First, I’ll tell you that 18 months ago I was established in a career while yearning to go back to school, expand my life practices, and further devote myself to meaningful professional change. Now, a current student at AOMA, I just finished my 5th term. At no point have I looked back, although I never would have predicted my life would take this path. In 2002, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English that included extensive studies in calculus and Flemish art history. I felt like the prototype of liberal arts major, qualified for everything in general but nothing in particular—or so I told myself.
When I first thought about studying Traditional Chinese Medicine
It was 9 years ago when I first thought about studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. The thought lasted about 5 minutes, extinguished when I recalled that my science background consisted of contrasting types of volcanoes in my undergraduate geology class. I was intimidated by the natural science component included in acupuncture & Chinese medicine programs. My extensive knowledge of Renaissance poetry, for all its complexity, would not help me differentiate tendons in the wrist. My essays on the ethics of historical scholarship would not equip me to understand how a virus invaded the body. And somehow enrolling in the local community college at night to get my science prerequisites just to apply to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) program seemed too daunting. At the time, it simply wouldn’t fit into my life, so I gave up hopes of being an acupuncturist.
For the next decade my career progressed in education business management and then teaching special education in public schools. While in these positions, I truly felt that I helped heal children as I taught. No matter what I did, I was a healer at heart. The nagging thought of practicing TCM returned. Finally, I visited AOMA’s website.
That’s when I realized that everything I believed for those nine years was wrong.
Reviewing the admissions requirements for the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program showed me I did qualify to apply despite my limited natural science background. I realized the graduate program included all of the western medicine courses I thought I would need to complete in advance.
After looking on the school’s website, I scheduled a tour of the campus and talked to some current students. Within a few days I realized that this was the real thing, and I could do it. In fact, the liberal arts major in me realized that I could make a darn fine TCM student.
Discovering the Human Body
The biomedical sciences curriculum at AOMA is delivered by experienced instructors who have insight into anatomy and pathology that is particularly relevant to an acupuncturist. Dr. Joel Cone, who I met in my first week at AOMA, knew I needed encouragement and was very helpful.
My first term within the master’s program, I started taking anatomy and physiology. The biomedicine series continued and I took microbiology and pathophysiology. I spent a full year diving into the human body, the muscles, bones, organ systems, and microorganisms inside and outside of us. I began to walk around looking at everyone, imagining I could see the sinews and tendons underneath their skin moving in a choreographed dance as they walked. After that first year, I felt as though I had developed a magical power to see through skin to inspect everything on the inside. When my throat and lungs got irritated in in the winter, I imagined the tissues trying to expel pathogens rather than thinking about getting sick. The human body came to life as an amazing machine, and I experienced it as a new piece of scientific art that I inhabited.
Don’t get me wrong, every acupuncture student and practitioner must be able to name the tendons in the wrist and understand how a virus invades the body—along with all the bones, muscles, blood constituents, and more. This biomedical background is essential to a Chinese medicine practitioner who must know how to communicate with and build a treatment plan for patients with biomedical diagnoses. However, TCM is made of the desire to heal as much as the knowledge of science. I’ve tried to put my finger on that “thing” that drew me to this field of study and practice. Sure, it was easy to say that I wanted to help people, that it gave me a sense of satisfaction to help those who are sick feel better. But there is also something else. I had previously studied literature and art and TCM fit into an amazing framework of culture and philosophy that I found exciting at an academic and personal level. My knowledge of this framework in a more abstract unscientific view helped me see TCM embedded as a cultural orientation that fit my spirit.
With my liberal arts background, I realized I simply and beautifully had even more to integrate into my journey as a healer.
About Kate Wetzel:
Kate is a graduate student within AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program. Prior to beginning her studies in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine she completed a BA in English at Trinity University and worked as special education teacher for the Austin Independent School District.
Isabelle Chen-Angliker, a pediatrician from Switzerland, was never fully satisfied with the Western medical approach. She did not agree with the method of funneling patients into an increasingly sub-specialized medical system. She was concerned with the discrepancy of more sophisticated diagnostics vs. the lack of treatment options that are both minimally invasive and without significant side effects.
