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Acupuncture Today – November, 2002, Vol. 03, Issue 11

Oriental Medicine in a Changing World: Report on CSOMA's 2002 Convention

By Editorial Staff

Licensed acupuncturists and allied health care practitioners across the country gathered at the San Francisco Airport Westin Hotel August 8-12 for the California State Oriental Medical Association's 13th annual International Expo and Convention.

This year's conference was based on a simple theme - "Oriental Medicine in a Changing World" - and covered a complex array of topics, from enhancing fertility using acupuncture and herbs to the politics of Oriental medicine.

Following an opening night celebration on Thursday, August 8, the Expo began with an hour-long demonstration of medical chi kung by Tatsuo Hurano, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Oriental medicine who dazzled those in attendance with a variety of energy healing techniques. Friday's morning session commenced with six classes, including Darren Starwynn's overview of electroacupuncture and electromedicine, and a chronic pain and disability workshop by Michael Turk that showcased specific treatments for sciatica. Highlights from Friday afternoon's session included Dan Lobash's class on Korean hand therapy and a facial rejuvenation workshop by Mary Elizabeth Wakefield and Sunanda Harrell-Stokes.

On Friday evening, acupuncturists were treated to a general panel session on the current state of Oriental medicine. Panelists included Brian Fennen, former CSOMA president and executive director of the California Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance; David Molony, AAOM executive director; Marilyn Nielsen, executive officer of the California Acupuncture Board; Pamela Lee, ACAOM board member; Dr. William Prensky, director of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine program at Mercy College; Carla Wilson, president of the Acupuncture Alliance; Howard Kong, CSOMA president; and Benjamin Dierauf, MS, LAc, who served as moderator. After brief introductions by each member, a question-and-answer session was held in which students and practitioners asked the panelists about a wide range of subjects. Among the topics discussed:

  • The doctoral programs currently being offered at Bastyr University and the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, and how the impact of such programs could change the perception of the profession in the eyes of the public;
  • Whether acupuncturists can - or should - be perceived as primary care providers;
  • Proposed increases in educational hours and how those increases may affect students in terms of debt repayment and costs to patients;
  • A lack of quality practice management programs and classes, and how schools need to be more stringent in providing more information on the business end of running a practice;
  • Student loan reimbursement/remission and the possibility of exchanging free services in poor or underserved areas for continuing education units; and
  • A need for school libraries to improve their status and provide both current and historical information to students.

Originally scheduled to run two hours, the panel session lasted late into the night and enjoyed by all who participated.

Saturday morning's program picked up right where Friday left off, as several students and practitioners joined Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, for an hour of invigorating qi gong exercises. These exercises were designed to help acupuncturists develop both nei gong (for personal health and longevity) and wei gong (for extending one's qi through an acupuncture needle and into a patient).

Following the qi gong exercises, Saturday was dominated by a two-part business track designed to teach new practitioners the art of effective practice management. In the morning session, Marilyn Allen, Jason Luban, Kevin McNamee and Honora Lee Wolfe shared their collective wisdom gleaned from years of experience and diligence. Topics covered included: how to run a practice; health insurance and workers' compensation billing; computer billing software; making and using money honestly and with integrity; and low- and no-cost marketing techniques. The afternoon session included discussions by Fred Lerner (increasing examination skills and procedures for working more effectively with Western practitioners), Shawn Steel (working with personal injury cases) and Garrett Casey (effective documentation and report writing for primary and secondary treating practitioners). At the end of each session, an "ask the expert" panel was convened in which attendees could ask speakers about different aspects of practice management.

Saturday's keynote luncheon speaker was Assemblywoman Judy Chu, who has been instrumental in introducing (and getting passed) several key pieces of legislation in California. Her talk, "California Politics and Eastern Medicine: My View," centered around the need for acupuncturists to become more politically active, and provided some perspective as to why Ms. Chu is such an ardent supporter of Oriental medicine.

