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Brian Becker

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Checking in on Pam Ferguson, former Dean of Asian Bodywork Therapy at AOMA.

Posted by Brian Becker on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 @ 02:35 PM

Give us a brief synapse on your latest book, which we understand is going live on Amazon very soon

Crossing Lines

CROSSING LINES is now live on Amazon as an e-book! Later on a paperback will be available. But as the work is set during the week of Halloween/el Dia de los Muertos - I was keen to launch it before the end of October.  This is my 11th book published to date. Previous books - including textbooks that are in the AOMA library - were published on both sides of the Atlantic.  Living in Austin inspired the storyline of CROSSING LINES including a range of Border politics and what it means to be a Border state.  CROSSING LINES is a sad murder story within a family dynamic in Austin and the Border, and involving a land inheritance controversy dating back to Spanish Texas. The story also involves the heartbreaking reality of femicide.

Tell us about your journey with TCM and Asian Bodywork Therapy. 

Ah, my first career was as an investigative journalist  in the UK and USA and author of books on topics ranging from  the Middle East conflict, to political thrillers based in the Olympic Games, to works of fiction based on my investigative reporting on the tobacco and liquor industries. I came upon Asian Medicine quite by chance when I lived  next door to an Acupuncture clinic in Japantown San Francisco at the end of the 1970s and my partner gave me the classic book on Zen Shiatsu by Shizuto Masunaga. I realized this was what I had to study as I always had a knack  - instinctively - for finding acupoints that released pain while nursing my mother through endless migraines. I trained at the Ohashi  Institute in New York City and was asked to become an instructor - and they sent me to teach courses in Canada and  Switzerland. That kicked off my 3 decades of helping expand Shiatsu training in  Canada, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria -  prompting me to write textbooks on Shiatsu, and on the Five Elements. That's how my two careers became one.  In 2008 I co-edited, co-authored SAND TO SKY with Debra Duncan Persinger PhD, as the first anthology of interviews with global authors of Asian Medicine in the 21st century. We honored several AOMA instructors in this work - including Stuart Watts, AOMA's founder.

You've had a long relationship with AOMA. Share with us how you first became involved and some of the work you've done with us.

Stuart Watts first recruited me to develop AOBTA compliant training in Asian Bodywork Therapy at AOMA when I joined the fledgling school in 1996. Both Stuart and I spent years on the AOBTA board. It was a joy to create a whole new Zen Shiatsu program styled to fit in with the Acupuncture curriculum and with one semester devoted to the Five Elements.  We arranged offsite student clinics at St David's North Austin Medical Center,  at retirement centers, the Safe Place, at the School for the Blind, and at a residential  addiction rehab center. I'm deeply proud of this community outreach and how it spread AOMA's great reputation and the skills of really talented and pams_pic_in_back_garden-smallenthusiastic students.  I left AOMA about a decade ago as Dean of  Asian Bodywork Therapy, but continued to teach one of the Ethics classes until 2019, and CE workshops. I'm so proud to have been a part of the teaching foundation of AOMA, with Drs. Wu, He, Wang, Shen, Fan, Qiu,  Mandyam, helping move AOMA from Stuart’s dream and a couple of rooms on West Anderson Lane into the wonderful, expansive  Westgate campus of AOMA  today. I will always be a part of the AOMA spirit.  And I relive that spirit as the ABT columnist for Acupuncture Today.  Writing this column has also  enabled me to  weave in some biting issues of the day - like racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia,  and body shaming  - within Asian Medicine. See my  AT columns for November and December 2020.

You are one of the  former Presidents of the (former) Vermont based Breast Cancer Action Group, what are some of the things you’ve done in support of those living with Breast Cancer? 

As a survivor of metastatic breast cancer , I transformed the experience into a teaching tool and innovated new ways of working with cancer patients . I developed a range of Qi-inspired postmastectomy exercises I titled DRAWING CIRCLES, and  have taught these exercises to Acupuncturists, Shiatsu Therapists, Physical and Occupational Therapists, RNs and MDs working with cancer survivors globally. I have also taught breast cancer survivor groups how to move with Qi to prevent lymphedema and overcome the fear and hesitancy many feel. I've written extensively about these experiences in my books and articles, and also created a DVD titled Drawing Circles.

What hobbies do you enjoy when you're not teaching or writing? 

Photography!  I created a range of studies of bicycles in every possible context in my global travels and have enjoyed exhibiting them. This  actually started as a fun project I could share with my students to encourage cycling, and evolved into an obsession. I cycle daily!! I am also passionate about gardening and created a cacti jungle in my north Austin home. My other hobbies include watching movies and reading an eclectic range of books. I also have fun writing a column  titled "Pedaling around with Pam" for our North Austin  community newsletter.