Isabelle was always looking for more holistic and integrative healing modalities, but there was not much complementary training available in Switzerland at the time she went through medical school except for homeopathy and manual therapy: “Even chiropractors got their training in the U.S.,” she said.
When Isabelle moved to Austin in 2008, she began taking her daughter -- then just 18 months old -- to Heartsong Music, a music school located near AOMA’s former campus in north Austin. In this process she also began admiring AOMA next door and dreaming of studying Oriental medicine herself. In 2009 she went through Hatha Yoga teacher training, which to her served as a “baby step” before entering the AOMA graduate program. In 2010 she began searching for alternative treatments for her young son with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, which inspired her to finally enroll in AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program.
As Isabelle nears graduation, she has finally found a style of medicine that deeply resonates with her. What especially appeals to her about Chinese medicine’s integrative and holistic perspective on healing is its individualized treatment approach tailored to the needs of patients and its applications and modifications involving art and intuition. Isabelle loves that the practitioner-patient relationship in Chinese medicine is “a give and take rather than consumer or hierarchy oriented relationship” -- and gone are her concerns about the invasive treatments of Western medicine. Chinese medicine is all about “Doing NO harm, and providing an effective yet pleasant and relaxing treatment,” she said.
Through her path to becoming a practitioner of Chinese medicine, Isabelle has learned to make mistakes and be patient with herself -- that it’s okay to not be perfect. For Isabelle, these are important achievements in light of the courage it took for her to return to school after years in a different field of medicine. Through this process, she has overcome her fear of failure, while also conquering a language barrier and culture shock.
Outside of her busy career and studies, Isabelle leads a very full and happy life as mother of two children: Lenny, 11 years old and Celia, 6 1/2 years old. She spends her free time volunteering at her children’s school, taking them to music, piano and ballet lessons as well as on field trips to places such as Enchanted Rock and parks around the city. She also loves to swim, do yoga, craft, read, play music and dance, and hopes to one day mastermind an herbal and vegetable garden like her grandmother’s.
Some of Isabelle’s greatest achievements during her time at AOMA include reports from her returning patients’ about the improvement in their health issues and stress management; her own lifestyle changes and increase in mind-body awareness; and inspiring her patients to embark on their own journeys seeking health and happiness through her sharing of passions for healthy food, movement, and nature.
Of course, like any graduate student in a medical program, she has faced many challenges as well. These include scheduling conflicts with her two children and busy husband, performance anxiety, and learning to pace herself.
Isabelle has worked steadily to overcome these by planning ahead, constantly refining her organizational skills, and avoiding procrastination. She also cites the importance of reflecting and pausing, revisiting her original call to go back to school, and always striving to see the big picture. “Treating patients is rewarding, encouraging and my main motivator even when I feel stuck, drained, exhausted or overwhelmed,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to other students, she had a lot of insight to share:
Get regular acupuncture treatments yourself -- even before starting the program
Plan well, practice plenty of self-care and take breaks to avoid burnout
Find balance and keep mind and body connected
Communicate concerns and challenges: Follow a “problem meets solution” strategy
Correspond with student peers and share ups and downs with friends and family.
And as for the most transformational experiences she has had since starting on the path of Chinese medicine? “Feeling the instant benefits of acupuncture on my own mind and body -- the powerful effect of the needles as well as immediate and long term benefits of Chinese herbs,” she said. “I love when patients give me that look of ‘What did you just do to me?’ or say ‘I feel so relaxed,’ ‘I feel so much better,’ ‘My pain is almost gone,’ or just give a big sigh of relief.”
The choice to attend graduate school is a major life decision and figuring out how to pay for it is an important step. Most students take out federal loans to pay for acupuncture school and many also work part-time jobs. The most astute students also apply for scholarships.
Each year AOMA awards scholarships to current students. The AOMA scholarship webpage informs students of internal and external scholarship opportunities.
President's Award - $500 - Deadline: May 15, 2014
The President’s Award is a scholarship awarded by AOMA to a currently enrolled AOMA student in good academic standing. The President seeks to support AOMA students who contribute to the professional community of Chinese medicine through leadership and/or publication. Leadership activities can include involvement with national, state, or student professional associations, or participation in legislative efforts.
