Convinced of the value of therapeutic massage, two central Ohio women sought more than two decades ago to get someone, anyone, interested in properly training people to become masseurs and masseuses.
Having struck out, they stuck it out on their own.
On Saturday, Sept. 6, Diane Sater-Wee and Helen Yee will be on hand for the 20th anniversary celebration of what is today known as the American Institute of Alternative Medicine.
The observance, at the holistic education operation's campus, 6685 Doubletree Ave. in the Northland area, will run from 3 to 7 p.m.
Community members, faculty, staff, students, graduates and clinic clients are invited to the event, which will feature a live disc jockey, photo booth, children's play area, school tours, awards, contests and performances by cofounder Yee's all-female rock band, Wednesday Wine.
"We both left corporate jobs and somehow we created them," Sater-Wee mused last week.
The Worthington resident, who was working as an engineer for IBM at the time, said she and Yee, who was then employed by Honda and now lives in Clintonville, first became acquainted with therapeutic massage when Yee was in training with the U.S. Olympic Taekwondo team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I just realized how much of a benefit it was for my recovery time and everything," Yee said. "That was my light-bulb moment, and I knew it was what I wanted to do."
They both decided to complete training to become massage therapists.
"I signed up for it and I just loved it," Sater-Wee said. "For me, it's engineering of the body."
However, not many people offering massages in Columbus at the time were all that well trained, so in 1990, Sater-Wee and Yee founded Massage Away Inc., which quickly became "the largest therapeutic clinic in Columbus," according to the AIAM website. They did so after failing to get other schools interested in taking on the task.
"We were frustrated with the quality of the therapists at the time, (those) who didn't have the business acumen and the marketing and the ethics," Yee said.
Four years later, they launched the Massage Away Inc. School of Therapy -- the predecessor to the American Institute of Alternative Medicine -- with 14 students.
"A number of those 14 are still in practice, and I'm really proud of that," Sater-Wee said. "Most people become licensed but only do massage for three or four years. I think our program teaches the right kind of skills."
The school was initially located in Westerville but moved to the Northland area when the founders bought a building in 1997, according to Sater-Wee.
Over the years, various programs have been added, including nursing, medical assisting and acupuncture, the latter following the legalization of the practice in Ohio in 2001. Sater-Wee said she and Yee had to travel to China with some of their students to recruit faculty for the acupuncture program.
The business name was changed in 2002 when Chinese massage therapy and acupuncture were added.
All of the programs, the institute's website states, "incorporate a philosophy of medicine geared toward holistic healing.
"Holistic health emphasizes examining the whole person, including their physical, nutritional, emotional and spiritual needs," the site continues. "As an alternative health institute, our programs are best suited for health professionals who want to utilize these principles to treat patients and incorporate them into their own lives, as well."
"We are so proud of our graduates and alumni as far as having that ripple effect throughout the world of having other people doing to them and being able to help them in such a way that benefits their lives," Yee said.
"That is our legacy, the living legacy of our graduates and that knowledge going out there, as well as the healing energy continuing on."
"We can do something we're passionate about," Sater-Wee added. "We can create jobs for other people. We can help students."
"It was a collaboration of all our energies that contributed to the success of the school," Yee said.