New Student Spotlight: Kate Donelon

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 @ 04:19 PM

Kate Donelon
It's orientation week for our Fall Cohort and we'd like to introduce a new face on campus! Kate has been an analyst and manager working in the Washington, D.C. area for over fourteen years while also teaching yoga for the past six years. The stressors of her job originally led her to try and find balance (and sanity!) through yoga and meditation practices, and as that path unfolded, it eventually exposed her to Traditional Chinese Medicine and human anatomy, which quietly evolved into her passion over the past few years.
Kate completed her undergraduate degree in English literature, art history, and political science at Boston University, and spent her childhood in New Jersey. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pursue this new adventure in Austin with AOMA, and hopes to integrate her new knowledge with her yoga studies to make this information accessible to the wider community in way that empowers others to live their best lives.
Why did you end up choosing AOMA?
I personally was very interested in finding a program that provided strong background in foundational knowledge, while also preparing students to work effectively alongside Western medical providers, as well as opportunities to make this medicine accessible to the surrounding community. AOMA’s mission, values, curriculum, and community involvement all matched up with my goals, and my visit to the campus late last year further solidified my initial impressions. I am looking forward to everything this curriculum offers, from acupuncture and herbs, to expanding my knowledge of mind-body work and diving into biomedical sciences. I also really enjoyed the city of Austin during my visit and felt like it would be a great place to get to call home.
Have you visited Austin yet? And are you excited about living here?
I visited Austin twice before committing to a cross country adventure driving a 16-foot moving truck to relocate here at the end of August. I am very excited about living here, and already have found it is a much more relaxed and accessible area than my experience in the D.C. area. Despite warnings about traffic, D.C. sets a pretty high bar for traffic nightmares I have yet to see Austin match!
What class are you looking forward to the most when you start next week? 
I genuinely am looking forward to all the classes on my schedule since I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to immerse myself full-time in information that has previously been my hobby and “side hustle”. While some of my biggest interests going into this program include delving into the acupuncture points and herbs (which are probably going to be the most challenging!), I think Foundations I is going to be interesting this Fall.
What do you expect to be the most challenging part of transitioning from working full time to being in school full time? 
Seeing if my brain still works after 14+ years in the workplace! At this point, it seems like the positives far outweigh the challenges as all my work clothes are packed up in a box, days of monotonous staff meetings under fluorescent lights are behind me, and I do not have to be in charge of anyone but myself! After completing my undergraduate degree, I thought I would never again find myself back in school after the rigor of tests and memorization. Although the predictability and stability of my job provided a level of security, the challenges it brought were not the kind that allowed me to pursue my passions fully. 
Any skills or actual things that you'll be metaphorically/literally packing with you to bring with you? Anything you're leaving behind? 
My furry partner-in-crime Rustie endured the cross-country relocation to Austin and is along for the journey, fueled by more opportunities to get outside a play ball as his consolation prize. While my knowledge of Bruce Springsteen lyrics might not prove beneficial in class, I hope my exposure to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in my advanced yoga studies with Yoga Medicine will help provide good baseline familiarity with some of the foundational information. My time spent as a student and teacher of yoga also developed my personal studies of the human body, to include particular interests in anatomy and fascia. 
In pursuing this new path, I have definitely taken a leap of faith leaving everything familiar and stable over 1,500 miles away, which is as scary as it is exciting. While the regular paycheck probably is the most notable thing I will be leaving behind, I am going to miss my friends and the yoga community I had the honor of teaching for many years. Moving to Austin also meant bidding farewell to the East Coast, which has been home for my entire life, and giving up the thrill of waking up to snow days in the winter months.
Kate, we're so glad to have you here in Austin and on campus! Welcome to you and the rest of the group who will have their first day of class on Monday. 

Topics: student spotlight, masters program, acupuncture students

New Student Spotlight: Ann Sanders, RN

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Mon, Sep 02, 2019 @ 08:12 AM

Ann Sanders

Ann Sanders is one of the students we welcomed in our new Summer cohort. At the end of her first term, we gave her some more homework. Here, she shares a little about her background as well as four things she recommends to prospective acupuncture students.

What is your background? 
I've been an RN for the past 11 years working in a variety of settings-ER, Outpatient Surgery, Pain Management, Endoscopy and home health care. Prior to being a nurse, I worked as a Certified Veterinary Technician in anesthesia at Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine. I also have my B.S. in Paralegal Studies

Where are you from? And what made you interested in starting acupuncture school? 
I grew up in a military family so calling one place home is hard. I've lived overseas and stateside. Although, I moved here from Mississippi this past July. 

Two years ago, I was working at my local hospital when it hit me, "there has got to be another way to help and treat patients." I'd become disenchanted with the approach that I was currently practicing. So shortly after that epiphany, I put in my notice and began researching holistic healthcare. I looked at a multitude of avenues and none of them seemed to fit. By happenstance, a friend suggested that I fill in at a mutual friend's acupuncture clinic. I volunteered for a short time and it quickly evolved into my office manager position at Thrive Health Acupuncture Clinic.

