AOMA Blog

Musculoskeletal Assessment & Pain Management Q&A with Dr. Yongxin Fan

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 @ 09:02 AM

Dr. Yongxin Fan is an accomplished instructor of traditional Chinese tuina. He practiced and taught as an attending medical doctor and instructor at the Acupuncture Institute at the Chinese National Academy of TCM and at the Beijing International Acupuncture Training Center. A member of AOBTA, Yongxin Fan has lectured and worked as a visiting professor in Holland, Germany, and Japan. He has more than 16 years of clinical experience and his research has been published in the National Journal of TCM.

He specializes in applying an integrated therapy consisting of acupuncture, herbs, and tuina to treat various pain syndromes, including acute and chronic articulation and muscle injury lumbago, recovery from fractures, and headaches. Such integrative treatment is a hallmark of his approach to common ailments such as stress, allergies, insomnia, and gastrointestinal disorders. Fan has been on the faculty at AOMA since 2002.

Faculty_Headshot_HiR__Fan_1

Tell us a little about your time practicing TCM before you were at AOMA.

In Beijing, I worked at China Academy of TCM's hospital, the top Chinese TCM research academy (now Academy of Chinese Medicine Science). I also worked in the Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center.

After 1970, the World Health Organization asked China to provide training for outside professionals, as there was more international demand for TCM. The Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center was one of the first three international training centers in China to train non-national acupuncturists.

In 2001, I met Dr. Wu in Beijing, and I arrived to Austin 17 years ago to teach at AOMA.

How did you first become interested in becoming a TCM practitioner?

In China, Chinese Medicine is really popular and widely used. When I was about 2 years old, I fell off a bike and hurt my arm. Chinese Medicine helped me recover. When I was 6 or 7, I got the mumps and doctors prescribed topical herbs. I remember them being smelly, but they reduced the swelling in 2 days! Even today, I remember the color and texture of the paste. It was so effective, and provided quick relief, and so I knew I wanted to learn more.

In China, we use the traditional ways first to prevent or treat small things like a common cold or sore throat, stomach aches. My kids even ask for me to pinch their throats for sore throats now.  I’m open to Western medicine of course and always work collaboratively when it is called for.

 

How have you seen TCM change in China?

TCM right now in China is completely modernized. They use modern techniques with traditional herbs and acupuncture while using information from modern research. There’s a lot of new research about acupuncture and pain, especially with new knowledge and imaging of anatomy. In class, I try to explain physiologically why the 5 shu points can treat pain and proximal issues. We have a chance to use traditional techniques to treat modern diseases.

 

What are your specialties?

As TCM practitioners, we are all trained to be general practitioners, even though I treat mostly pain. I also treat many sleep issues, GI issues, and stress related problems. Another common issues I see is infertility due to stress.

 

What kind of soft tissue problems do you see most in clinic?

Most of the time I treat pain, but you have to do a thorough examination. We learn muscular examinations in tuina class. Here in the seminar we’ll learn how to differentiate 5 tissues pain. Joint pain is very complex.

Low back pain presents with lipomas. Fascia - people have started to understand it, but it’s still a mystery to most people. We know when we work on it it works.  

Finger joint pain. Factors that cause the pain are really important to know. Muscular, facia, nerve, bursa, ligaments.

 

Do you use herbs topically? What are your favorite ones we carry in the herb store?

I use the foot soak herbal combination we sell at White Crane for soft tissue damage and joint pain. It's a classical formula and patients find it to be very effective. We even have an AOMA alumna who has made it as a tincture/spray and has had some great results. 

I use jin gu shui, white flower oil, and other tinctures often as well. 

 

You are known as an effective but intense practitioner! What size needles do you usually use for soft tissue injuries? 

Most of the time I use 0.18 x 30 or 0.18 x 40. I used to be more aggressive in my treatments but have mellowed out in the 17 years since I arrived.

 

How do you prepare patients if you know they will be sensitive to the treatment or if it is their first time getting acupuncture?

I try to only use 6-10 needles for people who are nervous. If you have a diversity of tools you can use to treat, you don’t have to use as many needles.

You have to tell patients when they need to come back to feel better. You need to explain how you understand the pain and what your plan is. I try to tell them what I think. People like to know how long recovery will take. Tell patients what your past experience is treating their condition and give them a treatment window instead of a fixed amount of visits (ex: 4-6 visits). They want to know that you are confident that you can treat the pain, and that they will continue to improve. 

 

Do you work with any General Practitioners who refer patients to you regularly? 

We receive referrals from western doctors but usually just to the clinic. They come to see us because their GP told them to try. I’m glad to see that there are more and more doctors who are open to TCM. Because it works!

Recently I saw a patient with pain on his feet for 7 years - constant numbness and pain. He saw many doctors and specialists and tried many things. He had to wear a pad under the foot to relieve the pain. Acupuncture helped relieve his pain so he could sleep after the very first visit. It is patients like him that go back to their GP and advocate for acupuncture who help spread the word. 

 

How will your upcoming training help students and practitioners in clinic? 

We see a lot of soft tissue pathologies in clinic. The key to treating patients effectively is to diagnose the mechanism and where the pain originates from. It is muscular, nerve damage, or will working on the fascia or ligaments help?

My goal is to use TCM to treat soft tissue injury under the understanding of how anatomy has changed with pain. By introducing this technique to students, they will have more tools to improve their practice and patients’ outcomes.

In the class I will explain the different symptoms of these different tissues so you can diagnose effectively. We’re going to talk about how soft tissue damage affects pain and how we treat different kinds. We try to use traditional techniques and make them better and better to treat pain.

We will also go over the tools and techniques to use for each different indication (filiform needles, cupping, gua sha, bloodletting). Frozen shoulder, heel pain, or tendonitis are hard to treat with needles alone. You might help 80% of people with pain relief immediately, but for the remainder, you might need to incorporate different tools.

Although I do use them, the class won’t focus on topical herbs due to time.

 

Do you have any mentors in China or teachers you most look up to? How did they influence your career?

In China, most new practitioners, you have older doctor and senior doctors as mentors for several years until they are ready to advance themselves. They lead you and help you to practice and then you have to find your way.

For acupuncture, you always have to study on your own to make your own way. It can be from older teachers, books, lectures. It is important to keep learning.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice to students at AOMA and acupuncture practitioners who are just starting?

You need to really focus on foundations - they are so important! Most famous practitioners have a better outcome because they really understand their foundations.

When I was in school, my professors always told me that, and eventually I found that it was true. I tried to find magic techniques for a long time, but my biggest takeaway is that there is no magic technique and you can't take any shortcuts. You just have to put in the work.

