Some say that when you move to Austin you will inevitably get a tattoo, eat too many tacos, and feel completely overwhelmed by how bad the traffic is. This may be true, but when I started my first term at AOMA, I underwent a complete inner transformation instead. A lot can happen in just one term, trust me. And now that I am a second-term student, I am going to share with you five things that I experienced during my first term in acupuncture school so you might know what to expect.
During your first term at AOMA graduate school you are likely to:
Try to practice your newly learned acupuncture techniques on everyone you know
My family, roommates, significant other, and whoever happened to be within needles’ length developed a love-hate relationship with my incessant practicing. Eventually, I learned that I wanted to practice needling techniques on people more often than they wanted to let me do it. I wanted to see everyone’s tongue and feel everyone’s pulse. It is important to practice constantly even if you know very little about acupuncture points or pulse and tongue diagnosis. Once you have your first acupuncture techniques class, you might go a little crazy and buy all the moxa and needles you can afford in the AOMA Herbal Medicine store. You may start carrying needles with you everywhere you go. You will become an acupuncturist-in-the-making very quickly. Just don’t get too carried away!
Attempt to diagnose every aspect of your health under the terms of Chinese medicine
Yes, you could have spleen Qi deficiency. But chances are you don’t have every disease you learn about from Dr. Qianzhi Wu in Foundations of Chinese Medicine. You will, however, become very conscious of every aspect of your health, which I would say is a good thing. And while there are probably some of you out there who have your health completely together, I sadly did not. I stopped eating both gluten and dairy in my second month of acupuncture school. And while that has made enjoying pizza almost completely impossible, I am so happy to have done it because I feel so much better! Through several acupuncture appointments, listening to my teachers’ advice, taking plenty of herbs, and using my willpower I was able to wean myself off of all of my medications. You will learn many ways to take your health into your own hands, and you will find a community at AOMA that is very supportive of self-care.
Think your brain has reached maximum occupancy
I remember studying for a particularly difficult Point Location test, and no matter how hard I tried I just could not retain all of that information at once. I thought that my career as an acupuncturist would be over in my first term. And although I did not make an A on that test, I did just fine, anyway. When preparing for an exam I have a tendency to blow things out of proportion and think my world is going to end if I don’t earn an A. Do not be like me! Those who remain calm during test time always seem to make the best grades. There will be times that you just cannot possibly remember everything, especially during exam time. Just always do your best, and don’t stress too much about it. And as one of my favorite teachers taught me — write your questions down! I would like to add that you should also write down everything you would like to remember in general. When it is crunch time, you will want some good notes to work with. Just remember, no matter how intense it gets, it is totally worth it!
Start believing that acupuncture must be magic and that it heals all ailments
At first I was pretty skeptical. I wondered just how exactly a needle in your finger could help the cough you’ve had for a week. But I kept an open mind. You will learn, as I did, that acupuncture can help almost any ailment. If you need some convincing, get a treatment at the clinic. My treatments at the student clinic completely resolved my health problems that I thought I would be stuck with for life. On top of that, it feels like every class includes an introduction to a really cool acupuncture-style party trick. For instance, if you or someone you know is having a nosebleed, you can rub a spot on their foot to make it stop. No, I am not kidding; it really works. And this is just one example. So many things you learn when studying Chinese medicine will change your life. By the time I finished my first term I felt like a completely different and healthier person.
Want to know everything all at once, because being patient is hard (for me)
Patience is not my strong suit. I want to know everything so well that studying becomes trivial and I make A’s on all my tests effortlessly. But it does not work that way. Most of the content you will learn in your courses is so foreign that at first you won’t understand what exactly it is that you are memorizing. While you will have to remember that LU6 is the “Xi-Cleft” point of that channel, it might take you a whole other term to find out what it is exactly that Xi-Cleft points do. But that is okay because patience is a virtue. Just keep swimming!
One of the biggest hurdles of becoming an acupuncturist is having the patience to learn everything and learn it right. It will happen all in due time. Do not be in a huge hurry. I have to remind myself to take it one day at a time and that soon enough I will master the fundamentals of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Jessica Johnson is a full-time student within the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program at AOMA. Prior to beginning her studies in Chinese medicine, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at Austin College. Originally from Sherman, Texas, Jessica moved to Austin to begin her studies during the Winter 2014 term.
Eating organic is something many of us aim to do; however, doing so on a student budget can be tricky. Here are some of the top tips for affordably eating organic.
1. Look for generic organic brands made by the stores which carry them. Costco, Whole Foods, and Central Market have their own organic foods that are much more affordable.