Golden Flower Chinese Herbs - $500-1,000 - Deadline: May 15, 2014
Each year, Golden Flower Chinese Herbs generously provides AOMA with scholarship funds. Two awards are given for overall excellence in Chinese medical studies and six awards are given for excellence in acupuncture studies, herbal studies, biomedical sciences, and clinical internship.
AOMA Scholarship - $250-500 - Deadline: May 15, 2014
The AOMA Scholarship awards are given annually for overall excellence in Chinese medical studies. Recipients are selected based on their AOMA GPA, grades in individual subject areas, financial need, and response to the essay question.
ABORM Annual Scholarship - $1,000 - Deadline: March 31, 2014
The ABORM Annual Scholarship is awarded annually to a student enrolled in either a Master’s Degree Program or the Doctoral Degree Program. The scholarship is paid upon successful submission and acceptance for publication of an article in the Journal of Chinese Medicine (JCM). The purpose of the ABORM Annual Scholarship is to foster new scholarly inquiry in the field of Oriental Reproductive Medicine & Infertility for publication in the Journal of Chinese Medicine.
Evergreen Hua-Tuo Scholarship - $1,000 gift card - Deadline: TBA, 2014
Evergreen Herbs funds a scholarship to further the development of effective TCM treatment protocols, while inspiring bright and passionate students of Chinese Medicine to research and write in the field. The winner will receive a scholarship in the form of a $1,000 Evergreen Collection Gift card good towards Evergreen herbal formulas. The winning research paper will also be published by Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine as well as posted to the Evergreen Herbs' website. Five runners-up will also be selected and will receive their choice of Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology or Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications by John Chen and Tina Chen.
Mayway Scholarship - Deadline: TBA, 2014
The Mayway Scholarship Program is open to doctorate of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and master's level students who are currently enrolled in an ACAOM–accredited college of Oriental medicine within the United States and who will be attending a college of OM in fall 2013.
Nuherbs Scholarshi - Deadline: April 1, 2014
The nuherbs Co. Scholarship Program awards three yearly scholarships to current enrollees of ACAOM accredited acupuncture schools.
· nuherbs Scholarship: $2,000
· Herbal Times Scholarship: $1,500
· Jade Dragon Scholarship: $1000
Sokenbicha Essay Challenge - $1,000-4,000 - Deadline: TBA, 2014
The Sokenbicha Essay Challenge is a scholarship contest for students of ACAOM approved Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine schools. First prize is a $4,000 scholarship and paid admission into the annual AAAOM Leadership Meeting and Student Conference (includes airfare and hotel). The first place winner will be recognized at the Student Conference during the Student Caucus. Second prize is a $1,000 scholarship. All winning essays will be printed and distributed to AAAOM conference attendees and will also be published on the Sokenbicha Web site.
Standard Process Scholarship - $2,500 - Deadline: June 28, 2014
Standard Process is sponsoring a yearly scholarship fund for our AOMA students who are in their last three terms of their program. The student must have a cumulative GPA of 2.9 or higher, must be between 1 - 3 terms from graduation, have a list of contributions to the acupuncture profession, the college, and the community, provide a letter of recommendation and write a 500-750 word essay.
The Trudy McAllister Fund - $2,000 - Deadline: TBA, 2014
This scholarship program was established to support students who have entered the last phases of their clinical training or who have undertaken post-graduate studies in acupuncture and Oriental medicine and show promise of making significant contributions either to clinical practice and/or to the understanding of the role of traditional Oriental medicine in a modern context.
Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. Scholarship- $5,000-10,000 - Deadline: TBA
The Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. Scholarship supports educational opportunities for future generations of scientists. The scholarship is to be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students with a declared major of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or a related life-science field. To qualify for the scholarship, students must have a GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and be enrolled in an accredited college for university.
Tylenol Future Care Scholarship - $5,000-10,000 - Deadline: May 31, 2014
The Tylenol Future Care Scholarship is available to any student pursuing a career in healthcare. Ten applicants will receive $10,000 in scholarships and thirty applicants will receive $5,000 in scholarships. Visit Tylenol's Facebook page for further information.
Tillman Military Scholar Program - Deadline: March 6, 2014
The Military Scholar Program offers financial assistance to service members, veterans, and their spouses to cover academic and/or living expenses while in school. For more information about the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Tillman Military Scholars program, please visit their website: http://pattillmanfoundation.org/scholars. Members of each class of Tillman Military Scholars represent a rich and diverse set of backgrounds, experiences and ambitions, and were selected based on strong leadership potential and a drive to make a positive impact on others through service.
