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Acupuncture Today – June, 2000, Vol. 01, Issue 06

The Ties That Bind

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

Before beginning this month's discussion, some congratulations are in order.

First, hats off to the ACAOM for the outstanding job they have been doing in conjunction with administrators, staff and faculty in the schools of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Second, hats off to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for the tremendous amount of work they do on behalf of the schools. Their efforts may not show up on the front page of the New York Times, but they certainly do not go unnoticed.

Congratulations also to the states of Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio for their passage of new licensing acts for acupuncture. This just leaves nine states that have not yet passed laws allowing for the legal practice of acupuncture. The field is continuing to grow.

In the past few weeks, I have had the honor of attending the California State Oriental Medical Association's exposition and the annual convention of the National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance, both of which took place in San Francisco. An interesting meeting occurred at the Alliance's convention; it is the outcome of that meeting which I would like to discuss.

The Alliance convention presented an ethics panel chaired by Ann Bailey. Panel members included Shirley Biggs, Sherman Cohn, Carla Wilson, LAc, and myself. This was the second panel discussion on ethics within the profession to be held at a national convention. Reflecting on the questions asked, it demonstrated the need for more information on this subject.

The panel discussion pointed out a variety of issues that are coming to the front of the profession. State boards and associations are now beginning to deal with ethical issues. The state board of Maryland, in fact, has adopted an entire statement of ethical standards for its practitioners.

Oriental medicine practitioners are individual and unique. The knowledge, treating skills and understanding they possess are attributes uniquely dispersed and tempered in each provider. While each practitioner is unique, there is still an underlying tie within the profession. America seems to be the melting pot for creeds, cultures, ideas and traditions. Even with such a wide range of cultures and opinions, the professions of acupuncture and Oriental medicine have a cohesiveness not always seen in other professions.

As practitioners find a group with which they relate, either through language, culture, ethnicity or technique, they join together and form a professional association. These associations have their own standards, programs, dues and membership benefits.

As each association stands as a separate pillar in the structure of Oriental medicine, so are they all needed to stand together to create the foundation on which Oriental medicine will continue to grow. Each association functions to meet the needs of its members and has its own ideas and set of priorities.

While each association holds its own beliefs and ideas, some concepts are shared throughout the profession. All associations, for instance, seem to agree on the need for a strong political influence. The political seems to run the same both on the state and national level. It takes money, votes and connections to make a difference.

Many associations have begun to discuss the Office & Professional Employees International Union and its role in the creation of an acupuncture guild. How can the formation of an OPEIU guild help the profession? It brings the individual members and associations together under one umbrella, while everyone retains their own autonomy and identity. It's one of the ties that binds.

As mentioned previously in this column, membership in a guild would also give the profession political power. Since unions are the largest purchasing group of health care insurance policies in the U.S., joining a guild would help network the benefits of acupuncture into these plans.

Many of our profession's leaders have a global vision. This in itself is valuable. The profession is growing on a global level from the aspect of more patients from different cultures coming through the doors of the acupuncturist. Yes, we do live in a global village ­ and we must join forces to stand together.

This profession is still young in the United States. Each person must ask themselves: Do we want to be a united profession, moving ahead together to oppose those who would take and administer Oriental medicine with little or no training, or will the powers that be hold our profession at bay and relegate it to the role of a technician in the greater scope of medicine? Stand up and stand together, regardless of your individual ideas, and help move Oriental medicine into its rightful place for the years and decades to come.

Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.

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