I had an awesome opportunity to see the difference acupuncture made in peoples' lives. They were getting results that I hadn't witnessed in Western medicine. And the outcomes were amazing and done without pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures. The more I learned about acupuncture, it's history and philosophy, the more I fell in love with it. So naturally for me, acupuncture school was the next step.

Why did you choose to come to AOMA
I interviewed at Bastyr and AOMA but I ultimately choose AOMA due to the impressive faculty, the strong herbal competent, tuition costs and the fact it's closer to my family in MS. Everybody here is wonderful so I definitely made the right choice. The staff is amazing!

What class are you most enjoying this term and why?
This is my first term here and I love Dr Wu's Foundations class. It's been a little challenging for me at times coming from a western medicine background. There are concepts that I'm having to relearn along with benching some ideas that I practiced as an RN. In addition to his class, I'm enjoying Practice Management and Ethics because they challenge you to address misconceptions you may have had about your worth and value as a practitioner, what owning your own practice may look like and what ethical situations you may find yourself in.

How do you decompress? 
Through nursing, I definitely had to find ways to prevent compassion fatigue. Prayer/meditation; yoga; movies (huge SciFi and Marvel Nerd); travel; music and concerts/festivals; Zip-lining; camping; reading; gratitude journaling and recently, calls to family and my support group back home. In the near future, I hope to add skydiving to the list.

I feel like new students have this beautiful, fresh outlook. What are four things you would recommend to someone hoping to start acupuncture school soon?

  1. Observe in an acupuncture clinic for a few months and note the patient-centered care and time spent with them along with the business side of the clinic. Also receive treatments and see how your body responds to acupuncture.
  2. Volunteer at a doctor's office or hospital and take note of patient care, the western medicine model with diagnostics with recommended treatment.
  3. Formulate your personal budget and work the kinks out. Knowing how to manage your personal finances will only benefit you in your practice.
  4. Read, read, read on acupuncture and finances! AOMA has an excellent list of recommended books to explore. Sales experience is a plus when you have your own clinic. Work with the public and get comfortable talking with people while in a service role.

Thank you so much for sharing both your advice and your precious finals week time, Ann! It's so nice to have new, fresh faces and perspective on campus.

Topics: student spotlight, acupuncture students

The Nature of the Points - an Interview with Flora-Joan

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Thu, Aug 01, 2019 @ 08:15 AM

lora Joan and Micheal  Silvester

Flora-Joan and Michael Silvester van der Giessen are an inseparable pair of creatives who now have been working together for over fifteen years. Recently the couple introduced themselves to the world of 'the healing arts' through the Nature of the Points project (N.O.T.P).

Flora grew up in a family of acupuncturists and this shaped her art and identity. A professional cultivation of this upbringing became a beautiful addition to her curriculum after she herself graduated from the academy as an acupuncturist where she works as a clinical assistant).

Prepping the students for their exams gave her a good indication how mnemonic devices could help with learning the name, the meaning and function of each point. The couple is reverse-engineering this insight into easy to consume memory aids / aide-mémoires for students.

Flora believes that exemplifying the nature of the points may invigorate a practitioner’s art (and could inspire a patient’s interest in the waiting room as a bonus).

Flora, I’m such a visual learner and therefore obsessed with your instagram page. You must have an art background?

Visual learning makes so much sense, fellow Visualetta, especially when we consider that the biggest part of the brain is designed as a ‘image processor’ rather than ‘word processor’.

Or In the words of Confucius, “I see and I remember.”

Affirmative, I do have an art background.
 It started as a kid with a knack for creating.
 I’m hoarding sketchbooks/visual journals full of drawings & artistic plans 
(started making them in year 10).
 It led from being a little shutterbug to mastering silver photography techniques, Art and Art History at L'institution des Beaux-Arts de Antwerp.

After that I started to 'see' for a living (for almost 25 years now), working in editorial, commercial imagery and photographic fine art.

View this post on Instagram

LI-4 Hégǔ- 🤝Joining of the Valleys- #joinlife Jumpstart the fullest lived life. A gate to renewed vitality.🤝 #合谷 #Hoku Joining Valley, Union Valley, Joining Valley, Joining of Valleys, Meeting in the Valley, Tiger’s mouth🐅, Holding Mouth Vereinigung der Täler , Vereinigde Damen Ontmoeting in het dal Valles coniunctae Union de la vallée Unión de los valles Nature: a powerful confluence of energies Name; poetic mnemonic (1st & 2nd metacarpal bones meet in a valley-like depression), Hégǔ is also a mountain🗻 #letgo #zestforlife #tiger #roar #join 🤝 Coupled: Li-4 + BL-59 ; Great Eliminator; detox #postchemo Li-4 + LIV-3: Four Gates; sedation, relaxation 💎Amber: clear the mind, release the impure #Cleansing #SolarPlexus #Amethyst : purifying uplifting energy Clean up dark thoughts ⛔️ Caution: contraindicated in pregnancy. #akupunktur #akupunktura

A post shared by Flora-Joan Acupuncturist LAc (@thenatureofthepoints) on

Are you a practicing acupuncturist or acupuncture student at the moment?