Additional Scholarship Resources
Sallie Mae's Scholarship Search
Sallie Mae's free Scholarship Search offers access to an award database that contains more than 3 million scholarships worth over 16 billion dollars, and it is expanded and updated daily. For information, please visit the Sallie Mae Scholarship search website.
For more information about scholarships at AOMA, or to make a contribution, please contact the director of financial aid Estella Sears or visit our scholarship page.
I have had the most amazing past five months living in Nepal providing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at a healthcare clinic in a beautiful place called Bhottechour. Through the kindness and generosity of many members both in and out of the AOMA community, I was able to take off on an adventure of a lifetime and help many people in need.
I consider my volunteer service in Bhottechour to be a resounding success. Although I don’t have the exact numbers, I provided well over 600 treatments in the past five months to people with little to no affordable or accessible healthcare options. These treatments ranged from knee pain and general body aches from working long hours in the fields, to varicose veins, hypertension, stroke recovery, high uric acid levels, allergies, various unknown pathologies, and more. I witnessed people who experienced pain for years become 90-100% pain free in just two to five treatments. The smiles and appreciation were abundant.
As a member of the clinic staff, I got to engage in the day to day environment of the local people. I woke up to an amazing mountain view. I ate delicious traditional Nepali food consisting of a heaping plate of rice, a medley of spicy vegetables, and dal, a type of lentil “soup”. All of this I ate using only my right hand and with the unfettered joy of a child who plays with their food.
I took pride in my hand washed clothes and ability to use the restroom in a non-western toilet. My showers were few and far between, but I know my cleanliness was still greater than that of many of my patients.
Eventually, I learned enough Nepali to be able to get through a rough version of a patient intake without the use of my translator. And I finally became accustomed to the randomness of electricity availability.
Some of my most favorite moments were simply lying in the grass outside the clinic with other members of the staff just watching. We saw the millings of a small village where either a motorcycle or a bus passing was a rare event. People carried heavy loads on their backs full of grains and grasses to feed their buffalo and goats. Some stopped into the little shop at the end of our hill to enjoy a cup of tea and catch up on local affairs. We watched the neighbors plowing their fields by day and enjoying a campfire by night. Mostly, we just watched the view of the still mountains and the clouds drifting in the sky.
The air was clean and the daily activity simple. As the clinic is a 24 hour emergency facility, it was an environment where anything and nothing could happen in a day. Planning and expectation took on a whole new meaning. I fell in love with my friends and patients and all the dogs that followed me home.
The second part to my Nepal saga is manifesting daily. I now live full-time in Kathmandu with my partner in crime. We watch our future unfolding and we are constantly in awe. Currently, I have Sheng Zhen Gong classes to teach, acupuncture treatments to give, meditations and teachings to enjoy and spiritual practices of Tibetan medicine to research. I think it’s going to be great!
May each of you enjoy those things that fill your heart and free your mind!
From Nepal with Love,
Amy Babb, LAc, MAcOM
AOMA Class of 2012
Watch this short video of Amy talking about her experience.
Wally Doggett, owner of South Austin Community Acupuncture and 2004 AOMA alumni moved to Austin in the 80’s from Richmond, Texas to live the musicians’ dream. The seeds for Chinese medicine were planted in his teenage years by an older musician friend but did not bloom till many years later. The two would discuss all types of ideas including Asian philosophies and religion. He began his journey in Austin working at a biotech company running their shipping department during the day and playing drums at honky-tonk bars at night. He was also participating in qigong at the Keishan Institute. A profound shift and deep healing happened when the institute brought Praveeta Rose (also an AOMA alumna) and Ward Tummins to talk about various theories in medicine. As Wally states this lecture spurred him to, “take off after Chinese medicine as if my life depended on it.”
