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
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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