2. Opt for frozen veggies, fruits, and meats if the fresh prices are out of your range.
3. Choose bulk over packaged foods. Many stores like Central Market, HEB, Whole Foods, and Sprouts have an excellent selection of bulk food items which can be snagged at a fraction of the price.
4. Follow what is in season because the locally grown food is usually cheaper than that which had to travel miles to the store. Here is a guide for Texas.
5. Support local farms through CSAs or Farmers Markets. Also, if you shop toward the end of the market you can likely get deals because they'd rather sell it than take it back to the farm.
6. Grow at least one thing yourself.
7. Coupons! Websites or social media sites of your favorite companies have coupons and specials. Some other sites are Mambo Sprouts, Saving Naturally, Organic Deals, My Organic Coupons, Organic Deals and Steals. Writing companies with compliments or complaints usually will result in their sending coupons.
8. Read Wildly Affordable Organic for tips on organic eating for $5 a day or less.
9. Buy at least the dirty dozen organic if you can't afford to buy everything organic. The dirty dozen are from the Environmental Working Group's research and have the most pesticides:
Sweet bell peppers
The Environmental Working Group classified the following as the clean dozen, which have fewer pesticides:
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet corn (frozen)
10. Research other sustainable food options in your area, from businesses to stores, at eatwellguide.com
Janessa Benedict is a senior student at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. She currently writes a financial aid newsletter, contributes to an Oriental medicine website, and looks forward to saving the world.
At a recent gathering, a friend mentioned having knee pain. I quickly assessed it using neoclassical pulse diagnosis techniques and by palpating the location of the pain. Afterward, I found and applied four acupressure points with press-on seeds. As a result his knee felt much better throughout the party and the following days.
By using neoclassical pulse diagnosis in a clinical setting (meaning with further investigation and time), I am able to confidently provide my patients with efficient care for myriad health concerns, including pain, pyscho-social issues, insomnia, energy loss, hormonal imbalances, and digestive issues.
Having success in the clinic is a result of applying the techniques taught in Dr. William Morris’ neoclassical pulse series and training with him as an intern in his clinical rotations.
In Will Morris’ neoclassical pulse courses I learned how to assess a patient’s radial pulses as a diagnostic tool and immediate feedback loop. This feedback loop is invaluable in creating confidence in the practitioner, treating quickly and effectively while obtaining great clinical outcomes, and in maintaining my own health. Successfully using neoclassical-style pulse diagnostics created confidence in me as a practitioner.
During my treatments on patients I am able to monitor my patient’s pulse as it changes. As my patient’s pulse becomes more balanced and level, I know I have chosen a good course of treatment.
Neoclassical pulse diagnosis is also a great tool for assessing and treating on the go, because you can quickly evaluate the pulse, apply a few acupressure seeds, and still get great results. Learning to use the pulse as a feedback loop in clinical settings creates high-quality, efficient patient care.
Yet it isn’t just for patients. In fact, I find myself evaluating my pulse and applying indicated acupressure points. This daily self-care ritual takes seconds and is a great way to stay healthy, emotionally balanced, and pain free
I am honored to have trained with Dr. Morris, and will continue to attend his classes and online teachings, as he provides invaluable insight into the world of patient-centered care. I highly recommend his neoclassical pulse series
to all students interested in expanding their acupuncture and diagnostic repertoire.Anne Cusick LAc, MAcOM
graduated from AOMA in 2008 and is in current practice with Dr. Clark-Brown at a family care integrated clinic, specializing in pain management. www.cusickacupuncture.com
AOMA has a rich student body with diverse backgrounds and interests. We wanted to find out why our learners chose AOMA's Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (MAcOM) program and more importantly what drew them to become an acupuncturist. Here are their stories in their own words!
Christina Korpik, Class of 2015
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
I want to be an acupuncturist because I am a firm believer in the magic and supremacy of natural medicine’s capacities to treat health imbalances and disease, as well as provide preventive care. Acupuncture helped to transform my own life and health when I was suffering, whereas Western medicine only worsened my conditions. I am fascinated specifically by acupuncture’s ability to trigger homeostasis and instill positive physical change in the body and one’s state of mind, as well as instantly boost an individual’s level of peacefulness with minimal to no side effects. I wanted to become a part of this magical treatment modality and art form that effortlessly taps into the body’s energetic and physical makeup in such a profound way, all the while using the elements of nature systematically as a guide in ways which reinforce the inherent connectedness of all things.