South Austin Community Clinic has been open since 2006 and was developed while Wally was researching “acupuncture marketing” on the internet. Wally says, “When I stumbled upon Working Class Acupuncture about four pages into a Google search …the pieces fell into place.” He immediately booked a trip to Portland to meet Lisa Rohleder, the founder of Working Class Acupuncture, and check out her movement for community acupuncture. Already feeling connected to his neighborhood in South Austin it was apparent to him that Austin could support a much broader market for acupuncture than charging $60+ per treatment. Wally wanted to reach as many people as possible with this medicine and it was clear that this was the model to support his vision. Now he says, “The diversity of people that come though the clinic is one of the most satisfying parts about my work.”
While in school Wally worked at Allen Cline and James Phillip’s clinic Turtle Dragon. It was here that he was able to work with raw herbs and fill herbal prescriptions. He learned a lot from this experience including the confidence to make herbal formulations a large part of his current practice. Wally says, “I value my training at AOMA and my experiences at Turtle Dragon too much not to use Chinese herbal medicine as an integral part of my practice.”
When reflecting on his time at AOMA he remembered the rich experiences he had with professors in conversations between the breaks. He said, “You just never know when or where someone is going to drop an extraordinary pearl of wisdom that will just connect the dots for you in a profound way.” Wally has found that it has worked for him to follow his bliss and create his business based on what was most appealing to him. His advice for current students is to “Follow your heart. Find a way of working that resonates with you, and pour yourself into it.” This philosophy has worked for him for more than five years. He has also expanded to support two other AOMA graduates, Mike Sobin and Erica Chu.
When Wally is not busy with the clinic he is working as the president of Texas Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (TAAOM) as of May 2012. Being in this position, he has been able to make a stronger alliance between the different styles of acupuncture such as community style acupuncture and other more mainstream models. Wally says, “It is an honor to serve as a board member, and just as I enjoy the diversity of my patient population as a practitioner, one of the more satisfying pieces to me about being president of the TAAOM is the diversity of practitioners, and getting to know them all.”
On Friday March 21st, AOMA will sponsor a round-table discussion about the role of acupuncture & Oriental medicine (AOM) in integrative pain care. Licensed acupuncturists can earn one free Continuing Acupuncture Education (CAE) credit (*pending) by attending.
Speakers will identify challenges within AOM research, integrative practice & pain care, and discuss opportunities for advanced clinical practice. Speakers include Dr. John Finnell, Dr. Daniel Weber, and Dr. Rosa Schnyer.
John Finnell, ND, MPH, LAc
Dr. John Finnell is an accomplished researcher and skilled health care practitioner with a rich academic and professional background. In addition to being an active practitioner of naturopathic & Chinese medicines, he has completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and served as the acting Director of Research for the True North Health Foundation. He is currently the Director of the Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM) program at AOMA.
Daniel Weber, PhD, MSc
Daniel Weber is a pioneer in complementary medicine committed to fostering dialogue between all types of health care professionals. His extensive academic history spans over 3 decades and includes in-depth study in Japan, the UK, and China. In addition to serving as the vice-chair of the oncology section of the World Federation of Chinese Medical Societies, he is a Visiting Professor at TianJin University, and President of Panaxea International. His research is conducted at Guang 'Anmen hospital in Beijing and at TianJin Unversity.
Rosa Schnyer, DAOM, LAc
Dr. Rosa Schnyer has two decades of clinical research experience and is a leading figure in the development of methodologies for the study of acupuncture & Oriental medicine. She is a faculty member within AOMA's Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Program as well as UT Austin's College of Pharmacy & School of Nursing. She maintains an active clinical practice in Austin, Texas and has completed extensive training in both Toyo-Hari Japanese Acupuncture and acupuncture treatment for pain management.
Attendees will have the opportunity to present questions to the panel and participate in this important discussion about the future of acupuncture research & integrative pain care. Information about AOMA’s doctoral program, which has a clinical specialty of pain management and the accompanying psychosocial concerns, will also be available.
In addition to the engaging discussion with one free CAE credit, participants may also receive 10% off the registration cost of Dr. Daniel Weber’s Integrative Oncology CE Workshop on Saturday March 22.
Join us in the dialogue that will shape the advancement of TCM.
Friday, March 21:
7:30pm – 8:30pm - Roundtable Discussion
8:30pm – 9:15pm - Questions, Comments, and Cocktails
Upper respiratory infections such as colds or the influenza virus are prevalent during the cold months of the year, but can be caught all year round. Typical symptoms are headache, coughing, sore throat, stuffy and running nose and body aches.
