By Pamela Ellen Ferguson, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA® and GSD-CI, LMT (TX)
The national board of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia™ (AOBTA®) has experienced a recent sea change, as Barbra Esher completed her term as director of education, and I have stepped down as director of the Council of Schools and Programs.
Our respective replacements are Gonzalo "Gonzo" Flores, LAc, MAcOM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), CI (AOBTA) of Oregon, and Debbie Overholt, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), CI (AOBTA) of New Jersey. The third new board appointment is Sue Scott, CP (AOBTA) of Minnesota, who replaced Rosie Coelho of Austin, Texas as central regional director.
Gonzo, Debbie and Sue create a formidable trio of expertise and enterprise. All three hit the ground running at the AOBTA's board meeting, held in Colorado recently in a blast of "fresh qi," according to the legislative director, Yolanda Asher.
Barbra Esher, LAc, Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), CI (AOBTA), leaves a marvelous track record after serving the board for nearly 10 years, initially as member-at-large, then as a hugely popular president (1999-2002) and director of education (2002-2005). Barbra orchestrated the annual AOBTA conventions into dazzlingly global events with an eclectic array of top presenters from across the East Asian medicine and ABT spectrum.
Barbra and I also shared a passion for instructor training, highlighted at each convention and peaking this year in San Francisco, where we jointly organized an experimental "Certified Instructors' Sandbox" showcasing six instructors' innovations ranging from nitty-gritty practical advice to high-tech PowerPoint presentations.
Never content just to be the director of education, Barbra also generously shared her hilariously theatrical approach to teaching the theory of Chinese medicine at recent and previous conventions. To demonstrate different pathologies, she had students wear blue wigs or redden their faces and color their tongues with food dye while fellow students fired off diagnostic assessments. To demonstrate a case of lung qi deficiency, she had a student slap a cream pie on her face while she stood there coughing in front of hundreds of participants. "Pale face," indeed!
Now, Barbra is concentrating on her acupuncture, shiatsu and teaching practice in Baltimore, concurrently with her yoga, martial arts and iaido practice. She continues to teach regularly across the U.S. Her famous preparation workshop for the NCCAOM ABT and Foundations of Chinese Medicine exams is being professionally filmed and produced. In addition, Barbra still serves on the AOBTA Pulse Newsletter, ABT Exam, and Website Committees.
As the new director of education, Gonzo Flores is aiming to maximize Barbra's knack for bringing all aspects of acupuncture and ABT together, by planning workshops to explore the interconnections within shiatsu, tuina, medical qigong and acupuncture to "examine, analyze and possibly revise the reasons why we use different modalities, or a combination of modalities, at particular times," and to answer the vital question, "How do we increase the healing efficacy of a protocol using ABT?"
Flores' more immediate aim is to organize curricular discussions and future goals (through conference calls or virtual chat rooms) together with AOBTA's state chapter education chairs, regional directors, and Debbie Overholt, director of COSP. Flores' background is ideal for "bridging modalities" in integrative medicine, because he is the first staff acupuncturist to have unrestricted visiting privileges at a conglomerate of Portland hospitals. He can be called upon for acupuncture anywhere, from post-op gall bladder surgeries to labor and delivery. The National Executive Medical Committee, representing 140 hospitals nationwide, is currently using his résumé and credentialing process to bring more acupuncturists into an integrative setting.
For her part, Debbie Overholt joins the board with considerable experience in the trenches as AOBTA-New Jersey state chapter's law and legislative chair. She played a major role in state regulation of ABT on the State Legislative Coalition for Massage and Bodywork, and on the Examining Committee for Massage, Bodywork, and Somatic Therapies (under the New Jersey Board of Nursing). She is also the shiatsu program director at Massage Arts Center of Philadelphia, which was accepted into the COSP family in July.
One of Debbie's first aims will be to increase the number of acupuncture schools in the COSP, and to encourage other acupuncture schools with brief ABT programs to expand those programs in compliance with national standards set by the AOBTA and the NCCAOM ABT exam. She is also planning creative ways of involving the students and campus of Massage Arts Center of Philadelphia in AOBTA's next Eastern Regional Workshop.
When we decided to siphon off the Council of Schools from the director of education's duties a few years ago, I switched from being central regional director to became the first COSP director, and have just completed a total of 6 years on the board. My initial COSP tasks were to create some sense of "family" among the members, to encourage new members from a variety of schools, to help applicants organize curricula to meet AOBTA training and clinic requirements, to encourage medical qigong schools to join us after medical qigong was included as an ABT form, and to help existing members through challenging times. Three new schools joined us in July, bringing the COSP total to 19 in all, including two schools of acupuncture and ABT, four schools of acupuncture, ABT and massage, five schools of stand-alone ABT, one ABT program, and seven schools of ABT and massage. Another half-dozen schools are currently in the pipeline. I also enjoyed writing a regular "COSP Corner" in Pulse, and encouraging certified instructors to pioneer training programs in underserved areas. Debbie Overholt will take the COSP to fresh new heights.
As the new central regional director, Sue Scott of Minnesota brings impressive grassroots clout and experience as a former education chair and former law and legislative chair of the Minnesota AOBTA's hefty state chapter. This doubling of experience places her high on the list of expertise in areas that are of paramount importance in each region, as the AOBTA encourages more and more states to accept the NCCAOM ABT exam for state registration or licensing. Sue also maintains her shiatsu practice while working as a legislative assistant to three representatives in the Minnesota legislature. Her experience as an "insider" at the capitol is invaluable for AOBTA.
To nurture growth in the central region, Sue aims to be in regular contact with all central regional chapters and state representatives. She is planning the next Central Regional Workshop, and helping to arrange the next AOBTA National "Earth" Convention in Wisconsin. in 2006. She has also been appointed chair of the Bylaws Committee.
I've shed many responsibilities in the last few months: my AOBTA board duties, my former position as Dean of Asian Bodywork Therapy at the Academy of Oriental Medicine in Austin, and my role as ABT columnist for Acupuncture Today. I continue to serve on the NCCAOM's ABT Exam Development Committee, and to teach specialized continuing education workshops each spring and fall in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Most recently, I was elected to the NCCAOM board as its next ABT commissioner. Additionally, I'm writing a series of murder mysteries based on the Five Elements, and am crafting my memoirs. I am also planning to edit a collection of contributions from a variety of global instructors on innovations in the art of teaching acupuncture and ABT - and invite those of you who are interested to email me your suggestions at the e-mail address below.
As always: onward in qi, appreciation, and love.
Click here for more information about Pamela Ellen Ferguson, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA® and GSD-CI, LMT (TX).
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