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
Frequently cited for its friendly people, progressive thinking, and laid-back lifestyle, it's no secret that Austin is an attractive place to live.
Outdoor concerts, farmers markets, and numerous street festivals preserve a small-town feel, while the thriving business sector and bustling downtown generate genuine metropolitan excitement. This vibrant combination has many folks moving to Austin.
Check out the infographic below for a detailed look at all that the city has to offer. Enjoy!
Infographic Credit: Complete Web Resources
Think slow is for slackers? I used to think so, too.
Slowing down and doing less are easier said than done, and they require a radical paradigm shift for most of us. To start, we have to distinguish our inner life from our outward productivity in order to create a lifestyle that sustains us rather than wears us out.
When I was thirty years old, I was a public relations director in a very stressful job. I fit the persona of an overachiever, and I loved the strokes that came with overachieving; I was addicted to having a superbusy mind, schedule, and life. I was also exhausted and frankly doubted I could sustain this pace (really, this level of mental activity — or insanity). Over time, my job, relationships, and well-being were all suffering from my speeded-up life.
So I began working with a great therapist named Frances — she was really a presence coach. Frances teaches clients how to slow down on the inside so that you can actually be more effective and wise in all areas of your life. For the longest time, I thought, “This will never work for me. She just doesn’t understand my world. How can I slow down and still get things done?” Successfully juggling and anticipating solutions for ten different projects simultaneously was my hallmark! Slowly I integrated her coaching into my life, and I began to understand the connection between my inner state of being and how I see and respond to my outer world. As I cultivated more awareness for my inner world, it had a huge impact: I lived more in the present, slowed down my thinking, decreased anxiety, and improved my mood in large part by creating more space between my thoughts and my reactions. From stillness also came discernment: I began to see what really mattered to me, and my life purpose and path became clear.
My work with Frances during those years led directly to my work today. It informed the model for balanced living that I teach and try to live by. I have distilled this work into five balanced-living insights: practice “good is good enough,” learn to manage your energy, ask for help, practice self-care, and become comfortable saying no. Integrating these five practices or skills into your life can have a profound impact, and they have helped my clients to reclaim their lives, so they are in the driver’s seat.
Strategies and Insights for Balanced Living
1. Practice “good is good enough.” Let go of expectations and the need to please — whether that’s about housework, social events, exercise, volunteering, work, or kids’ activities. This practice isn’t about being lazy or lowering your standards; it’s about accepting your best effort for a given task as good enough, so you can devote your time and energy to what matters most, in the moment and at your current life stage. Preparing for your son’s fourth birthday party? Invite everyone who matters in his world and serve popcorn and popsicles in the park.
2. Learn to manage your energy. When you evaluate the tasks or activities before you, see them in terms of energy, not time. These are not the same, and learning to manage our energy is more important. Some people, situations, and things take more mental and emotional energy than others — such as lunch with a friend who just lost her mom — and we need to allow for this. We can first ask: What today (or in my life) is most important to me? What drains me? What fuels me? What do I need to release? This helps us set our priorities and direct our energy more purposefully and effectively.
3. Ask for help. This is a biggie, and it can be life changing for those of us who are predisposed to go it alone. But we’re all interconnected, and miracles can happen when we allow support into our lives and learn to delegate. Asking for support might mean tapping a potential mentor for advice or asking your kids to help prepare dinner. Sometimes it’s help for an actual task, and at other times it may be emotional support as you weather a crisis or challenge. Asking for support can make all the difference in how you experience your journey.
4. Practice self-care. Don’t forget to add your own needs to your daily and weekly to-do lists. Ask: What do I need right now to support my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being? Then, tune in, listen, and respond. Often, the kindest form of self-care is not overcommitting and overscheduling. Release self-criticism or judgment that you aren’t doing enough, whether that’s keeping the house clean or starting a new project at work; this is an essential way to nurture and be more kind to ourselves.
