As the millennium turned, Korben Perry was falling apart. “I had chronic, debilitating back pain,” he says. “I had depression, respiratory stuff that I couldn’t shake for months.” Doctors visits and medicine didn’t resolve his symptoms, so Perry made a radical decision: He tried acupuncture, the ancient medical practice of inserting tiny needles into the body. The results were fast and palpable.
“I felt well,” Perry recalls. “After two or three treatments, I thought, ‘What was that?’”
Perry’s curiosity about acupuncture has guided the past 20 years of his life. Leaving his work as a children’s librarian, Perry studied traditional Chinese medicine at the New England School of Acupuncture and graduated in 2002. Perry tried private practice, which can be a lucrative business for acupuncturists. But everything changed when he visited Louisiana to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We were literally doing treatments on street corners,” Perry says. “I had this recording that was running in my head, ‘What am I doing here? This isn’t what these people need.’ But it turns out it was very useful. People slept for the first time in weeks. It was an experience that changed my thinking.”
Since that early grassroots experience, Perry has worked mainly in community acupuncture clinics, where patients receive treatment and pay on a sliding scale. His latest venture is Kindred Community Acupuncture, a facility in Pawtucket that caters to its surrounding neighborhoods. For $15-45, visitors can sit in a reclining chair, receive needles in their “acupoints,” and let the millennia-old medicine do its work. The clinic has a spacious, sun-lit room with potted plants and cushioned chairs arranged in a semi-circle. There is also a separate room for private sessions.
Perry’s business partner is Gayle Rodgers, who manages Kindred. Rodgers has had many careers, from customer service to owning her own sandwich shop in San Francisco. After a painful knee surgery, Rodgers struggled with her OxyContin prescription; she wanted to lessen the pain without a powerful opioid, so she turned to Providence Community Acupuncture, a similar facility in Federal Hill. Perry was a practitioner there, and the two became friends.
Today, Perry practices acupuncture and Rodgers administrates, and their skills blend well. “Gayle is good at putting people at ease, better than anyone I’ve ever met in my life,” says Perry.
“First-time patients, you have to train them,” opines Rodgers. “What the acupuncture is, what a sliding scale is, what it’s going to feel like. I think the needle thing is a big phobia for people. But here, they find a place they can relax.” 545 Pawtucket Avenue, Pawtucket