I deeply resonate with the belief that our emotional and spiritual makeup always directly impacts our current state of health and wellbeing, or lack thereof, at any given moment. One of the powers of Chinese medicine as a healthcare modality is its synergy – its ability to combine and use a great variety of diagnostic and treatment tools and modalities in order to treat the totality of a patient’s physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, societal, and mental health. Western medicine does not have this ability or power. I believe there is a need for “TRUE” multi-faceted healthcare providers in this country who are capable of offering patients care on these levels, all the while treating them as PEOPLE with diverse needs and circumstances, as opposed to simply another case of (fill in the blank) to toss pharmaceutical drugs or invasive procedures at.
Why did you choose AOMA?
For years leading up to my decision to become a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I had been hearing stories from trusted friends and colleagues of AOMA’s overall prestige and excellence. I had heard countless beautiful accounts of the experienced, talented, and professional staff, practitioners, and professors at AOMA, as well as the incredible and unique student body. One thing that stuck out was constantly hearing of how dedicated EVERYONE – staff and students alike – in the AOMA community was to truly being a reliable and high-quality source of compassion and healing for the greater community.
If I hadn’t already been sold by the reputation of the school and the knowledge of its premier and famous herbal program, I was quickly convinced of the necessity of my attending the graduate program when I realized that the Chinese medicine practitioners who had personally salvaged my own health after many years of unsuccessful treatment from Western medicine had both graduated from AOMA.
Diana Slivinski, Class of 2014
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
A year in Taiwan studying Mandarin Chinese began my path of Asian studies. My first visit to an acupuncturist, a Buddhist monk, left me feeling wonderful…..in body, mind, and spirit. I loved the well-rounded approach to maintaining health and well-being. The study of acupuncture and oriental medicine is proving to me that I have chosen the right path.
I chose AOMA after looking into several schools because their class schedule and offerings seemed well thought out and organized. The teaching staff at AOMA is a talented group of scholars from China and abroad. AOMA offered me what I needed to pursue a new career.
Jessica Johnson, Class of 2017
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
I am fully committed to what looks like will be three years of intense study, and already I can see that sometimes it is more difficult than it is fun to be a student of acupuncture. Anyone who enters the program knows that it is not always easy. But I will never stop trying to become an acupuncturist because I have seen how rewarding it is to help those who thought there was no help for them. I have been the person who thought I would always be sick, no matter how many medications I was on. Becoming an acupuncturist is not just a livelihood; it is a commitment to care, to love. Those of us who aspire to be acupuncturists realize that we can transform the lives of our patients, and we know that to be valued by those in your care is a true blessing.
Why did you choose AOMA?
Originally, I chose to enroll at AOMA because I knew they had one of the best programs to become an acupuncturist. I knew that they were committed to ensuring a quality education for their students. However, I came to find that AOMA is not just a school. The people you come to know – students, faculty, and teachers – they become your family. They encourage you to ask questions. They support you. They take care of you to the best of their ability. I have found that within AOMA there are students and faculty alike who would help you with anything if you asked. I have only been at the school for a short time but I can already name so many people who I can honestly say have changed my life. Yes, I enrolled because I believe the school and program are the best in the State of Texas, but I stayed because of the people I have come to know here.
Loubriel Sosa, Class of 2014
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
We walk through life exploring ourselves; each and every situation reveals a unique expression. As we grow, we assume responsibility over our destiny. Some search and search, and never find their calling. Being an acupuncturist fulfills me and nourishes my being. I want to be an acupuncturist because it calls to me. To experience the joys of healing and to perpetuate the art of love is my destiny.
Why did you choose AOMA?
At first I chose AOMA because of its reputation, but now that I've been a student of this wonderful institution for some time, I recognize that AOMA was the only road for me. It provided me with purpose and direction.
Abigail Karp, Class of 2013
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
I want to become an acupuncturist because I was inspired by the amazing acupuncturists and herbalists in my life who helped me regain my own wellness after dealing with complications from Celiac disease. After volunteering at a local community acupuncture clinic, I saw how this gentle and peaceful way of healing was making such a huge improvement in the quality of life for many different kinds of people.
Why did you choose AOMA?
I chose AOMA because I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and the sense of community the school fosters among students and faculty. Austin is such a vibrant city, and I feel that AOMA is a vibrant acupuncture school! I appreciate the ways that it is changing and evolving to meet the needs of the students and patients it serves.
Michael Callaghan, Class of 2017
Why do you want to be an acupuncturist?