Pores are the windows of your body
During hot climate seasons like summer, the pores of our skin are wide open. These pores on our skin are like the windows of our body. They can help with releasing the heat from our body and promoting sweating. When the weather gets cold, our body starts to close these ‘windows’ entirely, so it can prevent the external wind and cold from entering. The process of these windows closing, however, is slow and adjusted according to the weather changes. Therefore, if the temperature suddenly drops and the windows are still open, we’re easily vulnerable to a wind-cold pathogenic factor attacking us.
Releasing the Exterior
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help enhance the immune system and ward off illness. Its immunostimulating functions treat all types of upper respiratory infections -- including colds -- effectively, achieving a quick recovery without side effects. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views colds and flus as pathogenic invasions that can easily be expelled using certain treatment points and herbs. This is called “releasing the exterior” in TCM.
Why do some people easily catch colds, but others not so often? In biomedicine, we often say those people who have strong immune systems are less likely to catch cold. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we say these people have strong defensive Qi (or wei qi). Their body has a quick adjustment to the environmental changes around them. In other words, they can close their windows faster, allowing their body surface to be sealed so wind-cold pathogens have no chance to get in.
When a wind-cold pathogen enters our body, it causes sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, body aches, and headaches. That’s when we say, “You caught a cold.” In this case, your acupuncturist would recommend some pungent herbs to help the body expel the wind-cold pathogen. For example: ginger, onion and peppermint are the most commonly used herbs in herbal teas for common cold.
Take a Ginger Bath
A ginger bath can be very soothing and therapeutic when you are coming down with or already have a cold. Again, this helps to “release the exterior” and expel the pathogen. Take a large ginger root and let it boil in a pot of water until the water turns golden in color. Pour this into your hot bath and soak. You can also drink a cup of the ginger tea while you take the bath.
If caught in the early stages, especially within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong can be very effective at eliminating pathogens. Once illness has progressed beyond the early stages, Chinese medicine can be used as symptomatic relief and adjuvant therapy.
Chinese Herbal Remedies for Colds
In the process of treating immunity, Chinese medicine also transports nutrients, improves circulation, balances the body, supports vital energy, and assists your body in maintaining its natural healthy state on its own. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that Chinese medicine reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and shortens the course of illness.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal remedy most often used for people with weak defensive qi is called Jade Windscreen Formula. It contains:
Radix Astragali Membranacei (Huang Qi)
Radix Saposhnikoviae Divaricatae (Fang Feng)
Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Bai Zhu)
It is suggested to take the formula 1-3 months before the cold season comes to help prevent the onset of the common cold and strengthen the defensive qi. While most Chinese herbal remedies require a prescription, there are certain brands that make the Jade Windscreen Formula that you can get without one.
My journey began in 2009. Four years later, and I am just about wrapping up my experience at AOMA. It has definitely been a long haul, and I have changed a lot along the way. When I started the master of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program, I was only 23 years old. I was frustrated about healthcare and the state of American medicine, and I had decided to take the first step along a path that would lead me to greater understanding of not just medicine, but the entire body-mind-spirt axis of the human condition. Some aspects of my personal growth were not connected to AOMA, but just a natural progression I would have followed regardless of my education. However, there were undoubtedly parts of my AOMA education that have changed me forever.
Part of the transformation has been simply learning alternative theories of the human form. Trained as a molecular biologist, I had only been taught the materialistic theories of the body. Organisms are made of organs, are made of tissues, are made of cells, are made of organelles, are made of macromolecules, are made of atoms, are made of quarks and subatomic particles. These theories just dissect the physical body ad infinitum without any consideration that there might be more. The energetic theories of yin and yang, of the meridians, and of the zang fu have perfectly complemented all my scientific knowledge. Whether physical or energetic, I now have a way of analyzing whatever phenomenon appears. Attempting to integrate the two types of theory is going to take a long time, but in the end the holistic theory that emerges will be a double-edged sword that can cut to the bottom of an issue quickly.
