What is Integrative Healthcare?

Posted by Lauren St. Pierre, LAc on Fri, May 08, 2015 @ 03:53 PM


Some people think of acupuncture and Oriental medicine as alternative healthcare, shying away from Western medicine. While it is true that in the modern world of Traditional Chinese Medicine a holistic approach to care is at the heart of our practice, we like to think of our approach at AOMA as integrative healthcare. When we feel the radial pulse we are differentiating between choppy, slippery and dai mai, to name a few, but we are also looking for red flags like tachycardia and hypertension so we also take blood pressure.

Integrative healthcare as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, "combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness." So we get the best of both worlds while providing the best possible care for our patients. We take into account the whole person's mind, body and spirit.

Providing care that's within our scope and utilizing the other medical fields as would best serve the patient needs: pretty straightforward. In using an integrative approach, we are not limited by one therapy because we access both alternative approaches as well as conventional ones. A good example is using acupuncture to help with post surgical pain and inflammation. Acupuncture alone wouldn't be sufficient treatment for a structural issue, like a broken bone or severely torn muscle. But after the x-rays have been taken, the bone set back into place, the use of acupuncture can be instrumental not only to reduce physical pain but also the care for the emotional component of the injury.

The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco describes that "integrative medicine seeks to incorporate treatment options from conventional and alternative approaches, taking into account not only physical symptoms, but also psychological, social and spiritual aspects of health and illness."

As acupuncturists, we might ask why it matters to be integrative. Well, it may mean jobs for one. According to the American Hospital Association, the percentage of U.S. hospitals that offer complementary therapies has increased dramatically in less than a decade, from 8.6% in 1998 to almost 42% in 2011. That's good news for practitioners but it's great news for patients.

Part of being a good integrative healthcare practitioner is understanding the health landscape for that patient and being able to speak intelligently about it with other practitioners that may have a background different than our own. Qi, yin and yang are incredibly important to us but if we're working on a case and the patient primary wants to understand what you are treating and herbs you intend to prescribe, we need to be able to have that conversation. Not to say you can't use terms like zang fu and xue xu, just back it up.

AOMA is hosting our own integrative healthcare symposium with the Southwest Symposium, May 5-9, in Austin, TX. One of the best ways to understand TCM and how to speak about it with patients and other healthcare providers is to get many different points of view. Be sure to check out this year’s line-up!

Careers in Acupuncture: Download free eBook!



Topics: acupuncture school, integrative medicine, acupuncture clinics

East West Forum: Integrative Sports Medicine Discussion [video]

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 01:50 PM

AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine and Austin Fit Magazine co-sponsored the East West Forum on Integrative Sports Medicine on July 24, 2014 with prominent sports medicine specialists. Part of AOMA’s vision is building bridges. The East West Forum is one of the ways that AOMA brings together biomedical and integrative medical practitioners.

Sarah Bentley, Director of Community Relations at AOMA, facilitated the discussion of cutting-edge techniques and holistic solutions for injury recovery and prevention with guest  speakers Martha Pyron, MD, Ann Mowat, LAc, and John Tuggle, DC.

Watch and share the video of the event!

About the speakers:

Martha Pyron is board certified in both family medicine as well as sports medicine and is the founder of Medicine in Motion, a Sports Medicine & Physical Rehabilitation Clinic in north Austin with an integrated care approach to injury and illness.

Dr. John Tuggle, doctor of chiropractic also known as the “Tri Doc” has an integrative practice in Cedar Park.

Ann Mowat is a licensed acupuncturist and certified Sports Medicine Acupuncture specialist. She’s the founder of 512 Wellness in central Austin.

Topics: integrative medicine, east west forum, sports medicine

Integrative Medicine Videos: Acupuncture, Qigong, and Meditation

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 @ 02:38 PM

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health produces videos about the research on complementary health approaches. The three videos presented here explain some of the most popular integrative medicine practices: acupuncture, qigong, and meditation.

What happens during an Acupuncture session?

This video narrates the basic historical and theoretical background of acupuncture while also giving a step by step guide on what to expect during an acupuncture treatment such as possible physical sensations, different acupuncture techniques, and the importance of finding a qualified practitioner.



This video explains how the practice of Qigong can enhance the flow of energy in the body through movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing; and in turn, how it can benefit your daily life.