 

Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness, Dr. Fan! We really look forward to learning more at your seminar in the fall.  

Topics: faculty spotlight, AOMA clinic, stress management, acupuncture, chinese medicine, tcm education, acupunture, pain management

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.


 
 
 
 
 
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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.

 
 
 
 
 
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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

A Shiatsu Q&A with Billy Zachary, MSOM, LAc

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Sat, Jun 29, 2019 @ 04:00 AM

Faculty_Headshot_HiR_BillyZacharyBilly Zachary is a licensed acupuncturist with over ten years of experience working as a professional practitioner. Since earning his master’s degree from AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in 2004, he has completed extensive training in the Hakomi method of mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy. He maintains an active clinical practice in Austin, Texas where he specializes in the use of acupuncture & herbal medicine in the treatment of emotional trauma.

In his previous life, he trained and taught Kuk Sool Won, a traditional Korean martial art that emphasizes mindfulness, meditation, joint locking and pressure points, though he currently practices and volunteers at Aikido of Austin. His first forays into East Asian medicine was in Shiatsu.


How did you get started as a Shiatsu practitioner? Any favorite instructors that you follow? 
 
Pam Ferguson was my Shiatsu teacher, and feel lucky to say that I was mentored by Jaime Wu while I was in school. Both practice with a clarity of focus that shines through in their treatments and teaching, matched only by their kindness and goodwill.   

Shiatsu is like one part bodywork, one part qi gong.  As the practitioner treats the patient, they work on their own qi. Practiced correctly, at the end of a session you should feel refreshed, and relaxed. 
 
This work helped me get through the program when I was an acupuncture student (back in the days of  dialup, pagers and dinosaurs). It is the work I can turn to if I am burned out, exhausted, or not feeling at my best. 
 

Can you describe how Shiatsu is different from other types of bodywork?

It uses the meridian system, and is very compatible with the diagnostic thinking we use with acupuncture.  It give the practitioner the opportunity to treat and diagnosis through touch, and adjust their treatments accordingly. 

Are there various types within the broader style of Shiatsu? Which form do you practice?

There are a bunch of kinds. I teach Zen Shiatsu. Superficially, it looks like acupressure with the stretches from Thai Yoga massage. 

What kind of patients do you feel it works best on? Do you often combine it with acupuncture or do either/or? Is your pricing structure typically more if you do bodywork?

All kinds! And it can integrate with acupuncture, at all levels. It can be part of your diagnosis, part of warming up, or part of finishing. Or a smidge of acupuncture can be used along a full Shiatsu treatment.

I do charge more for Shiatsu time, because I cannot treat in two rooms at once.

 

How do you get certified as a practitioner? Is it through AOBTA? How do students get clinical hours as of now?

You have to complete AOBTA's requirements, just as you would with Tuina.  Most of those are already taken care of by your acupuncture training.  I believe students need to have the appropriate hours of Shiatsu class, and then hours logged in clinic. Anyone can arrange to do a Shiatsu clinic when I am on campus supervising a clinic. 

 

How long have you taught Shiatsu?

I'm new at teaching this, but I have taught martial arts for a long time (think VHS and new homes were still under $90k). The method of teaching both draws from many of the same skills.  As I continue to teach, I am fortunate to have my teacher in town, who I go to mentorship and guidance.  

Are there any videos or books you recommend for students to get a sense of what you teach on campus? I looked up Shiatsu on youtube and found this video. Please tell me we'll learn this.

That looks fun! It would be interesting to see how that method works with a patient larger than yourself, with cervical issues! So, that is not quite what I teach. 

Here is a video, low quality and old, by the founder of Zen Shiatsu. The focus is on what is happening at the point of contact, and past it, and forgoes the acrobatics for focus and meditation.  

In terms of reading, I recommend Shiatsu Theory and Practice

 

Thank you so much for your time Billy! Shiatsu 1 is offered this coming summer term for AOMA Students. 

Topics: asian bodywork therapy, tcm education, musculoskeletal health, preventative medicine, pain management, shiatsu, AOBTA

Battlefield Acupuncture - Q&A with John Howard, LAc., Dipl. Ac

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Sun, Jun 16, 2019 @ 03:02 AM

John Howard is a licensed acupuncturist who started his career in Western medicine. He trained & served with the U.S. Marine Corps, as a Combat Medic & a certified EMT.

JohnforAcufinder

He was chosen to attend the Army's Delta Special Operations School of Medicine to become a Corpsman and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences where he trained in field surgical techniques. At George Washington Univ. Hospital he worked as an ER Trauma Technician.and as an Asst. Adjunct Professor of Emergency Medicine teaching medical students minor trauma and suturing techniques. John Howard then completed his degree in acupuncture from the Maryland Institute of Traditional Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland in 2004, and is nationally certified by NCCAOM.

After completing his degree, Prof Howard did a five-year fellowship with the US military under the direction of Dr. Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD. It included working with Wounded Warriors only days removed from the battlefield.

John has gone on to create protocols for PTSD used worldwide and lactation that has become a staple method used to increase lactation production in a nationally acclaimed hospital. John maintains a private practice in Germantown, Maryland specializing in pain management, musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, sports medicine and sports related injuries. John travels around the world to bring his teachings to acupuncturists nationally and internationally. He has also authored nine books and 25 articles on both Acupuncture & Auriculotherapy.



John, have you always wanted to work in medicine?

One of the first things I wanted to do was practice acupuncture. In 1990, my senior year in high school, I went out for a long run. I returned home much later than I expected and before I went to bed, I laid on my living room floor to cool down. While I was doing this, I watched a TV show on acupuncture. The show was filmed in China and they were using acupuncture for anesthesia while they performed open heart surgery on a patient. At that point I wasn't sure if what they were doing was magic or medicine, but I knew I wanted to be part of that.

Next morning when I woke, I approached my mother and told her my plan to study acupuncture. I thought she would be happy and excited because at that time I planned to become professional runner and live in the basement for the next 30 years. When I told her, she looked at me and said, “You don't even look Chinese. Eating Chinese food doesn't qualify you. Are you nuts? Please don't tell your stepfather because he'll think we're both doing drugs.” 


How did your time in the military shape you as an acupuncturist? What are unique challenges and benefits of working for the military? 

Dr. Frank Yurasek Ph.D., L. Ac and myself heading back into the PAU to observe acupunctureIt helped me out tremendously and plays a major role in how I practice acupuncture, even today. I was a Navy Corpsman who was selected for the US Army’s elite 18 Delta School for Medics. I dealt with a lot of pain in the military and a large part of my practice is dedicated to treating pain.

