POCA members respond to the AAAOM survey

Ah, the survey from the AAAOM. A large number of questions made presumptions about the profession in practice and future that simply don't reflect the reality created by community acupuncturists, our clinics, and most importantly, our patients. In order to clarify that reality, several of us have chosen to collectively and publicly respond to this survey. If you have more to add, please respond in the comments below. Thank you!!


Questions about demographics of practitioners and practice: 

As POCA is currently conducting its own in-depth annual survey on this topic (thank you, Shauna!), we find it unnecessary to answer these questions twice.


b>Questions about titles and degrees: 

Many of the survey's questions fail to take into account the significant differences between community acupuncture clinics and other types of AOM practitioners. Community acupuncturists practice acupuncture, for the most part, and very little else, generally speaking. Therefore any questions about various AOM titles are irrelevant to us; we are acupuncturists, or better yet, punks.


Cris Monteiro, POCA Membership Circle operational leader, asks: 

“Are these questions gathering information to direct action or gage perceptions? The perceptions of the profession during my 13 years of practice have lent themselves to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on chasing windmills of legitimacy and status rather than providing access to care and education so that the medicine can be more widely shared.”


As for degrees: Community acupuncturists want to develop effective, hands-on, practical education we can afford; entry-level programs that can be completed by working people in less than three years, that can be paid for during enrollment because fees are reasonable, and that produce competent and prepared graduates who are eligible for the increasing number of jobs available in community acupuncture clinics. We want to employ graduates who can make rapid and accurate diagnoses in a matter of seconds; treat 6, 8, or 10 people an hour; chart quickly and simply; recognize red flags and referral situations; and be able to effectively communicate with all kinds of people.


With regards to primary care and aligning ourselves with physicians, the nature of our clinical practices is such that we are not able or interested in providing any type of primary care. Interestingly, we frequently receive referrals and communications from medical professionals of all kinds, and most of us include all kinds of medical professionals in our patient bases. Community acupuncture, providing over 300,000 treatments in 2011 and growing fast, may be the means by which the general medical profession discovers the power, simplicity, and effectiveness of acupuncture.


Professional organizations:

POCA members join our organization for professional development, continuing education, and best practices, but we also join to increase patient access to acupuncture, to lower barriers to our services, and to remove status as a barrier between practitioners and patients. It is telling that the AAAOM survey does not even offer these as options, when for us they are primary to our participation.

Furthermore, we are repeatedly asked by potential students about the realities of acupuncture education, and we are tireless advocates for transparency in the true cost of education, realistic earnings for acupuncturists, and affordable educational options to ensure access to acupuncture education for more people. This is key to our commitment to being a professional organization that meets the needs of its members.


Regarding the FPD draft standards and the AAAOM's response to them:


Cris Monteiro responds: 


“I actually have read all of the above documents, but I do not completely understand them. I am not an educator, nor do I have any knowledge, nor expertise in designing curriculum or performance standards for secondary education. Here’s what I can say: The draft standards, first, second, third, etc. for a First-Professional Doctorate are moot.  The acupuncture profession is not going to solve its identity crisis, or dismal job and earning prospects by adding another degree. If inclusion in managed care and hospital settings is the golden egg for the profession, it could be accomplished through additional post-graduate education, for those who seek employment in those realms. It has been argued that getting acupuncturists and acupuncture into hospital settings will accomplish a common goal of the acupuncture profession in general and that of POCA: more treatments for people. Indeed this is a common goal, but the FPD is not a shared strategy. POCA and its member clinics have already shown Community Acupuncture settings to be a robust way to provide more treatments to the public at an affordable price, with minimal administrative costs.   


“As for the AAAOM’s analysis and recommendations, kudos to them for calling the authors of the FPD standards out on a variety of inconsistencies and encouraging the use of language in the FPD draft standards that better describes the reality of medical practice and the integration of practices like acupuncture into the existing medical paradigm.”


Brent Ottley, Executive Acupuncture Organizations Liaison, responds: 


“Among its many strengths, our medicine offers unique and powerful possibilities for serving the basic healthcare needs of middle and low income members of the society, a population segment into which we have only barely penetrated.  Ironically, however,  the institutions of our profession have proved stubbornly unresponsive, and in many cases, downright inimical to the development of delivery systems that might facilitate this, instead focusing their energy on the achievement of legislative success and status relative to the medical profession. I understand the legitimate need for great attention to this part of things, but the economics and growth of this approach has not succeeded in opening real opportunities for the majority of practitioners. We should be opening the entry level to practitioners who can enter communities and begin providing simple, basic, affordable care as a foundational element to the upward growth of the profession, to doctoral levels and beyond.”


Demetra Markis, POCA Executive Director, responds:


“The key point we've come to is this: community acupuncture has carved out its place in healthcare. It has really almost nothing in common with the kind of practice that would be created by a graduate of a theoretical FPD program. Community acupuncturists want to provide simple and affordable acupuncture treatments to lots of people in accessible group settings. As such, our educational and legislative needs are extremely different from practitioners who wish to exclusively provide private-room acupuncture treatments, research modern applications for ancient herbal formulas, design qi gong programs for cancer patients, or inhabit the more esoteric realms of academia. Any organization who wishes to represent the acupuncture profession as a unified field must take the needs of community acupuncturists into account when assessing the zeitgeist of the profession. Otherwise, we may be better off recognizing that such disparate needs actually reflect the development of two distinct professions, in which case community acupuncturists are content to let AOM/TCM practitioners develop their own standards if they are willing to stay out of our way as we pursue our goals: affordable entry-level educational degrees; clinical training that prepares graduates for jobs in our clinics; and licensing and educational standards that encourage entry into the community acupuncture profession.”

Author: Demetra

I live in San Francisco but I'm from New York, and apparently it shows. I come from a family with some members who have had very troubling illnesses, and I found my way to acupuncture in trying to figure out how to help. My father's illness cost him his small business, his savings, his house, and ultimately his life. I viscerally believe that healthcare should never, ever be limited to those few with money to spare. I see every day how the practice of affordable, community acupuncture can honestly heal the world. I feel a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything I can to make this gentle, powerful community medicine available to everyone.

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  1. Just got the “preliminary results” from AAAOM survey. Looks like they listed all the total results separately from AAAOM member results (do they count more?) to look at the outcomes. Maybe, just maybe, they should have had a question that said, “Do you trust the AAAOM to properly represent the ideals and goals of your profession?” STRONGLY DISAGREE! They could learn a lot from the fact that out of 23,000 acupuncturists and students, only 1,655 responded. From that earth- shattering # of people who felt compelled to respond to what AAAOM is doing- only 26.9% are AAAOM members. That’s a whopping 446 people in the country, out of 23,000. =about 2%… right? How does this thing hold ANY VALIDITY AT ALL?!