The Healers

Hands On

Bodywork, along with teaching and entrepreneurship, is just the right touch for Sandy Kauffman Anderson '83.

Sandy Kauffman Anderson '83

by Lorraine Berry

Literature tells us that epiphanies are revealed in the light of burning bushes, but for Sandra "Sandy" Kauffman Anderson '83 illumination came in the glow of a television screen. In 1990, dissatisfied with the kind of job that kept her confined to a cubicle, Anderson says something seemingly ordinary changed her life. "One night," she says, "I happened to see a commercial for a local bodywork school called the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts, and knew instantly that I would become a massage therapist."

For someone who had never had any bodywork done before and who associated massages with something that "rich people get on cruises," it was a surprising decision. But Anderson was listening to a voice in her gut --- the one that most of us frequently ignore --- and has never regretted the decision or its consequences.

Anderson graduated from IC with a B.A. in biology and applied writing. In 1987, after holding a couple of research technician jobs in Rochester and then Texas, she moved to Tucson, Arizona. But she found the work, data analysis, unsatisfying. The isolation and the rigidity were part of the problem, she says: "I needed a job that had direct contact with people, that helped people, and that gave me a lot of freedom."

She sat in her cubicle for three years. But just a few months after having seen that life-changing TV commercial, Anderson enrolled in the Desert Institute. "In 1991 I graduated with a 1,000-hour certification in massage therapy," she says. "I'd liked being at the Desert Institute so much that, while I was building my practice, I also tutored [students in] anatomy and physiology. Within a year I began teaching anatomy and physiology classes. In 1999 I graduated from the institute's shiatsu program, and in 2002 I received certification in Thai massage through the institute. Currently I practice massage therapy, Zen shiatsu, and Thai massage." She is now also head of the anatomy and physiology department at the Desert Institute.

The Desert Institute gave Anderson a new career, and it's also where she met her husband, David. "I met David when he was a student of mine, but we didn't date until he graduated," she is careful to point out. Now the two own Tucson Touch Therapies, a private bodywork office with 12 practitioners offering a variety of therapies --- integrated massage, Asian bodywork, and energy therapy.

One aspect of her job that Anderson loves is the teaching. "The most enjoyable part is the interaction with the students. I love the moment when they 'light up' when they get it." Anderson deals with a variety of students, who come in with everything from G.E.D.'s to Ph.D.'s, and she has to teach all of them anatomy and physiology.

All of this may seem a far cry from her concentration on research at Ithaca College, but Anderson credits some of her IC professors with her success in her chosen field. "Science is taking something complex, breaking it down, understanding it, and then putting it back together," says Anderson, who took that secret from biology professor Mildred Brammer (now retired), in whose class Anderson learned about Occam's razor --- the principle that the least-complex explanation for something is usually the one closest to the truth, and the one that guides her own understanding, and teaching, of science.

Anderson also learned that humor and being laid-back go a long way in helping students relax enough to take in the information they need. She credits biology professors Richard Wodzinski and Lucille Schmieder for teaching her that. She also learned that humor is a skill as well as a talent. "The Humorous Writing class I took with [writing professor] Mary Ann Rishel, in which we had to write a stand-up comedy routine and perform it in front of the class, has been invaluable. I learned that humor needs to be specific, that I have natural comedic timing, and that I can't possibly ever be as nervous in front of a group of people again as I was the day I did that comedy routine."

When Anderson isn't teaching or running her own business or serving on a large number of committees that further the bodywork professions, she writes. She published both Review Guide for Anatomy and Physiology and Massage Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and contributed to the first and second editions of Susan Salvo's Massage Therapy Principles and Practice and Salvo's currently-in-process book on pathology for massage therapists.

Sandy Anderson juggles a schedule that would have made William of Occam's head spin with its complexity. But then again, he didn't have shiatsu massage to enlighten him.

--- Jen Chandler '03 contributed to this article.

Photos by Mary Kay Stein

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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 30 July, 2003