5. Become comfortable saying no. Are you comfortable saying no and not overcommitting? Saying no — to volunteer requests, extracurricular activities, an extra work project, unnecessary travel or trips — is one way we set limits and maintain boundaries. We will need to say no many times in our lives. However, most people find that the more they say no to things that are draining them or pulling them into overwork or overwhelm, the more space they have to say yes to those things that really matter — like reconnecting with your partner or dedicating time to getting your financial house in order. Also, saying no gracefully is a learned skill and it takes practice; there are many ways to do so. For instance, simple is often best; don’t trot out a list of excuses. Either decline directly and politely (“No, thanks, I’ll have to pass on that”) or keep the reason simple (“My time is already committed”). You can also say yes in a limited way (“I can’t do that, but I could do this...”) or even ask for more time to decide (“Can I get back to you?”). If you’re worried the other person will take the answer no as a personal rejection, clarify what you’re declining (“I’d love to see you, but this day won’t work for me”). For more on this, see the “Nine Creative Ways to Say No” list in my book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal.
Austin-based life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is president of Career Strategists and the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
Gail Daugherty never expected a chronic shoulder issue to land her in acupuncture school, studying Chinese medicine. As a competitive swimmer and triathlete, she had been experiencing severe shoulder pain and limited range of motion that began affecting her sleep, mood, and ability to perform certain tasks. The doctors wanted to inject steroids and were even thinking of surgery.
Gail, with her PhD in holistic nutrition and abundance of body awareness, wasn’t interested in either. A fellow triathlete recommended acupuncture and she thought, “No way! That sounds like it hurts and it probably doesn’t even work.”
A year later with worse pain and greater limited range of motion, another triathlete gave her the number of her acupuncturist. Gail begrudgingly committed to 10 sessions with major reservations. Although it took three months to notice a difference in her shoulder, she eventually ended up pain free with complete range of motion returned. Gail was hooked. Not only was she an avid believer in the effectiveness of Chinese medicine, she began cultivating a strong interest in learning how to do it herself.
After her personal experiences with the medicine, acupuncture school was always in the back of her mind, and she would check out schools every time she looked for a new place to live. Her opportunity to study acupuncture serendipitously presented itself at last while she was working in Mexico. She received a call from Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine asking if she would be interested in teaching Biochemical Nutrition at their school. It was an irresistible opportunity to live in a beautiful community by the ocean and learn more about acupuncture. After her first trimester of teaching, she began taking classes. Though she began her studies in California, Gail eventually decided to transfer to AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine where she completed the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program.
Three days after her 2009 graduation she went to work on cruise ships as an acupuncturist. She traveled the world and saw places she never thought she would get to see (like the Great Sphinx of Giza), all the while learning how to talk to people about acupuncture and encourage them to try it.
“I was very fortunate to work on the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas. I saw between 80-100 patients per week, which really allowed me to hone my skills and find my specialties,” Gail said.
Now Gail is a licensed practitioner and the Clinic Director of Pain Free Acupuncture Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Her clinic has two locations, one in Plano at the Willow Bend Wellness Center and one in Craig Ranch inside The Cooper Clinic. She will be opening a third site at The Cooper Clinic’s Dallas location next year and is in the process of interviewing and hiring several acupuncturists. She specializes in pain management, injury recovery, allergies, and stress reduction using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Dr. Tan Balance method, and NAET (Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques).
When reminiscing about her time spent at AOMA, what sticks out most to Gail is working at White Crane (now AOMA Herbal Medicine) and smelling and touching the herbs, seeing how people were using them, and being immersed in the learning environment there. “The people I met at AOMA were incredibly diverse, but we continue to be uniquely bound. It’s wonderful to share an intense experience with so many wonderful people,” she said
One of Gail’s current business ventures involves acupuncture business coaching services and a related workbook.
“I've written a workbook and have a coaching practice to help acupuncturists be successful and inspire them to get over their fears and obstacles,” Gail said. “I've been working with therapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists to help them want to get out of their comfort zone, because that's where the magic happens.”
