The Spirit of Coming Together: How the 2015 Southwest Symposium Changed My Mind About CEUs

Posted by Lauren St. Pierre, LAc on Wed, Jun 03, 2015 @ 04:11 PM


I'm both anxious and excited. It's like going back to summer camp—I'm not sure if my friends from last year will be there, if the camp counselors will be nice, if the lunch lady will be serving mystery meat.  I've been out of acupuncture school for less than a year, and while part of me is still trying to recover and adjust to working, another part of me is beginning to stir again—the student inside. It seems that in our profession, despite all different backgrounds, educations, specialties and interests, we have that in common. We love to learn! 

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are a lifelong study. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn. I've had to remind myself that it will take time and I have a good solid base to build on. The beauty of this reality is that we will just keep getting better—that's the plan at least. It can be incredibly easy to find a pattern, a groove, a needle combo that does the trick. Why mess with it if it works? What I found was the Southwest Symposium in Austin, TX was more than just a way to get continuing education units, it was a way to get excited about the medicine again, to collaborate with like and different minds, to see old friends and meet face-to-face with people, who up until now, had been a tiny picture on Facebook.

So I dusted off my notebook, gathered some pens and checked my expectations at the door. I was thrilled to see familiar faces and meet people I'd only know by name and reputation. What an incredible experience to be in this space that is buzzing with the collective qi of students and practitioners. In private practice I find that we can become a bit isolated. The graduate school environment is so unique—bouncing ideas off of one another, learning from each other's successes and mistakes. Then, for many, we go into practice either alone or with people of different disciplines and the collaboration shifts, for it is mainly our own successes and failures we learn from and online social networking we lean on.

Vendors lined the exhibition hall of the Symposium – wall to wall with herbs, needles and gadgets galore. People would break off into little groups, catching up with old friends and making new connections. There was a lot of talk about the need to invest in our medicine, and come together to help protect our scope of practice, safety issues with unregulated needling practices and how to get involved. And this was all outside of the lectures!

There is something so reaffirming and supportive about hearing groups of people chatting about harmonizing the Ying and Wei over coffee and mixed nuts. Or knowing exactly what someone is saying when they say they felt that the esoteric Heart Shaoyin pattern changed their practice. Where else could you say, “I really love this herbal decoction for phlegm misting the mind, it really opens the orifices” without vacant, slightly horrified stares. We're not always on the same page, but we're at least using the same book.

The speakers of course were fantastic and covered a broad range of topics and modalities. You could really choose your area of interest—needling, herbs, qi gong, tuina or some combination. So much to choose from, esoteric, Japanese or Nei Jing style for your needling curiosity, with epigenetics, hormesis and aging, with some facial diagnosis in between. Regulating cycles, treating pregnancy and pediatric tuina if that suited your practice's focus. If phlegm gets you stuck, there was an herbal course for that. There was even a way to get those ethics CEUs covered.

So while it's very convenient to sit in front of our computers and get those needed CEUs, I'm starting a personal practice of attending the Southwest Symposium as a way to stay connected. Connected to my community, to my medicine, to my inner student.

2015 Southwest Symposium speakers (in alphabetical order):

  • Paul Anderson, ND,
  • Jason Blalack, MS, LAc
  • Mary Bove, ND, AHG
  • Lillian Bridges
  • Jeffrey Dann, PhD, LAc
  • John Finnell, ND, MPH, LAc
  • Holly Guzman, LAc
  • Peter D. Lichtenstein, D.C., LAc
  • Edward Neal, MD
  • Stanley Reiser, MD, MPA, PhD
  • Mikio Sankey, PhD, LAc
  • Constance Scharff, PhD
  • David Twicken, DOM, LAc
  • Qianzhi ("Jamie") Wu, PhD, LAc
  • Janet Zand, OMD, LAc


Learn more about Southwest Symposium


About Lauren St. Pierre, MAcOM, L.Ac.

A graduate of AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Lauren is in solo private practice with Earthspring Acupuncture, PLLC as well as Texas Center for Reproductive Acupuncture. She is also working with AOMA as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in both clinical and didactic courses while continuing to work with The American Cancer Society.  Lauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. She counts Austin as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers.

