This past year has been an eventful one for the AAAOM - beginning, of course, with the rebirth of the organization in January 2007, when the AAOM and the AOM announced they would begin operating as a single entity after 14 years.
Recently, AAAOM President Leslie McGee, RN, LAc, took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Acupuncture Today about what the newly merged association has accomplished in the past year, as well as its short- and long-term goals.
AT: How difficult was the merger process, especially in terms of member buy-in?
LM: Actually, for the vast majority of our members, the merger process was entirely welcomed and applauded. For people who had been more closely involved with the board or who had personal memories of how and why the original split happened, it might have been harder. But for our wonderful, ordinary, hardworking acupuncturist members, this was a cause for great celebration and enthusiasm. I was asked more than once, "now what was the split all about, anyway?" This indicates to me that most of us were ready to move forward.
AT: What has been the biggest challenge for the AAAOM in the past year?
LM: In any merger, you are blending groups of people and the culture to which each group had grown accustomed. How each group conducted business, reached consensus, the assumptions each group held - there were some differences between the previous organizations. Therefore, working on learning about each other and agreeing to ways of doing our work was our biggest challenge.
AT: What was the association's biggest accomplishment during that same time?
LM: I think the fact that we all met in Portland and shared some laughs and are ready to get to work on promoting AOM is a wonderful accomplishment! And I am also pleased with the thoughtful response from our Herbal Medicine Committee regarding the FDA's Final Rule for dietary supplements. The Final Rule presents us with an imperfect situation, but not dire, as some had suggested. This now calls on all of us to unite and work toward a long-term solution to protect our access to the herbal tools of our trade. We are gearing up for fundraising and political action at the federal level to respond to this. This is not an easy undertaking, but I believe the AAAOM will demonstrate some real leadership on this issue in the coming months and years.
AT: In looking forward to 2008, what are the AAAOM's major goals?
LM: Establishing a political action committee to raise funds for lobbying and legislative work at the federal level. One of our major goals is moving forward with regulatory or legislative remedies that will ensure protection for Chinese herbalists who custom-make formulas. Our legislative committee is also ready to make Medicare and federal health insurance coverage possible for us as well. We would also like to facilitate a national discussion of specialty boards and certifications, as this topic has generated a lot of interest over the past few months.
AT: How can AAAOM members assist in achieving those goals?
LM: Number 1: Renew your membership. Thank you very much! Number 2: Encourage your colleagues to become members. Joining both your state association and the AAAOM is crucial for our ability to promote ourselves and bring more success to all AOM practitioners.
Number 3: If you are so inclined, consider joining a committee. Number 4: When your state association or the AAAOM asks you to write a letter to your representatives, or asks you to get your patients involved in supporting us (either with a letter or with fundraising), please take the time to do so. Letters make a huge difference. Between us and all our happy clients, we have a huge grassroots network into which to tap. We have yet to truly tap that potential, and when we do, we will be noticed. We must also work to raise significantly more money to support a lobbying effort, so consider your network of friends and clients, and ask for their financial support.
AT: What do you feel are the biggest concerns of AOM practitioners?
LM: Financial success. This is a critical issue for many. We must also maintain our focus on retaining our scope of practice and access to all the materials we use in our medicine.
AT: How does the AAAOM plan on addressing those concerns?
LM: We are working toward promoting success in a number of ways - making sure state practice laws are in place and that health insurance equity exists. Simply making AOM more visible in the media is very important. We do this by responding to media outlets and being available for task forces in many venues, such as the National Institutes of Health and their Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Staying engaged on all levels with state and national policy that affect our practitioners is very important. But I think making sure the AAAOM and our professional members are seen as the experts on all matters concerning acupuncture and Oriental medicine is the most important activity.