Currently I'm assisting at the Qing Bai academy 
(I studied there and they adopted me right after I graduated).

Working with the acupuncture students gives me a good insight how visual triggers can support studying TCM. As soon as the students make visual associations, their recall of information is much better than if they merely read through their notes or try to remember the words that are connected to the points. 
Empathizing with their study-material on a regular basis, makes that it grows and gets fostered in me too. 

In addition to this teaching schedule, I work as an acupuncturist in a family practice, and give charity-treatments.


Where are you located? Do you have any specialties? Who are your favorite clients to work with?

I live in Amsterdam, but I practice in the south.
 I love working on the psychosomatic 'shen-level'. My favorite human beings, in general, are those that take responsibility for their health and life.


How were you first introduced to acupuncture?

My grandma used needles to alter her health, but the real introduction came when my mum, aunt and uncle started studying TCM. Through their enthusiasm I learned the basics between year 10 and 16.

They were the first to study acupuncture in our neck of the woods and had to go to China to graduate because a Lowland masters program did not exist yet. I was a teenager when they moved to Beijing to master it. I went with them, and since a was already studying photography I documented the experiences leading up to their exams.

 The memories of being part of these events, and the art and photos that came out of that were definitely a formative experience for me.
 They shaped my identity.

Flora and family


What has been most surprising to you since you started your career as an acupuncturist?

Although I had a good understanding of the basics when I started the study, I still had the idea that acupuncture was something you “could do”. 
It was a most surprising discovery that it is so much more than that: not only is acupuncture a living phenomenon, IT'S A WAY OF LIFE!


How did you come up with the inspiration to start your instagram project?

The inspiration for this project came directly from my own need for a method by which to learn the names, functions and nature of the points during my study.

I used my creative skills as a learning tool; creating mind maps and photo collages that complement the more linear text-based format most of my books followed, and the verbal input from my tutors. 

Once qualified, I kept going back to those maps. They proved very useful in practice since the poetic nature of the point names embrace the stratification which relate not only to the physical but also their spiritual aspect.

Checking in with myself to see what stuck long-term, I started to reverse-engineer it, 
in an attempt to give others the opportunity to use this visual learning style to their advantage. Ideally not only for the students I work with, but also other trainees, fellow practitioners and those who have a fascination for TCM. Hopefully, it even inspires a patient’s interest.


Do you plan on monetizing your work (magnets / publishing a book / prints / etc)?

Making education captivating is the greater purpose. With that said a passive income stream is important if we want to keep freedom to create. The Nature of The Points webpage already offers educational posters (and we have a few other items lined-up).

If this turns out to be lucrative, the dream-scenario is to sponsor acupuncture charity organizations and to help the acupuncture community.
 Perhaps we can even boost our work to more immersive and interactive levels.

 Think: talks, workshops and or real-life mind maps and art installations where you can walk through a meridian.


Which other artists inspire you (modern or not)?

Everything around me inspires; nature, the cosmos, other sapiens (especially those who believe in the relationship between spirituality, healing and artistic creation). 
Besides that, I am inspired by a lot of the -isms: buddhism, taoism, daoism, confucianism, iconism dadaism, primitivism, surrealism, spiritualism, futurism.

I tend to gravitate to old anatomical charts and medical education books and posters. 
Think patterns, primitive art, symbology, colorimetry, cosmography, sacred geometry, foliage and a pile of vintage tarot cards and you have me at my happiest.


What are your favorite mediums when you are creating something new?

I enjoy using a range of media in my work, but Peter Deadman’s "Nature and Health" talk (at the British Acupuncture Conference 2017) got me thinking about using more photography in my visual language. Deadman tapped into the biophilia principle that even indirect experience of nature (including images of nature) can improve your health.

This made me ponder the balance between the challenge of understanding medicine and a natural mode of learning that could move valuable information on into a new consciousness. 
My brain started ticking and the whole process unfolded organically and the points practically created their own image.

Currently we are shaping these into decks.
 And we’re pretty excited about this because we believe that the flexible style of such a tool accommodates a wide range of applications.


What do you do in everyday life if you need a boost of inspiration?

We pull back in nature, this is all about fusing the richness of Chinese knowledge with nature and evincing that relationship. Finding resemblance to the spiritual level of a point has a pilgrimage aspect to it. Enter: motorcycle, sidecar, dog, scrapbook, camera, watercolor, pen and pencil and we are good to go.


How do you choose which point to feature? Do you meditate on them, or is it based off of experiences you’ve had with them in clinic?

