Striving for legitimacy, by pounding on the wrong door!

Striving for legitimacy by adding the “right” letters after our name is like pounding at the door of the mainstream medical mansion, hoping that our best jewelry and big smile will get us into the party. The problem is that it won’t, and the party we should be attending is the one for our patients.

What we lack, much more than a doctorate designation, is exposure to the community. We can’t get that by adding classes to our curricula, dollars to our debt or initials after our name. We need collaboration and co-existence with other medical venues and services so they can develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the affordable care we provide. Credentials do not build community acceptance, positive experiences do.

How do we get these experiences? Through greater understanding, public acknowledgement, and inclusion in “mainstream America”. That has little or nothing to do with attaining a doctorate. It has to do with collaborating on a day-to-day basis with others who cater to America’s health needs. My undergraduate school had a fabulous Cooperative Education (Co-Op) program which provided students full-time, paid work opportunities directly related to their career interests. By alternating semesters with work and study, one graduated with a year of practical experience under his/her belt. It was a terrific way to break into the working world, make contacts, and develop a realistic focus for one’s passion.

So my question is…where are our schools, our professional organizations and our industry leaders when it comes to getting us experience and acceptance in the health industry??? We don’t need a doctorate. We need Co-Op programs at all of our schools. All the organizational entities in our profession need to be fostering relationships with clinics and hospitals around the country. Every acupuncture student should graduate with a year of real-world work completed, connections made, and income realized. That’s why we give these organizations our money – to help us create a living for ourselves and a service for others!

Once we’re a popular, valued, and affordable commodity for the community…then we can talk about a doctoral program (if still thought necessary). Meanwhile, you schools and organizations, start pounding on the right doors! There are patients to be seen!!!

Author: SteveKnobler

I am a Licensed Acupuncturist who graduated from NIAOM in 1999. I'm nationally board certified (NCCAOM) and have had post-graduate training in orthopedic and sports acupuncture with Dr. Whitfield Reaves of Colorado. I enjoy treating everything, but my focus is helping people who are injured, pre/post surgical, with structural challenges or who desire improved physical performance.

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  1. Amen

    “My undergraduate school had a fabulous Cooperative Education (Co-Op)
    program which provided students full-time, paid work opportunities
    directly related to their career interests.”


    One of the reasons that schools -actually most institutions of higher learning even of the non acupuncture type- get away with thousands and maybe millions of students poorly adapted to the “real” work world is because the co-op model is not embraced in the US.  Supposedly we embrace “critical thinking skills” in lieu of doing…but that is mostly…well hogwash. Challenging our schools to create real life skill building in the form of working with acupuncturists who see lots of patients would be useful to train students of the industry standard…lots of useful work with modest financial returns.  Of course the schools have to be more affordable than now.  

  2. Slow shifts at school

    Is this mere conjecture on my part, or do most of us go through

    acupuncture school wishing we had a chance to really treat a lot of

    different patients and instead we end up treating each other because

    of slow clinic shifts?

    What would it take to get acu-students more hands-on education here in the US?  


  3. I’d like to see

    Acupuncture schools spending some of your tuition on contracts with the busiest community clinics and hospitals in your neighborhoods and cities. Students should get experience practicing in shelters, food banks, churches, planned parenthood, wherever there are people in need. It is ludicrous to throw away your tuition dollars staring at your navel or treating each other in a clinic for illnesses you don’t really have when there are really sick people out there who could use your help! What a waste of a learning opportunity!!!

    EVERY hospital should have a TCM ward with acupuncture, Tuina, moxibustion, and herbal specialties. Hell – why not have acupuncture clinics set up in Western medical schools so those folks can get exposed to the medicine from real practitioners who go through a full, traditional program?

    GRRRR!!! I hate seeing our time, money, and opportunities wasted!
    All better now…moved the Liver Qi..anyone notice where I left my boxing gloves?


  4. Thank you!

    I’ve been very quiet about this doctorate issue because I don’t like to dive into an issue without an alternate idea. This Co-op idea is fantastic! True life experience is the only way to learn with this medicine – and it is the only way to gain confidence in yourself and your abilities. Many of my experiences at our school clinic made me feel less confident – because we didn’t continue treating the same patients, we never got to see our treatment strategies work or not work. And, my only confidence in knowing what to do in case somebody fainted or had a severe adverse reaction to a treatment, came through my clinic experience with my supervisor who was a nurse. Working within a western medical setting would provide great knowledge and experience we did not receive in our isolation at school. I hope this conversation reaches the right ears, so we may be able to work toward a beneficial Co-op project rather than the Doctoral Program.

     Our profession needs this type of exposure. Through recent presentations I’ve given at a local community college, I’ve learned that people are excited about acupuncture. At one presentation we had to limit the number of volunteers for treatment because of time constraints (and I was running out of needles – didn’t forsee that as an issue!) So, this is the time to get acupuncture out among the masses. And this Co-op program sounds like a great option. Thank you for sharing, Steve.

  5. good idea, probably never

    good idea, probably never happen.

    why? money.

    when you do an internship for acu-school, you have to pay the school by the unit, whether it’s a credit or an hour.  school clinics or externships make money for the school from the student and the pokees. (except for some of the “no-cost to pokees” clinics that some schools have which don’t charge the pokees but still charge the students.)

  6. Christie ~

    It sounds like you are saying that you are not interested in the FPD.  Please make sure you visit the petitions on the FPD forums: print, sign, fax.  xo  (Also, are you on the MCOM forums????)

  7. There are multiple ways to make this happen…

    With the Co-Op program I mentioned, students were actually making a net income with their on-the-job training. It was modest, but it was income.

    I agree Keith – money is always an issue. Any action will require money – I’m just interested in the best bang for our buck – for all parties involved. 

    If we could only get some interest in this idea, instead of the FDP, good minds could come together and make it work.


  8. To answer the ? about slow student shifts

    I didn’t have that experience at PCOM SD.  We had externships, during my time there we had a senior clinic that was always packed, I usually saw 6, or even 8 patients during a 4 hour shift.  I also did a shift at a low income clinic where we usually saw more than 4. There were other externships at a homeless shelter, San Diego Hospice, and a sports clinic at UCSD.   We were limited to a certain number of off site shifts, I loved them, and did as many as I could, even then I loved having the freedom to leave out the stuff I felt was unnecessary and treat more people.  There were quite a few students who didn’t want to do the outside clinics for some reason, I never understood that.  The school clinic was busy too, we usually had a full schedule which was one per hour, 2 hours for a new patient. If anyone is going to a school where they are treating each other they need to complain, that’s crazy.  The schools should be out in the community offering student treatments, people want them.

  9. externships

    Bastyr has been offering students the option to do an externship at CommuniChi for almost two years now. We’ve had almost a dozen students here. One notable student, Gianna McManus, is now operating her own CA clinic in Olympia.

    I don’t do it for the money (we see none of the tuition money redirected our way) – though I did demand that they pay Julie and I at least a modest fee to compensate us for our time when we went to give a talk at their practice managment class.

    But this isn’t going to solve the larger problem of student not utilizing their time fully in under patronized school clinics. I can presently only handle about one student a quarter. Furthermore, even in a so-called “busy shift” with 8 patients in 4 hours…that’s still relatively slow when compared to 24 patients in 4 hours….a fully packed CA clinic.