Clinic Owners & Practitioners:
Leigh Gilkey & Siri Michel

We have an integrative approach to healthcare and see healing as a collaboration between us, the individual—with all of their lived experience—and their other healthcare providers. We see working with people to restore and promote their health as an honor and are committed to thoughtful, compassionate, and respectful care for everyone.

We are nationally licensed acupuncturists (L.Ac.s) and board-certified herbalists. We both were awarded our Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) degree from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, one of the most acclaimed and rigorous acupuncture schools in the country. The training for an MSTOM consists of a 4-year, 3,000 hour program with instruction in Western medical anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology, and Chinese medical theory, which includes acupuncture, herbology, and therapeutic massage, as well as hands-on clinical experience.

Photo of Essential Acupuncture Chicago co-owner Leigh Gilkey.

Leigh Gilkey, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.

Leigh began her training at the Santa Barbara School of Oriental Medicine.  After completing the first year of study she returned to the Midwest, her family, the seasons and Chicago.  Continuing her studies at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine’s Chicago campus, she apprenticed at Chicago Women’s Health Center and assisted Marie France Collin at her private practice.

She has volunteered her time doing private and community acupuncture at the Cancer Wellness Center Northbrook, community acupuncture at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and done outreach events for teacher wellness day at Chicago Public Schools.

Leigh has completed additional training in the following areas:

  • Canonical Chinese Medicine™ with Dr. Arnaud Versluys
  • Acupuncturist Without Borders - Healing Community Trauma
  • Classical Five Element Acupuncture with Neil Gumenick
  • Dr. Tan Balance Method Core Foundations
  • Dr. Tan Balance Method Advanced Track​
  • Cosmetic Rejuvenation Acupuncture with Denise Ellinger.

Leigh believes in the magic of the body, discovering avenues of self-growth and empowerment of the individual.

Leigh is a member of ILSA Illinois Society of Acupuncturists.

Photo of Essential Acupuncture Chicago co-owner Siri Michel.

Siri Michel, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.

Siri chose helping others as her path due to her own profound experiences of being helped by acupuncture at challenging points in her life.  She believes that it is an honor and a privilege to help others with their physical and emotional health goals, challenges, and transformations. She is committed to creating a safe and respectful space where people can follow their wellness journey.

While in school, she had the privilege of assisting both Marie-France Collin and Dr. Lixin Sha in their private acupuncture practices.  This experience allowed her to shape her vision and define her skills in a hands on setting while learning from experienced practitioners.

Siri has completed additional training in the following areas:

  • Canonical Chinese Medicine™ with Dr. Arnaud Versluys
  • Auricular Causative Diagnosis with Dr. Nadia Volf: observation of the ear, its structure and markings to more precisely determine the root cause of dysfunction in the body.
  • Dr. Tan Balance Method Core Foundations
  • Master Tung's Points with Brad Whisnant
  • Cosmetic Rejuvenation Acupuncture with Denise Ellinger.

When it's warm out, you can find Siri at her local community garden.

Siri is a member of ILSA Illinois Society of Acupuncturists.

Photo of Nicole Ruffolo, Associate Acupuncturist at Essential Acupuncture Chicago.

Associate Acupuncturist, Nicole Ruffolo

L.Ac.

After recovering from a near death experience, Nicole found herself in search of a healing modality that would mend the disconnect between her mind and body. As a patient of Chinese Medicine, she discovered the healing she was searching for which led her to pursue training as a practitioner. After graduation, Nicole volunteered with Mindful Medicine Worldwide to treat individuals living outside Kathmandu, Nepal, who presented with an array of conditions such as pain, stress and anxiety, women’s health, headaches, trauma, and digestive issues.

Through Nicole’s personal and professional experience, she believes there is a true connection between how we experience life stressors and the way they manifest in the body. By addressing the root cause of these symptoms, the body will gradually rebalance itself and get to a place of harmony and equilibrium.

Nicole works closely with each person to best understand the underlying causes to their symptoms. She is committed to creating a safe space that is accessible to all walks of life, where clients feel comfortable restoring and growing.  She strives to educate her clients in self-empowerment and healing while working with them collaboratively to find a path that works best for them.

Photo of Derek Becker, Associate Acupuncturist at Essential Acupuncture Chicago.

Associate Acupuncturist, Derek Becker

L.Ac.

Derek Becker is a compassionate collaborator with a rich experience of partnering with people to creatively overcome uncommon challenges. After studying Public Policy at DePaul University, he worked with economically-challenged families to secure subsidized child care. As an agent for musicians, he increased performance opportunities and fees for artists that were formerly overlooked by the industry.

After a bout with cancer, Derek directly experienced the healing benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine and subsequently embarked on the process of becoming a practitioner. Upon graduating from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine with a Masters in Traditional Oriental Medicine, he began his practice by volunteering as an acupuncturist for Mindful Medicine Worldwide in Kathmandu, Nepal. He is Board Certified and Licensed to practice Acupuncture and prescribe Chinese Herbal Medicine in Illinois.

Derek’s practice continues to be characterized by compassionate collaboration. He uses the healing modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Japanese Meridian Therapy to partner with people seeking to align their whole selves in order to improve and maintain health. As a practitioner of Master Tung’s acupuncture, Derek’s patients often find themselves moving, breathing into and releasing pain. This practice, along with brief guided meditations, Qi Gong instruction, and prescribing herbal formulas, reinforces the collaborative nature of healing and allows a patient to experience the benefits and importance of actively participating in their own healing.