AOMA Becomes First Stand-Alone AOM School to Achieve Regional Accreditation
On Dec. 15, 2009, the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA) was granted accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), following a rigorous three-year process.
AOMA is the first and only stand-alone, single-degree school of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the nation to be regionally accredited. It is also the only school of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to be accredited by SACS.
"Regional accreditation by SACS is a major accomplishment for the Academy of Oriental Medicine, and for the field of Oriental medicine as a whole," according to William R. Morris, PhD, president of AOMA. "This level of accreditation recognizes the importance of education in Oriental medicine, and the importance of Oriental medicine to our nation's health care system."
SACS accreditation signifies that AOMA has a mission appropriate to graduate education; resources, programs and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain the college's mission; clearly specified educational objectives in line with the degree offered; and proven success in achieving its stated objectives, Morris added.
For AOMA students, SACS accreditation means that courses taken at the college will be eligible for transfer to any other regionally accredited school. This could be anything from large state universities to community colleges. The AOMA masters degree will be accepted as a prerequisite for further graduate work at the doctoral level in other fields.
To become accredited, institutions go through a three-step process, including application, candidacy and accreditation. AOMA submitted its application for candidacy in 2007, which was granted in June of 2008. Work on the request for accreditation began immediately thereafter, and documentation and records were provided to SACS in order to certify compliance with the comprehensive standards that had to be satisfied. Following a review of the submission, SACS sent a six-member team to the Austin campus for an on-site visit in August 2009 to verify the accuracy of the submitted materials, assess the facilities and interview faculty, staff and students. The report from this site visit led to the favorable decision.
Tai Chi for Knee Pain
There seems to be no question that osteoarthritis (OA) is a particularly debilitating disease. According to a 2009 article in the American Journal of Managed Care, OA is the most common form of arthritis, affecting nearly 27 million Americans or 12.1 percent of the adult population of the United States.1 Now, a study recently published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology may offer an alternative to painful surgery for patients suffering from knee OA.2
A group of researchers from Tufts University in Boston assigned a group of 40 older patients (ages 55 and up) to a 12-week course of either modified tai chi or wellness education and stretching as a control group. The goal was to determine if tai chi was useful in reducing pain levels for those suffering from knee OA.
The tai chi sessions were conducted twice a week and consisted of 10 minutes of self-massage and a discussion of tai chi principles, 30 minutes of tai chi movements, 10 minutes of breathing techniques, and 10 minutes of relaxation. Minor modifications to the tai chi forms were made, which mostly consisted of eliminating stances that required the knee to flex at greater than 90 degrees. Tai chi patients were also given a DVD to follow at home and asked to perform the movements on their own time for 20 minutes a day.
Patients randomized to the wellness-education control group attended two 60-minute sessions per week for the 12 weeks. Each session included 40 minutes of lecture on OA as a disease, diet and nutrition, OA treatments, or physical and mental health education. The final 20 minutes of each session consisted of stretching exercises involving the upper body, trunk and lower body. Each stretch was held for 10 to 15 seconds. Participants were instructed to practice at least 20 minutes of stretching exercises per day at home.
At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers found that patients who were taking tai chi exhibited significantly greater improvement in pain levels than those who were part of the control group. They also showed an improvement in physical function and stiffness levels and depression. The tai chi patients were also able to walk further over a given time period (six minutes) than those in the control group. These improvements all continued to the 24- and 48-week follow-up periods.
The researchers concluded that the tai chi intervention "appears to reduce pain and improve physical function, self-efficacy, depression and health status for knee OA. These observations emphasize a need to further evaluate the biologic mechanisms and approaches of tai chi to extend its benefits to a broader population. Further studies should replicate these results and deepen our understanding of this therapeutic modality."