2010: a Year of Pricking, Prodding, and Provoking

You know what, comrades, this was a
very interesting year for CAN and particularly for the CAN blog. So much happened that I think we need a 3 part post — at least — just to reflect on it all.

Part 1: CAN vs. the Acupuncture

This time last year, we were in the
throes of the battle over the First Professional Doctorate. We were
hearing lots of comments from the opposition to the effect of, “What
does the FPD have to do with community acupuncture? Why do you want
to stop the rest of us from getting doctorates? And why do you want
to lower Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine’s respectability in the
minds of the media, health care community, patients, practitioners
and future generations in America FOREVER?” And so on. To be
honest, plenty of us who were fighting the battle were asking
ourselves whether confronting the FPD was really the best use of our
energy. Was it really worth it to try to communicate to the
acu-establishment our concerns about (1) the lack of accessibility of
acupuncture treatment, (2) the high cost of acupuncture education,
and (3) the general economic dysfunction of the profession,
especially since they didn’t seem to be able to understand what we
were saying?

Let’s use some of our blog posts to
reflect on how that played out, over the course of the year.
And remember those 3 concerns, OK?


The No FPD Channel continues its
regularly scheduled broadcasts.

Skip explains why CAN exists, and first
uses the term “cultural competence” on this blog. Yes, we can
blame him. Let’s do. He also suggests that there is not really one
acupuncture profession, but two: the acupuncture education
profession, and the acupuncture practitioner profession, with
separate goals and divergent interests.

Larry breaks down the details on some
glaring problems with ACAOM’s process around the FPD.

Andy posts the official letter from the
CAN Board to ACAOM, opposing the FPD.

Melissa rejoices in being a
“loudmouthed, undereducated, over-opinionated, misinformed,
low-level practitioner” who has finally come home to her own kind.

The Zang Fool pricks and prods as only
he can.

And John Weeks posts in The Integrator
that the FPD “exposes rifts on the future of acupuncture and
oriental medicine”. He identifies the conflict as the basic tension
between service to patients and status for the profession – neatly
summing up what we have been trying to say to the acu-establishment
all along.

And on January 13th, the
infamous “CAN Document Drop” occurs at the ACAOM offices,
reigniting a passionate debate within the acupuncture profession
about whether or not it’s OK to walk into an office building during
business hours. UNANNOUNCED.


ACAOM makes its Decision on the First
Professional Doctoral Standards. I seethe.


Continuing our run of bad news, the
Zang Fool does not win the AAAOM-SO essay contest.

And with a sense of timing that can
only be described as comic, NCCAOM finally releases the results of
their 2008 Job Task Analysis.

Coincidentally, Justine announces the
of the annual CAN survey.


Andy posts CAN’s official letter of
to the ACAOM regarding its decision on FPD standards.

Miss Bootie Que educates us all about
the virtues of hybrids.

I solicit CAN’s involvement in the
Portland Acupuncture Project: the Zang Fool updates us on the
Portland Moxibustion Project and other news (I know, I know, that’s
actually May and I’m cheating, but it fits better here.)


We find out, 48 hours before it
happens, that CAN is going to be mentioned in the New York Times. We
scramble to make our front page readily comprehensible to people who
know nothing about community acupuncture. Coincidentally, during a
routine maintenance upgrade, our Drupal-based website crashes for
about 24 of those 48 hours, getting back online just about an hour
before the article is posted on the Times website.

We read it and weep.

Saving the day, our fabulous patients
respond with dozens and dozens and DOZENS of comments. One of my

“I am very encouraged to see the
volume of letters supporting community acupuncture, as much because
of it’s affordability as because of the powerful effects of this
treatment modality.

As an educator, I was surprised to see in this otherwise well
researched article, the comment that community acupuncture was not
recommended for “complicated cases” — it struck me as a
juvenile opinion, no support for the statement offered, the kind of
thing I’d expect to red pen in a junior high research paper.

Twenty-five years ago, I was vice president of the board of a
school of traditional oriental medicine. Acupuncture became one of my
primary go-to treatments, for maintenance of health and wellness, and
for healing when I needed it, at any level. Those treatments were
costly, but the private room, soft lights, etc. seduced me into
thinking this was the only environment for this science.