Topics: continuing education, asian bodywork therapy, acupuncture, aoma, tcm education, ATX

A Necessary Change for the Better

Posted by Brian Becker on Wed, Sep 09, 2020 @ 05:56 PM

In recent weeks you may have noticed some small yet important changes the world of Acupuncture, Acupuncture school, and AOMA. Although still the same degree our Master’s, which for years was known as a MAcOM is now called the MAc, and our Professional Doctorate has gone from DAcOM to DAc. In both cases the letters OM originally stood for Oriental Medicine, representing the herbal components of the respective degrees. In fact the name AOMA was at first an acronym, the letters standing for Academy of Oriental Medicineat Austin. The wording behind each of the letters has since been dropped, and today the name AOMA represents our institutional identity.

The removal of the word “Oriental” from our degree and even the name of our organization has been a long time coming, but why is that? To answer this question we must look into the history of the word itself. Where it originated and how it evolved over the course of two millennia.

The word “Orient” comes from the Latin oriens, meaning East. In fact the word literally translates as rising, and thus the Roman name for the East was a reference to the rising sun. This was common cultural phenomenon. The Chinese character  dōng is meant to represent the sun rising behind a tree, while Japan is referred to as “The Land of the Rising Sun”.Dioecesis_Orientis_400_AD

The association of the word Orient with a specific territory began in the Fourth Century AD when the Diocese of the Orient (Dioecesis Orientis) was established by Rome. The idea of the Orient as a reference to the Middle East remained cemented in place for quite some time. Even the famed Orient Express, which ran from 1883 to 2009, ended in Istanbul.

It was during the mid-1800s that the geographical meaning of the word began to shift, and the word Orient came to encompass India and to some extent China as well. By the middle of the 20th century the word was generally used as a reference to East and Southeast Asia.

What’s revealed by this is the Eurocentric nature of the word, referring to a location based on what is considered eastern by various cultures which have dominated Europe and later the Americas since the days of the Roman Empire, and by extension the people who live in the east.

While not as overt as other terms, the word took on increasingly negative connotations throughout the age of colonization, especially in the 19th century and on into the early 20th. For many the word is now forever tied to the racism of the age. In fact many western novels of the time depicted “Oriental” peoples and nations as backwards and savage in nature. “Oriental” women were often depicted as simplistic and hypersexualized while “Oriental” men were shown as meek, cunning, or downright barbaric. Pulp magazines such as Oriental Stories, published in the 1930’s, heavily reinforced these racist stereotypes. Artistic representations of the East did much the same.

The problematic nature of this was first discussed in the 1960’s, and in 1969 Karen Umemoto, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center stated “Many of the stereotypes of Orientals and Orientalism was part of the project of imperialist conquest — British, and later, American — in Asia, with the exoticization of the Oriental as well as the creation of threat and fear, as evidenced in the yellow peril movement.”

From the 1970’s on the phrase “Asian-American” began to replace “Oriental” when speaking of Americans with Asiatic ancestry, and by 1980 the word “Oriental” no longer appeared on the United States Census. In 2016 President Obama signed a bill prohibiting the word “Oriental” in all federal documents.

It is with these negative stereotypes in mind, and the damage caused by them, that AOMA 3-2019AOMA along with the world of Acupuncture as a whole has moved away from the usage of the word. The medicine taught and practiced at AOMA comes not from the falsely depicted “backwards nations” of colonial fiction, but from the rich, vibrant cultures of Asia which were just as diverse and advanced (more so at times) as those of Europe. By shedding this burdened word from our lexicon we seek not to abandon the roots of Acupuncture, but rather to continue integrating this medicine into American society.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, AOMA Herbal Medicine, chinese herbalism, herbal medicine, herbal studies, curriculum, chinese herbs, herbal program, aoma, acupunture

Reagan Taylor, AOMA Master's Graduate and DAOM Student

Posted by Brian Becker on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 @ 11:59 AM

 

Please introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where did you go to undergraduate?  What did you study?

My name is Reagan Taylor, and I am from Austin, TX. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was actually grown up, but once I discovered how intriguing acupuncture and Chinese medicine I never turned back. In my research to find a good school, I didn’t need to look any farther than my hometown…I heard that AOMA had a great program with higher educational standards than other schools throughout the country.  I familiarized myself with the requirements for admission and studied AOMA’s curriculum. From there, I focused my studies at Austin Community College in biology, health sciences, sociology, and psychology to prepare me for patient care.