This video shows the practice of meditation and how it can result in a state of greater calmness, physical relaxation, and psychological balance.

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine





Topics: acupuncture research, qigong, integrative medicine, meditation

Acupuncture & Integrative Pain Care Round-table Discussion, March 21

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 @ 01:26 PM

On Friday March 21st, AOMA will sponsor a round-table discussion about the role of acupuncture & Oriental medicine (AOM) in integrative pain care. Licensed acupuncturists can earn one free Continuing Acupuncture Education (CAE) credit (*pending) by attending.

Speakers will identify challenges within AOM research, integrative practice & pain care, and discuss opportunities for advanced clinical practice. Speakers include Dr. John Finnell, Dr. Daniel Weber, and Dr. Rosa Schnyer.


describe the imageJohn Finnell, ND, MPH, LAc

Dr. John Finnell is an accomplished researcher and skilled health care practitioner with a rich academic and professional background. In addition to being an active practitioner of naturopathic & Chinese medicines, he has completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and served as the acting Director of Research for the True North Health Foundation. He is currently the Director of the Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM) program at AOMA.


Integrative OncologyDaniel Weber, PhD, MSc

Daniel Weber is a pioneer in complementary medicine committed to fostering dialogue between all types of health care professionals. His extensive academic history spans over 3 decades and includes in-depth study in Japan, the UK, and China. In addition to serving as the vice-chair of the oncology section of the World Federation of Chinese Medical Societies, he is a Visiting Professor at TianJin University, and President of Panaxea International. His research is conducted at Guang 'Anmen hospital in Beijing and at TianJin Unversity.


Schnyer RosaRosa Schnyer, DAOM, LAc

Dr. Rosa Schnyer has two decades of clinical research experience and is a leading figure in the development of methodologies for the study of acupuncture & Oriental medicine. She is a faculty member within AOMA's Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Program as well as UT Austin's College of Pharmacy & School of Nursing. She maintains an active clinical practice in Austin, Texas and has completed extensive training in both Toyo-Hari Japanese Acupuncture and acupuncture treatment for pain management.


Attendees will have the opportunity to present questions to the panel and participate in this important discussion about the future of acupuncture research & integrative pain care. Information about AOMA’s doctoral program, which has a clinical specialty of pain management and the accompanying psychosocial concerns, will also be available.

In addition to the engaging discussion with one free CAE credit, participants may also receive 10% off the registration cost of Dr. Daniel Weber’s Integrative Oncology CE Workshop on Saturday March 22.

Join us in the dialogue that will shape the advancement of TCM.

Friday, March 21:
7:30pm – 8:30pm - Roundtable Discussion
8:30pm – 9:15pm - Questions, Comments, and Cocktails


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Topics: acupuncture research, doctoral program, Dr. John Finnell, integrative medicine

Alumni Success: Sadie Minkoff, Class of 2003

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Sun, Nov 03, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

AOMA alumna Sadie Minkoff was a modern dancer in a company based in New York City when she injured her sacrum in a rehearsal. Minkoff says, “I was studying Eastern philosophy and Shiatsu and was petrified of needles so I was hesitant to try acupuncture until I got injured.”  Minkoff finally mustered the courage to travel to New York’s Chinatown to try out acupuncture. 

Most “needle phobic” patients are generally surprised to find out that acupuncture needles are a thin metal filament about the width of a human hair and cannot deliver the same kind of impact as a needle used for a flu or tetanus shot. Minkoff, being terrified of needles, was no different. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the sensations from the needles were minimal and the treatment itself was very enjoyable and effective. Minkoff says, “The injury resolved quickly but what was even more exciting to me was how good I felt after my acupuncture treatments. So I continued getting acupuncture and started learning about Chinese Medicine.”

Eventually Minkoff found herself at AOMA studying acupuncture. Her journey as a practitioner has taken her many places including an interdisciplinary clinic in Washington, DC and a western medical clinic in Austin. She has also worked in a couple of integrative settings with IUI and IVF patients. In 2012 Minkoff received hospital privileges when a local doctor invited her to do acupuncture during fertility treatments in the hospital where he worked. 

Currently, Minkoff owns a private practice with her partner Michelle Schreiber in Austin. Sage Acupuncture focuses on both fertility and oncology. Minkoff reflects, “We have created a beautiful sanctuary where people can feel comfortable and supported in their healing process.”  As Minkoff’s clientele grows she holds the intention to continue to work from her heart and serve her community.  