Topics: Austin, continuing education, southwest symposium

4 Myths about Austin, Texas

Posted by Justine Meccio on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 10:50 AM

MYTH 1: Austin is always hot.texas snowmen_image courtesy of

TRUTH: Austin is hot during the summer. I moved to Austin,TX from Massachusetts in July of 2011, which was later named the hottest, driest month in Texas’ recorded history, and it was brutally hot. The grass was bleached pale yellow and wildfires popped up around the city, in spite of the strict burn-ban, which extended so far as to prohibit Independence Day fireworks. After a few months I learned that such high temperatures are an anomaly for Austin, which generally boasts somewhat mild weather for much of the fall, winter, and spring. Unfortunately, I’d already joyously donated all my cold-weather wear before heading south, so sometime in November I had to reevaluate my wardrobe and purchase much of the gear I’d gotten rid of.

Since living in Austin, I’ve spent Thanksgiving in a wool pea coat and Thanksgiving in a tee shirt…the weather here can be unpredictable, except in its predicable variety.

MYTH 2: If you don’t like tacos or BBQ, you might go hungry.

daidue_image courtesy of

TRUTH: While is true that Austin loves its BBQ (there are more than 200 joints in the Austin area) and may love tacos even more (you can buy tacos from  AT LEAST 400 restaurants and food trucks around town), the culinary scene is by no means limited to those two major food groups.Austin is home to hundreds of food trucks, which serve foods ranging from donut-burgers and deep-fried sandwiches to Mexi-Korean and Thai Kun. There are vegetarian &vegan restaurants, gluten -free bakeries,  locally sourced dinner-club inspired restaurants, gourmet hot dog restaurants,Thai restaurants, Southern Comfort Restaurants… I could go on and on. I’m not a food writer, but there are many enthusiastic bloggers in Austin. If you’d like to read more about the food and restaurant scene in Austin, here are a few that I recommend: 


MYTH 3: Austin doesn’t have public transportation.bcycle_image courtesy of

TRUTH: Austin does have public transportation:

The bus system extends into most of the city, serving 50 routes and 3000 bus stops, and is continuously growing and improving its service.  For more info check out :

Additionally, Austin has followed places like DC, Amsterdam, and NYC in implementing a bike-sharing program - ours is Bcycle, and it’s extremely affordable. For more info check out :

Here’s the caveat, and it’s a big one:  people who don’t have cars and instead use public transit often need to plan their daily commute in advance, and may find it easier to live closer to downtown. If you have personal experience with using Austin’s public transportation as your method of getting around, we welcome your comments and opinions!

As important as the presence of public transportation in Austin is its demand due to the growing population. As Austin continues to grow, the city is continuing to improve its public transportation offerings and make improvements to existing systems. I am optimistic that our city planners and local businesses will make this happen.

MYTH 4: Austin is full of weirdoskeep_austin_weird_image courtesy of

TRUTH: Austin is unique, and so are its inhabitants. You may have heard the city’s popular slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, and wondered what the heck people mean when they say this. In his book “Weird City” Joshua Long explored this very question, and shows that people mean many different things when they use this phrase. Sometimes people are referring to the music, or local icons like Willie Nelson and Leslie, and other times people are referring to the city’s politics or aesthetics. When I hear people talk about Austin’s “weirdness”, it usually has an intangible, nostalgic quality to it. Legend has it that the slogan began as a bumper sticker imagined up by a guy named Red, who (according to Joshua Long) “didn’t want to make money. He didn’t want to be famous. He was just worried that the city he loved was becoming over-commercialized, over-materialistic, and less 'weird'.” Since then, “Keep Austin Weird” has been adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote local business and economic revitalization that preserves the flavor of the city, while allowing it to evolve. Long claims that “there is a kind of a self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling prophecy of nonconformity now in the city” related to this sentiment. What this non-conformity looks like varies a lot depending on who you ask, but it’s my experience that many people in Austin are here because there’s a  sense of inclusivity that accompanies the city’s embrace of “weirdness “. Maybe that does make us weirdos, but I like to think of us as movers and shakers and artists and non-conformists, who are trying to build a city-wide umbrella of inclusivity.