This project has been in the making for years, so a lot of points ‘just happened’ to me. I collected those revelations, photos, notes and sketches in my scrapbooks. So now that we really took off time to work on this project, we review that input per meridian. The first decks and mind-maps will feature the Kidney channel, so that is what we focus on now.

View this post on Instagram

KID-2 Rángǔ 然谷 Blazing Valley. Dracarys! 🔥🐉❄️ Blazing Bone, Dragon in the Abyss, Dragon in the Spring, Grain Connection Brandend Dal, Drakenbron Dragão no Abismo Fons Draconis Tal in Flammen Vallée qui s'Allume Valle de Ignición Drake i avgrunden Nature: A balancing force, Controlling fire and ice 🔥⚖️❄️ 🔺Fires up #lackofwillpower #unfreeze #frozenbyfear #firewillpower 💪🏼The Will to overcome #obstacles #thewilltobecomebetter #NOexcuses 🔻Cools down #overambition #firepoint #kidneymeridian #kidneychannel 🗝Yin Motility vessel #Gemstone #stonemedicine 💎Purple fluorite #gemstonetreatment #visuallearning #visualtriggers 👁📍 #shiatsu #tuina#acupuntura #akupunktur #acupuncture #Akupunktur #acupuntuur #针刺 #طبسوزنی #طبفشاری#طبسنتی#acupuncture #زالودرمانی#ماساژ#توینا#tuina #TCM

A post shared by Flora-Joan Acupuncturist LAc (@thenatureofthepoints) on

Do you use any references when you design them? They each have such unique detail.

So glad you noticed :). The pre-designing part is all about getting information and coupling feedback.
 Think books (see list below), notes, courses and specializations.
We are always trying to be attuned to what is really unique about a particular point, and then will dig in on that. We spend a lot of time researching. Each point could take days.

If you are interested in point names and energetics, check out all books by Josef Viktor Müller, Dr. Jeffrey Yuen, Rochat de la Vallée, Peter Mandel, and Peter Deadman (especially Live Well Live Long). 

Of course the classics:


Speaking of point names, do you read or speak Mandarin? If so, could you speak a little on how you interpret names in a way that seems linguistically and energetically accurate when English terms might not even exist?

Through the study and my time in China I can interpret most characters (my visual person gift) but I am not a Sinologist, nor do I speak Mandarin. I am therefore very grateful to the generations before me that have translated the classical text.

Considering the names are rooted in two millennia of a different culture and language, you have a good point.
 What helps to interpret each name is that it is made up of picograms. These are, in essence, highly stylized images. This makes that the poetic acupuncture point lends itself to visual descriptions.


You go into the point names in many different languages on your page. How many do you speak? What is your native language? Where did you grow up?

Growing up was an interesting situation,
 my parents had an exceptional (for the time and the area/southern Holland/swamp/national park) anthropological approach.

No TV, no meat, and no processed or chemically sprayed food. I have two siblings, but my parents fostered children from different countries and cultural backgrounds. So we never spoke solely one language in my household. My mother has a knack for languages and my father could trace a lot back to knowing Latin. I didn't cultivate these languages, but I can still negotiate 'toy related affairs' in French, German, Arabic and English. Adding the point names (and alternate point names) in different languages gives context, and hopefully connects us. In the end, my real linguistic ambition is learning to speak 'Human'.


How do you carve out time for your creative-self?

I rise really early, that's when things get creatively done. Next is a coffee & synchronization break with my husband Michael in front of the boards. I lavishly apply our mood boards and notes to the walls and doors of our workspace. 

He is creating a parallel deck with the same imagery for those interested in acupuncture but don't “speak TCM”. 
This alternate version is connecting acupuncture points (especially the psychosomatic level) to eastern philosophy and western quotism.

Michael and I come from very different creative backgrounds, but we have many years of work-experience together and he’s a great collaborator. Not to get too deep, but once you find that person that you want to be around, it’s all very easy. Even though we spend so much time together, we don’t quibble. He is a beacon. He allows my imagination to soar cloud high, but knows how to lure me back to the source before it gets the best of me. Working on this project together has definitely been a labour of love.


Do you feel any pressure to post regularly, or just when inspiration strikes?

By regularly posting this journey we are able to see our work evolve, which is very useful.
 Instagram acts as a portfolio and helps other enthusiasts to discover our work. We've made acu-friends all over the world and it’s great to be able to follow their journeys and talk about their experiences.

In regards to the pressure, I can say that we do monitor our time on social media. We guard our intention. The purpose of our page is not to be buried in a sea of likes, but to be beneficial for those working in the realm of healing. 
The pressure does not lie in having a respectable social media presence,
 but in the belief that it can be the legacy of our generation to make acupuncture a big part of ‘the solution’. 
We can be the generation that stood up and accentuated how healing and nature is connected. The ones that recalled, that adjusted in the quest for meaning, for love, for community, and the ones that reminded those in need that the real answers are within (not on google or Instagram) and guided them home. So yes, in a way that's pressing but it is so worth putting energy in.


