AOMA Blog

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

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

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

Crossing Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Reflection

Posted by Rhonda Coleman on Thu, May 14, 2020 @ 01:04 PM

Rhonda-2020Joyce Carol Oates said, “The great enemy of writing is interruption.” I have lived this truth for the past eight years trying to complete consecutive degrees while raising a large family. It has not been more apparent than in these past four months trying to complete my portfolio, and the past two weeks is a perfect example. I thought my reflection would be the easiest task of all the portfolio items to complete, however constant and frequent interruptions have disrupted my thinking to the point that some days I could not write more than one or two sentences in one sitting. I hope that in sharing my thoughts, I am able to convey the joy, enlightenment, frustrations, limits, and love that was all equally part of my overall experience in this program. 

Completing the DAOM program at AOMA Graduate school of Integrative Medicine (AOMA) has completely changed my life. This program is designed to develop strong leaders who apply critical thinking skills and who are dedicated lifelong learners and contributors to education and research in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Upon reflection, my experience at AOMA was not at all what I anticipated. My journey began as a quest for mentorship and support as a new Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. I had just completed the Masters of Science in TCM (MSTCM) degree program at Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Denver and did not feel prepared to be on my own yet. It was my hope that I would polish my skills, get additional training in mental/emotional support through TCM, and have greater access to seasoned professionals who could guide me in my practice. What I actually gained from my participation in the program was a level of confidence that grew me from a timid practitioner to a polished public speaker affecting change in my community through education and leadership in health.  

I had no idea who/what I wanted to be in my life until I was 35 years old. As a child I wanted to be a teacher. My mother would purchase sample textbooks and curriculum guides and give me the ones she didn’t like. I would use the teacher’s manual and workbooks to play “school” with my younger siblings and cousins. As I got older, I became enamored with the arts. I loved stage acting and thought I would love to become a professional actress. Then I found Traditional Chinese Medicine, and realized it was everything I wanted in my life but never knew existed. I wanted to be a healer practicing acupuncture medicine. My decision to continue on to the DAOM program was spontaneous. I had been counting down the days until I completed the three year, accelerated, MSTCM program and was looking forward to being done with school forever! I was sitting in business class, and a question came up about “finding your niche”. I began wondering what I could offer that would be different from the hundreds of acupuncturists serving the Denver Metro area. I knew that I wanted to share what I had learned with the community that raised me. But what would I offer that might attract and inspire them? I needed more time, more information, more support, and more school. I decided in that class, at the end of November, that I would apply to a Doctoral program that would begin in the summer. Seven months later, during the first residency week of the 3rd cohort to enter the DAOM program at AOMA, I found my tribe. I heard voices that echoed mine, I heard ideas I thought only I had considered, I felt validated and welcomed. From that first week and through the next 13 I slowly realized that I had demonstrated who I was since childhood, but I could not see it. I am someone who cares about others, I am helpful, I listen, and I try to solve or resolve problems that are presented. I am someone who loves to learn and who is not afraid to take the road less traveled. I like to share what I have, especially information or knowledge. I must have a purpose and I must make a meaningful contribution into my community in order to feel fulfilled. 

I had a lot of reluctance around having the term “leader” used to describe me before starting the DAOM program. I was lectured from a very early age on the importance of leading by example. I was placed in leadership roles despite my objections. My naturally inquisitive nature and willingness to try things others shied away from, put me in positions that made me “first” and by default a leader, but I was often oblivious to these instances as they occurred. I now recognize and accept both role and title, as well as the responsibility that comes with it. My community sees me as a resource not only in health but in public education. Last year I was asked to serve as Community School Coordinator for Denver’s first community school model. I was chosen because of my ability to organize people, curate resources, develop community, support families, and motivate others. I was invited to speak to university classes and high school classes as a motivational speaker. I have been asked to submit articles on holistic health and speak at health forums.  Recently with the COVID-19 crisis, there have been many panels and events held to offer support to people around self-care and emotional support. My community has reached out to me on multiple occasions to share in these areas. I’ve spoken on two radio shows and done two other panels. I credit the leadership development training I received at AOMA for nourishing whatever seed that was present within me upon my arrival, and allowing me the space to blossom into a better version of myself.

Going through the DAOM program at AOMA does not only impact the scholar, but transforms their lives in such a way that anyone the scholar builds community with will also be impacted. John F. Kennedy said: “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone…” The benefit to everyone is a shift in perspective. This shift broadens problem solving approaches, bridges gaps between communities, and inspires new ideas and goals. Those are some of my greatest takeaways from the program. AOMA offers not only technical or clinical training in TCM, but they help grow leaders in the field of Integrative Health. Now that I’ve completed the DAOM program, I feel prepared to lead my practice, my patients, and my community. I embrace leadership and I accept the responsibility that comes along with it. I am committed to growing and learning more, and I will invite my family and friends to grow alongside me. I am grateful for this experience. Thank you AOMA.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, alumni, acupuncture school, doctoral program, Austin, tcm, tcm education, acupunture, ATX

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