 

Malcolm Grove Hospital on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland

There are many benefits to working with the military. One of those is that acupuncture is part of standard care, meaning if you want narcotics you also have to receive acupuncture, or you will not get any narcotics. Another benefit is using acupuncture in medical departments on base that are not used in their civilian counterparts. For example, when I was at Bethesda Naval Hospital some years ago, we would use acupuncture in the PAU (post anesthesia unit). These surgical patients might receive acupuncture prior to surgery or just after surgery. You don't find many hospitals using acupuncture in surgery or in the PAU. This was a unique opportunity to be a part of and witness firsthand.


Were you familiar with NADA before your fellowship with Dr. Richard Niemtzow? What differentiates Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) to NADA? Is there any overlap? 

They have some things in common, they are both auriculotherapy protocols. Each protocol has five ear points, though with BFA I hardly ever have to use more than a total of 3 to 5 needles, whereas with NADA you always use 10 needles. With BFA you stop when the patient reaches the desired pain level. NADA and the BFA protocols use different needles. Also, the BFA protocol will use a combination of gold, stainless steel and titanium needles to achieve the ultimate desired level of decreased pain.

 

Do you prefer one protocol over the other? 

It depends on the purpose of the treatment. For example, I do prefer to use the NADA protocol if my patient is already off narcotics and experiencing no pain other than withdrawal symptoms. If my patient is still on narcotics or being weaned off narcotics and still has pain, then I use the BFA protocol. With BFA, the needles will stay in from 3 to 5 days. In France where the BFA needles are made, professionals will leave the needles in for upwards of 40 days. Here we think 3 to 5 days is enough to get the desired outcome.

Over the years working with disabled combat vets I found a good mix of using NADA and BFA simultaneously. This is mostly for patients who have mild to severe hyper vigilance. Sometimes using BFA needles will over stimulate these patients. I found that if I combined both protocols it balances them out. This is done by inserting filiform needles for the BFA points on the patient’s dominant side and the NADA protocol points on the patient’s non-dominant side.


I’ve read a pretty nasty article on Forbes about BFA, from 2011. Has that attitude towards alternative medicine changed at all in the past 8 years in your opinion?

First, I think that was a great opportunity to advanced BFA and acupuncture in general. Forbes magazine is a very large magazine there's a lot of subscriptions and some clout.

The article that you were referring to was written by Stephen Barrett who in 1993 was forced to give up his medical license in Pennsylvania. It is common knowledge that Stephen Barrett has been Officially Declared by the US Court System, in a published Appeals Court Decision (NCAHF v King Bio), to be "biased, and unworthy of credibility." Officially - nothing he says can be legally relied upon. The Psychiatric profession rejected Barrett; he could not pass the examinations necessary to become Board Certified.

I believe that article did more good than bad to advance the reputation of BFA. 


Have you seen any changes in interactions you have in clinic with your patients or demographics since we have nationally focused on the opioid crisis?

You might have thought I would have said yes, but here in Maryland, those who prescribe opioids have been ahead of this trend for some time now. Though I still have patients who have scripts for opioids, most are taking them on a PRN basis and others are off them completely.

I’m not seeing the abuse that other parts of the country are experiencing. Perhaps it’s because acupuncture is more accessible and accepted in the Washington, DC Metro area. Most insurance companies in the area have some form of acupuncture coverage (and pay very well), so maybe this is why I don’t see what the rest of the United States is seeing.


Do you work alongside GP for the most part? 

I'm at Walter Reed Army hospital as a volunteer where they have three different departments in the hospital that use BFA, acupuncture and homeopathy. I work alongside Dr. Steve Sharp, a pediatric neurology doctor in charge of one of the acupuncture departments. He is also a retired Air Force Colonel.

I also worked in a chiropractic office for 8 years and they would send patients to me for treatment and vice versa. I currently get referrals from local medical doctors to do acupuncture treatments on their patients. In addition, I have treated referral patients from the DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE (I live in Germantown, MD).

 

Acupuncture, of course, is only one part of the puzzle when treating patients with PTSD. How do you work to get them connected to the care and community they need?

Currently and throughout my whole career as an acupuncturist all the patients I have treated with PTSD and even depression have been under the care of the proper medical professional. If I ever get a patient who has one of these conditions and is not seeing a professional in the field of psychiatric medicine, I have physician friends who are psychiatrists they can reach out to. It's paramount that all of these patients be under the care of the proper medical professional. If they currently are not under the care of the proper medical professionals, I would try to convince them to go to one. If I couldn't, I would not treat them with acupuncture. I currently work with and mentor disabled combat vets who have severe PTSD and all of them see their psychiatrist on a regular basis.

A few of the disabled combat vets I worked with that have PTSD. These guys are allowed in some cases to use BFA on themselves or have their wives treat them (not my rule, nor my doing). Some of them will use BFA on their caregivers to treat their pain (again, not my doing). When the wives become pain free or have very little pain, the disabled vets tell me that they feel good about themselves once again. One guy told me when he treats his wife with BFA he feels like a functional member of society again. He went on to say that the treatments he gives his wife is a big part of his therapy.

 

What has surprised you most about this career? 

Many things! For instance, I was surprised and grateful on how generous my teachers and mentors have been with their time and knowledge. In keeping with the spirit of my teachers and mentors, I to emulate them by doing the same to those who would like my time or more knowledge.

One thing that has surprised me recently is how fast some people and institutions are becoming accepting of acupuncture. I always thought that in time they would see the benefit, but not as fast as they have. These include military units, a world-renowned University teaching hospital, Indian reservations, the VA and regional health care providers for one of the biggest providers of health care in the United States other than the military.

On a not so positive note, what surprises me is the lack of training through fellowships and apprenticeships after you graduate acupuncture school. I hope to one day be able to offer anybody the opportunities that I had when I spent 5 years learning from the US military.

Coming from a Western medicine background I would prescribe some of the most powerful drugs on this planet. I was quite confident that these drugs would work all the time and very quickly. This wasn't the case every time and that would frustrate me. Now some of the acupuncture protocols I use work quicker than those drugs and last longer with no side effects. I'm surprised that more hospitals and clinics don't see what I saw when I practiced in Western medicine. I think what really surprises me is how inexpensive acupuncture is compared to Western pharmacological therapies and why these institutions are not quicker to acupuncture as an adjunct or substitute.

 

Do you have any advice for students who want to work in an emergency response capacity? Do you have any recommended links/reading/research on organizations for those who may be interested?