Since Minkoff has been in the acupuncture field she has learned that listening and compassion promote success in her practice. She has also learned that no matter how many tools she has to share with her patients she does not heal the patient, the patient heals herself. This philosophy has kept patients coming back to her years after they get pregnant and have their children.

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

Topics: alumni, alumni spotlight, integrative medicine

Integrative Medicine: On the Shoulders of Giants

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 @ 01:14 PM

by Joshua Saul, AOMA student

“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”

                                                                                                -Sir Isaac Newton

The path by which we travel is neither always clear nor firm and certain.  The ancient masters of medicine upon whose shoulders we stand today could never have imagined the complexity that faces us as healers of the modern world.  Thousands of years have passed and we find ourselves at the junction of traditional and contemporary, energetics or science and technology, and the decision of what to take with us.  Rather than steer our respective ships towards the bow of the other, it is important that we find mutual passage to a place that allows for the best of care to all mankind.  While some claim that the modern health care system is broken, out of touch with the individual, others may claim that Oriental medicine is antiquated, anecdotal and unscientific.  It is my opinion that each has much to learn from the other and the use of herbs and botanicals can serve to bridge the gap in forming truly integrative medicine.

The healthcare delivery system in America has experienced remarkable changes in a relatively short period of time with the development of new technologies, drugs, medical devices, tests and procedures1.   In the process of advancement, modality specialization and the pursuit of perfect care, the role of the patient as the ultimate center of focus has been lost.  The growing public sentiment of mainstream healthcare often includes a perception that the patient is rarely enrolled in the decision making process of their own treatment while profit is placed before need in an effort to balance the rising costs of insurance-driven managed care3.  More importantly, dissatisfaction of care surrounds the prevalent philosophy that “one size fits all”.  As drug therapies have become the standard of care for many conditions, patients are increasingly concerned about the harsh side-effects of synthetic pharmaceuticals engineered for a theoretical standard patient.

It is here that acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioners have the greatest advantage in bringing herbal medicine and botanicals to the developing field of integrative medicine.  For the acupuncturist, each person is seen as a unique individual, a whole entity created from the sum of his parts, influenced by lifestyle, emotion, diet, and environment.  Chinese herbal therapy draws upon a pharmacopeia of several hundred herbs allowing for the practitioner to engineer a custom-made therapy to suit the distinct needs of each patient.  Both herbal therapies and pharmaceuticals can be used to focus on the root cause of disease or its symptoms but only an herbal formula can be tailored to address each unique presentation in a clinical setting.  It is important that herbal medicine be marketed to the patient population with continual emphasis on the merits of its ability to be individually modified for each patient and continually altered as the condition in question changes. As a practicing intern, I use this approach with my own patients. Compliance improves as my patients feel empowered by individualized aspects in their plan of care, outcomes are enhanced, and health is restored more effectively.

As with any major change there are obstacles to overcome.  The most important fundamental challenge that must be addressed is the pursuit of corporate profit in the healthcare industry. Like many others, the pharmaceutical industry must walk a fine line between providing a valuable resource to the public and answering to shareholders.  Rather than threaten the bottom line as a competitor in this industry, herbal medicine must work in conjunction with pharmaceutical therapies.  In particular, conditions requiring a life-long regimen of drug therapy can benefit from the action of herbs in managing long-term side effects.  This is applicable for both chronic conditions such as reduction of inflammation in multiple sclerosis7 and acute situations such as alleviating nausea during cancer chemotherapy6. As herbal medicine proves its efficacy as a low-cost, natural option in the treatment of disease there will also be opportunities to promote its use in the prevention of disease itself.  The inclusion of herbal medicine in the practice of integrative medicine allows for primary care providers to consult and work directly with herbalists in the name of providing truly patient-centered care that offers the best aspects of both worlds.

As we look into the future of integrative medicine it is hard to see where we will go.  What we have before us is endless possibility to create a new way of caring for the ill, an opportunity to choose the very best knowledge from East and West, join together different philosophies and write a new definition for the concept of integrative medicine.  It is now our responsibility, like our fathers before, to stand upon the shoulders of giants and dare to look forward in the direction of a blindingly bright future.