According to Gail, it’s all a matter of perspective. “Once practitioners can get to the point where they see no other option but to be successful, they are,” she said. “The trick is for them to know where they are right now, where they're heading, and finally -- how to get there.”
Growing her practice, all the while helping other practitioners be successful, has really brought Gail’s love of helping and healing people to a whole new level.
With a blossoming career to show for all of the hard work she has put in, she clearly has an abundance of excellent advice for other acupuncturists entering the field.
“Find which acupuncture styles and conditions you are the best at using and treating; it’s important to choose 1-3 things that you are really, really good at treating,” Gail said. “I think it’s a mistake to want to treat everything. Would you go to a doctor that treats asthma, delivers babies, and does heart surgery? I wouldn’t. I want to go to the best doctor for each issue that comes up.”
Gail’s secret formula to success in the field?
1. Get out of your office and talk to people
“If you want to work for yourself you have to wear many hats,” Gail says. “Most of those hats are things you don’t like doing. Make a commitment to get out of your office four hours a week and go talk to people. Since my practice focuses on pain and injury, I set up a table with my liquid herbs, brochures and some needles and let every single person that walks by me know that I’m an acupuncturist and I’m here to answer any of their questions. Some people breeze by and try to ignore you, but most people are very interested in TCM. It’s uncomfortable, but so is sitting in an empty office waiting for the phone to ring.”
2. Know your craft and be the best you can at what you do
“Don’t be afraid to refer. I specialize in pain, stress, injury, and allergies. I have gotten to know several acupuncturists in the area and I refer to them when it’s an issue that doesn’t fit my style. The growth of my practice has not suffered. There are plenty of people to support your practice.”
3. Have passion for what you do
“Ask for help,” Gail says. “Most people want to help, especially if you ask for something specific. For example, I’ve asked patients to mention me to three people they talk to that day and give them my card. Your patients love you and love the work you’re doing. They want to help you be successful, but they may not know how.
Collect testimonials while you are in school and with every patient once you’re out. Ask your patient to take a moment before or after their treatment to write a few words about you, your clinic, and their experience working with you. I also keep a flip camera on hand and a waiver to record them and post it all over the internet. You can check them out at www.PainFreeDallas.com.”
She also highly recommends not being afraid of competition. “The more people there are talking about acupuncture, the more people will know about it,” Gail said. No matter where you live (even Austin or California), there are plenty of people to support your practice.”
But Gail’s most important recommendation is this: Enjoy every minute of it. “Most people don’t have the ability to transform lives. We get to do it every day. You have an amazing gift.”
Moving is no small feat - finding a place to live, packing up your belongings, recruiting helping hands, finding a friend with a truck, tying up the pieces at your old place and remembering all of the little details for getting settled in smoothly at a new home. It is no wonder that moving is often considered to be one of the most stressful events in life!
Austin is a rapidly growing city with much to offer new residents. Depending on how far you are moving (i.e. across town vs. across the country); the process of finding a place to live may be different. No matter where you are starting from, the following insights will help you stay organized as you navigate the Austin rental market.
What to Consider When Searching For a Place to Live:
Consider Your Exact Move-in Date
Knowing your move-in date will help you determine when you need to be ready to sign a lease. Some apartments only list their availability 30 days prior to a potential move-in date whereas others list availability 60 days prior. Privately owned houses, condos, and duplexes usually have openings based on 30 day notices, possibly even shorter times, and are generally looking for quick move-ins. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to start your housing search 45-60 days before your anticipated move date.
Before starting your search, it’s important to have an idea of what you are looking for. Most apartment communities in Austin offer one year leases. Some properties may offer nine and six month leases, however leases lasting less than six months can be very difficult to find. Many apartment communities charge an up-grade fee for leases shorter than one year, and such fees can be as high as an extra $150 per month. Privately owned properties like rental homes or duplexes almost always offer one year leases.