The qigong components of the program have also greatly impacted my perspective on life. It’s one thing to intellectually learn the energetic theories of the body, but it’s another to actually feel the energy moving up and down the meridians or drawing energy into and pushing it out of your body. If there was ever any proof needed for the existence of a world beyond the physical, my experience with medical qigong at AOMA has provided it. I had an inkling back in my Massachusetts days when I was exploring Tibetan Buddhism, just a few meditative experiences that pointed to a non-physical realm. Medical qigong totally sealed the deal. Clinically, I noticed that my patients who received medical qigong felt as if they got more out of the treatments. In addition, several patients who received only medical qigong were absolutely stunned by their experience, as if they were floating, for instance.
Community & Leadership
Another core pillar of my experience at AOMA was the AOMA Student Association (ASA). At first, I just went to a few meetings here and there. At the time there were 4-6 people at each meeting. When I later ran for Vice-President of the ASA, I was experiencing a particular surge of confidence in myself and my abilities. Although I ran unopposed, I was proud because it was the first office I held for any association since high school. By the time I became ASA President, the average size of the meetings had grown to 12-15, and members were becoming a lot more active. I really enjoyed seeing the organizational growth that we had stimulated. The shining achievement of the ASA during my term as President was the Advancing Integrative Medicine at AOMA event. We brought together over 80 students and alumni for a full day of free lectures by well-known speakers in the field, some of which even offered CEUs! I was super proud of this event, and it has shown me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
What goes without saying is that I have found acupuncture and herbal medicine to be very effective. A bit silly to express it in such simple terms, but there are still a lot of people in our culture who are either on the fence or completely close-minded about acupuncture. My overall experience in the student clinic was undeniably positive. I have seen so many patients come through our doors at AOMA, and almost all of them leave satisfied with their treatment.
I have finished the program with the confidence and determination to improve the standing of Chinese medicine in our culture. Integrating all the various alternative and mainstream modalities of American medicine is my life goal, and the direction in which I will be focusing all my attention post-graduation. Already in the works, I am helping organize Austin’s first integrative health workers cooperative. It’s going to be a lot of difficult, ground-breaking work, but in the end it is the only way that I want to practice medicine. Just as my perspective on life has become more dynamic and capable of understanding new phenomena, the integration of Western and Eastern modalities will make the practice of medicine as a whole much stronger.
About David Taylor, LAc
David studied neuroscience and psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After graduating magna cum laude in 2008, he worked at the UMass Medical School performing molecular immunology research. Wishing to study medicine, but not be dependent on pharmaceuticals for his practice, David decided to study acupuncture & Chinese medicine. He graduated from AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in May 2013, and received his acupuncture license in September 2013. He currently practices in Austin, Texas.
Having studied both Western science and Eastern medicine, David has a unique view of the human body, and in particular the human psyche. Eastern philosophy points to a hidden, yet tangible, force to explain the workings of the body, while Western medicine only accepts that which is visible and measurable. The two perspectives almost always have different explanations for the same phenomenon, yet drawing lines between the two often creates a richer understanding of the problem. In this way, a fusion of the two perspectives allows for an extremely versatile approach to medicine.
David's website - Modern Muck Acupuncture
I’ve heard reports that this is the worst year for cedar fever on record, but somehow I’m managing to keep my symptoms minimal. Sure, I’ve had a few sniffles and occasional itchy eyes, but in comparison with people who are really suffering this year, I’m doing great!
Being a native Austinite (I moved here from a family farm just outside of Georgetown in high school) I was pissed when I started getting allergies in college. I figured locals should be immune, right? Wrong! Back then the only way I knew how to cope was to take Sudafed which worked okay. I soon realized pseudoephedrine made me feel hyped up and anxious. I decided I’d rather suffer a few sniffles and coughing attacks and thus began my journey to find an alternative. [photo credit: KXAN]
Turns out I’ve figured out quite a few effective remedies and common sense practices to lessen the plight known as “cedar fever season” (which typically goes from about December to February).
Rinse inside and outside
Many people know about the benefits of nasal irrigation. Some people just snort salt water up their nose from a bowl, but I prefer to use the neti pot. If you’ve never done it before, I promise it is not like getting water up your nose when you are swimming. It doesn’t hurt at all (unless you’re already really congested). Using a neti pot works best as a preventative. You’re basically rinsing all of the pollens and pollution out of your nose and sinus cavities. I think it’s best to rinse in the evening, especially if you’ve been outside during the day.
