I imagined I could almost smell barbecue in the air as I stepped up to the registration table at the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin's (AOMA) Southwest Symposium. A large gathering of 325 Oriental medicine practitioners from North America and Asia makes this symposium truly one of a kind.
The Texas hospitality starts with a heartfelt welcome from AOMA staff and volunteers. It's the kind of greeting that sticks with you until you're well on your way home. Symposium participants become part of AOMA's close-knit community. And like all good Texans, this community believes that work should be fun. At what other event does the hosting institution's president go from discussing important medical issues with some of the world's leading experts to holding a jam session with his band "The Flo"? Nowhere that I know of other than Southwest Symposium.
The 2010 list of speakers was impressive. Misha Cohen, Clinical Director of the Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine clinic and Research Consultant to the UCSF School of Medicine Cancer Research Institute, presented an interesting study on herbal research and practice in the prevention of HPV-related cancers. She is looking specifically at lesions that do not respond well to standard Western therapies. Eric Brand, president of Legendary Herbs, spoke on global trends in granule use. His presentation was a dynamic comparative study of the historical use and current trends in prescribing herbal granules. The presentation delivered thought-provoking comparisons of the traditional herbal prescription philosophies of Japan, Taiwan and China and how each of these contributes to Western herbal prescriptive methods. Shaobin Wei, who teaches in the gynecology department at Chengdu TCM University (Chengdu, China) and serves as vice chairman of the Gynecology Committee of the World Federation of TCM, lectured on gynecological issues, particularly syndromes that respond well to TCM. In addition to comprehensive discussions of the etiology and treatment of irregular and painful menses and fertility, Dr. Shaobin paid special attention to the treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease. As always, Marilyn Allen's lunchtime discussion of ethics, regulations and malpractice was rousing (See page 3 for more on AOM in Texas).
The all-day seminars were especially well-attended. Joe Chang put together an excellent panel on the use of acupuncture for military personnel. He focused on the use of acupuncture to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Meredith St. John and Lisa Conboy, both of the New England School of Acupuncture, described a new research study on the use of acupuncture to treat Gulf War Illness, a project funded by the Department of Defense. Nurses Laurieanne Nabinger and Lynne Morgan discussed acupuncture for pain management among veterans.
By far the most popular presentation, so much so that one had to arrive early to get a good seat, was Young Wei-Chieh's two-day workshop on Advanced Tung's Points. Not only was this presentation focused on treatments that the practitioner can immediately put into practice, but the humor and banter between Dr. Young and his translator kept the mood in the room light and participants laughing. This was a presentation not to be missed.
For me, the most important part of any symposium is picking up what I call "clinical gems"; bits of information, formulas or treatment protocols that I can immediately put to use in practice. For those who were unable to attend this wonderful symposium, here are a few clinical gems I'd like to pass on to you:
During Marilyn Allen's presentation on ethics, I paid special attention to the information on new regulations regarding patient privacy and standards for keeping data electronically. While I was aware that identity theft is a huge problem nationally, I was surprised to learn that a great deal of identity theft occurs in medical offices. The "Red Flag Rule" information on establishing patient identity was thought-provoking.
Misha Cohen discussed providing patients with nutritional information that would support their acupuncture treatment. She specifically mentioned how to create out-of-office objectives with which patients can comply. She noted that while some patients are ready to change every aspect of their lives, many others need incremental changes to be successful. She emphasized listening carefully to the patient to gauge ways to help them be successful, as well as developing the patient/practitioner relationship so that an open discourse develops. Doing this allows the practitioner to be both an asset and a partner in the patient's health care.
Dr. Young suggested that one use Tung's extra points in conjunction with treatments from the 14 channels to create powerful treatments. For symptoms that come and go, one might incorporate Shu Stream points as a method of guiding to the area of pathology. To open the orifices, consider jing-well points. For insomnia, the practitioner may bleed the ear apex.
This gathering of acupuncturists was informative and warm. I will definitely return to AOMA's Southwest Symposium in 2011.
Ellen Evans is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice in Austin, Texas. She integrates neoclassical pulse diagnosis and constitutional analysis in her practice and specializes in the treatment of psychosocial disharmonies. Ellen can be reached at