Download a guide to Austin


elizabeth_arris_-_round-1Elizabeth Arris is an advanced student within the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program. Prior to relocating to Austin to attend AOMA, she earned a BA in Biological Sciences at Smith College. When not in class, Elizabeth serves as Student Ambassador, administering the InterTransform Mentoring Program for new students.

Topics: Austin, moving to Austin

Moving to Austin: Finding Roommates & Alternative Housing

Posted by Justine Meccio on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 @ 10:38 AM

There's no doubt that Austin,Texas is a popular place – recently topping the list of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. With such a dynamic environment, it's no wonder that many students choose to pursue acupuncture school at AOMA.

In our first post in the Moving to Austin series, we covered the basics of the Austin rental market. However for students looking for alternative housing in Austin, many opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living.

Finding a Roommate

Moving to Austin, Finding Roomates in Austin

For students seeking to limit their housing costs, finding a roommate is one of the best options. New residents have a variety of resources available when seeking roommates, including well-known sites like and These sites provide an opportunity to screen and to connect with potential roommates online.

AOMA offers support in the form of a biweekly Housing Digest that enables new students to connect with future classmates and  potential roommates in a secure platform. Throughout the year, current students also post openings for roommates online via AOMA's Housing Opportunities page and LinkedIn group.

When considering a potential roommate, it's important to be clear about your housing preferences. Taking time to consider lifestyle factors like school and/or work schedules, cleanliness, socializing, pet ownership, and personal habits is essential to ensuring a harmonious living environment. Additional factors to assess include the terms of a lease and/or approval from the landlord or property manager.

Cooperative Living & Co-housing 

Housing cooperatives (or “co-ops” for short) are member-ship based legal-entities that own residential real-estate. Becoming a member typically grants one the right to live within the co-op house or building.

A number of housing cooperatives and co-housing communities exist in Austin. Many of these co-ops feature communal living environments where multiple residents occupy a single house or building and work together to manage/maintain the property. For residents, the benefits of co-ops can include reduced housing costs and increased social interaction with roommates. When considering this type of living situation, it's important to account for personal privacy and space needs.

Information about housing cooperatives in Austin can be found through the Austin Co-op Directory.

 Personal Preferences

Alternative housing may not be for everyone. Depending on your personal or family needs, more traditional housing may be a better fit. No matter your preferences, Austin has a wide variety of options available to support your lifestyle.

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin

Life in Austin, Texas

 AOMA Student Housing Opportunities

AOMA Apartment Locators List

Article Contributors:

describe the imageJustine Meccio

Justine is the Director of Admissions for AOMA's graduate programs and works regularly to support new students in their transition to AOMA & Austin. A native to of the east coast, she relocated from New York five years ago. Since moving to Austin, she has lived in four different zip codes and is happy to share her personal knowledge of the city with newcomers.  



Take a Virtual Campus Tour Visit AOMA and Austin, TX

Topics: Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin, housing in Austin

3 Reasons to Start Acupuncture School at AOMA this Summer

Posted by Justine Meccio on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 03:30 PM


AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program is a transformative educational experience that prepares students to begin careers as professional acupuncturists and herbalists. The program combines extensive clinical education with rigorous & comprehensive coursework in acupuncture theory & techniques, Chinese herbal medicine, biomedicine, mind-bodywork, and Asian body-work therapy.

Here are 3 reasons to begin your studies this summer at AOMA: 

1. Small Class-size Supports Learning & Connection

New students can apply to begin the program at three points per year: the summer, the fall, or the winter quarters. However, the summer term often sees the smallest incoming cohort with typically about 15 students starting the master’s program each July. For new students, a small class size fosters a tight-knit sense of community, allowing you to get to know your peers very well.

start acupuncture school this summer student body cumbo quote2. Flexibility

The summer quarter is only 8 weeks long. As a result, students’ academic load is often is lighter in the summer – meaning students frequently take fewer total credit hours than during other terms. Starting as a new student in the summer term with a lighter load is a great way to soften the transition to graduate school – especially if several years have passed since you were last in a classroom. You’ll become acclimated to the classroom environment, learn to incorporate school into your personal life, and “get into the groove” academically with fewer courses to balance.