I really don’t want to be an acupuncturist – I want to be a practitioner of Oriental medicine, which includes acupuncture. My goal of becoming a practitioner of TCM is to give back to a community of people, the Armed Forces, who need an alternative to traditional Western medicine. As a veteran, I experienced military medicine, which is normally focused at putting the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine back to work and not effectively treating the causes of the illness or injury. I believe that TCM offers an alternative to taking medications which cover the overall symptoms; instead, TCM treats the symptoms for long-term beneficial health gains. If I can help just a small percentage of the active, reserve, or formerly active-duty community by providing comprehensive care through the principles of TCM, I will have accomplished my goal.
Why did I choose AOMA?
While there are many choices, AOMA offers an integrative approach, which I believe is key to future success. AOMA has a great success rate academically, which it is reflected in the high percentage of its graduates who find employment immediately after completion of the program. Lastly, the staff and faculty of the school treat everyone as individuals and are supportive in assisting you to obtain your goals.
Elizabeth Arris, Class of 2015
Why do you want to be an acupunct
For so many reasons! Being an acupuncturist is a career that offers many opportunities every day to support another person in feeling well. I enjoy holding space for patients to be mindful of their physical sensations and emotional experiences, which are so often ignored during busy lives. When patients share their pains, discomforts, and vulnerabilities with me, I feel honored to be a guardian of that information and am grateful for the chance to practice using the power of my position and education in a way that is appropriate, heart-centered, and helpful. Perhaps most of all, I love being part of a health-conscious community of healers where my personal wellbeing is valued as much as my productivity.
Why did you choose AOMA?
I think a degree from AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine (AOMA) keeps many doors open: AOMA is regionally accredited, meaning their credits may transfer to other non-TCM schools (which is uncommon); and
AOMA grads have the option to apply for a California license (which is also uncommon for acupuncture schools outside of California). Additionally, AOMA is committed to continued development of the clinical training and biomedical components of its curriculum, providing students the tools necessary to feel comfortable in both integrative medicine environments and TCM environments.
Over the past three years at AOMA, I have also grown to appreciate other aspects of the school, particularly the strength of the herbal program and the warmth of the Qigong community. As a lifelong dancer, my passion for movement evolved naturally into a love for the graceful, purposeful Sheng Zhen Qigong form featured at AOMA. Although Sheng Zhen’s Master Li was not a primary factor in my choosing AOMA, I’ve come to view him as one of AOMA’s treasures and one of my anchors within the AOMA community.
As a teacher and practitioner of Chinese medicine well into my second professional decade, I have felt for a long time that some of the most important areas of study in our medicine have received the least attention. This discrepancy is probably most relevant in the area of pulse diagnosis—and with good reason. Pulse reading can be an extremely subtle art, and there seem to be multiple ways of interpreting the same pulse. Add to that the fact that teaching the pulse is, at least in part, a transcription of our concrete sense of touch into an abstract verbal interpretation. The resulting confusion is nearly always daunting for the student and professional alike, and we wind up falling back on the not-so-subtle aspects of the pulse, limiting our data-gathering to a narrow number of simple distinctions like excess vs. deficiency. And though these distinctions are useful, if they were the only data we had to form our diagnoses, our treatments would be lacking.
When it comes to pulses, theory alone can never suffice. If you go to apply what you’ve learned and your finger position is a little off or if your finger pressure is too heavy or too light, you are not going to pick up the right information from the pulse. Having taught his system for many years, Dr. Will Morris understands that when teaching the art of diagnostic, lecture cannot be the only mode of teaching. There is a great deal of hands-on practice in these classes: from basic calibration of pressure, to correction of finger positions, to insights for practitioner comfort, and, of course, comparing pulses around the room. Dr. Morris and trained assistants are right there with you while you are feeling pulses in the class, available for checking your findings against theirs and offering further explanation relevant to the pulse you are feeling at the moment.
I bet most of us have a sense that if we could only improve our pulse diagnosis technique, clinical effectiveness
would improve accordingly. Well, of course we are absolutely right in thinking so. But how do we improve our pulse diagnostic skills? One of the keys, I learned from Dr. Morris, is that we need to approach each pulse with the right framing tools. The pulse diagnostic we use to create an herbal prescription might be a different system than what we use for an acupuncture strategy. Furthermore, the pulse system we use to determine which channels are most affected by a soft-tissue injury may be different from the way we approach the pulse if someone comes to us with insomnia or shen
disturbance. If Dr. Morris had contributed nothing else, his tools for filtering through the multilayers of informational “noise”
in the pulse to help us home in on what is relevant in this context for this patient in this visit would have been a valuable contribution to our field. As it is, he has actually contributed a great deal more than that.
