In less than 6 months, the executive directors of two major acupuncture organizations resigned without explanation — Dort Bigg of the ACAOM and Rebekah Christensen of the AAAOM. Both had held their positions for a number of years. Of course, I don’t know exactly why they quit. But since this is only a blog, I’m going to speculate freely, allude to rumors, quote unnamed sources, natter, woolgather, and finally quote some poetry, and you all are free to take it for whatever you think it’s worth.
I live in Oregon, where the official unemployment rate is over 10%, and the real rate is probably something like 25%, and we marvel when anybody quits their job. It’s amazing, we can’t imagine it. I don’t know if things are equally bad in DC and Sacramento, but even if they’re not, in this economy, if you quit your job you must have an awfully good reason.
So let’s speculate a bit, shall we.
According to Dort Bigg’s Linked In profile, he served as Technical Advisor to Non-Federal Negotiator for specialized
accreditation during negotiated rulemaking session on Title IV —
Program Integrity, 2009-2010. Yes, that would be the very same group that proposed the new Title IV regulations linking access to federal loans to “gainful employment”.
You know what somebody said to me in an email recently? “It seems more than coincidental now that Dort Bigg abruptly resigned
his ACAOM post of 13 and a half years shortly upon returning to ACAOM
with the news that the rules just got a lot tougher for AOM schools and
that ACAOM was going to have raise its standards in a way that is sure
to put many of the AOM schools out of business.”
Then there was that other email message I got from somebody else, or maybe it was a phone call, who heard from a friend of a friend that the AAAOM owed its executive director a lot of money. As an employer, I’m very sympathetic to the issue of making payroll, it’s just relentless the way payday keeps rolling around, week after week! However, I am happy to say I have never gotten to the point where I owed somebody thousands of hours. This aforementioned email, and me feeling endless empathy around payroll, even for the AAAOM, happened quite awhile before the director quit her job. I know because the empathy was quite memorable. So I have to think, if I were in charge of an organization’s operations, and that organization owed me a lot of money, no matter how cranky I was with them, you can bet I wouldn’t leave until they paid me — unless, being in charge of the operations and whatnot, I had reason to believe that they were never going to be able to pay me at all. At which point I just might cut my losses. Hey, does this remind anybody else of a story they’ve heard before? The one about when the old AOM Alliance merged with the AAOM to become the AAAOM, how part of what prompted the merger was that the Alliance got really, really behind on their payroll, and finally their executive director quit?
Now let’s woolgather and ruminate a bit. Say there was a profession — or maybe it wasn’t exactly a profession, because it isn’t even listed in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Occupational Directory — and most of its members were so underemployed that they got out of it in less than 5 years. The only way this profession could sort of maintain itself was by continually churning out new members. So what the profession consisted of, really, was not people practicing, but people being churned out, until the churning itself became the most important activity of the “profession”. And say that what funded the churning was borrowed money. What would happen if the source of the borrowed money disappeared?
Here’s the poem!
The Niagara River
As though the river were a floor, we position our table and chairs upon it, eat, and have conversation. As it moves along, we notice—as calmly as though dining room paintings were being replaced— the changing scenes along the shore. We do know, we do know this is the Niagara River, but it is hard to remember what that means.
From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan
Granted, this poem could be about a lot of things, including what my post-before-last was about. But right now, it sounds to me like it’s about the acupuncture profession. We never did the hard stuff, like workforce surveys; we never buckled down and figured out the nuts and bolts of the economics of our profession. We drifted along. We didn’t pay attention to what the floor was made of (student loans), we just kept rearranging the furniture (Master’s degree, DAOM, first professional doctorate anyone?).
Everybody hear that? As somebody said in a movie, The Matrix I think: “That is the sound of inevitability.” I think the two former executive directors might have heard it.
The future of our profession is going to look nothing like its recent past. Are you ready, comrades?