What were you doing before you came to AOMA?

I lived in Oregon for several years learning how to blow soft glass; making vases, sculptures, paper weights.  While I was having fun, I didn’t feel like I was really serving a purpReagan Taylorose. I moved back to Austin and began work at a wonderful organization, The Marbridge Foundation, which is a residential care facility for adults with intellectual disabilities.  I worked there full-time before starting AOMA master’s program.  I stayed on as a part-time employee all throughout my time at AOMA, and left Marbridge all together about a year ago. It was a wonderful place to work and my experiences there instilled in me patience, communication skills, and stress management skills for myself as well as for patients.

What are some of your favorite classes and/or teachers at AOMA?

What kind of trick question is this?!?  There is no way I can really choose a favorite instructor from AOMA because they are all wonderful in their own way.  As a current doctoral student, I recently took the Neurology class with Dr. Amy Moll because I have a special interest in neurological systems and disorders. Dr. Moll is an exceptional educator with incredible knowledge of functional neurology and ways to treat disorders with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

How would you describe the Student Culture at AOMA?

Personally, I have found the student culture at AOMA to be very welcoming and warm.  During my time as a master’s student, and now as a doctoral candidate, I have found a lot of support amongst my cohorts.  Friends I made as a master’s student are still some of my closest friends and biggest supporters.  Students always seem to be finding ways to lift each other up, whether it’s forming a study group or carving out much needed time for fun or relaxation.  The students here all have very diverse backgrounds, and everyone is here for their own reason so we learn from each other.

What is your favorite thing about AOMA and why? Describe your experiences at AOMA.

I have really appreciated the high standard of education I’ve received at AOMA.  I’ve also always felt very supported and heard by the faculty and staff here.  After graduation, I maintained a relationship with AOMA and worked as a part-time clinical teaching assistant, which then blossomed into my current position as the full-time clinical resident.  It’s been interesting to go from being a student, to faculty member, and now a hybrid of doctoral student and faculty member. I get to see and experience all sides of AOMA, which has only added to my appreciation for this institution.

What benefits do you feel earning your Doctorate will afford you, and how did you decide which one was the best choice for your career?

Earning my doctorate will not only open up a lot of doors for me as far as my career, but it’s also providing me with a deeper clinical understanding and exposing me to some amazing, more advanced techniques.  I started out in the DAcOM program (first professional doctorate) and made the decision to switch to the DAOM, which will challenge me in ways I never knew I wanted to be challenged.  Earning my DAOM, will open up doors for me to work in academia and research and provide me with vast clinical insights.  I decided to switch programs because, as AOMA’s clinical resident, I have found I really enjoy working with students in the clinical setting, helping them learn, while also working with patients.  The DAOM arms with the knowledge I need as well as the credentials necessary for a career in education.

What, if any perceptions of Chinese medicine have changed from when you started the program to now? What vision would you like to see for the future of healthcare?

Before starting the program, I viewed Chinese medicine and its founding philosophy as mystical and magical.  After learning so much more, I no longer see it quite like that.  Now, I understand it as an extremely logical and scientifically sound medical practice…ancient physicians just had a different language and ways to describe how our bodies function and the cause of disease.

What are you plans after completing your Doctorate?

I have developed a real passion for clinical education.  Once I receive my DAOM, I hope to serve in that capacity.  I always want to be a clinician, working with and treating patients, but I would also like to be deeply involved with teaching other people how to be great practitioners.  Developing clinical curriculum, treating patients, and helping students become confident in their abilities are all things I believe are well suited to my personality, strengths, and talents and I hope to be doing exactly that in my future.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, DAOM, MAcOM, aoma students, chinese medicine, tcm education, acupunture

Four Things Everyone Should Know About Acupuncture School

Posted by Brian Becker on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 @ 11:20 AM

Acupuncture (5)

In my time as an Admissions officer I have encountered a lot of commonly held misconceptions about various degrees, perhaps even more so when it comes to the field of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  So here are some basic facts about Acupuncture school that some individuals, such as perspective students, patients, other healthcare providers, as well as the public in general, may not be aware of.

1) It is a Rigorous Master’s Degree

One of the chief misconceptions about Acupuncture is the amount IMG_7927of schooling required.  People are often shocked to learn that a Master Degree is required before they may sit for the National Boards exams.  What’s more, this is not your standard two year Master’s.  AOMA’s program is 203.5 quarter credits (equal to 135.6 semester credits), typically takes four and a half years, and involves a total of 2970 instructional hours.  Of those, 161.5 of the credits, or 1962 hours are Didactic and 42 credits, 1008 hours, are clinical.