An alternative option for a shorter term lease is to sublet. Subletting a property can offer a temporary home-base while you explore Austin’s many neighborhoods and search for longer-term accommodations.
Rental Application Fees & Deposits
When you have found a place you like and you are ready to submit an application, it is important to keep in mind that there will be associated application fees and deposits required. Planning for these fees will help you create a realistic moving budget.
Application fees can range from $35 to $150 and will vary depending on location. These fees are applied to the cost of running criminal background and rental history checks for potential tenants.
A rental deposit is typically required to be paid to the property owner or management company. Deposit amounts are variable and can range from $200 to $1,000 per unit. Newer apartment communities that offer more amenities typically ask for higher rental deposits. Some apartment communities may include an “administrative fee” as part of the deposit that is frequently non-refundable and may be as much as half of the deposit. However, this type of fee is usually only found in larger, newer apartment communities. Owners of houses, duplexes, and condos often ask a new tenant to deposit the first and/or last month’s rent up front.
With many animal-loving residents in Austin, pet deposits are a very common feature of the rental market. Amounts and specific policies may vary depending on individual properties; though, a typical pet deposit will be around $300 - $500 for one pet. Half of this deposit is usually refundable while the other half is typically a non-refundable cleaning fee. Having more than one pet usually incurs additional deposit costs (often $250 per additional pet), and many communities limit the number of pets allowed to three. In some cases apartment communities may charge pet rent instead of a deposit. Pet rent is a monthly fee paid in addition to rent and can vary from $15 - $50 per month, per pet. If you have furry friends, it’s important to ask about a property’s pet policies before applying.
Before paying any deposit, it is important to verify with the leasing agent whether a deposit is refundable if the rental application is cancelled, withdrawn, or refused. Once an application is approved, the rental deposit is no longer refundable.
Qualifying Criteria for Rental Applications
When evaluating a rental application, apartment communities and property owners will consider/ verify the following:
- Applicants must be 18 years of age or older
- Previous rental history (broken leases, evictions, lack of rental history)
- Criminal background checks (any convictions, misdemeanors, felonies, etc.)
- Credit history (outstanding housing debts/payments, utility or rental payment history, etc.)
- Whether renter’s insurance is required (many properties require policies for $100,000 worth of rental insurance)
- Number of vehicles or pets owned (properties may limit the number of each allowed)
- Current income
When considering a potential tenant’s credit history and income, apartment communities typically expect to see that an applicant’s monthly income is approximately three times the amount of monthly rent. Combined income from roommates, financial aid received by students, and potential co-signors’ income are additional factors that may be considered. Most communities will allow co-signors for applicants that do not meet the earnings criteria. Co-signors are generally expected to own a home and earn five to six times the amount of the unit’s monthly rent. Depending on employment status, applicants may be required to present paystubs, income tax information, bank statements, or confirmation of financial aid eligibility to verify income.
Applicants with less than 6 months of rental history or a low credit-score may be required to have a co-signor on a lease or pay an additional rental deposit. Factors such as a history of broken leases, evictions, or a criminal background will generally result in co-signors being refused. While apartment communities always perform criminal background and rental history checks, not all private owners do so. New residents should discuss the qualifying rental criteria in detail with the apartment community or property owner during the application process.
Apartment rental rates are generated based on city-wide occupancy rates, meaning prices can fluctuate frequently. Rental prices will also vary based on the type of unit available (e.g. number of bedrooms, square footage, amenities, etc.) and exact location. In addition to checking rental prices for specific properties online, it is also advisable to contact a property directly to verify the current rate and to inquire about any move-in specials that may be offered. Cost of living calculators can help new residents moving from another city or state to estimate housing costs in Austin.
Getting Help with Your Housing Search
It’s always ideal to visit a potential house/apartment in person before making a commitment and signing a lease. Unfortunately, this is not always an option if you are moving from a different city or state. Recruiting the help of a leasing agent or apartment locator can help to narrow down your options and find a place that meets your criteria and standards for quality of life. Many apartment locating agents in Austin offer free services to clients looking for housing and it’s important to choose a locator that is responsive, professional, and respectful of your housing needs.
