CIIS and ACTCM: Why Our Merger Matters

On Wall Street the key principle behind a merger is to create value over and above that of the sum of the two separate companies. On Wall Street, it is also said that the best leaders follow their instincts and move quickly.

On Mission Street, Joseph L. Subbiondo*, Lixin Huang, and Keith Cich are those leaders. The two presidents of CIIS and ACTCM, and the CIIS Board Chair, respectively, have orchestrated a merger of equals—a strategic combination around a shared mission and defining purpose.

“Lixin and I had been working for years creating projects that allowed our two institutions to get to know each other,” says Subbiondo. “I always thought that if CIIS were to have a medical school, it would be ACTCM. Lixin always thought that if ACTCM became part of a larger institution, it would be CIIS,” Subbiondo adds. “So Lixin and I invited Keith to dinner to get his business sense of a merger.”

“We are two institutions with the same heart,” says Cich, a CIIS alum (PCC ’02), who is also the CEO of investment firm Pacific Rim Partners. He first heard the idea from Subbiondo in late 2013 and then “made my one-second trader’s analysis: ‘This merger is going to make the world a better place,’” he says. “Incorporating traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture as part of the CIIS therapy package is a whole new way forward. Together we will be able to offer students something that no one else can.”


For both institutions, the merger presents myriad possibilities—opportunities in research, coursework, and the intersections of their disciplines, says Bingzeng Zou, ACTCM’s Vice President of Academic Affairs.

It’s apparent “in the pursuits of our students and faculty, who through Chinese medicine, psychology, and philosophy strive to integrate the mind, body, and spirit to create a more holistic world,” he says.

What makes this union an intuitive fit are the shared and recurring themes of transformation, integral education, healing, health, holism, and wellness.

In adding ACTCM, CIIS gets a college that is complementary to CIIS and shares commitment to a holistic approach to wellness. “We have known that one of the University’s strategic directions was to expand our offerings in the area of integrative medicine and wellness,” says Wexler. “The merger also gives us an opportunity to explore the interconnections between physical and psychological well-being in new ways.”

Already under way is the new clinical collaboration at the Center for Somatic Psychotherapy, debuted in April, which now offers auricular acupuncture services to clients. ACTCM has been enrolling students in its accredited first professional doctorate (DACM), and seeds of exciting conversations are germinating about joint degrees. New modalities for health care providers, scholarships and cultural exchanges in China, and more clinic and community wellness offerings are also being discussed—especially as CIIS builds out its first floor.

Subbiondo is grateful for the many meetings and conversations with board members, faculty, students, and staff “who have assisted and supported us in this inspiring partnership. Their thoughtfulness, prescience, and generosity continue to affirm the shared mission and values of our communities.”

“This is the perfect marriage,” says Cich. On July 1 it’s official.

*Judie Wexler is the current President of CIIS. Watch her give a short video tour and introduction to CIIS here.
Published: July 1, 2015
Updated: January 10, 2018
By Lisa Denenmark

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About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization