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Christina Korpik

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5 (Elementary) Tips for Future Acupuncture Students

Posted by Christina Korpik on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

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Making the decision to venture into acupuncture school is no small thing -- it requires a lot of trust, determination, drive, and commitment to your vision for your future as a thriving, professional practitioner. Many incoming students just beginning the journey of acupuncture school experience similar doubts or fears as they begin treading the new waters of the program, unsure of what life changes may lie ahead. Having been at AOMA for three and a half years now, I’ve talked to a good number of students pursuing their education at our Austin-based acupuncture school, each of them carrying a similar stream of worries and qualms about how to adapt themselves to the changing tides of their lives.

Having been down this road and observed the process of many others walking it alongside me, I have decided to offer some insider tips from the perspective of a senior preparing to graduate. Consider this a fun and simplified recipe for success, if you will, to help obliterate those pesky self-limiting beliefs and insecurities that commonly surface at the start of this acupuncture school adventure.

I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed as a “newbie” beginning to explore the new terrain of acupuncture school, so I’m here to remind you that the rewards of this path far outweigh the challenges, and that all you need is a little strategy via creative tools to help you navigate this program with ease, support and laughter.

I’ve also decided to incorporate one of the primary, foundational theories we learn about in Chinese Medicine -- Five Element Theory -- as themes for my tips in order to stimulate an integrated understanding of how to balance as you proceed toward the route. Chinese Medicine considers equilibrium of the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water to be a crucial aspect of health and vitality -- and this is in all realms of life, including our physical surroundings and activities as human beings. So, I’ve taken some of the basic associated energetic principles of each element and interwoven them into each of my five tips to ensure you a success recipe that is as balanced as it is diverse.

Tip One: Cultivate structure and action-oriented energy: Wood

The wood element’s M.O. is partially about making use of structure and organization, then taking action in order to manifest a vision. Take some time to find an organizational system for studying that works for you, and then stick to it for the remainder of your time at AOMA. If you find a consistent and time-proven method for not only organizing your study materials and creating study systems, but also for keeping track of assignments and tests, I can promise you that your life and graduate school adventure and life as a whole will become a lot easier to navigate and more streamlined. Here are some ideas for you to play with: 

Find the study environment that works best for your unique constitution, personality and needs. Do you study better in study groups with the help of the “Group mastermind,” or do you study more efficiently in a quiet space, alone? Purchase an agenda to put all your dates into, create some folder systems to keep track of different classroom materials, and designate a “sacred study space” where you actually enjoy retreating to when it’s time to hit the books, whether a favorite coffee shop or a little candlelit corner of your own personal home space.

Also, wood energy has a lot to do with CHANGE -- and I can assure you, you will experience LOTS of it as you traverse this program: so remember in times of discomfort or turmoil or fear, BREATHE DEEPLY and maximize mantras about “going with the flow,” because you are changing and evolving in profound ways, and great changes can often be a little uncomfortable. Embrace the growing pains and breathe through them!

Tip Two: Discover connection and transformation: Fire

The fire element is all about transformation and connection -- and while transformation is a guarantee in this program, we can often forget to reach out and ask for support from our peers, or bond with friends and loved ones, when we are beginning such a rigorous program in acupuncture school. 

Connect with your community, peers, advisors, faculty, friends and loved ones as much as possible: reach out for support whenever you need it, and I highly recommend you have a backup support team outside of the program that you can call upon when you need a break from the intensity of studying and immersion in medicine. Also, I propose you find yourself a check-in buddy, someone else who is in the program and who understands the ups and downs of such a powerful and intensive path -- perhaps maybe a senior student you can confide in and who can offer you advice or studying support when needed. When you hit those moments of challenge or doubt, talk to others who have been through it before, it really helps to call upon a mentor and guide who has been through the transformation of fire and gotten to the other side -- to discover what THEIR success tools were, their own personal recipes for thriving their way through acupuncture school. 

And hey -- don’t forget to go out and HAVE FUN!! Take breaks from studying and be social when you can, pump up the joy factor -- because fire is all about the JOY of connection, and remembering to seek out that pleasure and happiness factor even when times are tough.

Tip Three: Stay grounded and find your center point: Earth

The earth element’s position is in the CENTER -- the middle of all the other elements. The health of the earth element is said to be the most important of all the elements, because of its role of being the man in the middle, at the core of all the others. Earth’s job of stabilizing, nourishing and grounding is a super important one, and so this particular tip is one that I highly suggest you take to heart and implement every single day you are involved in this program (and heck, every day for the rest of your lives as evolving practitioners!) If you were to choose only ONE tip of all five of these to take home today, this is the one I recommend you remember and tuck into your student tool belt: 

ALWAYS make time to take care of yourself no matter how busy you are! Whether it be through qigong, yoga, rigorous physical exercise, rest, good diet, laughter, or being gentle with yourself -- try to not let your self-care slip for too long. On this path of frequent studying, hard work, transformation and manifesting a new career and life path for yourself, you will also be learning how to be a space-holder for others: and that requires a lot of energy and commitment to taking care of YOU no matter how many patients you are providing care for. No matter how many hours you are spending studying, you can always make time for a quick walk or 30 minutes of yoga or breathing exercises. Find what nourishes and feeds YOU, what makes you feel good, taken care of, and healthy, and make a commitment to doing that as a feel-good routine throughout your time in this program. Tip of the trade: Eating healthy food and regular exercise during your graduate school stint REALLY helps feed your brain juicy energy, which you will need to help support you every step of the way!

Tip 4: Letting go of what doesn’t serve: Metal

The metal element is fairly straightforward and to-the-point, so this tip will model those qualities: Know your worth and let go of any focus on your imperfections and self criticism. Don’t listen to the inner critic about your abilities, gifts, and capacities as a practitioner: trust you can make a difference! Because you can -- that’s why you were called to do this work, that’s why you are here, and don’t lose sight of that confidence and knowing when you are moving through the more challenging aspects of this path.

Tip Five: Develop expansiveness, emotional well-being, deep calm, and connection to source: Water 

The Water element has a lot to do with connecting into the expansiveness that is available to all of us, in order to embody a deep sense of calm and inner peace. That calm is pervaded by the stability of emotional and spiritual well-being, and, our connection to Spirit, God, Source, the Universe, or whatever sense of a higher power you may believe in. If you don’t believe in a higher power, then simply consider the water element to relate to the knowing that as a human being, we are but one small piece of an infinitely larger puzzle that is the greater Universe at large, and that all aspects of life are intrinsically connected, from the butterfly flying by you to the plant that houses the butterfly’s chrysalis to the shoulder of the person the butterfly lands one, brightening their day as a result. 

Tapping into the energy of the water element will become incredibly important to your well-being as a burgeoning practitioner -- because it requires a lot of inner peace and stability to be able to create a safe space for others as a practitioner. School certainly can trigger a great variety of stressors, and the water element can help you zoom out and feel the bigger picture, then relax into the peace that can blossom from a softened emotional body and a knowingness that all is well. 

Tip: Meditate often, or find a spiritual practice that keeps you internally peaceful -- some other ideas are yoga, qigong, gardening, walking or hiking in nature. There are so many different options, and really, anything that makes you feel internally peaceful and calm will connect you to the water element. Try different mind-body practices and find one that really resonates with you as a method for cultivating emotional stability and a serene mind.

Also, the water element relates to fear -- and my tip is, banish it! Let go of the fear and always remember you are strong and capable as a human being and as a future practitioner, or you wouldn’t be here, joining our ranks at this highly esteemed Austin acupuncture school.

 -Christina Korpik

 

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

 

Qigong: The Art of Staying Sane during Acupuncture School

Posted by Christina Korpik on Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 04:18 PM

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When I first started acupuncture school at AOMA, qigong was just another required class on the academic docket. It was a mysterious movement therapy and meditative spiritual practice that I had heard about but had never tried myself and wasn’t particularly excited to learn, to be honest. Sure -- I was open-minded and amped up about anything that was a part of my beloved, brand spanking new venture into a healing arts education. I can’t, however, say that I came to AOMA knowing enough about qigong to be thrilled about beginning a regular practice of it. Sure, it was reputed to be incredibly stress-relieving and relaxing...but it was also more credits to be earned in an excruciatingly long four year long program. Little did I then realize how crucial qigong would eventually become to support- my well-being in grad school, and more notably, my sanity.

As aspiring professionals in the field of the healing arts, we as students sometimes forget how the medicine we are engaging with requires us to become caretakers, to consistently be placing our time, energy and resources into helping others feel stronger, healthier, better, more joyful and balanced. This makes it extra important for us to be on top of our own self-care and ensure we are, ourselves, exceptionally healthy, strong, balanced and joyful. Because if we don’t embody these qualities, how can we model them to others?

Unfortunately, massively busy schedules and expected graduate school stressors, including hours and hours of memorizing foreign material such as tedious locations of tiny, specific acupuncture points and long lists of unpronounceable herb names certainly are not conducive to keeping us calm, stress-free and balanced. In fact, I can say in full disclosure that I have seen many a student panic under pressure and nearly run in the opposite direction from the stressors of this graduate program (myself included, ahem).

However, all breakdowns aside, the end rewards of completing the program are without a doubt, worth every ounce of personal challenge. Despite the multi-dimensional benefits of the profound personal growth that seems to be a necessary side-dish of enrollment at AOMA, it’s true that we as students need to continually be seeking outlets that ground us, help us nourish ourselves, release stress and calm our minds enough that we can continually revisit the magic of studying this medicine thoroughly despite the chaotic challenges that may surface along the journey.

One of these outlets that I accidentally stumbled upon was qigong -- and to this day it has become one of my primary anchors through this program. Initially I experienced resistance to it, I’ll admit...mostly because at the beginning of the program, I was so exhausted from the intense mental workouts that left me feeling like I would rather skip this “mandatory” class and just sleep more. The self-sabotaging aspects of laziness and burnout crept up on me more than once, but then something happened one day in my qigong class: I relaxed into what I was doing, pushed past the resistance and allowed for moving of the energy in my body in ways which felt incredibly healing and not the least bit tiring. I left the class feeling massively energized and WAY loosened up. Liver qi stagnation, be gone! I had renewed vigor and excitement for being in my academic classes and learning (aka, memorizing away until my brain exploded), my body felt stronger and healthier, and I felt noticeably more FULL: full of vibrant life force energy and more capable of caring for my clients from that place instead of from the droopy place of total burnout.

So that’s what truly sold me -- it wasn’t the proclaimed or advertised benefits of the practice, it was the undeniable personal experience with this ancient art that led to me being able to maximize and master my own energy in a myriad of ways, subsequently allowing me to be a better, more grounded, embodied (and mentally stable!) practitioner for my patients (and, simply put, a better person in general). Qigong helps me calm my nerves and emotions, it helps break apart any stagnation that accumulates from hours of sitting in cold classrooms, it allows me to tap into the qi from nature and the Universe in powerful ways which feed me and refill the places that get drained consistently from being a student and a busy, active woman with many a ball to juggle. It helps me come back into and connect to MYSELF: and this is a crucial task for anyone that is holding space for others on a daily basis, or learning to step into that role in their lives.

Not convinced or feeling the magic yet? Maybe you just need to find the right qigong form that is a good match for YOUR body and your needs, and there are so many of them that you won’t find a shortage of options to choose from. We learn a limited selection here at AOMA, but I have gone on to find some incredibly potent forms outside of what we are taught in the dojo that have become absolute necessities in my daily self-care regimens. And sure -- there are still some days where I am too tired to do much of anything, and that’s okay too. However, when I push past the hesitation and the excuses my mind feeds me and spend even 10 to 15 minutes in moving meditation, I absolutely never regret doing so.

One helpful resource to check out is the Qigong Institute:

Here is the list of AOMA’s qigong community classes in Austin,TX, for students interested in juicing up their practices outside of class requirements: https://aoma.edu/continuing-education/community-classes/qigong-classes/

To learn more about our Master's program here at AOMA, download the overview below:

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

Topics: qigong, acupuncture students

AOMA Herbal Medicine Products: Staff Top Picks

Posted by Christina Korpik on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 10:00 AM

 

There is a vast array of little-known, hidden treasures in the AOMA Herbal Medicine (AHM) Store that many AOMA students, staff and patients are not aware of. To highlight the magic that abounds within this little shop of healing, we asked AHM staff to choose their favorite products and explain why they love each particular product so much. Of the many goodies available, we compiled a list of the best of the best, so the AOMA community can reap the benefits.

 

 

 

IMG_3516Sennenkyu Taiyo Self-Heating Moxa


Staff name:
Jane Riti


AHM Employee since: 2012

 

What is it used for? Moxa on acupuncture points

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for? This is great for use in clinics without worrying about strong aromas bothering your neighbors. It is also easy to use at home.


photoLoquat & Fritillary Jelly

 

Staff name: Dan Knight

 

AHM Employee since: 2011

 

What is it used for? Cough Syrup

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for?  This is a great OTC product to have in your medicine cabinet. It can be used for acute and chronic cough with or without phlegm as well as helping with a sore throat. The jelly can be taken directly to help coat the throat or dissolved in water to make a soothing tea. Safe for both children and adults.


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Ching Wan Hung

Staff name:  Alishia Baxter              

     

AHM Employee since:  2012

What is it used for?  Minor burns and sunburn

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for? This product can be used to heal minor scrapes and bruises as well.  I have recommended it to someone that cut off the tip of their finger cooking and the injury healed in record time.  Most importantly it is also an analgesic and helped with the pain.  I also have personally monitored its use on a necrosing spider bite, along with internal raw herbs, whereby the injury healed within a couple of weeks instead of the month or two this type of injury usually requires.


IMG_3524-9Blue Poppy Spirit Quieting Massage Oil

Staff name: Jeannie Evans  

 

AHM Employee since: 1995

 

What is it used for? Massage, Tuina, Cupping, Bath Oil, Moisturizing

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for? This oil is a thoughtful blend of apricot oil, canola oil, olive oil plus Chinese herbs traditionally used to calm and quiet the spirits: He Huan Hua, Bai He, Shi Chang Pu, Chen Xiang, Yuan Zhi, and sweet orange essential oil. It’s especially wonderful for cupping when all that’s needed is a light, relaxing oil.  The aroma is subtle and unobtrusive and works very well when used for calming the shen.


 

IMG_3520-2Himalayan salt lamps

 

Staff name: Mary Zaloga

 

AHM Employee since: 2007 

 

What is it used for? The lamps are made from salt crystal rocks formed hundreds of million years ago in the Himalayas.  The warm glow beautifies any room in the house or office while the crystal produces negative ions.  Because dust and dirt are positively charged, they are attracted to the negatively charged lamp and the ions it emits.  The lamps are also used to neutralize the positive ions emitted by electronics.

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for?  The lamps provide a beautiful soft glow, while helping to reduce pollution in the indoor environment.  They are a great gift idea.

IMG_3522White Sage

Staff name: Chris Zaloga

AHM Employee since: 2008

 

What it is used for? For centuries, white sage has been considered a sacred, cleansing, purifying, and protective plant.  Traditionally, it is burned and the smoke helps to clear any negative or heavy energy from a space.

 

Why do you recommend it and/or who do you recommend it for? Cleansing with white sage is helpful anytime the energy in a space becomes heavy, but it is also used when moving to a new home to remove old energies and "start fresh."

Download our  Intro to Chinese Medicine  eBook

Topics: AOMA Herbal Medicine, herbal medicine

Nurses Expand Scope of Practice, Study Acupuncture

Posted by Christina Korpik on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

 

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AOMA is well-known in its field for attracting a highly diverse student body consisting of gifted practitioners with a wide variety of backgrounds under their belts. Many students come into their studies having already obtained a background in a particular healing modality or healthcare field.

Many students at AOMA studied Western medicine in nursing school and obtained a strong background in nursing before they decided to advance their careers with Chinese medicine studies. We interviewed them to share their knowledge and stories around returning to school after receiving a nursing education, as well as their thoughts around combining the two very complementary modalities.

 
 

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Nurse/Acupuncturist in Training: Natalie Ledbetter 

What prompted you to return to school?

I have been very interested in alternative medicine for years and have been wanting to gain education and training in other modalities of healing. My children are older now, and I thought it was a good time to go back to school now that they are more self-sufficient.

Why did you choose AOMA?

AOMA is a highly ranked and highly respected school for TCM. They are accredited, and I was impressed with the herbal program as well as the other classes offered.

What is your nursing background?

I taught nursing school at Galveston College, worked in ICU, obtained a master’s degree in administration, and then a master’s in nursing anesthesia. I currently work as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at the office of a local plastic surgeon, providing anesthesia for her patients undergoing surgery.

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

In some ways I think it has made things a little more challenging, but it has made it easier in other ways. I had a difficult time at first with the concept of "organs" in TCM and how different it is from Western medicine. I often thought I was memorizing "facts" that were not really facts at all, but odd theories. I decided to suspend judgment and just learn all that the instructors had to offer and sort it all out in the end. This has been working well for me so far.

The fact that I am familiar with anatomy, physiology, physical assessment, and other biomedical subjects has allowed me to skip the biomedical courses, which gives me time to continue working. This is a huge plus, because I refuse to take out loans to pay for school.

What has your experience been like as a student of Chinese medicine?

I love most of the instructors and others who work at AOMA. I am learning so much. It can be hard to balance school, work, and family, but I believe it will be worth it. If AOMA would offer some of the courses online, it would make things so much easier to juggle. 

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school?

Be ready to learn things that are very different from what you have been taught in the past. Be ready to be challenged in the area of time management if you are going to work while in school. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect as you juggle job, studies, home, family, etc. 

 

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Nurse/Acupuncturist in Training: Jason Spees

What prompted you to return to school?

I returned to school to shift my life practice of helping others into a more holistic direction. 

Why did you choose AOMA?

There were many factors, some of them more logistical, like family, a great job market, and that AOMA is in a counter-culture-strong city. The main thing that drew me to Austin was how strong AOMA is into integrative medicine, how they are research-driven, with several experienced teachers, and aligned with other healthcare disciplines. I believe every facet in healthcare needs to engage with the others in a harmonious and collaborative way to bring about the best results for the patient.

What is your nursing background?

Emergency medicine, chronic pain/rehab, and hospice/palliative care. 

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

It helped to already have strong assessment skills and be informed on pathology and pharmacology. That is something that people who are just entering patient care struggle with in the beginning. It has been a challenge to start seeing medicine from the Chinese theory angle, but now I am a lot more empowered, being able to view disease in two or three different ways according to theory. It is like looking at different surfaces of a gem. I find that people are also uncomfortable speaking with acupuncturists if they don't have Western medical experience. For me, that is something to worry less about.

What has your experience been like as a student of Chinese medicine?

I have had a great experience. There are great teachers here, and AOMA is very supportive and full of a lot of good people. 

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school? 

Jump on board! Keep up your nursing skills, and see how you can keep helping people, but in an expanded way.

 

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Nurse & Licensed Acupuncturist: Katie Burke

What prompted you to return to school?

I have always enjoyed helping others and have been particularly drawn to assisting in the healing process and gaining optimal health. While nursing has been a wonderfully rewarding career in many ways, working within the confines of the hospital setting and having only medical interventions and pharmaceuticals as my ways of treatment were not completely fulfilling for me. I knew there was a more natural way to heal (and prevent illness). The feeling that something was missing prompted my path to delving into natural medicine.

Why did you choose AOMA?

Since I was already living in Austin and wanting to continue my work part-time as a nurse while going to school, I knew I wanted to choose a school in Austin, if possible. After doing some research I was delighted to find out that there were two acupuncture schools here. I have an acquaintance who was going to an acupuncture school, so once I had set my sights on a career change I talked with her about her experience. She told me she was going to AOMA, and she had nothing but positive things to say about the school. After that, I set up a tour of the campus with the director of admissions. After learning more about the program, I knew that AOMA was where I needed to be. I immediately felt like I was in the right place. Call it a hunch. And of course the school's outstanding reputation in the field didn't hurt, either.

What is your nursing background?

I graduated with my bachelor's in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2006. I started out working full time in Labor and Delivery prior to going back to school at AOMA. Once I started classes, I continued to work, but on a part-time level. Today I am still working at the hospital (but less frequently), in addition to my work as an acupuncturist.

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

Having a nursing background had been extremely helpful when going through the program. You start off with a base knowledge of anatomy and physiology, disease processes/medical conditions, and pharmaceuticals before you even begin classes. Some of my bio-med classes also transferred, and I was able to get credit for them, which helped in lightening the course load and the financial burden of grad school. Aside from that, nursing helps you develop your interpersonal and diagnostic skills and gives you a leg up once you start treating patients in the student clinic. Now that I'm practicing, my clients are always interested in my work as a nurse and how I integrate both medical models. Being a nurse makes you a ‘familiar’ person in the eyes of people who are new to Chinese medicine. I have personally witnessed it reduce anxiety and increase receptiveness in clients once they realize that I also have a Western medicine background.

What has your experience been like as a student and alumna?

As a student I was probably a bit frazzled while going through the program (as were many of my classmates, I'm sure). Working part time while taking a full load of classes was hard, but I'm glad I continued my work in nursing while going back to school. The program at AOMA is rigorous but rewarding. As an alumna I have been fortunate in many ways. Continuing my work in the hospital allowed me to have a "career cushion" during the transition phase after graduation. I was able to have an income while determining what my next step would be (which was truly a blessing). I am now happily practicing acupuncture at a clinic in Austin that specializes in fertility. I’m working with a wonderful team of skilled practitioners. I am also continuing my work in Labor and Delivery a few days a week.

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school?

If natural medicine is something that interests you, then AOMA is a great place to find what you've been missing. Western medicine and Chinese medicine go hand in hand. It's wonderful being able to practice and have a solid knowledge base in both fields.

Get a Guide to Careers in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Topics: herbal medicine, acupuncture school, chinese medicine school, nurses, acupuncture, nursing

Massage Therapists go to Acupuncture School, Study Chinese Medicine

Posted by Christina Korpik on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 @ 09:49 AM

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AOMA has an incredibly diverse student body that consists of gifted practitioners with a wide variety of different histories, ethnicities, and hometowns. Many students come into their studies already having obtained a background in a particular healing modality or healthcare field. Specifically, a great deal of talented massage therapists have chosen to further their education by studying Chinese Medicine and herbal medicine at AOMA. We decided to interview them and share their knowledge and stories around returning to school after receiving massage training and combining the two complementary modalities.
 
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Massage Therapist/Acupuncturist in Training:Ammathyst Rose

What prompted you to return to school?

Returning to school was always part of the master plan. My decision to get my massage license was to assist me in being able to pay the bills while returning to school, but the Universe must have felt I wasn’t ready to do that for another five years because, I wasn’t generating enough cash to make it easy to drop down to a part time worker and a full time student. Also, I still had a young child at home which required more home responsibility.

Why did you choose AOMA?

It has the reputation for being a good school and it’s regionally accredited which is an important factor for licensure. I had looked at another school in Hawaii because a friend had recommended it, and I thought with the amount of projects, friends and adventures I had going on, living here in Austin would make it very difficult to study and do well. Plus, it was Hawaii, need I say more? But my child did not want to move to Hawaii. So, when I let go of the idea of moving to there, staying in Austin and attending AOMA just clicked. I had an “Ah-ha” moment and after that, the process unfolded quite easily.

What is your background in massage therapy?

I have worked in the clinic setting at Collette Zygmonts Chiropractics and 27 Bones podiatry clinic. Polished my spa skills at the Woodhouse Day Spa and The Austin Omni Downtown. I have done volunteer work for Power to the Peaceful in San Francisco. I have offered massage at yoga conferences such as Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, and Tadasana Fest in Santa Monica, California.  I have also had my own practice for the past 8 years.

How has your massage therapy background impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

As a bodyworker, I felt like I had worked through the initial awkwardness of working rather intimately with other people’s bodies – some times total strangers – so I was able to hop into the role of being a practitioner fairly smoothly. I had also developed a relationship with the anatomy of the body through massage and so this particular aspect of learning at AOMA, whether it be locating the acupuncture points by way of feeling them with my hands or understanding verbal description of body landscape. Also physical assessment and Anatomy and Physiology classes were a bit easier because I had already studied those as part of the massage school curriculum.

What has your experience been like as an acupuncture student?

I have had a great experience. There are great teachers here and AOMA is very supportive and full of a lot of good people.

What advice do you have for other massage therapists returning to school?

Jump on board! Keep up your massage therapy skills, and see how you can keep helping people, but in an expanded way.

Massage therapist/Acupuncturist in Training: Vanessa Huffman

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What prompted you to return to school?

The physical nature of doing massage full-time for many years lead me to realize that I was going to need to return to school for something more sustainable. I was in the process of applying to law school when I became a patient of TCM. The experiences I had with my acupuncturist (who was also a licensed massage therapist) really opened up my interest in TCM and showed me that what I really wanted was to continue my path in the healing arts. After reading “The Web That Has No Weaver” and “Between Heaven and Earth” at his suggestion, I was fascinated. The rest is history!

Why did you choose AOMA?

I transferred to AOMA after realizing that I wanted my TCM education to be strong in both herbs and acupuncture as well as containing biomedical integration.

What is your background in massage therapy?

I received my training from The New York Institute of Massage. It’s a very medically grounded, and oddly enough, Shiatsu heavy curriculum. After graduating, I followed my passion for medical massage but quickly found that I was experiencing very powerful energetic experiences with many clients. This led me to discover Reiki and I am now a Certified Level 1 practitioner. Over the course of my career, I also absolutely fell in love with Ashiatsu. I took an advanced Ashiatsu training in 2011 and have been working almost exclusively in this modality ever since. It’s a technique where you hold onto bars suspended from the ceiling and massage clients with your feet! AWESOME!

How has your massage therapy background impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

I was a small business owner as a massage therapist, but I also networked with a lot of other therapists and healthcare professionals. I think this has prepared me well for the realities and logistics of setting up a successful acupuncture practice.

In terms of clinical context and patient care, I’ve had the honor of building very profound therapeutic relationships with my massage clients. These relationships have taught me a lot about working with different personality types, energy profiles and dynamics in order to achieve therapeutic results. Each patient teaches me how to be their healer and in return, this process makes me both a more skilled practitioner and a more compassionate human being. All of the interactions and lessons learned (both successes and failures) doing massage inform my current interaction with TCM patients.

What has your experience been like as an acupuncture student?

Studying TCM has been both a challenging and gratifying experience academically, personally, professionally and spiritually. It has fundamentally changed the way I see and interact with myself, others and the world around me for the better.

What advice do you have for other massage therapists returning to school?

Studying TCM will be challenging but it will be worth it! Everything you already know tactilely and intuitively from being a bodyworker will apply and be an advantage to you (and your patients), especially when working in clinic. An education in TCM will help you master powerful healing tools that will be able to impact state change in patients on a level that massage therapy alone has difficulty achieving. Studying TCM will deepen your ability to help others as a healer.

Careers in Acupuncture: Download free eBook!

Massage therapist/Acupuncturist in Training: Gene Kuntz IIPicture3-1

What prompted you to return to school?

When I was a kid I watched Kung Fu movies all the time. In one of my favorites, "Hard to Kill" with Steven Segal, not only did he use acupuncture on himself with smoke coming off the ends (what I now know is moxa) he said, "anyone can hurt someone, it takes a true master to heal." That was the first time I really became inspired to learn about Oriental Medicine. Years later, while studying Martial Arts, my master was able to not only kick through baseball bats but also help heal his students with Tui Na, acupuncture and massage. That was it! I figured I had learned how to fight long enough and would learn to heal people and myself. The next step for me was obvious: to get a feel for the energy and mechanics of the body with massage therapy before furthering my education with Oriental Medicine. Step one: check.

Why did you choose AOMA? 

First, I should say that I chose Austin. It is an amazing city and only five hours from my home, and what can I say? I love my family. Of the two schools in Austin, I chose AOMA initially because of what I had read of Master Li and the qigong program. When I found out I didn't have enough hours to attend AOMA I started my Oriental Medicine education at THSU, the other acupuncture school here in Austin just a stones throw away. Whenever I had enough credits to attend AOMA, I had to make a choice of whether to stay at THSU or transfer to AOMA. Both schools have amazing teachers and have acupuncturists graduate several times a year. I chose AOMA for three reasons:

1. The credits I receive from AOMA can be transferred to a credited University.

2. The number of clinic opportunities and community outreach they provide.

3. The professionalism with which I was received the first time I walked in the door.

What is your background as a massage therapist?

I have been a massage therapist for 6 years. I received my license in Lake Charles, LA, at the Louisiana Institute of Massage Therapy. The owner of the school was Susan Salvo, who literally wrote the book on massage therapy. (Seriously, most schools in the U.S. use her book. ) After I graduated, I got a list of every massage therapy place in town and began calling them asking for a job. After a few days, I started at Massage Clinique and apprenticed under a talented sports and deep tissue therapist. Next, I got a job at Lake Charles's claim to fame, Lau Berge du lac, the local casino. I worked there for 4 years before moving to Austin. While in Austin, I have worked at Woodhouse Day Spa, Hess Chiropractic, Massage Harmony and am currently employed at what has become literally one of my favorite places to ever work: milk + honey day spa. In that time, I have had training in: Repetitive Use Injury Therapy, Medical Massage, Supreme Science Qi Gong, Reiki, along with a myriad of spa treatments.

How has your massage therapy background impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

Massage therapy has helped me in so many ways as a student of Oriental Medicine. I am comfortable doing intakes with clients/patients. I am aware of my energy and the energy of others, and how they can affect one another. I have become familiar with insurance billing and other administrative aspects of the business. From intake to treatment plan, the process is similar whether giving massage or performing acupuncture. The most important impact massage has had on my Oriental Medicine skills is my sensitivity to touch, feel and palpate. It will be my hands and my ability to feel that guide the needle.

What has your experience been like as an acupuncture student?

My experience at AOMA has been awesome. I came in as a transfer knowing about three people, and my first semester landed me in about 4 different cohorts. Lots of people to meet. In every class I felt welcome and am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many people in such a short time. With just a few terms in, it already feels like home. As far as academia, the school is legitimate. A serious endeavor with four years and a big chunk of change.
 
What advice do you have for other massage therapists returning to school?

Massage Therapy has been great to me while in school. It has given me a source of income and allowed me to feel more bodies as I learn a new art. If you are coming into Oriental Medicine school, be aware that it is much more intense than massage therapy school; a longer time and financial commitment. When I first looked into Oriental Medicine school I had no idea of the intensity that would ensue. Think of getting a master's degree in any other subject: it is like that. So, if you're thinking of studying Oriental Medicine, get ready for some intense awesomeness. This schooling has brought my knowledge to a level that I thought I could only find being trained by a sage on a mountain in China, and I still have a year left. My advice... if you're interested in studying healing arts for a good portion of your life, sign up.

Massage therapist/Acupuncturist in Training: Jessica Healy    

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What prompted you to return to school?

I decided to return to school because I felt that during massage sessions the body was communicating more information to me than I had skills to interpret. I felt like there was more I could be doing for my clients if I could only learn how to understand better the feedback that the body was giving me. So, I decided to try and expand my knowledge through acupuncture, which has proven to be very useful. I also returned to school because after five years of practicing massage it was beginning to take a toll on my body. So, I wanted something I could do that would be a nice addition to my massage practice but would also give my hands and body a bit of a break.  

Why did you choose AOMA? 

I chose AOMA because they have a strong herbal program, they have a great national reputation, and because my acupuncturist at the time recommended it to me, despite graduation from another school.  Once, I visited AOMA I was sold on the good energy, friendly people and nice learning environment found on campus.

What is your background as a massage therapist?

I graduated from The Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy in 2007. From there I went on to work in several different environments, from spas to wellness centers as well as having a small private practice on the side. The type of massage I enjoy the most is integrative deep tissue and CranioSacral work.

How has your massage therapy background impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

My massage background has helped me greatly in the clinical setting, and has enhanced my learning process. Already being comfortable touching and talking with people has helped me to be able to dive right in and focus on the Chinese medicine theories, without worrying about developing those basic skills.

What has your experience been like as an acupuncture student?

Being a student at AOMA has been life changing. It has been a challenging, but also very rewarding experience. 

What advice do you have for other massage therapists returning to school?

Returning to school is a big commitment and it is easy to lose yourself amongst all the books, so be sure to set aside time for yourself to do something you love. :)

 Download Guide to Career in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Topics: acupuncture school, chinese medicine school, herbal program, massage

AOMA Alumni Veteran Spotlight: Sean Hanna

Posted by Christina Korpik on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 @ 11:57 AM

Sean Hanna, LAc, MAcOM
Class of 2005Acupuncturist Sean Hanna

Military Branch: US Navy
Rank: Hospital Corpsman Second Class (FMF)
Years Served: 8

What prompted you to return to school?

I was still in the Navy when I decided to begin studying TCM.  Stationed at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, I visited Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and immediately found a fascination for TCM.  Eastern philosophy had provided me with much comfort during my naval career and I was overjoyed to discover a medicine aligned with such a worldview.

Why did you choose AOMA?

Due to the death of my step-father in 2002, I needed to return to Texas in order to be closer to my family.  While at PCOM, I had heard of AOMA and the strength of the program, so I chose to transfer to AOMA to continue my studies.

What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use while attending?

While still on active duty, I utilized the Navy Tuition Assistance program to help with the cost at PCOM.  Upon exiting service, I began using my Montgomery GI Bill at PCOM and exhausted those benefits finishing at AOMA.

What has your experience been like as a student and/or alumnus?

combat medic acupunctureComing from a Western medicine practice in the Navy as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman, the transition to the Eastern medicine view posed some difficulty.  For the first couple of years, I tended to attempt translation in my mind to figure out how acupuncture "really" works. Through the guidance of the excellent professors at AOMA, I was able to finally separate the two medicines in my mind and take a beginner's mind approach to TCM.

Finding peers that I could relate to also posed challenges.  My experiences as a combat field medic left me with a perspective that did not fit easily with my cohort in school.  It took a lot of personal work, on my part, to find common ground rooted in the study of TCM with my fellow students.  Being a combat veteran with almost nine years of service, married father of two boys and full time student was not the typical demographic.  I made some lifelong friends, however, I never truly felt that I belonged.  I know now, through my work in service to Texas' veterans and their families, that my situation was not unique and only wish I had made more veteran connections in the community earlier and learned that there are people and services from which I could have benefited.

What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?

Connect with veteran service organizations and remain involved with the local veteran community.  I believed my military service was in my past and was blind to how those years had affected me and were continuing to influence my life.  I believe my path could have been much smoother had I known how my service continued to be a part of who I am.

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What challenges and rewards have you experienced while working with military and veteran populations in clinic?

Upon gaining licensure, I opened a private practice clinic with Jacob Godwin, one of my fellow students and friend.  I struggled to make connections with potential patients in the community.  I still had the mindset of a combat medic, and mistakenly missed out on many opportunities to serve my community through my own ignorance.

A typical example is a potential patient would inquire my advice concerning trying acupuncture.  If the condition was not limiting their functioning, I would dissuade them spending money seeking treatment.  I would recommend lifestyle/choice changes and leave it at that.  Needless to say, my clinic did not remain open when the lease expired.

I then decided to turn my attention toward the veteran community and almost immediately doors began to open.  I joined up with other veterans and advocates to serve the veteran community, and together, we began developing volunteer treatment opportunities for veterans and their families that they otherwise could not afford or may not even know existed.  I found a potential patient population that had a similar worldview to my own and we spoke the same language.  I appreciated the opportunity to expose the veteran culture to a medicine and worldview completely different from one they had previously experienced. Within a short time, I accepted a position at a local counseling center, integrating TCM with clinical counseling services.  I have learned to meet the patient where they are, without judgment, and treat them accordingly.  Working to serve the veteran and family community, in direct patient care, and eventually program development and expansion, has afforded me the joy of seeing patients get relief when they thought none was to be had and provided me with continuous opportunities to serve.

Watch video interview with Sean

 

Topics: alumni, alumni spotlight, veteran affairs

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