Many of those obtain their Master’s go on to take bridge programs such as our DAcOM, becoming Doctors of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  Indeed there is a push within the profession as a whole to require doctorates for licensure in the United States.

2) Amount of Biomedicine

More and more TCM is being taught as an integrative medicine,Classroom_Blood Pressure (1) working alongside other healthcare providers with the best interest of the patient in mind.  To this end AOMA’s program covers a wide range of biomedical topics including Medical Biochemistry, Pathophysiology, and Biomedical Pharmacology among others.

3) Hands On 

Like the training for any other healthcare profession,IMG_0031 copy acupuncture programs require a lot of clinical and hands on laboratory hours.  As mentioned earlier, 1008 of AOMA’s 2970 instructional hours are clinical, this translates to 34%, one third of the program.  This process begins with Clinic Theater I in which students are exposed to the diagnostic methods of TCM including the techniques and application of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine by observing professional treatments performed by a member of the AOMA faculty.  This culminates in a full clinical internship, in which the student, as a supervised intern, performs the intake, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

4) Strength of Faculty

Our faculty is well versed in a wide range of clinical specializations,Dr. Wu's book academic backgrounds, and published research.  At AOMA there are 37 faculty members, including 29 Licensed Acupuncturists, 7 Medical Doctors, 2 Ph.D.’s and 6 faculty members who hold both an MD and a Ph.D.  AOMA Graduate School is also the home of the only Chinese herbal pharmacologist Ph.D. in the United States.  About two thirds of our faculty bring to the table at least a decade of tenure and many years of training and practicing TCM in China.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture school, masters program, acupuncture students, tcm school, tcm education, acupunture

5 Benefits of Doctoral Education in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Posted by Brian Becker on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 @ 02:39 PM

Dr. John Finnell, shares what he believes to be the top benefits of attaining a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine degree. #tbt #throwbackthursday

More than ever, I believe that doctoral and post-graduate education prepare the next generation of thought leaders and clinicians to move the field of acupuncture and Oriental medicine forward.

Our role in healthcareacupuncture role in healthcare

Our healthcare landscape needs highly trained clinicians, researchers, and leaders to move the profession forward. Doctoral-level education provides parity at the policymaking table. This may operate institutionally, governmentally, or within the domain of patient care. Parity by title levels the playing field with regard to co-operative patient care.

Leadership

While a doctoral degree alone does not confer success, it does provide one with a credential to fill leadership positions within academia, act as the principle investigator on NIH-funded research, teach at the doctoral level, and oversee doctoral-level clinical education.

professional acupuncture opportunitiesProfessional opportunities

The respect brought by the doctoral title is a feature which enhances patient care and establishes parity with other doctorally prepared professions. Specifically, licensed acupuncturists with a doctorate often find better prospects for hospital employment and faculty positions, and for obtaining research grants and a seat at the table in policy-making processes.

 

Move the profession forward

Doctoral training does provide the rare opportunity for us to explore our intellectual passions and create a new body of knowledge as the fruit of our scholarship. This same scholarship is the cornerstone to the foundation upon which our profession is built. This is not a stagnant process; the evolution of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) in North America must be actualized through participation of its members. 

Actualizing requires a few key ingredients: vision, action, perseverance, belief, and transformation. All of these ingredients may be found as you pursue your career path. AOMA's DAOM program provides the platform upon which to solidify your role in the actualization of the field of AOM in the next century.

Lifetime learningdaom students

Finally, there are those of us who truly believe in the power of this medicine and want to learn as much as we can to better serve our patients. Improving your knowledge in pain management and the psychosocial aspects associated with pain is certain to improve patient outcomes and your satisfaction as an advanced practitioner of Chinese medicine.

Author bio

Dr. John doctoral program director is an accomplished researcher and skilled health care practitioner with a rich academic and professional background. His interest in lifestyle and environmental determinants of health led him to earn a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and a Master of Science in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine from Bastyr University, as well as a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Washington. As a practitioner of Naturopathic and Chinese medicines, Dr. Finnell’s clinical focus is on nutrition, pharmacognosy, herb-drug interactions, mind-body medicine, disease prevention, and lifestyle education. In addition to maintaining a professional Naturopathic and Chinese medicine practice, Dr. Finnell has also 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 TrueNorth Health Foundation. Dr. Finnell’s strong research background and clinical experience as a Naturopathic and Chinese medicine practitioner enable him to bring an evidence-based and integrative perspective to AOMA’s doctoral program.