This is a really cheesy question, but if you were a point, which one would you be, and why?

Hahaha, I love this question (and all your other questions). 
As an 'homage to the fromage' Kid-6 comes to mind because I love & use it so much… but then again, in my case it can't be water or cheese. Based on my constitution it has to be Wood. So that's in favor of GB-24; Sun & Moon.

The brilliant Josef Müller says about this point:

Das scharfe Tageslicht des Verstandes wird mit dem milden Mondlicht des Gefühls ausgeglichen.” 

"The sharp sunlight of the mind is balanced with the mild moonlight of the intuition."

First and foremost the point is called Sun AND Moon, not Sun OR Moon. The sun can't do what the moon does and vice versa. 
They shine their light at their own time but share the sphere.
 And in this place of oneness, they need, recognize and appreciate the contribution of one another, since they have a common cause; 
being a balancing force that illuminates psyche and the path (Dao/meaning).
 Hence the alternative point name Shen Light.

Possibly, today’s MO (driven by info- and biotech revolution, algorithms and other world-changing developments) 
leaves a hole to be filled in terms of purpose and meaning, and therefore could use cosmic light to illuminate a common unifying cause and purpose.

 Brother Sun and Sister Moon help us recognize and appreciate what we can contribute.

Obviously we're more than worldly beings. 
We have potential and can make a difference.
 If we believe and cultivate that, we can make the most of your time here on Earth. I'm game!


To learn more about Flora Joan and organizations she is passionate about check out the websites below: 



Topics: acupuncture students, tcm education, Energetics, Point Locations

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

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! 

Request Information

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

Meet Francesca: Massage Therapist, Mother of 4, and Acupuncture Student

Posted by Rob Davidson on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 @ 02:24 PM

 Francesca Moore-2

Please Introduce yourself! 

Hi, I am Francesca Moore, from New York. I attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and received a Bachelors of Industrial Design with a concentration on Fine Art Ceramics. I also did Post-Baccalaureate study in Fine Art Ceramics at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. In 2009 I made a drastic career change, leaving the world of art and design to work in the healing arts. I received my AOS in Massage Therapy and  Advanced Personal Training Certificate from the Swedish Institute in New York. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist and a Certified Strength an Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

I started at AOMA in Winter of 2015 and will officially graduate the Master's program in Fall 2018. I started working on my Professional Doctorate degree concurrently and hope to complete that coursework in 2019.

What are some of your other interests/hobbies outside Chinese medicine?

My husband and I have 4 small kids, ages 6, 4, 2 and 1.  We moved out to the Hill Country last year and hope to be able to spend more time enjoying nature. We love to hike with the kids and some day soon I hope to get back to cycling and kayaking.

What made you want to study acupuncture and Chinese medicine?

My experiences as a young designer in a high paced firm, quickly ascending the ranks, left me feeling out of balance, sick and miserable. Finding Chinese Medicine and working with a wonderful practitioner changed my entire being and gave me the new direction of working to help people improve their health. In the State of New York, half of the massage therapy training required is Five Element Shiatsu.Most of my instructors were also acupuncturists or students of Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine concepts and Five Element theory were well integrated into my education at Swedish and I knew when I completed that training that I would become a student of Chinese Medicine some day. Ironically, one of my last design projects was a hotel in Beijing and my firm just finished a project in Chendu.

Please describe your top accomplishments since starting the program!

I passed my Herbal Board exam on the first try! My youngest son also turned 1. Keeping my children alive while being a student was definitely an accomplishment!

What did your AOMA education mean to you/prepare you for?

I have met so many wonderful people at AOMA! The connections I have made with other students and practitioners have been invaluable. I feel well prepared to provide high quality, patient centered care once I step out into the world as a licensed practitioner. AOMA has also prepared me for a lifetime of learning. I know I have only scratched the surface in my studies of Chinese Medicine and look forward to narrowing my focus and continuing my studies to specialize in TCM Pediatrics and Gynecology as well as Oncology. 

What, if any perceptions of Chinese medicine have changed from when you started the program to now?

Many of the OM practitioners I worked with in NYC were Classically trained students from a particular lineage who painted a picture of TCM as inferior to their traditions. It's clear to me now that it's all the same medicine.

What is your vision for the future of healthcare/medicine and your career moving forward?

The Bravewell Collaborative's definition of the integrative medicine approach, really resonates with me. I strongly value the partnership between patient and practitioner throughout the healing process and I trust the body’s innate response and ability to heal itself.  As medical providers, we have a responsibility to consider all factors that influence health, wellness and disease. We may not be able to affect change on them all, but when treating diseases of the body, we should consider how the mind, spirit, community and environment relate to causes of illness as well as treatment strategies. We should be aware that each of these factors is one piece of a larger puzzle for affecting change. I hope to practice in a fully integrative setting where I can collaborate with biomedical practitioners and practitioners of other CAM modalities.

What advice would you give to recent or soon-to-be graduates about to enter the field professionally?