    1. CDC. Healthcare in America: Trends in Utilization. Centers for Disease Control. Washington, D.C, 2004.

    1. Olsen and Whalen MD. ” Public perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry and drug safety: implications for the pharmacovigilance professional and the culture of safety.” Drug Safety (2009): 805-10.

    1. Jha, et al. “Patients’ perception of hospital care in the United States.” The New England Journal Of Medicine (2008): 1921-31.

    1. YM, Cai, et al. “Research on frequency of application with modern Chinese herbal medicine.” Chinese Journal Of Integrative Medicine (2011): 64-70.

    1. CZ, Wang, et al. ” Effects of ganoderma lucidum extract on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in a rat model.” The American Journal Of Chinese Medicine (2005): 807-15.

    1. M, Namaka, et al. ” Examining the evidence: complementary adjunctive therapies for multiple sclerosis.” Neurological Research (2008): 710-19.

    1. Hao, Xu and Yin HJ. ” Reflections on the research status of Kampo medicine: a most rewarding visit to Japan.” Chinese Journal Of Integrative Medicine (2010): 357-60.

    1. C, Hudon, et al. ” Measuring patients’ perceptions of patient-centered care: a systematic review of tools for family medicine.” Annals Of Family Medicine (2011): 155-164.

Topics: integrative medicine, healthcare system

Alumni Success: Kirsten Hurder-Karchmer, Class of 2000

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Aug 01, 2011 @ 01:25 PM

kirsten hurder karchmerKirsten Hurder-Karchmer was teaching linguistics at the University of Texas when she began having some serious auto-immune health issues.  After seeing several medical doctors and having surgery she turned to AOMA faculty member Jamie Wu for acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments.  Amazed by the results, Kirsten started looking into acupuncture as a career choice.  She recalls, “I was already a teacher and thought that to be a good doctor, it required a great deal of patient education, so it seemed like a good match for me.”

Kirsten states, “I was instantly interested in gynecology because I saw that when you regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, so many other problems are also resolved.” Upon graduation from AOMA in 2000, she was invited to help open the first women’s clinic in the AOMA professional clinic with faculty member Dongxin Ma.  In 2001 Kirsten opened her current business in Austin, the Texas Center for Reproductive Acupuncture (TCRA), where she and her team specialize in infertility, ovulation disorders, and recurrent pregnancy loss.  Success led to additional locations in San Antonio and Plano. Kirsten said, “Last year alone the clinic in Austin saw 220 patients, had 159 pregnancies and only 4 miscarriages. That is less than a 4% miscarriage rate in a risk population that should be more around 40%.”

The Austin and San Antonio clinics are fully integrated with western medical doctors, operation and recovery rooms, and technology such as ultrasound machines.  In the Austin center Kirsten and her team collaborate with reproductive embryologists and urologists to help couples create families, and with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Texas to conduct research.  Kirsten says, “We are currently conducting three large scale studies on the effects of acupuncture on in vitro fertilization (IVF), acupuncture anesthesia for oocyte retrieval or egg collection and recurrent pregnancy loss.” This research will be collected and published in the scholarly journal Fertility and Sterility in the next year or two.

Kirsten furthers her mission to change the face of health care through membership in the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, doing research and developing training at one of the most successful reproductive acupuncture clinics in North America.  She is becoming a leader and pioneer in her field of recurrent pregnancy loss. Her tip for success is, “The more I learn Western medicine the better I understand Chinese medicine.  We can pioneer a new kind of medicine, but acupuncturists have to learn as much or more, if they want to integrate, than most doctors.”

After thoroughly studying OB/GYN and reproductive embryologist medical texts, Kirsten has been able to strengthen her ability to communicate with medical doctors and overlap Eastern and Western medicine.  This deeper understanding has allowed her to build some amazing relationships with the physicians in her field.  She responds, “Now they come to us when they get stuck for a bit of voodoo opinion.” Dialogue with medical doctors has helped Kirsten to speak in layman’s terms about Chinese medicine to make it more accessible to people of all backgrounds.

In conjunction with Dr. Francisco Arredondo, Kirsten and her team plan to open the nation’s first fully integrated center for underserved women experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss. The Hope Center will open in Austin and San Antonio in 2012.

A look inside the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Program.

Topics: women's health, alumni, alumni spotlight, integrative medicine, reproductive medicine

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