I do know that BFA has been used in Australia on national ambulance services. About 2 years ago I was contacted to help train medical doctors at a large medical school in Southern California who wanted to do a research project on using BFA for compound femur fractures. Some large teaching hospitals are interested in using BFA in their emergency rooms. Cook County Hospital in Chicago, one of the largest hospitals in the US, is one of those institutions that have contacted me to help them implement BFA into their Emergency Department protocols. On my website I have a list of articles for research on BFA. For those who want to do more research, you can also look up BFA at PubMed. 


Any advice to students regarding trauma-informed care? 

Patients' piercings and tattoos will tell you a story they cannot or are not willing to share with you or anyone else at the time. That’s right - you can somewhat diagnose your patients by observing their piercings and tattoos. You might be surprised how much you know about a patient and not even know it. In my basic BFA class I will go over these clinical clues and signs.


Have you ever suffered from burnout, and how did you take care of yourself?

No, I have never had an issue with that. I have patients I treated that I could not wait till they regained their health back. These patients would eat up my time and I would fall behind on other of my patients. The other patients would get upset with me for running late but understood. The BFA fixed that problem.

With using BFA I can treat up to 10 patients per hour. Their pain level could be 7, 8 or even 9 out of 10 on a pain scale from 0-10. Within minutes most, if not all, of their pain is reduced to zero or to a comfortable level for them. I feel that getting their pain reduced to between 0 and 3 out of 10 on the pain scale is a good objective.

I don’t advise completely eliminating pain for most patients and endurance athletes. I had a runner that I treated and told him to take it easy. The next day I saw him doing a long run because I had eliminated all his pain. He was testing the limits which can result in additional injury. You do not want this to happen, so in a case like this, I would reduce the pain but not eliminate it to remind the patient to take it easy since the pain and cause of the pain are still there.

 

What the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from a mentor? 

Wow, I'm sure I can write a book on all the great advice and clinical pearls I received over the years from my mentors. All the knowledge they’ve given to me can be summed up as always be positive and choose positive words with your patients.

I will offer a simple clinical pearl that you can apply in your clinic as soon as you read it. We all do this in our clinics, but I am going to give you a positive way to say this. When you do, watch your patient’s face and demeanor change on the spot. When a patient come into our clinics for the first time, we need some basic information about them, like their name, their age and chief complaint. When I ask their age, I look them in eye and ask, “How young are you?”  Try this and see how well your results are compared to the last new patient you just saw if you ask them how old they are.


What will participants learn in your upcoming CE opportunity at AOMA?  

I will teach one of the strongest if not the strongest protocol to reduce both acute and chronic pain in a long-lasting way. You will learn how to unite auriculotherapy and acupuncture in a synergetic way to help their patients achieve their objectives.

I'll discuss the history of BFA, auriculotherapy and acupuncture. Most individuals don’t know that acupuncture has been used in the US since (at least) 1773.

We will also go over an in-depth understanding of the principles of auriculotherapy to help each student succeed in clinical practice. By the end of the seminar students will be able to diagnosis basic pathological conditions just by observing their patients’ ears. BFA has the ability to change your practice and your patients’ lives.

Each student will receive a gift bag from our sponsors (Lhasa OMS, Boston MA and Sedatelec of Lyon, France) with a mix of different kinds of needles to use and practice with throughout the seminar. The BFA protocol uses semi-permanent needles known as ASP ear needles. And of course, participants will receive 16 NCCAOM PDAs and California Acupuncture Board CEUs if applicable.

 

Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness, John! We really look forward to hosting your seminar here at AOMA in July.  

Topics: NADA, tcm education, acupunture, pain management, medical volunteer, battlefield acupuncture

Alumni Spotlight: Rachelle Lambert, LAc, 2009 AOMA Graduate

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Sat, May 18, 2019 @ 01:02 AM

Rachelle Lambert, LAc is the owner and founder of RA Harmony Asian Medicine.  She is also the Unit Coordinator and Research Team Lead for the Colorado Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps.

What was your education and experience prior to AOMA?Rachelle 2-1

I joined the 4 year MAOM program at AOMA in 2005. Pursuing acupuncture and Chinese herbs is the first career path in my life. I completed my graduation requirements for high school on the memorable date of September 11th, 2001. After high school I attended Austin Community College to receive the perquisites needed to join AOMA.

Tell us about your journey to AOMA, what led you to Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

I was born and raised in Austin, TX. My entire life I wanted to be an archaeologist, but one day I had some friends talk about acupuncture treatments at a local acupuncture college (AOMA) and it dawned on me that was the career path I was meant to pursue. Of course, once I started internship during the program it was super rewarding to use ancient medicine to help people feel better. Even though I never became an archaeologist, becoming an acupuncturist allowed me plenty of opportunities to enjoy archaeology!

What did you learn at AOMA that you use everyday in The Real World?

The training I received at AOMA is invaluable. Patients in Colorado tell me all the time how unique and comprehensive my training is. Working in the field I find it valuable to have skills in various styles of acupuncture, pulse diagnosis, and having knowledge of scalp and auricular acupuncture.

In everyday life, I forget to practice my qi gong and tai chi on a regular basis, but when I am in the field of emergency management I use it everyday. It helps me stay my best for the people I am supporting. When I am at FEMA training at the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland, often times the class has had me guide the class in tai chi warm-ups and qi gong meditation exercises. Everyone wants to learn it when they see me doing it, and I find it hysterical that I am teaching mind-body techniques to groups of emergency managers at FEMA. It helps to remind them to take time for self-care. And during my deployment to Puerto Rico this was a great tool to teach the community to support their resilience.

Your work in emergency response is outstanding, how did you get involved in this work?

I have always dreamed of offering acupuncture to global communities did not have the opportunity to experience acupuncture. I feel my love of emergency management started during my time working on cruise ships as an acupuncturist where I learned extensively about the US Coast Guard laws and regulations. They are thorough and very strict the procedures intended to save lives. No matter your position, as a ship crew member you are required to train and drill weekly so all hands-on deck would be available during an emergency. As an acupuncturist, I learned how to fight fires with a fire hose, close water tight doors, stabilize frantic passengers, lower life boats and jump down a chute into a life boat, and help pull others from the sea into a lifeboat, to ensure survival. It was incredible to me that regardless of your background anyone can be trained to make a difference and save lives. In addition, I learned the valuable skill of speaking/communicating in a way that even non-English speakers can understand.

What would you like everyone to know about you, your interests, passions, hobbies, etc?

Since I was 3 years old, I have practiced origami and it became a valuable skill during deployment to support both Hurricane Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. Knowing qi gong and tai chi also became valuable. These tools have saved my body and mind during all of my emergency deployments both domestic and international. They stabilize me as an emergency responder and allow me the chance to re-boot and remain 100% so I can be my best for the communities I support. They also are skills easily taught to others, providing them the ability to cope with extremely stressful situations.