In addition to individual leases, alternative housing opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living. Check out our next blog post in the Moving to Austin series for more information on this topic!
Michelle Gonzalez is an Austin-based real estate agent and AOMA student. Prior to beginning her studies within AOMA’s master’s degree program in acupuncture & Chinese medicine, Michelle worked as a full-time licensed real estate agent at Team Real Estate. She has years of experience and expertise within Austin’s rental and home-buying markets.
As AOMA’s Admissions Coordinator, Jillian Kelble works one-on-one with new students to support their transition to graduate school and is the administrator of AOMA’s bi-weekly new student housing digest. In addition to her role within the Admissions Office, she has also worked as a property manager for a privately owned rental property in downtown Austin. A transplant from the west coast, Jillian brings personal insight about the process of relocating to her work.
You’ve done it! 4 or so hard years, bushels of tests, late night studying, endless intern clinics, harrowing Board exams; your diploma is clutched in your rosy hand, and the future waits just outside the door of the auditorium. Then it hits you – you have no idea what to do next.
For the last four years, your life has been more or less ordered for you – class times, clinic times, study times, work times – and now it’s totally up to you. How do you take all your training and make it work for you, to build a future? There’s no sure pattern for success, and your mentors and teachers are no longer watching over you every day to give guidance. The world can look very scary out of the school setting, but before you pull your lab coat over your head and hide, take heart. You can survive, and thrive, as an acupuncturist.
Hopefully, you started working on what you were going to do and where long before you graduated. Finding a good location that’s not in a saturated area is important, and establishing a name for yourself in that area is vital, even before you graduate. If you joined your local Chamber of Commerce, some local networking groups and service groups, you have a head start, because all your fellow members are prospective patients. If you haven’t joined those organizations yet, now is the time to do it. You’ll probably have a few months before your license is granted, so use the time wisely. Network, meet people, shake a lot of hands – your enthusiasm will be contagious, and people will be curious. Make sure you’re armed with business cards, brochures, and a website before you go into battle. Get a name registered as a DBA in your county, and get yourself a shirt with the name and logo on it. Then wear it. Everywhere. You’d be surprised how many people will ask about it.
Find someone who is established to start with so you can learn the ropes. Most established acupuncturists are more than willing to take on an intern to work the front desk and learn the business; you can also find a lot of chiropractors who are happy to take an acupuncturist on. Even though some of them advertise they can do acupuncture, most of them don’t have the time to do it, and welcome new graduates. When your license comes in the mail, you’ll be ready to jump into the pool, so get your feet planted somewhere while you’re waiting.
Once licensed, use all those contacts you made. Hand out gift certificates – one free treatment isn’t going to break you, and those people will come back for more. Use them for door prizes at local events, especially women’s events. Use them in Chamber Auctions, for Chamber Lunches, or to support an auction at your local High School. Give them as gifts for birthdays. Soon, those patients will tell others, and you’re on your way. Participate in events and go to some health fairs – let people see and get to know you. Utilize social networking as well, you can learn a lot from other acupuncturists, both established and just beginning. Use free time wisely to learn more about running your practice. Before you know it, you’re treating 20 patients a week, then thirty, then forty, and your first year will be coming to a close.
As long as you realize that learning doesn’t stop when school ends, you’ll do just fine. Reach out, and your practice will grow. Above all, trust in yourself, and your hard-won skills.
Kathy Kerr, LAc, MAcOM, AOBTA, is an Acupuncturist practicing in Georgetown, TX. She graduated from AOMA in 2008 and has taught several brown bags and business development classes. Her undergrad is in marketing and management, and foreign language. Kathy lives in Round Rock with her husband, two dogs and a bird named Qing Long. Visit her website here: www.orientalmedicineassociates.com.