There’s a calming air to her very presence. A warmth that soothes your soul, making you feel welcome, cared for, seen.

Dr. Wendy Takeda has devoted her life and career to her patients, their well-being, and to advancing the field of alternative health care and the science behind it.

An acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Takeda is the owner of Elements Physical Therapy and Acupuncture Ltd., a thriving and highly respected clinic in Lethbridge. Her practice is full, and she helps thousands of people each year. Although the hours are long and the days are full, the work energizes Takeda.

“My patients inspire me,” she says. “They make me want to do better. I work hard because of them, and when they feel better, I feel better.”

After completing her undergraduate degree in physical therapy at the University of Alberta in 1987, she went on to complete a master of science (researching the effectiveness of medical acupuncture) in 1992 and a doctorate in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in 1998. She became a partner in a local physiotherapy clinic in 1993 then opened her own practice in 2001. Today, Takeda is considered a pioneer of acupuncture in Lethbridge; she was one of the first to bring this Eastern practice to southern Alberta.

“Looking back, being a graduate student was a difficult time and it was very hard to get funding, particularly in the field of alternative health,” she recalls. “And I think it’s even more difficult for students today,” she says.

A healer at heart, it’s a concern Takeda is working to help remedy. Already a long-time supporter of the University of Lethbridge, in 2015 she created the Elements Physical Therapy & Acupuncture Award, given to two graduate-level students in health sciences annually.

“I hope the award will help more students be able to pursue a career in alternative or complementary medicine,” she says. “In turn, I hope it helps those students educate the community on the important role alternative health plays in conjunction with Western medicine.”

In addition to supporting the next generation of practitioners, Takeda is turning to science to help build evidence for acupuncture to become part of the mainstream health-care system and increase accessibility.

She’s teamed up with Dr. Brenda Leung, an assistant professor in Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Emmy Droog Chair in Complementary and Alternative Health Care (CAHC) at uLethbridge. Together, they are embarking upon a new study to investigate the use of acupuncture for treating anxiety in children and adolescents.

“Over recent years, I’ve seen this segment of my practice grow and I’ve been effectively treating more and more children for anxiety with acupuncture, which calms the limbic systems,” Takeda explains.

The study, which is supported by the 2015 Canadian CAM Research Fund, will enable Takeda and Leung to systemically collect data and substantiate these findings.

“Being able to collaborate with Dr. Takeda provides a key connection to people in the community and to address their questions, concerns and issues,” says Leung. “Today’s research must consider diverse perspectives, including academics, clinicians and patients. This is especially true for nonconventional practices like acupuncture, where practitioners have not been included in the past. This collaboration between uLethbridge and Dr. Takeda will set an example for how CAHC practitioners can get involved in research.”

For Takeda, it’s simply the next step on a lifelong journey, a journey to improve her patients’ entire well-being — physically, emotionally and mentally — through the science of acupuncture.

Learn more about Wendy and her motivation for creating the Elements Physical Therapy & Acupuncture Award