Rachelle 2

Please share anything else you would like about yourself and your work.

I moved to Colorado in 2014 during the first year of creation of the Colorado Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps. Today if you want to be integrated into a disaster response in a professional way, a responder must be trained in Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System(NIMS) to speak a common language and offer a structure for response that is evidence based.

Captain Rob Tossato created the Medical Response Corps (MRC) program to vet and train volunteers before a disaster occurs. This includes; verifying credentials, background checks, and ensuring a smooth system to organize volunteers and ensure safety for everyone involved. This reduces the chaos that comes with disaster situations. With the Medical Reserve Corps, program volunteers have the opportunity to train and drill with a team, are included in networking opportunities and exercises with many agencies involved in emergency response, practice skills ahead of time, establish critical relationships, allow for official request for deployment, and participate in healthcare coalitions.

I became the volunteer leader of the Colorado Acupuncture MRC in 2016 and have worked hard with my team to create buy-in from the leaders of all national MRC teams. We have led by example, and our work recognized and published. We authored the Acupuncture Mission Ready Package, and created the first pilot research study exploring the feasibility and acceptability of acupuncture in emergency management (funded by a grant I authored with the National Association of City and County Health Officials).

For the last three years, the work we have done has created buy-in with many leaders throughout the nation and allowed acupuncturists to join these teams on a nation-wide scale for the first time. My goal is to make our profession a paid deployable position with FEMA. I plan to infiltrate the system and continue extensive training to continue in my second career as an emergency manager with FEMA.

What agencies do you work with? Is it typically a paid contractor gig or volunteer work? 

The first thing I want to express with the acupuncture profession as a whole is that this is volunteer work. We need to spearhead the movement of volunteer culture in the acupuncture profession, as I see it flowing in other healthcare professions. It is hard work, but so rewarding, and someone has to do it. As far as I know there are no paid acupuncture positions in the world of emergency management... yet! We have to start somewhere and volunteering to get the resource out there in the world is the best way to educate the global population in this valuable resource.

Remember, the acupuncture profession just got an occupational code, we have just started our work in national and global recognition. So far the VA is the only organization I know of that pays acupuncturists as part of government.

In my personal opinion, we can make a huge influence by joining federal and state approved teams. Remember: infiltrate the system! These teams are the most influential during an emergency response, they are the ones who are officially requested, and they follow guidelines of preventing self-deployment (meaning you don't show up to a disaster unless you are called upon by an authority). 

Which organizations do you recommend students look into if they are thinking of doing this kind of work?

If considering this line of work in your future, please stay professional and understand the world of emergency management - never show up to an incident unless you have been officially requested (this is known as self-deploying and can be damaging to trust in the acupuncture profession). There are so many things happening in an emergency, it is not the time to start your education and networking as an acupuncturist. People coordinating the disaster have lives to save, and are going through a lot of stress themselves.

The best time to do your networking and education on the resource is when a disaster is not happening. Make your connections and build your teams ahead of time. You can make a lot of influence if you can participate in drills, have networking events such as provide treatments to fire departments, public health departments, offices of emergency management, and participate in local healthcare coalitions. If you know a person ahead of time, you trust them, and you know what they are capable of doing, you will be called into the field during a disaster and make the most influence.

Teams I have found as a good place to start would be the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Team Rubicon, and the American Red Cross. I am currently a registered volunteer with the Colorado Acupuncture MRC, Colorado STAR MRC, MRC of Puerto Rico, Team Rubicon, and the American Red Cross.

When were you last called to serve as an acupuncturist? How long did you stay for?

First of all, I volunteer throughout the year. My work is either in deployment or non-deployment times. For example, once a month I lead a team to offer treatments at the Nederland Fire Station, and once a month I lead a team to offer treatments at the Four Mile Canyon Fire Station. I made these relationships during deployments when I was called to respond, as well as making relationships during FEMA training. I have been supporting these teams for three years now. In April I lead a team to participate during a functional exercise and drill with the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center, and that was a half-day exercise.

My last deployment was a half-day deployment during the Sunshine Canyon Fire response in 2017, but they were able to manage the disaster fairly quickly so it was a short deployment. The most memorable experience and longest time I was deployed as an acupuncturist was during the Cold Springs Fire in 2016. The response phase was 10 days long, then we transitioned into the recovery phase which lasted for several months. During the response phase I sent teams to the firefighters basecamp, the emergency operations center coordinating the boots on the ground, and the incident command post with the incident command staff.

What is your most memorable experience as an EMR Acupuncturist?

In 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria rocked our nation. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) requested a disaster behavioral health team to deploy to Puerto Rico. To our knowledge, this was the first time a behavioral health team was requested through this system (and does not mean this is the last).

The State of Colorado won the bid to provide this team and the request came through for volunteers with our state volunteer registry for people who spoke some level of Spanish and were trained/certified in Psychological First Aid. Due to the fact I trained ahead of time, was a registered volunteer with Colorado, and was trained in disaster response, I made the team. My travel, meals, and accommodations were all paid for, and I was paid acupuncturist wages for every hour I worked. This is the first time I have ever been paid to be part of a deployment.

The deployment was for three weeks and we supported local behavioral health teams in Puerto Rico. Our mission was psychological first aid, and we traveled to about 30 refugios (shelters) to provide assistance in healing and emotional recovery. Even though our mission was not to provide acupuncture, I was able to share my skills as an acupuncturist and provide the local community group Qi Gong exercises, Tai Ji stretching, and share different acupressure points and lifestyle choices that can support resilience and recovery. At the end of the day I provided acupuncture treatments to my team keeping them at their best, as well as several branches of the military, FEMA, and other supporting agencies we housed with.

This deployment helped me create new partnerships, and I have since worked on a year-long project partnering with the Medical Reserve Corps of Puerto Rico to train their unit in ways they can use the acupuncture resource. I joined the unit as a volunteer, so next time a disaster occurs, the team not only has ways to use immediately use acupuncture through the Acupuncture Mission Ready Package Training, but now I have a chance to support the team and offer acupuncture to Puerto Ricans.

Do you qualify for any loan forgiveness benefits as a corps member (asking for a friend)?  

Since this is only volunteer work, and not a salary based position, there are no loan forgiveness benefits with the Medical Reserve Corps. In order to qualify for loan forgiveness you must have 50% or more of your salary coming from a government organization or 501c3 for 10 years. That is why we need to create a movement in the acupuncture profession to volunteer, you have to start the work somewhere.

