Is OCOM Misleading Prospective (Female) Students? Watch Our Video and Discuss!

As you may remember, the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine recently published an article that proposed a novel explanation for the dreadful acupuncture workforce data: girls! And also, Taoism!

Some of my coworkers and I took issue with this characterization of OCOM alumni. And so we made a video. Please share your thoughts, and also, please share the video with anyone you know who is thinking about going to acupuncture school.

We'll be meeting with representatives of the OCOM Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning, and we'll be sure to let you know what happens.

Author: lisafer

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I never expected to see — in print! in an official professional journal! — such a serious, candid endorsement of the Sugar Daddy business model as “The Changing Demographics of Acupuncturists” by Susan A. Sloan, MBA, Jamie Reeves, BA, Miles Sledd, LAc, and Jason Stein, LAc, published in the Fall 2012 edition of the American Acupuncturist. Since all four authors work for OCOM, apparently the institution itself is formally embracing the Sugar Daddy path to success for its graduates. And it goes much further than simply endorsing the model: it blames the lack of evidence of thriving acupuncture practices among OCOM graduates on — wait for it — women.


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  1. I was not able to film my portion of the video over the past few days. Below is my response to how misleading the “quality of life” theory statement found in one of the final paragraphs of the OCOM article “Changing Demographics of Acupuncturists” (page 18) is:

    “While specific research is needed to confirm this theory [choosing to order their work lives to fit their values instead of merely maximizing their pursuit of economic gain], it may be that one of the reasons for the reported high satisfaction levels of graduates in recent years could be the opportunity to work part time in a flexible self-employment setting that honors the balance of work and family life. If that is so, outcome measures of practice success may have to be significantly reoriented toward quality of life measures and away from purely economic outcomes, student loan debt repayment trends notwithstanding.”

    So what the OCOM authors are trying to state is that in spite of student loans debt and economic outcomes, it doesn’t really matter because their data show satisfied grads working part-time.

    Personally, neither my or my husband’s quality of life (QOL) would be any more ‘satisfying’ if I had a lowered/less economic outcome. Purely due to my AOM student loan debt, 1/3 of our annual income (approx 90% of my after tax income or $25K per year) needs to go towards my student loan debt if I have any hope of paying it off. Or, I can opt for minimum payments of $754 per month in the IBR plan. How is this monthly amount even considered an IBR payment? Essentially, I go to work to pay my student debt off and this will take approximately another 5-6 years, with the interest continually accruing and barring any unexpected life event. The longer this takes, the longer I am dependent upon my husband to cover all my day to day living needs. I was raised to take care of myself. Being dependent on another adult to take care of me doesn’t add satisfaction to my life or quality to my life. I can only imagine the satisfaction and quality my husband receives seeing me go to work each day and not contribute to the fiscal needs of our family. Never, ever, would I intentionally put myself or my family in such an undesirable financial situation. I went to acupuncture school because I was lead, by school administrators, to believe that this was a viable career where the educational debt would not be an unreasonable burden to repay. Additionally, administrators repeatedly told my class of acupuncture students that the US will need 15,000 new acupuncturists in the next 10 years, insurance will start covering acupuncture and hospitals will soon be hiring staff acupuncturists. It is beyond comprehension that OCOM, which prides itself on its research department, would allow the employee authors of this article to attempt to redefine it’s graduates’ measure of success as a bait and switch cloaked in the subjective term of “satisfied”. Regardless of how satisfied graduates are with their work life, it cannot erase the high student loan debt many students must take on to gain this education in comparison to the disproportionally low gross income levels and actual job prospects that exist in the real world. The public position taken by the employee authors of OCOM in the “Changing Demographics of Acupuncturists” is a blatant attempt to mask one of the key components necessary to achieve the acupuncture education and path to licensure prospective student must take into consideration – the cost of the degree and how to fund it. What is the quality of your life really worth?

  2. Sloan and her fellow authors wrote their Oct 2012 article in response to the articles published by myself and co-authors since 2010. Sloan represents the acupuncturists who do not like what our research confirmed repeatedly: that LAcs work about 30 hours a week and they earn somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 on average.

    Sloan et al. took an incidental remark from the 2009 Gurley-Calvez paper about men and women who choose to go into small business and made it the centerpiece of their paper as though it was a main point for Gurley-Calvez…which it was not.

    The main point of G-C was that almost 2x as many men as women give up their salaried/wage jobs to start their own small business. The conclusion G-C made was that fewer women try this because women generally earn less than men therefore only the most successful wage-earning women can afford to go into a small business. And, by the way, the women like the child care options better when they own their own small business.

