worked hard to build one-on-one relationships with her clients, support a strong patient/practitioner lifestyle, grow organically and teach herself how to run a successful business.  She cited one book in particular, “Making Acupuncture Pay” by Matthew Bauer, L.Ac., that has been “pure gold” for teaching practical tips on building and managing a successful practice.

Leah’s advice to current students, as well as those considering the field, is that there is a lot of opportunity when you think outside the box. If you desire to stay in a large city with lots of other acupuncturists, consider a niche practice.  If you want to move to a smaller city, having more of a “general practitioner” mindset may be the way to go.  

Small business owners as healers are able to build a meaningful career with flexibility and independence, and it can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding.  Her cash-only business has proven to be successful, and physicians refer patients to her. Running a small business does require business knowledge and may not be for everyone.  Some individuals may wish to consider working in a hospital system or integrative clinic initially as an employee. 

The growth of her practice, as well as her continuous self-learning on business principals, has allowed her the time, flexibility and knowledge to expand her expertise beyond her practice.  In June 2017 she was appointed to the Appleton School Board.  She had previously been involved in the PTA at her sons’ elementary school and is looking forward to giving back.  It also allows her to interact with other professionals and contribute to the future of K-12 education. ‌

What’s next for Leah and Whole Family Health?  She’s continually taking online targeted CE courses, and an online Ph.D. program is always a consideration. 



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