One more product I’ve been using is Xlear made with xylitol. This supposedly coats the inside of your sinus cavities and keeps pollens from latching on. Ideally, I would use Xlear before I go outside and neti at the end of the day.
Speaking of being outside, I know many folks who are suffering just avoid going outside. That’s one tactic. But it’s been so beautiful lately – that’s such a big sacrifice if you like the outdoors. I rode my bike and worked in my yard this weekend for several hours but I wore a mask the majority of the time and I took a shower (and did the neti pot) as soon as I was done. If taking a shower isn’t a possibility, at least change clothes and wash your face to get the majority of the pollen off.
Probiotics – the good stomach bugs
A few years ago my friend, who is an acupuncturist, told me to start taking a high quality probiotic. She recommended Dr. Ohhira’s which are expensive, but I think are worth it. One reason I like them is they don’t need to be refrigerated, so I can keep them out on the counter and actually remember to take them daily.
I’m not sure why probiotics help with allergies. I think it has something to do with the fact that “80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract” [Dr. Mercola]. A strong immune system means your body can fight off allergens more easily. I can testify because the first year I took probiotics regularly, I had almost zero cedar fever symptoms. I was sold.
Side note: this could also be why I haven’t gotten that awful stomach bug that’s going around, even though I know I’ve been exposed to it.
Homeopathy – Treat Like with Like
I don’t know why so many western medicine folks still doubt the efficacy of homeopathy considering it is a similar principle to that of vaccines. Homeopathy treats like with like, using highly diluted substances to trigger the body’s natural system of healing. Most natural food stores carry “cedar” (really juniper) homeopathic drops which you take under the tongue several times a day. This year I’ve been taking the one for cedar fever specifically, although they do make some that have a mix of trees in the region which can be helpful for folks who are allergic to other flowering trees year-round.
While I haven’t been as consistent with Chinese herbs this year, they have helped me significantly in the past. My usual regimen is to start taking the Jade Screen formula in early November to boost my immune system (wei chi). There is another formula that I think is considered to be similar to an antihistamine called Pe Min Kan Wan that my acupuncturist usually prescribes. By the way, most Chinese herbs require a prescription for a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist. An herbalist can help make sure you take the herbal prescription that is specific to your symptoms, whether they are runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, or sinus headache. And while you’re there, you might as well get some acupuncture which can also help lessen symptoms and boost your immunity. One formula that you can get over-the-counter in most natural food stores/pharmacies in Austin is Easy Breather (actually developed by some AOMA alumni).
Zyrtec (well, the generic)
Okay, time to come clean. While I’ve been using all these “alternative” treatments, I have also been taking cetirizine, more commonly known as Zyrtec. I know everyone reacts differently to over-the-counter antihistamines, but this seems to be the one that has the fewest side-effects for me personally.
So, why am I doing all these other things if I’m taking a western drug? I honestly don’t think it would do the trick. I’m trying to give my body a fighting chance. That’s why I’m also exercising, drinking nettle tea, local honey, and getting lots of sleep.
Salud! To your health!
Sarah Sires Bentley has worked as the director of community relations at AOMA since 1995. She oversees the marketing department for the institution, including the website, social media, and blog. Sarah is not a licensed practitioner. This blog post is for entertainment and educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.
Each year, AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine sponsors the Southwest Symposium (SWS) - a premier, 3-day continuing education and integrative medicine conference. The event brings together practitioners, educators, and other health care professionals from the fields of acupuncture & Chinese medicine, massage therapy, and naturopathic medicine.
Visit Our Booth:
AOMA's admissions office staff will be on-site at SWS to provide information and answer questions about the Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM) program.
Be sure to visit us at booth # 20 to meet Dr. John Finnell, DAOM Program Director, and enter a drawing to win a free gift!
About the DAOM Program:
The Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program is a transformative educational experience that prepares master's-level practitioners to become leaders in the care and management of patients with pain and its associated psychosocial phenomena. This rigorous program will challenge you to develop advanced clinical techniques, strong academic research skills, and to cultivate professional leadership abilities.
About the event:
Southwest Symposium 2014: The Heart of the Medicine
February 14-16, 2014