My hopes are that we can create paid positions in emergency response. It is all about the experience you have and not your educational training. Those with real-life experience in deployments will be considered higher up for the interview process and will be the first considered for those paid positions. My biggest suggestion is to get your experience now so when paid opportunities do come around then you can have a better chance on nabbing one of those positions.

For those interested in loan forgiveness I would suggest becoming employed with a 501c3 or with the VA as an acupuncturist.

Do you have your own practice or work for another clinic? If so, how do you balance emergency response work with your regular clinic patients?

It all depends on how busy your practice is and how many hours you can volunteer. When I first moved to Colorado and was growing my practice I had the time to donate 10-25 hours a week to be in a leadership position. Now that my practice has grown and I am seeking employment as an emergency manager, I have stepped down from a leadership role and volunteer about 4 hours twice a month.

My patients know my passion to volunteer and participate in deployments so when an emergency does occur they are understanding when I call to reschedule them so I can close my practice for a day or more and help out the local community. My patients love the fact I do this work, and volunteering has even helped my practice grow. They know that supporting me financially allows me the chance to volunteer and indirectly supports the community. 

What opportunities does your upcoming training at AOMA open up for participants?

This training will provide the basics you need to join many federally and state approved teams, such as the Medical Reserve Corps and Team Rubicon. Every team is different and training requirements may differ, but with my work in creating and growing the Acupuncture Mission Ready Package every class participant will have skills on how to modify the acupuncture resource in your specific community and your unit needs.

We will also train everyone with basic FEMA required training, such as ICS 100 and 700. We will also have an introduction to psychological first aid so people can have an understanding on how to use this in the field and in their practice, and I will guide everyone on how to get their certification.

We will talk about local volunteer opportunities, such as joining the University of Texas at Austin Medical Reserve Corps and the Williamson County Medical Reserve Corps. In addition, I will be talking in detail about the pilot study in which I was the principal investigator, partnered with the University of Colorado at Boulder Psychology department, and funded by a grant with the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO). Information provided about this pilot study can be used to help you with education and networking with the the acupuncture resource as a volunteer.

Any advice to students in school right now and students about to graduate?

Start training now! Start volunteering now! The more experience you have in the world of disasters and emergency management the more it will benefit you personally, benefit your practice, and benefit your local and global community. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available right now, and so many rewarding ways in which you can volunteer even if you don't use needles. Remember, acupuncture is just one tool in the fast world of Traditional Chinese Medicine. We have to start somewhere, help me grow the movement on volunteering in the acupuncture profession!

 

Thank you so much for your time and all the work you do, Rachelle! Here are some links for those interested in learning more about Medical Response Teams:

Medical Reserve Corps

Team Rubicon Disaster Response

The American Red Cross

FEMA training Materials

About Psychological First Aid

 

Don't forget to check out our upcoming CEU and training opportunity with Rachelle:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/acupuncture-emergency-response-and-medical-reserve-corps-volunteer-training-tickets-58664871209

 

Topics: alumni, alumni spotlight, masters program, grad school, aoma, tcm education, acupunture, disaster relief, medical volunteer

Faculty Spotlight: Nelson Song Luo, PhD, MD (China), LAc

Posted by Mary Faria, PhD, FACHE on Mon, Apr 29, 2019 @ 12:14 PM

Nelson Song LuoNelson Song Luo, PhD, MD (China), LAc is a neurologist with a focus on the treatment of
stroke and other chronic degenerative disorders. He was recognized by China as “Excellent Doctor,” an honor bestowed on only 10 of the 2,000 doctors in Provincial People’s Hospital in Chengdu, China. His international teaching circuit includes more than fifteen countries.

Please tell us about your history before joining AOMA.
I graduated from one of the most ancient Chinese medicine universities in China, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. After graduation, I served Sichuan State Hospital & Sichuan Provincial Academy of Medical Science for more than 12 years. In the hospital, I enjoyed greatly the weekly Friday afternoon case discussions in the national neurological center. I called it “Friday Afternoon Brainstorm” since there were many rare and complicated neurological cases from remote rural areas or other cities. Many experienced senior neurologists were invited to lead the case discussions. I was invited to serve patients in the neurological ICU. This was why I could successfully serve the patients in the ICU of Seton Medical Center here in Austin. While at the Sichuan hospital, I was called “stair-climber doctor” since I went upstairs and downstairs every day to serve patients throughout the hospital. No wonder I could not find enough time for lunch since there were 4000 beds in this hospital. During those 12 years, I served thousands of patients in various departments including neurological, cardiac, digestive, respiratory, endocrine, orthopedic, neurosurgical departments, ER, ICU, etc. I was awarded the title “Excellent Doctor,” an honor bestowed on only 10 of the 2000 doctors in this hospital.


I know you’ve been working on your Master’s degree in Public Health from John Hopkins, please share a bit about that experience.
Since I have a full-time job at AOMA, I have to say that earning the MPH (Master’s in Public Health) at Johns Hopkins University at the same time is very challenging. I really appreciate AOMA’s support during my study. AOMA faculty members took very good care of my classes and clinics when I needed their help last June. The program has been very intense, but the good news is that I have done well! My efforts, many sleepless nights studying, have been rewarded. I feel I’ve gained much deeper learning on clinical diseases, research methods, clinical trial design, and qualified paper requirement, etc. Moreover, as a clinic doctor, I have learned how to better interact between clinical work and research. It has been an honor to work and learn with talented clinicians and researchers from all over the world. As an instructor, I shared many related important contents from Johns Hopkins to AOMA master and doctoral students. I also tried to modify my teaching based on what I have learned so far.

I know you have a specialty in Neurology, what led you to that specialty?
When I was studying in Chengdu, I selected a neurology course out of curiosity. I was scared to do that since the lead professor was Yongyi Li, a very respected expert in neurology with a reputation of treating students rigorously. To my surprise, I was graded 98 out of 100 in the final exam which was the highest grade ever in that class. It was professor Li’s encouragement that inspired my interest in neurology. After graduation, I served at Sichuan State Hospital & Sichuan Provincial Academy of Medical Science for more than 12 years. There is a national neurological center in this hospital where I learned a lot and treated a large number of patients with neurological diseases. I knew this work would make a difference in many lives. A few years later my father had an encounter with one of my stroke patients. The man’s story and gratitude for my work brought tears to my father’s eyes as he shared the story. This was so touching and reassured me about choosing Neurology.

Please share anything else you’d like us to know about you; why you enjoy what you do, your family, your hobbies, etc.
My family: My great grandfather, aunt, and uncle are all physicians in China. When I was little, an anxious middle-aged male knocked at the door in the middle of night. He was hesitant to ask my great grandfather to help his seriously ill wife at home. In this extremely cold winter, my 90-year old great grandfather grabbed his medical equipment and followed the man without any hesitation. The image of my great grandfather, which disappeared slowly in the dark, will always linger in my mind. In my heart, I was born to save patients’ lives, and pass the love from my great grandfather to the future.