In this series of pulse classes taught by Dr. Morris, the participant learns many distinctions in the pulse that can be applied immediately in clinic; others need more time to master. One of the “extras” in the class is that Dr. Morris is liberal with sharing a multitude of clinical insights. Not only does he cover a variety of pulse techniques in depth, but he shares treatment strategies and ways to think about treatment strategies that correspond to the pulse diagnostic technique being taught at the time. Because you walk away from these classes with new, clear, diagnostic skills, new treatment strategies, and clarity for how and when to apply the new material, your practice benefits immediately. As you study and use the material from Dr. Morris’ pulse classes over time, your connection with the medicine deepens while your confidence and effectiveness as a practitioner solidify.
John Heuertz, DOM has been practicing Chinese medicine since 2001. He is nationally certified as both an acupuncturist and a Chinese herbalist practicing in New Mexico. Dr. Heuertz publishes and lectures extensively to colleagues in the Chinese medical field.
Spring comes and goes fast in Austin. With summer just around the corner, what can we do now to strengthen our body and mind?
Here are AOMA’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tips for staying healthy, happy, and in harmony with the season of spring.
1. Wear a scarf
- Wind is one of the six pernicious evils (Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, Dryness, and Summer Heat), and it is the external evil associated with spring.
- Many of the points that can be easily affected by Wind are on the upper back, neck, and head.
- Wearing a scarf or hoodie, especially when it’s windy or after an acupuncture treatment, can help prevent wind attack.
- Common symptoms of wind attack:
◦ common cold
◦ nasal obstruction
◦ allergies and rashes, to name a few
- When your acupuncturist tells you to stay covered up after a treatment, the wind points may be more open. So risk looking like a hipster to prevent catching a wind invasion.
2. Eat your greens
- Spring is charged by the energy of the Liver and the color green.
- It is a vital time to eat foods that are sprouting, in harmony with the natural growth of the season. Eating more of the light, healthy greens like asparagus, kale, collards, watercress, and lettuce while avoiding rich foods can help to unblock the heavy energy of the previous winter months.
- Pungent foods like garlic, onions, peppermint, basil, dill, fennel, and rosemary all work well at supporting the upward and outward energy of spring and unblocking stuck energy.
- Start the day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon. The sour flavor soothes the liver and helps rid the body of toxins.
3. Let go of old grudges
- Holding on to anger constrains the Liver and its natural harmony.
- Developing self-care for the spirit is just as important as what we do for our body.
- Consider journaling, writing poems, or meditating on letting go. You don’t need to have confrontations to heal.
- Forgiveness can be very therapeutic for balancing energy and is in perfect harmony with spring.
4. Move your qi to put some spring in your step
- Whether it’s taking a walk in the open air, starting a taiji or qigong practice, or joining a gym, spring is a wonderful time for renewal, growth, and transformation.
- Breathing fresh air supports the Lung qi which directly balances your Liver qi.
- Liver qi stagnation can manifest as irritability, digestive upset, PMS, depression, and poor appetite, just to name a few.
- Ask your acupuncturist to show you some exercises for harmonizing the Liver and get that qi moving smoothly.
5. Get acupuncture
- Nothing can support your efforts to cleanse and detox the Liver like a springtime acupuncture treatment.
- Acupuncture stimulates the channels, clears out stagnation, and smooths the flow of qi.
- Liver qi stagnation (irritability, depression, PMS, etc.) responds well to acupuncture.
- While all treatments are tailored to the individual, the practitioner will be working in conjunction with the ancient principals of seasonal movement of qi and can help to harmonize your body.
Stay tuned for our tips to beat the heat of the upcoming summer months.
About the author
Lauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/
For Pamela Gregg Flax, a New Mexico-based practitioner and student in AOMA’s new doctoral program, the efficacy and magic of Chinese medicine have never been a question. Chinese medicine has been her primary form of healthcare for 25 years -- but her decision to become a practitioner came as a surprise, even to her.
Early in her career, she worked in the arts and in environmental philanthropy in Los Angeles. Pamela moved to Santa Fe to marry the man who is now her husband and began learning a healing form called Sat Nam Rasayan (SNR). SNR is a meditative technique described as a traditional healing based on self-consciousness alone. This healing tradition is a ‘familiar’ to Craniosacral Therapy, but comes from the lineage of Kundalini yoga.
“I thought that my interest in SNR was to improve my meditation skills, but I discovered a love of healing,” Pamela says.
