By Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, LAc, Dipl. Ac., MS, MM
Last year, I was approached by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) in New York City about creating a facial acupuncture elective. My assistant, Chrysso Neophytou-Tsimis, and I had a meeting with the three college heads in one of the only classrooms available.
The main points were:
What do we need to start?
How many weeks?
How many elective credits?
Can you have the course material ready in two weeks?
If enough people sign up, it's a green light!
We did manage to entice enough students during the summer 2007 session. I expanded upon my teaching materials to encompass the requirements of a 10-week academic elective. I made a few guest appearances to teach certain aspects of the curriculum and lend support to the students. This January, facial acupuncture treatments were started in the student clinic. To my knowledge, this is the only extant facial acupuncture clinic at an acupuncture school in North America.
Given the significance of this development, heralding the potential emergence of facial acupuncture as a legitimate academic track in acupuncture schools, I thought it would be important and informative to interview Gina Lepore, Belinda Anderson, Wendy Matus and the instructor, regarding their impressions of the program thus far.
Why did you decide to initiate the teaching of an elective course in facial acupuncture?
Gina Lepore, COO: The college is interested in offering future practitioner tools that will help them to establish successful practices and to gain employment in clinics and spas. The facial acupuncture elective prepares graduates to offer their clients a much demanded service.
Belinda Anderson, Academic Dean: We realized that there is a growing demand in this sector of acupuncture, and we wanted our students to have the opportunity to learn these skills before they graduate.
Do you offer electives that will help your students find work once they graduate?
GL: The college is very interested in the long-term success of its graduates. In recent years, student and alumni services have been expanded to include career planning before students graduate, along with job creation and placement.
BA: We offer a range of electives from the classical texts and Chinese language to practical topics such as facial acupuncture and shiatsu. We try to best meet the demand of the students and reflect the unique expertise of the faculty.
How many classes have you had? What material is covered?
GL: The three-unit elective runs for 10 weeks, and has been offered for two semesters. Students have shown a great deal of interest and are able to co-register for a clinic shift in order to practice the skills they acquire in class.
Chrysso Neophytou-Tsimis: We've had three classes so far, and a fourth for spring 2008 has been scheduled. The biggest class we had was 18 students. The material consists of the basic protocol in facial acupuncture. We cover Five-Element physiognomy, benefits, contra-indications, tonification/sedation techniques based upon acu-muscle points, intradermal needling, Five-Element hara , the Eight Extraordinary meridians, non-needle modalities, skin conditions, a business forum, and the legalities and importance of the AAC Informed Consent form created specifically for facial acupuncture.
What kind of feedback have you received?
GL: Prior to the start of the elective, there was a mixed response from the students. Some students felt the college was straying from its TCM roots in order to follow the growing trend focusing on the superficial aspects of beauty.
Once the elective ran, students realized that facial acupuncture is firmly grounded in TCM and uses constitutional diagnoses to improve overall health and well-being. Beauty is not only skin deep, but is a reflection of rooted stomach qi . They recognized that they would gain access to a segment of the population which may initially be drawn to facial renewal but with ongoing treatments, could be educated regarding the benefits of TCM for overall health.
BA: We have received great feedback. The students are really grateful to learn this style of acupuncture as part of their Master's degree and to have this skill upon graduation.
CT: Absolutely! Those who took the class really loved it and gave it rave evaluations. A number of students stop me in the hallways to ask me when it will be offered again.
When did the clinic begin operations? Has the interest in these treatments from the general public arisen gradually, or was there immediate response? How long is a treatment session and what is the going rate?
Wendy Matus, Director of Clinical Services: This clinic began in January 2008. Interest has been gradually building as the word gets out. The treatment sessions are 75 minutes in length, and patients are charged $90.
CT: We have a couple of patients who were waiting for this service to be offered. There is a gradual increase in demand as people hear about it.
In the clinic, do the patients see a difference when they experience the herbal treatments along with the facial needling?
CT: The patients see and feel the difference. This treatment combines the ancient Chinese wisdom of acupuncture and topical protocol (poultices and masks) with a modern, spa-like approach. They feel nurtured, totally relaxed and refreshed. As this is a constitutional treatment, they also see marked improvement in underlying health concerns, such as insomnia and digestive issues.
Do you feel that facial acupuncture will gain more popularity with patients in your clinic as they learn more about it?
WM: Yes. The cost initially scared people away. The patients at PCOM are accustomed to paying $40 per treatment. After hearing about the facial protocol and checking around at local spas, our patients are beginning to realize what a great opportunity the PCAC facial is!
CT: There is a growing demand for this modality, and this is a great opportunity for those who cannot afford to pay for sessions in private practices.
Will you continue to offer the elective course in facial acupuncture at PCOM? Do you view facial acupuncture as a viable modality within the field of Oriental medicine?
WM: Absolutely. Facial acupuncture allows a new practitioner to hit the ground running and offer treatment to a patient who may never have received acupuncture. It is a great way to go about acclimating new patients to the benefits of acupuncture and educate them about the entire system of Oriental medicine. Having received facial acupuncture myself, the power of the treatments reminded me of how intertwined our emotional, spiritual and physical beings are, and how gracefully all are accessed by acupuncture.
BA: Yes, we will continue to offer it as long as students want to take it. Facial acupuncture is a viable modality in the field, provided that there is a demand for this service.
What do your alumni report about facial acupuncture?
GL: Alumni confirm that facial acupuncture is rewarding both financially and in that they are able to help patients understand the concept of beauty emanating from the inside out; that, in rejuvenating their internal health, well-being shines forth from the face.
Beauty is more than skin deep, and facial acupuncture shows more than just a pretty face to the world. The treatment results reflect not only enhanced constitutional health and greater vitality of the physical body, but the modality itself influences the integrity and balance of the emotional/spiritual bodies.
My focus in the field of Oriental medicine always has been education. It has been my desire to share the nature of my work and benefits of my knowledge with students as well as practitioners. In so doing, I have provided students, in particular, with a practical and potentially lucrative avenue for their hard-won clinical and diagnostic skills.
I would very much like to express my appreciation to PCOM for having implemented this elective program in facial acupuncture, and to Gina, Belinda, Wendy and Chrysso for taking time away from their busy schedules to answer all these questions. Special thanks to Chrysso for imparting the details of the treatment protocols and philosophy to the students with respect, knowledge and humor.
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