The Story of ICMART


An Interview with Dr. Francois Beyens MD, Brussels, Belgium
one of the founding members of ICMART
General Secretary of ICMART 1983-2010
Honorary President

Question: Dr. Beyens, you have been one of the ICMART founders, you have helped to built up this worldwide umbrella organization of Medical Acupuncture and guided it over nearly three decades, please, tell us something about the situation of acupuncture in the west before the idea of ICMART came up.

‘During the seventies the international situation of acupuncture was chaotic. Many groups tried to set up associations of international status, but they never lasted long. There was an international association created by the French medical doctors in the forties, called SIA, for ‘Société Internationale d’acupuncture’. They organized several congresses. There were also many other congresses during that period. Organizers and participants were all excited and enthusiastic. The French had discovered the traditional aspects of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Many private associations and schools sprouted all over the world with or without scientific approach. There were many communications on clinical research, methodology, trying to prove the usefulness of acupuncture, including in acupuncture anesthesia.
The participants were of all kinds: medical doctors, university professors, and many other non-medical professionals, even gurus or visionaries and lay people.’

Question: This sounds interesting and enthusiastic, but still without being structured. How went the process on?

‘This made us, medical doctors, more and more uncomfortable. At that time the governments or medical faculties ignored officially these events and did not take position legally or by promulgating rules or regulations. The field was open to anybody. Our increasing displeasure culminated in a congress in Sri Lanka at the beginning of the 80ties. There I had quite a few interesting conversations with medical colleagues who were also dissatisfied with the international situation of acupuncture, its status within the medical and scientific world, the lack of coordination between countries, national associations and representatives. Pöntinen from Finland, Roccia from Italy, Greenbaum from Australia and Liertzer, a young orthopedic doctor and acupuncturist, who had been sent by Bischko from Austria, who could not come.’

Question: This looks like medical doctors practicing acupuncture have been discussing to build up an own organization in which they can follow the way of integrating acupuncture in conventional medicine?

‘In the course of 3-4 years a few medical acupuncturists, dissatisfied by this state of affairs, decided to get together and create an international association of western medical doctors associations whose members were practicing acupuncture or related techniques. Helmut Liertzer and I talked a lot, trying to find a solution. I started thinking, writing to a few people, trying to put some order in all my creative ideas about a new international association. I was not the only one because Roccia, during a congress he organized in Sorrento in September 1982, gathered a few representatives. We were not many: I remember Bischko from Austria, Bossy from France, Mc Kibbin from Canada, Domingo from Spain, Harry Bong from Holland, and maybe 2-3 others, plus Roccia, Milani from Italy and myself. I was very much committed to the idea. During this congress in Sorrento I had a talk with Bischko. I said to him: Dr. Bischko, you know nearly everybody in the world of acupuncture. I want to work for this international project. Can we work together on it? He readily said YES. I was very pleased with his answer. Since then Bischko was always there to help us and ICMART. The organizers talked to everybody, showing their commitment and will to work for this idea.’

Question: After all these preparations it became necessary to come into action. What have you done?

‘We decided to create an association of associations, with no individual members. The main condition was that the members of each association had to be medical doctors, dentists or veterinarian doctors. At the beginning we thought of a European association, and then opted for an international one, and I still believe now that it was a good decision. With great courage Helmut organized a special meeting on the upcoming World Congress on Scientific Acupuncture in Vienna 1983, organized by Bischko. I volunteered for preparing the by-laws, as Belgium was experienced in that matter. They have been signed by 14 representatives from different countries. ICMART was born, the new umbrella organization International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques.’

Question: The foundation of ICMART has been in 1983. What happened since that time during nearly three decades?

‘Year after year societies from all over the world joined us, seeing that we were representing the biggest and most solid group of western medical acupuncturists. Moreover we were strict in our acceptance or not of prospective associations. Nowadays we have around 90 member associations and more than 35.000 individual members. We have congresses every year. The Board is very active and tries to renew activities and projects. ICMART is becoming the ultimate reference for medical acupuncture in the world.’

In 1983 ICMART became an International Association de facto. On July 25th 1985, it became officially registered as a nonprofit making international organization with scientific aims.

The birthplace of ICMART World Congress on Scientific Acupuncture 1983 Vienna, Austria
Johannes Bischko (2nd from right) and Francois Beyens (2nd from left) at the Vienna World Congress 1983
Pekka J. Pöntinnen, Tampere, Finland
Johannes Bischko, Vienna, Austria
Francois Beyens signs the foundation of ICMART
Founding members of ICMART, Vienna, 1983