On a trip back to LA, Pamela told her acupuncturists that she wished she could do what they do. They encouraged her, and that was all it took—she was in school for her master’s degree in Chinese medicine a few weeks later. “The art of Chinese medicine still speaks to my core, as its subtle power and poetry continue to amaze, delight, and humble me,” she says.
Pamela describes her path to AOMA as “intuitive and visceral.” After she completed her master’s degree program in New Mexico, she enrolled in two year-long continuing education programs. However, something wasn’t right about the decision.
“The plumbing started leaking in my office and home, and I could feel a weird tremor in my body, like I was jittery or resisting the force of a fast off-camber turn on my bicycle,” she says. “As soon as I accepted that I was headed in the wrong direction and withdrew from the classes, the tremor vanished and the leaks stopped. I was disappointed, but took heart in knowing that a strong current was moving me forward, albeit in an unknown direction.”
A couple of months later, Pamela started studying pulse diagnosis with Dr. William Morris. When she asked him about AOMA’s new doctoral program, he said, “The first cohort starts on Wednesday. What do you want to know?” and she felt that moment of recognition, an inexorable pull of destiny, that the path of her life would now shift in an unexpected yet welcome way. She expects to graduate from AOMA’s doctoral program in 2015. Her initial research topic – How Chinese Medicine Can Intervene in Multigenerational Trauma – is changing her practice.
“I feel lucky to be at AOMA at this point in my career because it’s re-shaping me and my practice in the most unexpected ways. My query has led me to the field of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. Philosophically and practically I’m exploring the role that creativity plays in a vibrant life. I’m studying for the ABORM certification, connecting with Santa Fe birthing centers, and treating pregnant women. I love my work more than ever.” Pamela says. “And I love AOMA. It’s a strong institution with excellent resources: a ‘deep bench’ of teachers and fellow doctoral students, a stellar herbal pharmacy, and great leadership. Dr. Morris and Dr. Finnell have developed a DAOM program that has the potential to help move integrative medicine and medical inquiry forward with integrity, and I’m glad to be part of it.”
Outside of AOMA, Pamela has a new practice at her own clinic, Full Well Acupuncture, which she spends a considerable amount of time cultivating. She’s not only a former competitive cyclist, Kundalini yoga teacher, and Qigong practitioner – she’s also an artist who especially loves visual arts, theatre/performance, architecture and design. Her husband is an actor and director who runs a theater company in Santa Fe, so Pam calls herself a “theater wife/widow.”
“We try to keep up with our old adobe house and resuscitate our land,” she says. “Now that I’m attending school in the land of music and everyone in Austin plays at least one instrument, I’m trying learning to play a recorder. I’m kind of terrible but having fun, and I’m getting ready to order a Chinese flute called the bawu.”
One of Pamela’s proudest achievements since she started studying Chinese medicine is making a believer out of her husband.
“He hates receiving acupuncture but insisted that I treat his last good knee after he tore his meniscus,” Pamela says. “He feels that the treatments helped heal his knee and prevented imminent surgery, and I’m thrilled to report that he is finally able to relax when he has acupuncture.”
Pamela is also very pleased to have helped a woman with a high-risk pregnancy go full term and have a healthy baby. She also enjoyed helping people avoid joint replacement surgeries and lumbar fusions, arrest the development of macular degeneration and begin a reversal process, heal or manage a new life with traumatic brain injuries, and feel some peace in transforming old emotional pain.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some challenges along her path.
Pamela and her mentor thought that they would go into practice after she graduated from her master’s degree program, but after visiting China, Pam felt moved to practice differently and knew that their paths would diverge. Telling him was painful for both of them, but – “acquiescing to truth is liberating,” she says. “I had to trust my instincts.”
Pamela loves the poetry and metaphor inherent in the theory of Chinese medicine and the way that the medicine seems to reveal more and more according to the depth of the practitioner. She is also deeply appreciative of “the focus on continual cultivation of the human spirit of the practitioner and the patient; and its simultaneous complexity and simplicity.”
“Years ago I vowed to live my life out of love and not fear,” Pamela says. ”I love this medicine. Thank you to everyone at AOMA for moving so dynamically and with such kindness to join my river with yours.”
Her advice to other students?
“Enjoy the journey. Trust the medicine. Trust yourself.”
The Texas Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is, in essence, a trade association. As such, our job is to protect and promote the business interests of practitioners of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in Texas. I have served as president of TAAOM since 2012. I, and my board, serve in a volunteer capacity with no staff or administrative support to speak of. The association had long been in a state of disrepair, and so I took on the job of TAAOM president because I saw a pressing need.
