We Have Come Far, But We Still Have A Long Way to Go
By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large
In this year of the dragon, events have begun unfolding in a forceful and dynamic way. The dragon is a traditional symbol of speed, power and strength, an animal that is colorful and full of energy.
Changes are occurring with the same speed and energy as the dragon, with the Oriental medicine profession moving forcefully ahead at lightning speed. Some of the factors that are helping move and shape the future of this profession have come from a variety of sources. In California, the formation of the new National Guild for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has brought with it many new opportunities for growth. As we go to press, the guild's bylaws and constitution have been finalized and are in the process of adoption. The guild will begin accepting members in September, with a website and toll-free numbers for interested acupuncturists also set to lunch that month.
The national guild includes several new benefits, including increased political strength, clear health care policies for acupuncture practitioners, and a unifying voice inside the profession. The guild will be like an umbrella for other Oriental medicine societies and associations. It does not supplement other organizations; it complements them.
For several years, meanwhile, the National Association of Teachers of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Denver, Colorado has discussed the necessity of teaching and testing material, incorporating higher levels of thinking skills. While we need not become preoccupied with defining the exact categories into which certain questions fall, the California State Board of Acupuncture has taken a giant step forward by writing exam questions on the application of one's level of thinking.
Upon careful consideration, this looks exactly like what a doctor's services entail. A primary care provider categorizes, differentiates, contrasts, compares, infers, predicts, solves, values, decides, and recommends. These processes are included in the higher levels of thinking. This is what a primary health care provider does. The provider brings in all information through consultation, history taking, examination, and studying results from lab tests, previous clinical notes and records. After gathering this material, the Oriental medicine provider formulates a diagnosis and a treatment plan, then makes recommendations to the patient.
The California Board of Acupuncture is now asking students to analyze and apply the information they have learned in school by asking questions in a case study format. The profession has moved forward in that its newest practitioners are learning to think like primary care professionals.
In May, at their annual meeting in San Francisco, the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine approved and adopted the accreditation standards for the clinical doctoral program. The commission is in the process of developing an accreditation handbook, which will include accreditation standards and procedures for reviewing and accrediting the clinical doctoral program. This is indeed a giant step forward for the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession.
In the laws and regulations for the practice of acupuncture in the state of California, acupuncture is subject to regulation as a primary health care profession. Recently, there have been discussions as to whether Oriental medicine providers are (or are not) primary care providers. The law says yes! The law supports primary care, and as more Oriental medicine providers begin communicating with medical doctors and insurance companies, this part of the standards of practice of care has taken a giant step forward.
Other changes have taken place across North America. This year alone, a handful of states have added acupuncture licensure and scope of practice laws to their books. Arizona has passed a new acupuncture law, and other acupuncture laws are being proposed in Nebraska and Virginia.
In Canada, the province of British Columbia recently began licensing acupuncturists, the first province in Canada to do so. Just last month, a pair of renowned hospitals in Ontario have begun working together to form a new acupuncture clinic in Toronto (editor's note: see "Canadian Institutions Collaborate on Acupuncture Clinic" on the front page of this issue).
The acceptance of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has also begun to occur on an international level. In the past few months, reports from Australia and Ireland have shown that acupuncture is being used more frequently, and that more doctors are interested in learning about its techniques. The British Medical Association's recent recognition of the benefits of acupuncture shows that it is expanding and being recognized as a legitimate, effective form of care across the globe.
With all the strides acupuncture and Oriental medicine have made this year, there is still much to be done. More research needs to be conducted if we are to be fully recognized and accepted by Western practitioners. Research into herbal therapies and other forms of care must also be conducted, and it must be able to stand up to the highest scientific scrutiny. Laws need to be passed so that acupuncture is recognized not in just 38 or 41 states, but throughout the U.S.
These things can be accomplished, but only if we work together. We must put aside our differences - in philosophy, in the types of techniques used, in education, even in language - and work together for the common good of the profession. With hard work and determination toward a common goal, we can become as strong and powerful as the dragon this year is represented by. We still have much to do, but by working together, we will be able to achieve anything we put our minds to.
Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.