    IMO for many LAcs acupuncture is a second or third choice career. I am not sure why people choose to go into AOM however I am pretty sure that many are surprised when they discover (1) if they want to switch into nursing their academic credits count for nothing, (2) earning $30,000 a year is really hard to do, and (3) they are pretty much on their own in making their practice aspirations work.

    These discoveries are fairly unpopular among the established schools. Obviously, they affect the business of enrollment. I have heard recently the business of enrollment is off 25%. We know that the growth curve has been flat or declining since 2004. The article by Sloan is the first effort I have seen to oppose our findings in the research arena. That means one thing to me: we are being read and that is good.

  3. Lisa! Shauna! Steven! Cortney! John! Lindsey! Everyone @ POCA!

    I applaud you all for sharing your experiences and personal “truths” about acupuncture school and the profession so candidly and simply! This video is such an important document! I don’t know where to begin to express my appreciation for you telling your stories! I plan to post it everywhere I can!

    I’ll make this brief, though (Lisa knows) I have plenty to say! I’m a communications and management professional (not an acupuncturist) and served as President of Yo San (in Los Angeles) from 2004-07. My first questions, when I took the helm there, focused on career prospects for graduates. Where else does one begin to promote a graduate school? (In 3 years I never got a decent answer.)

    I’ve been networking with L.Ac.s for over a year to collaborate on opening a “Big Damn Clinic” in LA and still haven’t identified an L.Ac. with two nickels to rub together who is ready to roll up their sleeves and take any risk at all–even though what I am offering to provide in terms of start-up costs, marketing and management expertise, as well as passion for the medicine and the CA model, is truly a deal no L.Ac. should refuse. –Please don’t misunderstand! I do not fault L.Ac.s for this; not for a minute!!–

    I applaud you ALL for your vision, your commitment to helping people, and your legitimate claims to earn a living in this profession. My ambition is to help you get there!

  4. Thank you for putting this video together! I finally have something to show patients who are interested in going to acupuncture school without having a really awkward meeting where I essentially tell them NOT to go to acupuncture school. Not just yet anyway.

  5. I look forward to hearing your report from this morning’s meeting with OCOM. Had meant to suggest yesterday that you be clear about what you want from the meeting. Best wishes!

  6. Ellen!

    thanks for your support and enthusiasm, it means a lot! In a couple of hours we’ll be posting notes from the meeting inside the forums.

    The very short summary is: the only adequate response to that meeting is to open POCA Tech.

    So it was really good for my motivation.

    I’ll post here when I get the notes up.

  7. And this email came in to me today from a fellow OCOM alumni:

    “A recep at the clinic I work at attended a prospective student seminar at OCOM last week and she heard that the average OCOM grad makes $100,000/year but no proof was provided nor any qualifying statements given with that. And her tuition is going to be $75,000! I was so pissed and have been stewing about it since Saturday so this morning after watching the POCA video I sent Anna Lewis an email asking her for the data that they base that misleading statement on.”

    This is why the video needs to exist. Yes, OCOM is misleading students. While some OCOM alumni may make $100,000 is that gross or net? How long have they been licensed and is acupuncture their own income? It’s beyond ridiculous what they continue to tell prospective students in the admissions seminars.

  8. Lisa,

    I’m eager to read Carmen’s notes on your meeting but am not authorized to view them. Not sure the problem. Hoping you can help.

    And Shauna, OCOM is hardly alone in misleading prospective students, not by a long shot! Makes my blood boil too. And yes, the existence of this video is extremely important. I just forwarded it to a neighbor’s daughter who is about to graduate UC Santa Cruz and is considering a career in acupuncture. This video says it all.

  9. I checked out OCOM before deciding to attend a different school. When I asked about job prospects, they told me a story about a grad who set up shop in Bend and was calling the school after 6 months to send more LAcs that way because she had more patients than she could treat. I was told that my salary would be based on how much I wanted to work. In other words, multiply $70 by however many hours I wanted. Never mind that when I checked the phone book in Bend there were quite a few more folks hanging out acupucture shingles than she told me.

    Total bullshit.

    POCAtech can’t come soon enough.

  10. @erudolph

    It looks like your membership is current. You should be able to see the post no problem. Maybe you were not signed in when you clicked the link the first time. Try signing in first and then click Lisa’s link above.

    You could also navigate to the forums and look for “POCAtech and Acupuncture Education”. The thread is in that forum.