Familiarize yourself with board exam topics and work on a study plan as early as possible. There are a few topics of study I wish I hadn't glossed over and a few other that I could have put on the back burner until after completing the licensing process...and stay on top of your portfolio! They aren't kidding!

AOMA is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. Please tell your fondest memory of your studies here, and also feel free to give your Anniversary wishes!

One of my most formative experiences at AOMA was as an observer in clinic with Elizabeth Fordyce.  A patient came in crying and had been dealing with excruciating nerve pain for several days. Elizabeth came in to check on her, inserted one needle and the pain STOPPED.  It was incredible to watch and showed me the power of this medicine!

Happy Anniversary AOMA!   

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

Request Information

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

Meet Nicole: Peace Corp Volunteer turned Acupuncture Student

Posted by Rob Davidson on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 @ 04:17 PM

AOMA Student Spotlight Nicole

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

My name is Nicole. I grew up in Dallas, TX and went to Texas A&M University for my undergraduate degree in International and Environmental Studies. I started the Master’s program here at AOMA in 2016.

What were you doing before you came to AOMA?

Before AOMA I mostly worked in the non-profit world. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for 27 months in Peace Corps Paraguay's program. In a twisted bout of fate, I trained a group of 15 health magnet high schoolers to teach peer-to-peer sex-ed and tools for emotionally healthy relationships. I returned home to Dallas for three years and worked in food insecurity at the North Texas Food Bank as their Child Programs Team Lead.

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

Here's a huge list, because I couldn't choose one. Dr. Shen, Anne Cusick, Dr. Zhou, Dr. Wu and Dr. Song have taught me so much of what I know about patient-centered care and TCM today. There should be teaching awards for the work that Dr. Cone, Dr. Love and Dr. Becky Andrews do in the realm of western medicine.

What is your favorite thing about AOMA and why?

I love that it's such a warm and supportive community. I have met so many people here, and I don't even think I've had the time to really delve into those friendships as much as they deserve.

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

Yes! I'm so glad that we start clinical work when we do. It's such a light at the end of the 4+ year academic tunnel that we have to get our Master's. Every patient who I see on my shifts brightens my day. If you are a patient and reading this, THANK YOU for trusting us with your health. You keep us sane throughout this program. 

What are you plans after graduation?

I'm still only halfway through my studies, but I do know that I would like to work with self-identified women, geriatrics, and have access to an herbal pharmacy. I'm not set on a geographical location yet but trusting that the right opportunities will show in a couple years as long as I keep saying "yes" to them! 

Do you have other interests/careers/hobbies you plan to also continue after graduation?

When I'm not cramming for a test, I find a lot of happiness in taking a stroll in my neighborhood, cycling and rock climbing. I still have part of my heart in the non-profit world and would love to work on making acupuncture more accessible for every socio-economic level when I graduate.

Want to learn more about AOMA's Master's Program? Download our Program Fact Sheet below:

Master's Program Fact Sheet



Topics: student spotlight, admissions, acupuncture students, aoma students

Jenna Valentine: Psychology Major & Youth Counselor, turned Acupuncture Student

Posted by Rob Davidson on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 @ 04:03 PM

Student Spotlight_ Jenna Valentine-1

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?

Hi. My name is Jenna Valentine and I am originally from Northern California. I graduated from Occidental College in 2004 with a degree in Psychology/minor in Spanish and started at AOMA in Fall 2017. 

What were you doing before you came to AOMA?

Lots of cool things happened in the 10+ years between graduating from undergrad and starting graduate school:  I worked in the child welfare/juvenile justice system, ran an after-school program for at-risk youth, got married, had a baby, moved to Austin, got divorced, and started this new iteration of my life. 

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

I’ve been a pretty major fan of Acupuncture since college when I went to a fundraiser where it was being offered and saw immediate results. I got treatments on and off (including labor induction!) and nagged all my friends/family to try it (I can be very persuasive!), but I never made the connection that I could be the person doing rather than simply receiving the treatment.  

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?

My divorce launched me out of stay-at-home mom world and I met with a career counselor to decide my next steps. In a brainstorming session, we both realized that helping others through finding health and wellness was my true passion. Acupuncture provided the crossroads between emotional and physical health as this medicine does not separate the two. AOMA was the ideal fit as I was committed to staying in Austin and had already heard wonderful feedback about the program. 

You mentioned that helping others through finding health and wellness was your true passion. Do you think that’s what drew you to psychology too initially?

I was drawn to study psychology as I wanted to work with vulnerable populations. I volunteered at a homeless shelter during high school and was committed to helping at-risk youth from an early age. During college, I worked with veterans with mental illness and substance abuse issues as well as counselor referred youth. I’ve worked with teen moms, gang members, trauma victims, and am committed to helping people find their path to a fulfilling life.

You also mention that acupuncture and Chinese medicine provides "the crossroads between emotional and physical health as this medicine does not separate the two." Can you speak to how, in your opinion and experience, acupuncture and Chinese medicine specifically can improve emotional health?