Running a professional association is hard work. I feel like we have made real progress in Texas in terms of creating some fundamental understanding among acupuncturists about what the role of a state professional association is over the last few years, and that alone is huge. But needless to say, there is much more work to be done.
Not uncommonly, there is a tendency to look at association membership in terms of “what’s in it for me?” That’s a really difficult question to answer, and it may even be the wrong question to be asking ultimately. I would like to explore this question a little further and hopefully in doing so convey the imperative to get involved and stay involved.
When you are a dues paying member of your professional association it’s not like you are just buying some goods or services, rather, you are electing to participate in a collective effort to hopefully improve the lot of all Licensed Acupuncturists. So ultimately it is a question of what you are willing to put into it, be that time or money. The work of advocating on behalf of the profession is ongoing work that requires professional representation to be effective, and that requires money. And this work of advocating can seem very intangible at times, as much of it goes unseen.
If I had to articulate the single most important concept central to the success of an organization such as TAAOM that would be: “consistency of effort over time.” This is how we get this work done. This means a consistency in funding (the continual payment of membership dues), and consistency in process. This involves both the administrative process of running the organization and continuity in governance. Ultimately, relationships are at the heart of effective advocacy. The various players in the regulatory and legislative arena need to see us as a reasonable and reliable partner – someone they can work with. And that requires a certain organizational stability, and a continuity of presence and message. The bottom line is this: we can shape the future of our profession, or others will gladly step in and do so for us in our absence.
Our biggest project currently is the lawsuit against the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners. This is a fight that has been a long time coming. The TBCE has a documented history of acting more as a booster organization for the chiropractic profession rather than a regulatory agency, and we think they have overstepped their statutory authority in allowing, and attempting to regulate, the practice of acupuncture by chiropractors. The sole basis for their authority rests on a questionable Attorney General Opinion from 1998. The only reason they have gotten away with this is no one has challenged them. Well…they have now been challenged.
The decision to go forward with this legal action was timely based on aspects of a recent Texas Medical Association lawsuit that touched on issues central to our case (the use of needles by chiropractors). This is by no means an easy case, but we have done everything we can to bolster our position. We have hired one of the best firms and best attorneys in the state to represent us. Our lead counsel is former Texas Supreme Court Justice, so we are confident we are in good hands.
If you are in Texas, you will be hearing more about this, and over the course of the year TAAOM will be engaging in various fundraising activities. We are looking to cover remaining legal fees and plan for any appeal that may result from this case – as well as keep our lobby team engaged. This is hands down TAAOM’s most significant undertaking since fighting to gain legal status for acupuncture some twenty years ago. We hope you will join us in this effort. If we spread the burden, doing these big, difficult things becomes easy.
Wally Doggett, L.Ac. is a 2004 graduate of AOMA and owner/operator of South Austin Community Acupuncture. When not busy with his clinic or TAAOM, Wally enjoys luxuriating in his South Austin presidential compound with his wife Kelly, and their two dogs: Cocoa and Clinton.
Despite acupuncture's ancient legacy and modern-day relevance, a vast majority of Americans are still uninformed about what acupuncture is or when and how to seek a trained acupuncture professional.
Acupuncturists like you must be marketing savvy if you hope to grow your practice and the reach of acupuncture to a wider audience.
Here are some marketing tips that just might help you grow your brand awareness and win new customers:
1. Open Houses
Hold regular open houses. Invite the community to learn more about acupuncture and how it has evolved into one of the fastest-growing healthcare practices in America. Keep the group small and intimate to maximize impact.
2. Meetup Group
Try to get speaking engagements in Meetup groups, or even start your own Meetup group to educate people about "alternative" medicine. You'll have to book a steady flow of speakers but it's worth it if it puts you in the center of the healthcare conversation as a respected expert.
3. Target Market
Figure out who your best customers are based on frequency of visits and revenue; make a plan to go after them in a more focused way. If you work with lots of senior citizens, then spend more time engaging with retirement centers and other senior resources like AARP. Maybe you can write a regular column for a senior center newsletter!
Pitch local news media about acupuncture as it relates to trending topics like helping treat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Day, which was on October 24th this year. For hot tips on how to get in the news, consider following my PR over Coffee blog.
Keep your past and current patients up-to-date with regular email campaigns. Consider doing a monthly e-newsletter with lots of interesting facts about acupuncture and alternative medicine so you are constantly "top-of-mind."