Download Introduction to DAOM Apply to AOMA  

Topics: job opportunities, doctoral program, DAOM, Dr. John Finnell

Meet Katie: Registered Nurse Turned Acupuncture Student

Posted by Brian Becker on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 @ 12:10 PM

 Katie Shea

Please introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where did you go to undergraduate? What did you study? How far along/When did you start at AOMA?

My name is Katie Shea and I grew up in Chicago. I went to Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) for undergrad and received a bachelor’s degree in nursing. I began attending the master’s program at AOMA Fall of 2017.

What were you doing before you came to AOMA?

Before coming to AOMA, I was practicing as a registered nurse. I spent over a year in the emergency room immediately after graduating from college then transferred departments to work in a cardiac electrophysiology lab. I am continuing to practice as a nurse and work with cardiac patients while attending AOMA.

What was your first introduction to acupuncture and what was your impression?

My first introduction to acupuncture was at AOMA with Dr. Luo. I have always been interested in alternative therapies and was curious about TCM. I learned right away how effective acupuncture and herbs could be, as it quickly alleviated multiple vague symptoms I was experiencing at the time. Eventually, I began having regular treatments for both chronic and acute issues (I was training for a marathon at the time) and felt a deep connection to the subtle yet powerful nature of this medicine.

When did you become interested in studying Chinese medicine and why? What made you choose AOMA as your school and/or shift your career focus to come to AOMA?

Many factors were involved in my decision to embark on this journey into Chinese medicine. As a nurse, I understand the importance of providing safe and effective care to patients. I was also becoming familiar that one medical paradigm is not sufficient to solve all of the health concerns that face our modern world. As a yoga instructor and practitioner, I am also aware that there is much more to health than simply not getting sick; it is about learning how to listen to your body and act in a way that promotes balance. To me, that is the exact nature of Chinese medicine - to correct the small imbalances and promote harmony in the body in a nuanced yet long-lasting and sustainable way.

 What are some of your favorite classes and/or teachers at AOMA?

My favorite class at AOMA so far is Foundations with Dr. Wu. I could take this class over and over (which I did) and continue to learn so much from a professor that has an abundance of knowledge yet presents the material in a very simple way.

 What is your favorite thing about AOMA and why? Describe your experiences at AOMA.

My favorite aspect of AOMA is that everyone is so open, generous with their own personal challenges and health journeys, and unsparing with their energy and attention. I frequently find myself in an insightful conversation with a group of intelligent people that have very diverse backgrounds. I have also noticed the willingness of AOMA students to help one another in a time of need. On multiple occasions, I have been truly touched by the acts of kindness or simple gestures to help and support a fellow colleague. I feel very lucky to be involved in this community.

 Have you started treating as a student intern yet? If so, please describe a unique experience or something that surprised you.

I have not yet started to treat as an intern but there have been many unique moments that have surprised me, particularly in the acupuncture clinic at the Kerrville Folk Festival. It was incredible to see the amount of patients that AOMA students were able to serve, free of charge, in a modest, four-bed clinic. The complaints ranged from joint pain from worn-out musicians and heat-related issues from camping outside in Texas in June to deep emotional pain from years of trauma. Each patient displayed openness and gratitude and showed a willingness to contribute to their own healing by taking what the practitioner said seriously; this was something I did not expect in such a casual setting.

 What, if any perceptions of Chinese medicine have changed from when you started the program to now? What vision would you like to see for the future of healthcare?

For the most part, my perceptions of Chinese medicine have been consistent with my expectations entering the program. As I learn more, however, I realize that TCM and conventional medicine have more in common than many people realize. The two disciplines are simply describing the same body using a different language (both literally and figuratively) and coming to very similar conclusions. My hope for the future of healthcare is that we continue in a direction toward a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. It is no coincidence that one system picks up where the other leaves off; it is because both are necessary if the healthcare team intends to both treat illness while also maintaining positive health.

 What are you plans after graduation?

Following graduation, I would like to travel and volunteer my time and skills while acquiring the experience necessary to start my own practice. Eventually, my goal is to combine both eastern and western modalities in order to provide patients with well-rounded care. This will ideally include a multidisciplinary practice that utilizes many different approaches to healthcare in a way that not only treats illness but also supports optimal functioning.


Want to learn more about the Master's Program at AOMA? Contact the AOMA admissions office! 

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Topics: student spotlight, acupuncture school, acupuncture students, aoma students, acupunture

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