Three years ago, I was broadsided by an 18 wheeler carrying a load
of gasoline to the gas station. I was sitting in my legally parked
car, my seatbelt off, ready to exit the car. I tried to keep up with
the acupuncture, it helped tremendously with the pain during months
of physical therapy. My business and income were suffering, and I had
to let go the $120 acupuncture. One year ago, I sustained brain
injury from carbon monoxide poisoning from a botched service on the
furnace in my home. I could not afford any of the local provider’s
I found — even a local MD who practiced acupuncture had a
prohibitive new patient fee and co-pay. A friend’s daughter
recommended I look for a CAN in my area.

Not for complicated cases? Aside from my cognitive rehabilitation,
my CAN provider is my primary treatment. I am so very grateful I can
afford to see him twice a week at one-third the cost of what I had
once paid. The results are clear to me, it not only helps, it heals
body, MIND and spirit!. . .. even something as “complicated” as
the effects of brain injury.

I was unsure about the community setting at first; I didn’t know
anything about primarily distal acupuncture. I found plenty of
history and studies online to support my decision to choose a
community acupuncture clinic. Please, do your research. You are
writing for the NYTimes. Your elitist, I’ve gotta have the bling,
preferences should not be a spring board for you to give an opinion
that can prevent others from finding healing.

You might want to look into Pennsylvania Area Veterans Acupuncture
Project — providing free acupuncture in a community setting for all

  • ECB”

And let’s not forget, no matter what,
the New York Times STILL published an article about the cost of
acupuncture. We are officially no longer the only ones talking about
our concern #1.

Back to our blog: staying with the “all
hell breaks loose” theme for the month, we demonstrate that we will
give even our self-proclaimed allies within the profession an earful.

take home message from May is
, if you mention community
acupuncture in a way that we don’t like, you will hear about it. No
matter who you are.


It’s math-o-rama!

In a take-no-prisoners guest blog,
Shauna reveals the true costs of an acupuncture education.

And continuing June’s theme of unheard
of transparency within the profession, Justine announces the results
of the annual CAN survey.


The sun is bright but the chickens are
in the way

The Department of Education announces
new regulations targeting for-profit schools whose graduates can’t
repay their loans.

Our new friend and fellow
number-cruncher Steven Stumpf analyzes what this might mean for the
acupuncture profession.

Keith, aka “the Googler”, locates
the website where the Department of Education is taking comments, and
rallies the troops to speak truth to power.

We find out that Dort Bigg, Executive
Director of the ACAOM, has mysteriously resigned, along with Rebekah
Christensen, the long-time Executive Director of the AAAOM.

CAN’s concern #2, the high cost of
graduate education, is now out in the open as well.


Acupuncture Today baffles us by
announcing that the NCCAOM Job Task Analysis results were actually
MUCH WORSE than they appeared.

Steven Stumpf demands the raw data from
NCCAOM used to compile the JTA; he doesn’t get it.

He does, however, publish an article
titled “Unveiling the US Acupuncture Work Force”, giving a formal
academic treatment to CAN’s concern #3, the general economic
dysfunction of the profession.


Skip starts out the month with a bang
and a raging argument
with an erstwhile ally, Richard Browne,
revisiting May’s theme that the CAN blog is no respecter of persons.

Jessica gives the best definition of
CAN yet and explains why we are often so confounding to the
acu-establishment: we’re a starfish.


Acupuncture Today, despite firing me as
a columnist, must still have some fond feelings left, because they
keep pitching me softballs; East Asian Medicine and Orientalism,

Apparently Tri-State feels the same
about Larry. How do you define “acupuncture practice”?

ACAOM doesn’t love CAN, though, because
they keep ignoring us

And then! John Weeks picks up the
NCCAOM Job Task Analysis again
in The Integrator, with an interview
with Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, and reveals that Acupuncture Today released
the truly dreadful income data about part-time practitioners in part
thanks to all the discussion on the CAN blog. Does anyone else find this surreal?

This offers me another opportunity to
try to put it together – concern #1, #2, and #3, all in one place
with a post on Martian Geology, courtesy of a heartbreaking comment
on the Department of Education site. Remember that one?

“Title IV Funding for Acupuncture and
First Professional Degree Acupuncture school is a scam that ruins
students lives forever. There is no way for me to ever pay off my
student loans. I am too old to start over. I cant find a way to work
it off and I am exhausted from trying for the last 13 years. This was
my last shot at a life and a career. Acupuncture ate my life and has
destined me to a life of poverty and nothing to retire on. Please
stop this abuse and destruction of students lives. There is no living
to be made in acupuncture because there are no jobs. You might as
well learn martian geology for all the good it will do you as a
business. Ongoing costs of maintaining licensing, certification,
malpractice, CEU’s all feed somebodys pocketbook but mine is empty.”