It was so refreshing to learn that Chinese medicine views emotions and physical health as an integrated experience. Big emotions can impact physical health and compromised physical health can impact emotions. This is so obvious to me and so frustrating when people don’t “get it”. I love learning about specific points, such as the ghost point category, that directly related to emotional health. I hope to delve more deeply into this area of the medicine.

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

I have enjoyed all of my classes and professors at AOMA. The diverse teaching methods and perspectives create wonderful learning opportunities and I have felt incredibly supported by all the staff.  I haven’t had classes with all the faculty yet, but the classes I have taken have been wonderful. Dr. Mandyam and Dr. Shen are two of the most low-key hilarious people. They are both brilliant and their dry senses of humor make their classes amazing. Dr. Cone is such a joy to learn from and his passion is contagious. 

Dr. Tan has the most beautiful, poetic way of explaining Chinese culture to us and helping us understand the larger context of this medicine. Dr. Song and Dr. Zhou’s knowledge of herbs is unreal and their patience as we try to learn from them is unparalleled. Justin Phillips is so generous with his knowledge and always seems happy to take time out of his day to chat about what he has learned. Anne Cusick and Dr. Love are two of the sweetest and smartest cheerleaders always taking the time to help students regain their confidence during their learning curves. 

Robert Laguna is a star. He will bend over backwards to help anyone and he provides students with both big picture and real-world knowledge. Dr. Luo always goes the extra mile bringing in photos and stories of China, his life, and experiences. Dr. Yan & Dr. Xu manage both grace and strength as they teach us Taiji and Qigong with seemingly limitless patience. Dr. Fan is so strong it’s ridiculous and makes Tuina seem easy (spoiler alert: it’s not). And, last but not least, Dr. Wu is as magical as everyone says. 

What is your favorite thing about AOMA and why? Describe so far your experiences as a student at AOMA?

AOMA is such a sweet community of people dedicated to serving people. It has been a balance being a single mom, working, maintaining relationships, having adequate self care and managing the rigorous program, but I have felt incredible support from the students, faculty, and administration. 

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

I’ve recently started treating in the student clinics and have been surprised at how incredibly kind the patients have all been even though many are in pain. 

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?

 Prior to starting at AOMA, I think I viewed Acupuncture as a secondary medicine. I remember someone asking me if I was in medical school and I said, “No, I’m in school for acupuncture.”  Boy was I in for a surprise when I realized I was, in fact, in medical school. The Western world has a way of devaluing the “alternative” and there seems to be an unspoken assumption that one only uses ‘the alternative’ when one cannot get ‘the real thing.’ So, I guess we need to stop calling Chinese Medicine “alternative medicine” or “Eastern medicine” and simply call it what it is: Medicine. 

What are you plans after graduation?

As for my plans after graduation. . . I am blissfully unsure. The current vision is to find a way to get paid to travel the world and offer this medicine all over. I would love to work in a wellness center especially one that has a mobile component. I will also be continuing to raise my incredible daughter, perfect my right hook at the boxing gym, provide coaching and support about relationship/intimacy issues, and spend too much time laughing at memes on the internet. 

Jenna is a student in AOMA's Master's Program. To learn more about our Master's Degree program click below!

Master's Program Fact Sheet

Topics: student spotlight, admissions, acupuncture students, aoma students

From Liberal Arts to Acupuncture

Posted by Jessica Johnson on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 @ 02:30 PM


I had just graduated from Austin College in May 2012 when I felt a sense of impending doom. I had completed my bachelor’s degree without deciding what I wanted to do for my career, what I wanted to be now that I was all “grown up”. This was a big deal at the time because I have always been the girl with a plan. I am always thinking about my future goals and what I need to do to accomplish them. Once I walked off the stage of my graduation, I felt that I had a big decision to make, and I wanted to make it quickly.

For a while, I was at a loss for what career I should pursue. I have always wanted to do something that helps people, that makes people’s lives better, but I did not know which career would suit me best. I had gotten my degree in Spanish because I really enjoyed the language and I wanted to travel during school, but I did not really want to be a Spanish teacher or a translator. I could use my Spanish speaking skills in almost any work environment, but I did not want it to be the focus of what I did or what I could offer people. I knew in my heart that I wanted something more.

I thought about my options for a little over a year. I spent some time figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. At some point, I got tired of being sick all the time.  And even though I went to a liberal arts school and learned a lot, I had never heard of integrative medicine or acupuncture. My undergraduate education taught me to be open-minded and that there were things in the world which I did not understand, but that did not make them any less valid. So I went to an acupuncture clinic on a whim. And as strange and unfathomable as acupuncture was at the time, I am so glad that I chose to try it.

"If I had not taken that leap of faith, I would not be here telling you my story or even getting my master’s degree in oriental medicine."

