"I like that we are the pioneering group. We are so fortunate to have had the personalities we did; I'm so proud to be part of that group." Jeannette Painovich, LAc, is one of the students graduating July 22 from the very first Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine class at Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, Calif.
She had a staff position as an acupuncturist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, a major research and teaching hospital, but the built-in practice she thought this position would afford her didn't materialize. "Acupuncture just didn't pop into the doctors' heads as a treatment model."
In an effort to get the word out about Chinese medicine and gain more recognition for the field, Painovich spearheaded the development of an externship program for the doctorate program. The students gained instant credibility in their first week when they revived a drug overdose patient whom the medical doctors could not resuscitate. At Good Samaritan Hospital, doctorate students treat patients in the Acute Rehabilitation Unit, side-by-side with medical doctors, nurses, and physical, occupational and speech therapists, where Painovich will serve as a clinic supervisor after graduation.
Ray Rubio, LAc, joined the same doctorate class at Emperor's College with 10 years experience as an AOM practitioner specializing in reproductive medicine. "I wanted to do the doctorate program because it's important to raise the professional standard in our field. If we are to maintain the support of our practice and be primary care providers, it is essential for us to diagnose, evaluate, and treat at the highest level."
Rubio also believes that acupuncturists should have a stronger knowledge base in Western medicine. "As a doctor of Chinese medicine, to me, integrative medicine means understanding Western medicine from a patho-physiological point of view. We need to be able to read and interpret the results of Western medical diagnostics in order to translate them to Chinese medical patterns and treat those patterns. The goal is not to westernize Chinese medicine; rather, it is to utilize Western diagnostic methods to inform the Chinese diagnostic picture and decide on appropriate treatment."
The Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree program at Emperor's College was established in 2004. Working professionals in the two-year program meet once a month for an intensive four-day weekend. Requirements include 600 didactic hours and 650 clinical hours in a combination of internship, externship, and mentorship. "The purpose of the doctorate program is to create leaders who will advance the field of AOM through teaching, specialization, and scholarship," says Yun Kim, CEO.
DAOM Program Director, Steven Stumpf, EdD, agrees. "They will be the groundbreakers in providing integrative medicine, a coming field that is being shaped by and large by current medical practice which very much wishes to include AOM with conventional healthcare. Our graduates will be those pioneers."
Classmate Jean Libonate, LAc, who has had a long career as a pediatric nurse practitioner, concurs. "Ideal thinking would be to have an acupuncturist and MD get together to discuss a case and then use whichever medicine is best-suited to the case. It shouldn't be us and them; there should be respect on both sides." She believes the doctorate program improves the level of education for AOM practitioners, something that will lead to more respect from the Western medical community.
In addition to Western science classes, students receive graduate level training in research and professional writing. "Studying for the DAOM degree broadened my knowledge while my writing skills took a huge leap," claims fellow student Teri Powers, LAc, who leveraged her academic achievements to become Dean of Clinical Education at Samra University. "Now I know how to read and take apart research critically, and I am more competent in caring for my patients."
Stumpf asserts that the doctorate program has changed significantly in its third year. "Being in the first DAOM group was a blessing and a burden. Lessons learned the first two years led to a stronger model of what comprises integrative medical education and a more structured approach to teaching it within the emphasis of our program which is pain management."
The class members are proud to be part of the pioneer group. When asked what advice she would give to prospective doctorate candidates, Libonate says, "Don't do it just to be called ÔDoctor.' You need to want to be a leader in the field."