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.
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.”
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
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.”
AOMA alumna Sadie Minkoff was a modern dancer in a company based in New York City when she injured her sacrum in a rehearsal. Minkoff says, “I was studying Eastern philosophy and Shiatsu and was petrified of needles so I was hesitant to try acupuncture until I got injured.” Minkoff finally mustered the courage to travel to New York’s Chinatown to try out acupuncture.
Most “needle phobic” patients are generally surprised to find out that acupuncture needles are a thin metal filament about the width of a human hair and cannot deliver the same kind of impact as a needle used for a flu or tetanus shot. Minkoff, being terrified of needles, was no different. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the sensations from the needles were minimal and the treatment itself was very enjoyable and effective. Minkoff says, “The injury resolved quickly but what was even more exciting to me was how good I felt after my acupuncture treatments. So I continued getting acupuncture and started learning about Chinese Medicine.”
Eventually Minkoff found herself at AOMA studying acupuncture. Her journey as a practitioner has taken her many places including an interdisciplinary clinic in Washington, DC and a western medical clinic in Austin. She has also worked in a couple of integrative settings with IUI and IVF patients. In 2012 Minkoff received hospital privileges when a local doctor invited her to do acupuncture during fertility treatments in the hospital where he worked.
Currently, Minkoff owns a private practice with her partner Michelle Schreiber in Austin. Sage Acupuncture focuses on both fertility and oncology. Minkoff reflects, “We have created a beautiful sanctuary where people can feel comfortable and supported in their healing process.” As Minkoff’s clientele grows she holds the intention to continue to work from her heart and serve her community.
Since Minkoff has been in the acupuncture field she has learned that listening and compassion promote success in her practice. She has also learned that no matter how many tools she has to share with her patients she does not heal the patient, the patient heals herself. This philosophy has kept patients coming back to her years after they get pregnant and have their children.
Cat Calhoun is the first in her family to go to college and the only one thus far to receive a master’s degree. Before she came to AOMA she was a Senior Network Administrator for the city of Austin. Cat was involved in several car wrecks that damaged her neck. She found an acupuncturist who not only fixed her neck, but also cured her recurrent tension headaches. When her job shifted to more desk work and less face-to-face interactions with clients she decided to do some soul-searching and change careers. She researched and visited many acupuncture schools and found that AOMA was one of the best schools in the country. She says “we have some truly world class professors, both in knowledge and spirit. They are the power and the gems of the school.”
While in school Cat became known for her giving, communal spirit that is always ready to offer encouragement to her fellow students. She became famous at AOMA for her donation based website called CatsTCMnotes.com. The website started when a fellow classmate missed a couple of classes and asked Cat to take notes for her. Her notes were so detailed that other classmates wanted copies. She decided to put them on the web to share them with anyone who wanted another perspective on the information presented in class at AOMA. This website is now being viewed by people from all around the world. Cat says, “I’ve gotten appreciation e-mails from TCM practitioners and students in the U.S., Canada, England, Germany, Thailand, and most recently from Israel.” She has done a fantastic job organizing complex ideas and putting them into accessible charts for current students to study.
Cat graduated from AOMA in Summer 2011 and is already well on the way to becoming a successful business owner and practitioner. Although she has done most of the “normal” things graduates do once they leave school to become business owners, her philosophy is starkly different than most. Cat’s approach to building her patient base starts with building community. She is drawn to “communal style acupuncture” and has always been open and willing to help anyone who crosses her path. Her first piece of advice to new graduates is to remember “there are going to be rough spots you will hit and you will live through them. Get serious about a meditative practice like yoga, tai chi, qigong, transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation. You’re going to need it!”
Cat has continued this philosophy of building community by moving her practice into her own zip code. She thinks “our culture suffers from lack of ‘neighborhood’ and connection. I want to work in my own community, helping people to find healing and connection.” In the next five to ten years Cat desires to start a residency program for students that are newly graduated. “I want to build a clinic with a ‘neighborhood’ of acupuncture specialists in different fields who are willing to take on a new graduate protégé, teach them our business model and help them get on their acupuncture feet before we send them out into the world.” She currently gives students discounted acupuncture rates to both keep them in her life and share what she has learned with them on her path. She is also currently offering Reiki and herbs to treat a variety of health concerns, but focuses on insomnia, anxiety, depression, stress, gynecological, hormonal imbalances, and pain relief. She says, “I want to make acupuncture as accessible to as many people as possible while still giving a quality treatment in a safe private space.” Visit Cat's website.
Each month we will be featuring fun information about a faculty and/or staff member to introduce the wonderful community of people behind AOMA's graduate program!
This month, we're happy to introduce Robert Laguna, L.Ac., Dean of Students! In addition to being an academic and transfer advisor, Robert also teaches Clinic Theater, is a supervisor in the AOMA student clinic and manages the Learning Resource Center.
Where are you from?
"Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico"
List 3 hobbies/ activities you enjoy:
"Playing music, conducting the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, and composing/ arranging music!"
What's the best thing about teaching/working at AOMA?
"The camraderie amongst the staff and students; it's a real family atmosphere."
What's your favorite/most memorable 'AOMA moment'?
"When I graduated from the master's degree program here!"
What's your favorite thing about Austin?
"The climate- I like that the winters aren't too cold."
"Austin Wonder Brass - www.austinwonderbrass.com and the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble's site - www.acwe.org."
To learn more about Robert's background and role at AOMA, log on to https://aoma.edu/students-alumni/academic-support/academic-advising/.
Remember to check back soon to meet someone new!