Hobbies and Leisure:
I love the outdoors. I’m very passionate about playing soccer and jogging outdoors in a natural park, along a pavilion, and near a lake. I enjoy breathing the fresh air and hearing the melody of birds. I enjoy holding parties, making dumplings and sharing stories with my neighbors, students, and friends. I still remember the time my students and I made more than 400 dumplings at one of my dumpling parties!

Topics: faculty spotlight, AOMA clinic, graduate school, china, aoma, tcm health, tcm education

Reagan Taylor, AOMA Master's Graduate and DAOM Student

Posted by Brian Becker on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 @ 11:59 AM

 

Please introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where did you go to undergraduate?  What did you study?

My name is Reagan Taylor, and I am from Austin, TX. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was actually grown up, but once I discovered how intriguing acupuncture and Chinese medicine I never turned back. In my research to find a good school, I didn’t need to look any farther than my hometown…I heard that AOMA had a great program with higher educational standards than other schools throughout the country.  I familiarized myself with the requirements for admission and studied AOMA’s curriculum. From there, I focused my studies at Austin Community College in biology, health sciences, sociology, and psychology to prepare me for patient care.

What were you doing before you came to AOMA?

I lived in Oregon for several years learning how to blow soft glass; making vases, sculptures, paper weights.  While I was having fun, I didn’t feel like I was really serving a purpReagan Taylorose. I moved back to Austin and began work at a wonderful organization, The Marbridge Foundation, which is a residential care facility for adults with intellectual disabilities.  I worked there full-time before starting AOMA master’s program.  I stayed on as a part-time employee all throughout my time at AOMA, and left Marbridge all together about a year ago. It was a wonderful place to work and my experiences there instilled in me patience, communication skills, and stress management skills for myself as well as for patients.

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

What kind of trick question is this?!?  There is no way I can really choose a favorite instructor from AOMA because they are all wonderful in their own way.  As a current doctoral student, I recently took the Neurology class with Dr. Amy Moll because I have a special interest in neurological systems and disorders. Dr. Moll is an exceptional educator with incredible knowledge of functional neurology and ways to treat disorders with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

How would you describe the Student Culture at AOMA?

Personally, I have found the student culture at AOMA to be very welcoming and warm.  During my time as a master’s student, and now as a doctoral candidate, I have found a lot of support amongst my cohorts.  Friends I made as a master’s student are still some of my closest friends and biggest supporters.  Students always seem to be finding ways to lift each other up, whether it’s forming a study group or carving out much needed time for fun or relaxation.  The students here all have very diverse backgrounds, and everyone is here for their own reason so we learn from each other.

What is your favorite thing about AOMA and why? Describe your experiences at AOMA.

I have really appreciated the high standard of education I’ve received at AOMA.  I’ve also always felt very supported and heard by the faculty and staff here.  After graduation, I maintained a relationship with AOMA and worked as a part-time clinical teaching assistant, which then blossomed into my current position as the full-time clinical resident.  It’s been interesting to go from being a student, to faculty member, and now a hybrid of doctoral student and faculty member. I get to see and experience all sides of AOMA, which has only added to my appreciation for this institution.

What benefits do you feel earning your Doctorate will afford you, and how did you decide which one was the best choice for your career?

Earning my doctorate will not only open up a lot of doors for me as far as my career, but it’s also providing me with a deeper clinical understanding and exposing me to some amazing, more advanced techniques.  I started out in the DAcOM program (first professional doctorate) and made the decision to switch to the DAOM, which will challenge me in ways I never knew I wanted to be challenged.  Earning my DAOM, will open up doors for me to work in academia and research and provide me with vast clinical insights.  I decided to switch programs because, as AOMA’s clinical resident, I have found I really enjoy working with students in the clinical setting, helping them learn, while also working with patients.  The DAOM arms with the knowledge I need as well as the credentials necessary for a career in education.

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?

Before starting the program, I viewed Chinese medicine and its founding philosophy as mystical and magical.  After learning so much more, I no longer see it quite like that.  Now, I understand it as an extremely logical and scientifically sound medical practice…ancient physicians just had a different language and ways to describe how our bodies function and the cause of disease.

What are you plans after completing your Doctorate?

I have developed a real passion for clinical education.  Once I receive my DAOM, I hope to serve in that capacity.  I always want to be a clinician, working with and treating patients, but I would also like to be deeply involved with teaching other people how to be great practitioners.  Developing clinical curriculum, treating patients, and helping students become confident in their abilities are all things I believe are well suited to my personality, strengths, and talents and I hope to be doing exactly that in my future.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, DAOM, MAcOM, aoma students, chinese medicine, tcm education, acupunture

How Auricular Acupuncture Can Help with Opiate Use Disorder

Posted by Victor S. Sierpina, MD on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 @ 11:37 AM

Previously published, Galveston County Daily News, Jan 23, 2019

Opiate Use Disorder is claiming lives by the tens of thousands. The Center for Disease Control reported 47,600 deaths in the US involving opioids in 2017, concluding that the opioid overdose epidemic continues to worsen with increased in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In the state of Texas, deaths attributable to opioids rose three times from 1999-2015 with increasing impact on maternal mortality and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The UTMB Department of Family Medicine recently submitted a grant proposal to improve education and clinical practice by training and outreach to rural areas hardest hit by this growing scourge. Many of those with OUD started on prescription medications and then moved onto black market products like heroin, fentanyl, and diverted OxyContin.

Controlled substance contracts, the statewide Prescription Monitoring Program, limiting initial opiate prescriptions, automated electronic medical record notifications about the use of Naloxone, medical provider and public awareness are all part of the solution.

The use of auricular (ear) acupuncture for substance abuse, alleviating withdrawal symptoms, behavioral health, and pain management is a safe, widely researched, and long-standing adjunctive treatment modality. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA protocol) is the best known of the methods and has been practiced widely for over 30 years. It involves application of 3 to 5 needles at specified ear points, is simple to learn and to apply, and enjoys wide patient acceptance.

The clinical application of ear acupuncture for substance use since it was first found effective in easing withdrawal symptoms from opium and heroin in Hong Kong in the 1970’s. Since then, research and practice-based evidence continues to accumulate and drive its use along with safety, ease of application, and patient acceptance.