6. Social Media Contest
Create a "following" on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets; then run occasional contests where you find a fun and clever way to get your followers to engage with you.
7. Loyal Customers
Offer specials that reward your most loyal customers. It will make them feel valued and probably result in more friendly referrals.
8. Holiday Specials
Offer a package deal that is available as a holiday gift for family and friends.
Advertising is still a way to be seen in a community. Look for a well-read community news outlet (in Austin, we have Community Impact News) and check out the cost of various advertising options. Some are pretty darn affordable.
Keeping a blog on your website is a great way to share information with customers and prospects even as you improve your website's search engine rakings by embedding keywords relevant to your industry. You can also have guest bloggers share related information about acupuncture. (Secret: it's also a great way to avoid having to write a post every week!)
As you can see, there are many ways you can market yourself to customers and the public at large. The key is to be consistent, not expect stellar results overnight, and be ready to stop what doesn't deliver new customers and strong brand awareness.
Slow and steady wins the race!
About Dave Manzer
Dave Manzer is the owner of a PR firm based in Austin, Texas called Dave Manzer PR & Marketing. He works primarily with small businesses and startups and offers a revolutionary pay-for-performance PR model that allows even the smallest businesses a chance to win game-changing publicity. He also runs PR over Coffee, a do-it-yourself PR resources group that has helped hundreds of small businesses figure out how to leverage PR for their benefit.
Gregory Carey is the president of the AOMA Alumni Association. In the latest alumni newsletter he introduces practice management concepts that he believes to be crucial for a successful practice.
1. Join an insurance network.
By contracting with a medical insurance carrier (e.g., United Healthcare, Horizon, Cigna, etc.), you are joining a medical referral network. Each insurance carrier introduces a proprietary fee structure for its participating healthcare providers. Becoming familiar with electronic billing practices is an essential, though not overly difficult, skill for the rendering provider. Developing a business relationship with a third-party insurance clearinghouse such as Office Ally is advisable and will create efficiencies for your practice.
2. Join a healthcare group or existing practice.
Especially for new practitioners who are capital-deficient, this step is attractive. Cultivating relationships with other practitioners in the medical field may create opportunities for business relationships to develop. Some acupuncture students have found employment by leveraging a front-office position into full-time practitioner status after obtaining licensure.
3. Locate to an underserved population center.
This step can seem a daunting undertaking, though the rewards include reduced competition for patient visits. Furthermore, existing medical providers in the area may be eager to refer to a competent acupuncture provider. Upon making a decision as to your practice location, make every attempt to put in place a long-term operational strategy. The personal and professional relationships that you form over the years will pay dividends – if you are still around to receive them.
4. Create a "disruptive" business model.
To increase your competitive advantage, you may want to consider a Community Acupuncture model. There are a number of AOMA Alumni who have chosen a community-based practice set-up. Fellow Alumni may be helpful in sharing practical know-how regarding community-style operations. Community-style acupuncture is one permutation of the healthcare delivery aspect of this business. It’s up to each of us in the field to understand what our respective healthcare markets are asking for and to deliver that product to our clients.
5. Develop relationships with vendors.
Many are competing for your business consideration, including clinical, herbal, topical, and supplement suppliers. It is not difficult to find another practitioner promoting an herbal or wellness supplement as part of their business. Indeed, some Alumni have created their own product lines! Be discerning when choosing a vendor for your clinic. Ultimately, your patients will be the judge of the products you serve them. If you choose your vendors and products wisely, you have the potential for passive revenue generation, increased referrals, and patient compliance.
The above is not intended to be a comprehensive study of items related to practice management. My intention in writing was to communicate some basic considerations relevant to the practicing acupuncturist and to hopefully generate productive discussion.
For further reading on business innovation, please see:
Johnson, Mark, Christensen, Clayton, et al. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model. Harvard Business Review, December 2008.
About the author
Gregory holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Richmond and obtained his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Gregory holds a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine from NCCAOM and is licensed by the New Jersey State Medical Board in acupuncture. His professional background is in research oncology and pharmaceutical trials, teaching and not for profit organizations.
Over the past 6 years Gregory has specialized in Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tuina and Qigong for the successful treatment of a wide variety of conditions. He is experienced in facial rejuvenation through acupuncture, including the Mei Zen Facial Rejuvenation System. He is a Manalapan, NJ native and is happy to serve surrounding New Jersey communities. His personal interests include the practice of Qigong, Yang Style Tai Ji, Mandarin Chinese, classical literature, hiking and New York Jets football.