For those attendees interested in other topics, Saturday offered a wealth of alternatives. In the morning, a "clinical pearls" plenary session brought together respected practitioners from six different disciplines of Oriental medicine. Four "live" case studies were presented with treatment approaches discussed from a multidisciplinary approach, including extensive audience interaction. A politics seminar moderated by acupuncture lobbyist Steve English generated much discussion as he reviewed the most important pieces of legislation being debated in California. In the afternoon, well-known author and acupuncturist Felice Dunas hosted a seminar on sexual behavior and Oriental medicine theory; Holly Guzman offered a class on enhancing fertility through acupuncture and herbs; and Richard Tan discussed an acupuncture technique called the balance method. These were among more than a half-dozen different seminars offered during Saturday afternoon, all of which were well attended.

Also on Saturday afternoon, the first part of a special student caucus was held. In the caucus, two student representatives were invited to participate and attend the rest of the conference at no charge. The goal of this caucus, as in previous years, was to develop an independent voice for student representation in Oriental medicine associations, regulatory boards, accrediting bodies, and other agencies. Students discussed several key topics at the caucus, including the advent of doctoral programs, the quality of education being delivered, and the ramifications of being designated primary care physicians in California and elsewhere. (Editor's note: Students interested in establishing a CSOMA student organization at their college should contact CSOMA's executive director, Rebekah Buckles, at 800-477-4564.)

The Expo's Sunday lineup began with a continuation of Dr. Fratkin's qi gong class. This is a field of traditional Chinese medicine that sadly is not utilized to same degree as acupuncture and herbal medicine, particularly in the United States. According to some estimates, only about 10% of U.S.-trained acupuncturists practice qi gong on a daily basis, whereas about 90% of China-trained acupuncturists practice daily qi gong.

The rest of Sunday's program consisted of four morning sessions and four afternoon sessions. In the morning, Daoist priest Jeffrey Yuen gave an enlightening discussion on the energetics of the gall bladder and the role it plays regarding physiology, psychology and spirituality. John Chen, Brian Fennen, Jake Paul Fratkin, Bill Egloff, Richard Ko, David Molony and Lise Groleau hosted an herb panel to discuss current policies on the regulation and processing of herbal medicines in the U.S., with close attention paid to heavy metal toxicity, use of endangered species for certain formulas, aristolochic acid, and proposed regulations and warning labels. Jerry Alan Johnson, one of the nation's leading authorities on medical qi gong, delivered a seminar on the effectiveness of this therapy for breast cancer and associated cysts and tumors. The second part of the student caucus was also held Sunday morning, where students developed a plan of action for the future.

In the afternoon, Neil Gumenick held court with an exciting seminar on ways to enhance patient/practitioner communication. Writer and researcher Janice Walton-Hadlock taught a class on how to relieve pain and ease fear in patients who are close to dying. Tony Kuo, a medical doctor, held a workshop on interpreting lab reports, and Raven Lang discussed obstetrics and common situations that arise during pregnancy.

The Expo wrapped up on the 12th with a smattering of workshops held early Monday morning. Alex Chen, PhD, OMD, LAc shared some the knowledge gleaned from more than 30 years experience into a workshop on tuina and advanced massage techniques for hip joint pain. John Kolenda, past president of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, teamed with Carolyn Reuben and Julia Ross to hold a panel on treating drug, alcohol and other addictions. Dr. Bruce Robinson's seminar answered questions related to primary medicine and how to create alliances with Western-trained physicians. And Honora Wolfe discussed how to manage menopausal conditions and maintain breast health.

Next year, CSOMA plans to return to its roots by offering two conferences so that practitioners in the southern part of the state will be able to experience everything the association has to offer without having to travel as far. Expo South 2003 will be held at the LAX Hilton in Los Angeles April 3-6, while Expo North 2003 will return to the San Francisco Airport Westin July 31-August 4. Planning for both programs is underway, and a call for speakers interested in participating has already been announced.

For more information on the 2003 conferences, or to learn more about the events that transpired at the 2002 conference, visit or call CSOMA at 800-477-4564.

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