Our History

The International college of Oriental Medicine was founded by Dr. J.D. van Buren in 1972. The College was originally formed in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire but, as it expanded, a new building was found in East Grinstead, Sussex, in 1977.

Dr J D Van Buren outside the ICOM building in East Grinstead

Who was Dr van Buren?

Born in 1921, to Dutch parents in Indonesia, van Buren was called up to serve in the Dutch army as a young man and at the age of 20, he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese for four years and was sent to a concentration camp in Java. The conditions were dreadful. Those who survived did so on what was known as a ‘rice sandwich’: rice in the morning, afternoon and evening. At one point, near to death, van Buren was treated by a local man who cured his dysentery. Inspired by this, in 1947 he moved to England and trained as a nurse. He went on to study naturopathy, osteopathy and homeopathy in London and subsequently worked as an osteopath.

Dr. van Buren began to study acupuncture in 1952, travelling to many different countries to gain as much knowledge as possible. In 1969 he was awarded a Doctorate of Acupuncture in Taiwan as acknowledgement of his mastery of the subject.

In 1972, he founded the International College of Oriental Medicine with branches in England and the Netherlands. Thanks to his pioneering work at that time, other colleges were also founded in Norway and Australia (now operating independently). For many years Dr. van Buren gave lectures at many different colleges, setting and maintaining teaching and clinical standards in acupuncture.

Dr. van Buren made the application of the Stems and Branches Acupuncture theory a practical reality at ICOM and this was his unique contribution to the teaching of Oriental Medicine. Knowledge of the Stems and Branches theory gives the student of Oriental Medicine an insight into the origin of disease at the deepest level. The International College of Oriental Medicine is the oldest Acupuncture training institution in the UK and this material is being constantly researched, developed and taught.

Dr van Buren passed away in 2003 but his legacy remains as strong as ever. Many of today’s leading figures in the world of Acupuncture trained at the college, including distinguished international lecturers and authors of Acupuncture and Chinese Medical textbooks used by students and practitioners around the world.

Fifty years of ICOM

In 2022 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the college and we have much to be grateful for. Today there are around forty students studying Acupuncture at the college, both full and part time. Students come to us from a multitude of backgrounds, but they all share the common desire to help others and benefit society.

ICOM is a not-for-profit organisation and through its student, graduate and professional clinics, part of its mission is to make high-quality Acupuncture treatment accessible to everyone in the local community. Very low cost and sometimes free Acupuncture treatments are available in our student clinics.

Students graduate from us with a Licenciate in Acupuncture through the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) which will gives them access to the register of the British Acupuncture Council. Here is what the BAAB said about ICOM in their latest report.

Giovanni Maciocia Acupuncture ICOM newspaper cutting 1970s
Giovanni Maciocia Acupuncture ICOM newspaper cutting 1970s
ICOM Graduation Day