Food is medicine and ancient cultures like China and India have been implementing this knowledge for centuries. Michelle Schreiber also takes this statement seriously at her acupuncture practice Sage Acupuncture in Austin, Texas. Schreiber is a successful AOMA alumni who combines clinical counseling with traditional Chinese medicine. She utilizes theories in the Traditional Chinese Medicine models and couples it with western nutritional research to find a plan that is specific to her clients’ needs. Schreiber has always been interested in nutrition and after she graduated in 2003 from AOMA she continued to get training from the Center for Mind Body Medicine at Georgetown University Medical School and became a certified Nutritional Consultant by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC).
Recently Schreiber has been focusing her practice on treating cancer patients. She was inspired to work with cancer patients after watching her dad go through various cancer treatments for 10 years. Schreiber said, “I wish I had lived closer to him to provide consistent treatment. Additionally, I believe that many practitioners are afraid to treat cancer patients, even though Chinese medicine has a lot to offer them.”
AOMA students learn from faculty who are engaged in clinical practice as well as having expertise in their academic field. Many of AOMA’s faculty members are internationally recognized for their research, teachings, and presentations published internationally in training programs around the globe. Schreiber was encouraged by AOMA faculty member Dr. Yuxin He’s work with cancer patients. She said, “He specializes in treating cancer and to have a role model let me know that it can be done and gave me that extra confidence.”
Another inspiration for choosing to specialize in oncology is studying with, Jeffrey Yuen, a Daoist priest and acupuncturist based out of American University of Complementary Medicine ( AUCM ) who is on the frontier for bringing the spiritual roots back to Chinese medicine. Yuen reminds Schreiber that she is treating people not just diseases and that this is what makes all the difference in cancer treatments. Yuen emphasizes the importance of diet for cancer patients and gives special attention to treating the kidneys because of the fear and shock most people experience when they deal with the reality of their prognosis. Schreiber has also integrated this technique into her practice and has seen great results.
Schreiber currently sees all stages of cancer. Every day she helps her patients deal with the side effects and toxicity of long range chemotherapy treatments by helping them keep their immune systems strong. She says most oncologists have been supportive of acupuncture and some have even gone out of their way to recommend it to their patients. This may be due to a recent study published in Hamburg, Germany that showed acupuncture decreased the pain and nerve signals in cancer patients just after ten treatments.
Schreiber has not been as fortunate with medical doctors supporting herbal supplements. She has found that medical doctors need more education about herbs to feel comfortable because they fear that the herbs are going to decrease the efficacy of the chemotherapy. However, in her professional practice, Schreiber has found otherwise and observed patients who have combined herbs with their chemotherapy treatments improve faster and with fewer side effects. Schreiber says she is in the process of increasing communication and education with oncologists in hopes that more medical doctors come to know the valuable combination that herbs and acupuncture have to offer this unique population.
Kirsten Hurder-Karchmer was teaching linguistics at the University of Texas when she began having some serious auto-immune health issues. After seeing several medical doctors and having surgery she turned to AOMA faculty member Jamie Wu for acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments. Amazed by the results, Kirsten started looking into acupuncture as a career choice. She recalls, “I was already a teacher and thought that to be a good doctor, it required a great deal of patient education, so it seemed like a good match for me.”
Kirsten states, “I was instantly interested in gynecology because I saw that when you regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, so many other problems are also resolved.” Upon graduation from AOMA in 2000, she was invited to help open the first women’s clinic in the AOMA professional clinic with faculty member Dongxin Ma. In 2001 Kirsten opened her current business in Austin, the Texas Center for Reproductive Acupuncture (TCRA), where she and her team specialize in infertility, ovulation disorders, and recurrent pregnancy loss. Success led to additional locations in San Antonio and Plano. Kirsten said, “Last year alone the clinic in Austin saw 220 patients, had 159 pregnancies and only 4 miscarriages. That is less than a 4% miscarriage rate in a risk population that should be more around 40%.”
The Austin and San Antonio clinics are fully integrated with western medical doctors, operation and recovery rooms, and technology such as ultrasound machines. In the Austin center Kirsten and her team collaborate with reproductive embryologists and urologists to help couples create families, and with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Texas to conduct research. Kirsten says, “We are currently conducting three large scale studies on the effects of acupuncture on in vitro fertilization (IVF), acupuncture anesthesia for oocyte retrieval or egg collection and recurrent pregnancy loss.” This research will be collected and published in the scholarly journal Fertility and Sterility in the next year or two.
Kirsten furthers her mission to change the face of health care through membership in the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, doing research and developing training at one of the most successful reproductive acupuncture clinics in North America. She is becoming a leader and pioneer in her field of recurrent pregnancy loss. Her tip for success is, “The more I learn Western medicine the better I understand Chinese medicine. We can pioneer a new kind of medicine, but acupuncturists have to learn as much or more, if they want to integrate, than most doctors.”
After thoroughly studying OB/GYN and reproductive embryologist medical texts, Kirsten has been able to strengthen her ability to communicate with medical doctors and overlap Eastern and Western medicine. This deeper understanding has allowed her to build some amazing relationships with the physicians in her field. She responds, “Now they come to us when they get stuck for a bit of voodoo opinion.” Dialogue with medical doctors has helped Kirsten to speak in layman’s terms about Chinese medicine to make it more accessible to people of all backgrounds.
In conjunction with Dr. Francisco Arredondo, Kirsten and her team plan to open the nation’s first fully integrated center for underserved women experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss. The Hope Center will open in Austin and San Antonio in 2012.