Growing up, I was constantly developing new illnesses that needed prescriptions from the doctor. Unfortunately, I had not felt much relief of my symptoms working through modern western medicine, so I thought it was time to try something different. By the time I met Dr. Chapa at Valley Ranch Acupuncture in Irving, Texas I was on five different medications. Now, a little over a year later, with the help of acupuncture, herbs, and some hard work of my own, I am symptom free, 40 pounds lighter, off all of my medications, and happier than ever. Being open–minded and willing to try new things, like acupuncture, has deeply influenced my life in a very positive way.

If I had never tried acupuncture, I do not know where I would be now. If I had not taken that leap of faith, I would not be here telling you my story or even getting my master’s degree in oriental medicine.  And acupuncture has not only improved my life, it has improved the lives of my patients. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you have made a real impact on someone’s health and life. My patients give me that utmost sense of accomplishment- the handshakes and hugs I get in thanks for listening to them and treating them are the most rewarding part of this life I have chosen. It turns out that the gift of serving others is more rewarding than any work I have done for myself. 

Finally, if I have learned anything from going to school, both at the undergraduate level and now in graduate school here at AOMA, it is that my degree is a stepping stone that I can use to accomplish anything I desire.  When I first sought out acupuncture it was because I wanted to feel healthy. However, in turn, my own quest for health inspired me to show others that they could feel good too. Never be afraid to try something new. Do not worry if people will think you are crazy. Nothing stands in your way in dictating your own life. Do that which you truly desire and what really speaks to your soul; get there as quickly as possible. Trust me, it is worth it. 


Topics: acupuncture school, acupuncture students

Oriental Medicine 101: 5 MORE Reasons to attend Acupuncture School

Posted by Justine Meccio on Wed, Jul 08, 2015 @ 09:58 AM


Choosing to attend acupuncture school may seem like an unconventional choice, but for the students who choose this path, that’s okay. Completing a master’s degree in Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can lead to a rewarding career – one where your personal values are aligned with your professional ambitions.

A Career That Matches Your Values

Many of the students who attend AOMA cite a desire to change the way health care is practiced in the U.S. as a motivating factor behind their decision to study Chinese medicine.  For some, it’s Chinese medicine’s inherently integrative approach – viewing the impacts of physiological, mental, emotional, and environmental factors, as equally important elements in human health – that makes it so different from other systems of care. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many acupuncturists seek out opportunities for professional integration and collaboration with other medical practitioners. For others, the practice of Chinese medicine provides an opportunity to address the health care needs of underserved patient communities and to expand access to genuinely patient-centered care.

Transforming your Life

One of the key themes expressed by students graduating from AOMA is just how truly transformational their experience in the graduate program was. Put quite simply, by the time you graduate from acupuncture school, you won’t be the person you were when you started. You’ll be someone different – a healer.

The decision to become a health care provider isn’t one that is made lightly. It’s often the result of much soul-searching, of listening to that persistent voice whispering of your desire to help others, of a vocation. No matter where you start from – whether it’s a corporate boardroom or undergraduate classroom – when you finish your studies at AOMA, you’ll be a competent, skilled health care professional ready to step out in the world and make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Getting there takes a lot of hard work and personal dedication, but it is this very work and the overcoming of challenges that fosters personal growth.

You’re an Explorer at Heart

Despite its history spanning over two millennia, the prevalence of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in contemporary health care is often considered a relatively “new” phenomenon within western medical communities. While organizations like the World Health Organization recognize the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of dozens of conditions, research into the mechanisms behind why and how acupuncture works is still relatively new within the scientific community. For curious students who always find themselves asking “why”, the field of acupuncture and Chinese medicine provides many avenues to explore uncharted territory and to enhance our understanding of human health and the human body.

You Want to Pay it Forward

Spend even a few minutes in AOMA’s student lounge on the first day of classes, and you’ll most likely overhear a new student talking about the impact acupuncture or Chinese medicine had on their own life. Graduate students often start out as patients – maybe acupuncture was the only form of treatment that provided relief from chronic pain, or maybe qigong helped restore balance to an unsustainable lifestyle, or perhaps acupuncture and herbal medicine even aided in the conception of a first child. Whatever the experience, many students often start out by experiencing the power of this medicine first hand before deciding they want to play a role in ensuring that others can find the same relief and benefit.

Your Social Network will get Bigger

One of the most interesting things about describing a “typical acupuncture student” is how hard it is to do. Students of Chinese medicine come from all walks of life – they’re former nurses, massage therapists, computer programmers, teachers, military veterans, biologists, social workers, yogis, writers, doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and so much more. Despite these differences, there is a common theme – the desire to help others. Studying Chinese medicine introduces you to not only a new system of medicine – but also a new network of people with whom you can connect and relate to. After a few terms studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, you might discover yourself feeling at ease amongst a whole new set of peers.

Can you think of another reason you’d like to study Chinese medicine? If so, feel free to leave a comment. To learn more about studying at AOMA, visit:

Contact Admissions

Topics: acupuncture school, admissions, acupuncture students

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