The broad application of NADA to alcohol, opiate, nada pictobacco, methamphetamine, and cocaine abuse makes it a promising adjunct to medical and behavioral treatment methods in a very challenging patient population. Additionally, the NADA protocol has been used for stress management, including post-traumatic stress, treating addicted pregnant women, sleep disorders, and anxiety. It has been used in refugee camps, post-hurricane settings, prisons, hospitals, rehabilitation treatment centers, as well as outpatient clinics, predominantly in a group treatment context.

Practitioners emphasize that so-called “acudetox” is an adjunctive, not a standalone treatment for easing withdrawal symptoms as well as maintenance of abstinence. It is most effective when applied with standard therapy, behavioral interventions, and/or 12-step programs.

Physiological studies have shown auricular acupuncture acts on neuroendocrinological pathways include serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, dynorphin, and GABA receptors which mediate its effects on pain management. The Battlefield Acupuncture protocol using 5 tiny tacks in each ear has been increasingly used since the early 2000’s when it was first applied in military settings. It can also be highly and immediately effective in acute problems like migraine and chronic problems such as back or muscle pain.

Other non-pharmacological treatments such as mindfulness, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, chiropractic, massage, hypnosis, diet, exercise, physical therapy, yoga and tai chi can also be part of a rational integrative pain management plan that doesn’t involve the risk of using addicting opiates.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

---Martin Luther King, Jr.

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, efficacy of acupuncture, chinese medicine, tcm education, prevention, acupunture

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

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for Cedar Allergies

Posted by Yongxin Fan on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 @ 03:45 PM

Austin Cedar Allergy treatment

Are you familiar with seasonal allergies? If you live in Austin,Texas, you probably know more about periodic wheezing, sneezing, and sniffling than just about anyone! It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  According to the AAFA (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) 2016 fall Allergy Capital list, Austin is ranked at 46th place compared to 35th place in 2015(1). It appears things seem to be improving for us here in the live music capital of the world.  But while the rest of the nation generally only has two pollen seasons (fall and spring), Austin is unique in that we have three distinct pollen seasons, plus an intense winter pollen season. That is why some people call Austin the Allergy Capital of the World!

Mountain cedar pollen season extends from December to March, with peak levels usually hitting in January. Cedar pollen counts in Central Texas are among the highest pollen counts of any plant anywhere in the world. Cedar allergy, commonly referred to as "cedar fever," can be intense and debilitating. Cedar fever is a seasonal illness that affects people during pollination of the mountain cedar tree(3). As you may know firsthand, people experience severe symptoms when afflicted by cedar fever and can find that their daily activities are greatly impacted while it runs its course (2).

If you are new to Austin and have not yet experienced cedar fever (lucky you!) then you might have at least heard of this form of seasonal allergic rhinitis that comes with some extra symptoms.  On top of the usual hay fever symptoms (runny nose, itchy and watery eyes nasal blockage, and sneezing), some sufferers of cedar fever also complain of fatigue, mild headache, facial discomfort, sore throat, partial loss of smell, and ear pressure or a sense that the ears are plugged.The inflammation triggered by the allergen can even cause a mildly elevated temperature, hence the nickname “cedar fever!”

Western medicine relies on two forms of allergy treatment: medication and immunotherapy. Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications, and they can help to reduce a stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and itching. Corticosteroids are generally effective in treating inflammation in the nose in the form of nasal spray. Immunotherapy is a preventive strategy designed to ward off allergic reactions to substances such as pollens, etc. This involves giving gradually increasing doses of the allergen or substance to which the person is allergic. The incremental increases of the allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance, which ultimately reduces the symptoms of the allergy. 

How TCM can help

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relies on a more holistic approach to allergy relief.  By virtue of satisfactory clinical results due to a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbs, more and more people are realizing that seasonal suffering caused by allergens can be avoided without exclusively relying on invasive Western medical treatments. 

But, you might be asking, how does this work?

According to TCM, people who suffer from allergies experience what we term a wind invasion to the body combined with defensive Qi (vital energy) weakness of the body itself. TCM treatments are designed to treat both the root of the disease as well as the symptoms that you are experiencing. Acupuncture can treat allergies by controlling the body’s inflammatory reactions to allergens, and specific points that your practitioner selects, such as acu-points on face and foot, can relieve the nasal and facial symptoms by stimulating the far ends of the channels, or meridians, where Qi flows. 

Specific herbs can also help to reduce the inflammatory reaction and desensitize the body to allergens. Treasures from the Chinese herbal tradition, such as Huangqi (astragalus) can modulate immunity, while still others, like Cangerzi (fructus xanthil) and Juhua (Chrysanthemum flower) can lower histamine production to relieve the nasal and eye symptoms. Regular moxibustion, or heated herbal therapy, can boost the body’s immune system to prevent allergy symptoms in the first place.

Generally, people with allergies would be wise to begin TCM treatment one to two months before the allergy season, in order to allow the body to build up the necessary immunities. However, during the allergy season itself, immediate treatment can also provide great relief. Your best bet is to talk to your practitioner and find a strategy that best suits you, especially if you have a chronic allergic response that recurs each year.

Your at-home activities can also make a difference in the allergy symptoms you experience.  Do you take vitamins?  Study results demonstrate that Vitamin D supplements can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms and treat chronic hives.  In addition, Vitamin C is a well-known immune antioxidant that lowers histamine levels to prevent the onset of allergies. Are you mindful of your diet? Dairy products, sugar, and wheat are all common contributors to allergy symptoms, so limiting your intake of these foods may help reduce your symptoms.

TCM highly values the proactive nurturing of one’s health, and there are several modalities that can help. Striving for balance in your daily life and regular self-care make a positive difference in your Qi and promote overall wellbeing.  Mind-body exercises such as qi gong can teach you to cultivate your body’s natural healing energy as well as reduce stress. Reasonable amounts of work followed by rest, a plan for managing stress, and proper diet are also important for preventing allergy symptoms. Acupuncture reduces stress, boosts mood, and helps you sleep better. By avoiding overwork and receiving sufficient hours of sleep each night, the body’s vital energy remains strong and less susceptible to allergens If you take time to enjoy yourself and maintain a happy mood, then you are doing a wonderful job supporting your health during the allergy season!

 Request an appointment at AOMA Acupuncture Clinics to get started on your allergy relief!Request an Appointment

 

(1). http://www.aafa.org/media/Fall-Allergy-Capitals-Report-Dec-2016.pdf

(2). https://www.quora.com/Why-does-Austin-TX-have-a-reputation-for-bad-allergies

(3). https://www.texasmedclinic.com/symptoms-remedies-cedar-fever-and-allergies-austin-san-antonio/

(4). http://acaai.org/allergies/treatment

Topics: tcm education

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