The CAN Board of Directors’ meeting in
Portland: chaos and anarchy. Absinthe and tattoos. We Dig Deep.

We dig up rumors of a new Deep Throat,
which remain unconfirmed. Is it true that we were, indeed, thoroughly
played in the FPD debate by Deep Throat #1, representing the
interests within the profession that favor the DAOM degree and see
the FPD as a threat? So that now the FPD is effectively tabled while
the ACAOM pursues Title IV Funding for the DAOM? And the ACAOM won’t
take the AAAOM’s calls? We may never know. And do we really care if
the DAOM gets Title IV funding? Since it’s not an entry-level degree,
we probably don’t. Unless, of course, Deep Throat starts talking
smack about community acupuncture, in which case, watch out.


John Weeks, bless him, just won’t let the NCCAOM JTA rest. He returns to the topic in his end of the year summary, “The Coming of the Light”, referring to the debate that mostly took place here as “a healing crisis” for the profession.

And all the public attention to our 3
concerns about accessibility of treatments, cost of education, and
the economic dysfunction of the profession seem to be –finally –
attracting an oblique, defensive response from the acu-establishment
via AT. So we reprise our theme from May: if you talk about us, we
will talk back to you. (BTW, this includes talking about us in CCAOM
meetings. Yeah, we heard about that. )

Jennifer handles Mark McKenzie’s
“Progress Report on Our Profession”.

Larry tackles Will Morris’ “Cultural
Competency in East Asian Medicine: Perspective as a Tool”.

Unlike John Weeks, these authors don’t think of what’s happening as a healing crisis. What these AT articles seem to be
getting at is really, everything with the profession is just! fine! —
apart from us. Us and our emanating disharmonies, us and our moral
convictions. There aren’t any structural problems that need to be
fixed; we just need to adjust our attitude and our perspective. The
thing is, though, there’s no chance at all of anybody here believing
that. Not after the year we’ve just had.

Not only are Jennifer and Larry’s posts terrific responses in their own right to the AT articles, but they revisit concerns #1, #2, and #3. They are both like a new cAN manifesto. The message just gets clearer and clearer.

Looking back on this
year – just in this first category of posts – makes me a little
dizzy. Wow, what happened here? Comrades, I think what happened here
is…a blog. A real blog. A blog that does what blogs are supposed to
do, which is to help people collectively think and talk about things
that they couldn’t even acknowledge a year ago. A blog as a means of
liberation. A thing unheard of in the acupuncture profession up until
now. And a great foundation for 2011.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Author: lisafer

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  1. Wow!

    “The FPD has been tabled”?!?  That is the best holiday gift I’ve received this year!!!  I have half-a-mind to drive over there right now and plant big smooches on each ACAOM staffer!  Kiss

    I don’t care about the DAOM, b/c it isn’t entry-level. 

    Did all you acupuncturists who accused CAN of denying them the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree hear that?  WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE DAOM! 

    Let ACAOM pursue Title IV funding for it.  It doesn’t impact access of care to our communities, so it isn’t worth our time to address.  We’re too busy building an alternate universe over here…

  2. Thank you

    and I’m sorry.  I joined CAN just about a year ago and being a part of this community has been great.  I’ve changed my practice as a result, which has helped me and others as well.  It has also been wonderful to learn that I’m not the only one out here concerned about the choices made by some of the leaders within the profession.  It’s been great to find there is effective action that can be taken rather than repeatedly banging my head on my desk.  I’m also aware that I continue to be an outsider and that some of my efforts to help have, in fact, made the lives of some of you more difficult, at least temporarily– doubly distressing because I don’t want to distract you from what you do best — make it more possible for more people to get treatment.   I hope that my intention, which is to help “the profession” think more deeply about where their energy goes, so that more and more people can receive acupuncture, comes through.

    Congrats, CAN, on doing so much good for so many people.  Thanks for the Blog.  Thanks for so much good and helpful and thoughtful dialogue.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.

  3. thanks for the stroll down memory lane…

    Good to keep the historical in chronological order.

    There are trails of tears and laughter that could be commented on in regards to this post.  I will keep it simple.

    Joyous new year everyone.  Keep the revolution alive!

    Tess Bois (formerly McGinn)

    One World Community Acupuncture

    Fitchburg, MA