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Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D.

Physician, Scholar, Friend

A Remarkable Life and Career of Healing

Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D. had a remarkable life and career. He had a wonderful ability to think independently of establishment constructs and because of this he made invaluable contributions to the world of medicine and healing. Born in 1924 in New York City, he served in the United States military during and after World War II as a Navigator, Aerial Gunner, Captain, and Physician. He attended Cornell University and Cornell Medical College, and then went on to study at the William A. White Institute of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry.

Until 1971, he practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis, directed a child guidance clinic and Drug Abuse Councils on the Southeast Shore of Long Island, taught at Adelphi University, and was Psychiatric Consultant and Associate Professor at Southampton College in Southampton, New York.

After working with Fritz Perls and Gestalt therapy for three years and with Alexander Lowen and Bioenergetics over a period of eight years, he began a study of Chinese medicine in 1971. For the next three years, he studied in England with Dr. J.D. van Buren.

In 1974, he began a twenty-seven year-long apprenticeship with a Chinese Master in New York City, Dr. John H.F. Shen. During this time, Dr. Hammer spent four months studying in Beijing, Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D. His study and work with Dr. Shen had a huge influence on his work, eventually leading him to develop what has become Contemporary Oriental Medicine.

In 1975, Dr. Hammer achieved certification to practice acupuncture in New York State and later also became a registered acupuncturist in Maryland, where he studied and taught at the Traditional Acupuncture Institute. In 1985 he was granted honorary ‘Diplomate in Acupuncture’ status by the NCCAOM.

Dr. Hammer has practiced Chinese medicine from 1973 until his death in 2023. He lectured and taught in places as diverse as Spain, Poland, Italy, Holland, Germany, England, Australia, and Japan, as well as all over the United States. He served as a member of the Commission for Evaluation of Acupuncture Schools, and was appointed a member of the National Blue Ribbon Committee for Initiation of the Herbal Examination. From 1991 through 1998, he was a member of the New York State Board of Acupuncture. In 2001, Dr. Hammer received an award as “Educator of the Year” for participation and contribution to excellence in education from the American Association of Oriental Medicine. In 2002, he received an award from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Foundation for “Building Bridges of Integration” between Oriental medicine and Western Medicine.

In April 2001, Dr. Hammer helped found Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine in Gainesville, Florida. He served as Chairman of the Board and as a faculty member, offering direction and guidance to students and practitioners. The school is distinguished not only by its strong focus on diagnosis, especially Contemporary Chinese pulse, but also by its curriculum, Contemporary Oriental Medicine. COM stresses psychology, along with a methodology for thinking in Chinese medicine, and integrates parts of various models including TCM and Five-Element into a unique whole. The College is accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental medicine and licensed by the state of Florida to grant Master’s degrees in acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Dr. Hammer first published on the subject of Chinese medicine in the American Journal of Acupuncture in 1980, and subsequently wrote numerous articles on a range of subjects within the medical field. His first book, Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies (Eastland Press, 1990) was also translated and published in Germany and Spain, and has become a classic in the field. His second book, Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, A Contemporary Approach (Eastland Press, 2001), has been described as a seminal work. In 2008 his third book was published: The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Acupuncture (Thieme). He wrote a compendium of the herbal formulae of Dr. John H.F. Shen (Thieme, 2012, with Hamilton Rotte), and, more recently, Eastland Press published Dr. Hammer’s The Handbook of Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis (2012).

Always a scholar, Dr. Hammer was supported by the Foundation in his goal to publish a four book series before his passing. Concepts (2018), Methodology (2022), and Lifestyles (2022) provide the knowledge for the practitioner to understand Shen-Hammer Tradition and implement treatment strategies. The Triple Burner (2023) provides valuable insight and understanding into this often overlooked Official in Chinese medicine.

He had a great love of nature and ecology, and a passion for ensuring that all creatures are treated with equal respect and compassion. Dr. Hammer greatly enjoyed sailing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and tennis, although sometimes he was happiest just sitting and watching the birds, trees, and mountains from his window. He was married with children and grandchildren, and passed away peacefully in his home in Florida in July of 2023.


Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies
Behind the acupuncture, herbal remedies and sophisticated diagnostics of Chinese medicine lies a “congenial system of healing that embodies unification of body and mind, spirit and matter, nature and man,…
Chinese Pulse Diagnosis – A Contemporary Approach
Pulse diagnosis, one of the jewels of traditional Chinese medicine, is a profoundly subtle instrument for the early diagnosis and prevention of disease.
Handbook of Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis
Pulse diagnosis is a subtle yet highly effective instrument used in Chinese medicine for the diagnosis and prevention of disease.
The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Acupuncture
Thieme 2008 The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Acupuncture is written for acupuncturists and practitioners in the fields of alternative medicine searching for effective ways of connecting better with their patients…
Chinese Herbal Medicine – The Formulas of Dr. John H.F. Shen
Thieme 2012, with Hamilton Rotte A treasure trove of information for practitioners of Chinese medicine, this book gathers the herbal formulas of master practitioner Dr. John H. F. Shen…
Contemporary Oriental Medicine: Concepts
The Contemporary Oriental Medicine Foundation 2018 Contemporary Oriental Medicine: Concepts is a bold new volume by the acclaimed master of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D. The culmination of…
Contemporary Oriental Medicine: Methodology
The Contemporary Oriental Medicine Foundation 2019 Following on from Concepts, the first book in his Contemporary Oriental Medicine series, Dr. Hammer presents Methodology: an essential examination of the full…
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