University of Minnesota - Gender Studies and Human Sexuality
Northwestern Health Sciences University - Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine
Lena Beste wants you to be healthy. As an acupuncturist, she takes joy in researching treatment plans for her patients and seeing them get relief from nagging aches and pains. And she looks forward to a time when acupuncture is a more common treatment option. But Lena is also quick to encourage you to take responsibility for your own health: Preventative care and maintenance are a must, she says.
When she’s not seeing patients, Lena takes on the additional challenges of being a small business owner, running marketing campaigns, and maintaining her website and mailing lists. The reward for her hard work is seeing her practice grow.
With the precious free time her busy schedule affords, Lena enjoys these three loves: cooking, PBS and her rescued pit bull, Luka.
Love life; let it love you back.
How did you discover your current job?
I did a semester abroad in China my sophomore year of college and fell in love with all things Asian. I was exposed to acupuncture on this trip, but it didn’t take hold as an idea for a career until six years later. I learned there was a school just outside Minneapolis, and a friend who was already enrolled reported back about all the amazing things she was learning. It didn’t even really feel like a choice: As soon as I heard about the program, it felt like a given that I would be doing this.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
My practice is still growing so my days are not yet filled completely with seeing patients. At this point, I will usually see a handful of patients -- which is certainly the highlight of my day. Each treatment session is around an hour. With my down time in between, I will review some references that pertain to the conditions I’m treating, so I can be confident in my plan for the patient and ensure they get the best treatment from me. Also, I maintain my website and mailing lists and try to do some marketing to build up the business. This is the hard part of my job. It’s satisfying to see my practice grow, but it is definitely a lot of hard work running it myself.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
Seeing people get relief from pain or symptoms that they thought they had to just live with. By the time most people in this country seek out acupuncture, they’ve already tried a lot of other treatments. When they feel the weight of illness or pain lift, it’s a remarkable transformation and is so fulfilling. The challenge comes in getting compliance from patients and having them do the maintenance involved with staying well, but I let things outside of my control go and trust them to know what they need.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Running one’s own business is scary, and the loss of security that comes from a stable paycheck is daunting. Other than that, the actual work is a joy and a privilege!
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Prevention! Preventative care is essential! So many diseases and discomforts are a result of poor lifestyle choices and then failing to address issues early, before they become serious. Our culture and government policies do not do us any favors in this area. We simply do not value wellness or the effort it takes to stay well.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
This is tough to answer in the sense that I feel this field is pretty welcoming to women. In my experience, the only time it has been an issue is when a patient from a certain generation really does struggle with the authority of women in the medical field. It’s not that they don’t trust me in particular; I think it was just so ingrained in the past that medical authority is infallible and always came from the mouths of men. It’s like medical paternalism.
Who are your role models?
It’s a cliché answer, but honestly my mother. She is a senior pastor at a Lutheran church, and while I’m not personally religious, her journey from deferential farmer’s daughter to church leader leaves me in awe of her. She was always taught to speak only when spoken to. Now, she’s a leader of a progressive, socially active church with the voice to represent a whole congregation from the pulpit and the commanding authority to run a church -- a predominately male-dominated field.
-Interview by Keriann Strickland