Start Acupuncture School This Summer Robert Laguna

3. Make the Most of Your Summer

Summer in central Texas is often the season when many locals take it easy or even take vacations. Why not spend your summer in Austin,TX getting to know the city and enjoying the laid-back lifestyle? You can dodge the summer heat by spending your days inside air conditioned classrooms pursuing your passion and taking study breaks at beautiful Barton Springs!

Start Today Acupuncture School Karen Lamb QuoteBegin your journey this summer with classes starting on July 20, 2015!

Apply Today to Begin Classes in 2015!


Topics: acupuncture school, masters program, herbal studies, Austin, admissions, herbal program, professional acupuncturist, MAcOM

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin - An Infographic!

Posted by Justine Meccio on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 03:59 PM

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!

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin

Infographic Credit: Complete Web Resources


Topics: Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin

Moving to Austin: The Austin Rental Market

Posted by Justine Meccio on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 @ 02:39 PM

Austin Rental Market
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.

Lease Options

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.

Rental Rates

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.

AOMA Apartment Locators List  

  AOMA Apartment Reference Guide

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!

Article Contributors:

Austin apartment locators

Michelle Gonzalez

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.


Austin apartment locators

Jillian Kelble
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.


Visit AOMA and Austin, TX    Take a Virtual Campus Tour  

Topics: student services, Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin

Top 5 Reasons to Choose AOMA as your School of Acupuncture

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Sat, Jan 05, 2013 @ 04:44 PM

Regional Accreditation

AOMA is the first single-purpose school of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the nation to receive regional accreditation. AOMA is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award the master's degree. Regional accreditation makes it easier for AOMA students to transfer credits and degrees to other universities and programs. Because the institutional standards for regional accreditation are rigorous, regional accreditation also ensures a level of educational quality for AOMA students. More information about masters degree, job placement rates and program costs.

Rigorous Comprehensive Curriculumschool of acupuncture

AOMA's Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAcOM) program is rigorous and comprehensive and includes over 900 hours of clinical internship. Students receive education in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, biomedical sciences, mind-body exercise, Asian bodywork, practice management, case management, and clinical communications. AOMA’s herbal program is one of the strongest in the nation and AOMA is one of the few professional programs to integrate taiji and qigong. Check out the curriculum.

Internationally Recognized Faculty

AOMA recruits and employs highly qualified and experienced faculty, many of whom are from China and other countries. The cultural diversity of the faculty adds another dimension to the educational experience of our students and the quality of our faculty assures students a sound knowledge base for practice. Our faculty includes PhDs, physicians, doctors of osteopathy, chiropractors, naturopaths, and pharmacists in a variety of areas. Our faculty hold degrees representing institutions in China, Israel, India, as well as the United States. Meet our faculty.

school of acupuncture

Successful Alumni

AOMA graduates have discovered a life of passion and purpose – a life where professional achievement meets personal fulfillment. They have gone on to become private practice acupuncturists, herbalists, authors, university faculty, entrepreneurs, as well as pursuing doctoral degrees in acupuncture. They speak at national conferences, author books and journal articles about Chinese medicine and go on to teach at the graduate level. AOMA graduates are at the forefront of medicine, practicing in clinics that integrate Eastern and Western medical traditions. Read AOMA alumni spotlights for insight into real life practice after graduation.

Community in Austin, Texas

Austin is a vibrant city with a host of entertainment options for visitors. Austinites enjoy hiking, cycling, swimming, local food, and listening to live music. AOMA is fortunate to find itself encircled by many diverse communities in which our students actively participate. Students find ample avenues available to sustain their growth both personally and professionally as healers in a city noted for supporting a healthy lifestyle. Get helpful tips and information about travel, accommodations, and finding your way around the city to make planning your visit to Austin easy.

Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine

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Topics: acupuncture school, regional accreditation, curriculum, Austin

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