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Acupuncture Today
August, 2001, Vol. 02, Issue 08
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Acupuncture Poll

By Editorial Staff

The Acupuncture Poll's question for the month of May 2001 was:

"Should medical doctors be allowed to practice acupuncture?"

Results are as follows:

Pie Graph - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

These results are based upon responses from 677 people.

Here is a sample of the comments made by those who took the survey and how they voted:

No: MDs, chiropractors and others wishing to practice acupuncture should only do so with the proper training and appropriate certification hours; 200-300 hours without theories and principles knowledge about this wonderful medical art is possibly why there is so much discrepancy with our profession and conventional practitioners.

Yes: As with any other medical practices and modalities, only with proper training should MDs be able to perform acupuncture. This standard should be set by international criteria and not by cultural or political guidelines.

No: While I certainly accept that anyone with sufficient training should be allowed to include acupuncture in their medical practice, I have several problems with the practice of "medical acupuncture" as practiced by allopathic physicians. I also have difficulty with other medical boards allowing the inclusion of acupuncture with 50-100 hrs of training. If these other medical practitioners wish to add acupuncture to their modalities, they need to learn the basics of Oriental medicine to understand proper point prescription theory. Therefore, I must vote no, with the stipulation that anyone with a full TCM education should certainly be allowed to practice, regardless of their primary medical experience.

Yes: In the absence of any evidence that acupuncture is less effective or less safe, what basis would there be to deny them other than turf (i.e., insecurity)? We best keep our own house in order by continuing to raise our standards or we will lose what we have.

No: MDs should not practice acupuncture without additional training. The training that qualifies them for their medical practice overlaps with TCM training, but does not include the specialized knowledge or experience required for responsible and effective acupuncture. Perhaps they should be required to fulfill the educational objectives and requirements of TCM practitioners minus any biomedical education they have already received.

No: Western medical doctors do not cover any Eastern medicine in their training. Traditional Chinese medicine is a profession in its own right and requires rightfully the same amount of dedication and training that Western medicine necessitates. There is absolutely no overlap in either area except for the need to know anatomy thoroughly. Chinese medicine is a completely different method of healing and requires at least four full time years of training to become proficient in diagnosing and practicing. To do a course of a few days duration or even a couple of months does in no way prepare a Western doctor for practicing acupuncture.

All the Western doctors I've met who say they practice acupuncture do not know why they are inserting a needle in a specific point (a necessity if they are going to succeed in practicing properly with results). Nor do they understand differentiation of syndromes or even what different points are used for on a certain meridian. An Eastern doctor has just as much to learn in acupuncture as a Western doctor! Western doctors can practice acupuncture, but only if they have completed the four-year recognized length of a proper course and only then should be allowed to practice. They give the profession a bad name and I have many examples of patients I treat in my practice who have tried Western doctors first, only to realize they are lacking in knowledge and then seek out a properly trained doctor of acupuncture. I'll bet if Eastern doctors did a short course in Western medicine and started practicing it, there would be an uproar!

No: MDs currently have woefully inadequate standards of training in acupuncture. MDs arrogantly believe that they are competent to practice with only 200-300 hours of training, a significant portion of which is offered on videotape, with a negligible clinical training component. Remarkably, some states allow MDs to practice acupuncture with no training. This is unheard of in any regulated health care field.

There are no accreditation standards to ensure MDs have received adequate training, and no certification processes to ensure that they have achieved the critical competencies necessary for safe and effective practice. Conversely, fully trained acupuncturists can only become licensed in most states with four full academic years of training from an ACAOM accredited or candidate program, and passing the rigorous exams administered by the NCCAOM. The rigor of training and testing is simply absent for MDs seeking to practice following completion of their 200-300 weekend CE courses.

Practically speaking, it is not possible to adequately train a beginning practitioner (even with a significant Western science background) in a strictly didactic setting with minimal clinical followup or evaluation offered in the 200-300 hour MD training programs. Acupuncture is a comprehensive system of medicine that cannot be reduced to the few weekend courses that are promoted by MDs. Beginning practitioners who receive inadequate training not only jeopardize public safety but contribute to poor clinical outcomes as well. Patients do not receive adequate care because diagnostic abilities and needling techniques are primitive at best. Also, poorly trained practitioners may not recognize their limitations, thus creating a financial drain for consumers who continue to come back for care not knowing that the problem lies with the practitioner's skills and not the medicine.

I have no problem with MDs performing acupuncture as long as they have received adequate training in accredited programs and have been fully tested through psychometrically sound certification exams to ensure that they have achieved the critical competencies necessary for safe and effective practice. To do any less jeopardizes public safety. If MDs are so arrogant that they should be able to practice with little or no training, perhaps acupuncturists should take a few CE courses to prescribe Western medicines, perform surgery or other similar modalities. It is ironic that were this proposed in our field, MDs would howl concerns for public safety based on inadequate training, but they believe they need little or no training to practice another comprehensive system of medicine. The words that come to mind regarding this issue are hypocrisy and arrogance on the part of the allopathic medical community.

Yes: Medical doctors should be able to practice acupuncture limited to pain management only. This somewhat contradicts current TCM practice in that MDs are not adequately trained to formulate a TCM diagnosis and treat accordingly. However it has been my experience that treating pain using local/distal points, command points, empirical points and auricular acupuncture can help with chronic pain, and MDs can be trained to do this. They are not, however, trained to diagnose and treat with acupuncture and herbal medicine according to current TCM standards, i.e., internal medicine.

Yes: As a non-physician acupuncturist, I sometimes feel torn when answering this question, however, I've been treated by medical acupuncturists who really love and also pursue further studies in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I do feel strongly that physicians should be required to take the same requirements as set forth by the NCCAOM. After all, would it be fair if I studied 200-300 hours of medical school classes, then called myself a "doctor"?

For more information on the Acupuncture Poll, contact Acupuncture Today at .


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