An Open Letter to All Those Interested in the Future of Oriental Medicine
I have been greatly disappointed in the direction our profession has been taking in regards to research and the inclusion of Oriental medicine into mainstream medicine.The focus of the last few years, and of many media reports, is on limited studies that look at the effectiveness of acupuncture or a particular herb. I believe that this is a great mistake. In a time when the media is flooded with questionable studies designed to market questionable products, it is difficult to establish credibility. If we really want to be taken seriously within the modern medical field, we have to provide proof of concept. Before we waste research dollars on trying to meet an artificial double standard of providing controlled double-blind studies on everything we do, we must show why we do it.
Very little of what goes on in hospitals and clinics is determined by conclusive scientific studies. What physicians have is a body of knowledge, supported by research and accumulated clinical history, designed to evaluate and devise treatments for patients. Physicians do not look for a research study that matches the patient in front of them. They rely on a system of understanding that explains what is wrong and what can be done to change that. We also have a system that evaluates, explains and suggests treatments for our patients. It is a different system, yet is no less valid.
If we continue to focus on studies about how effective a particular needle combination is for a particular problem, then we have lost. Anyone can follow a needle-point protocol. The real medicine is in that body of knowledge that allows us to look at the whole patient and determine what is best for that person. That knowledge base is what needs to be validated by scientific study. We need to show that liver qi stagnation is just as valid as a diagnostic description as cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome. Only when our knowledge base is validated will we be seen as credible in the eyes of the biomedical establishment. Without that validation, acupuncture and herbs become just nifty techniques - techniques that can be relegated to medical recipe books that can be followed by anyone, regardless of whether they truly understand what they are doing. When that happens, patients can look forward to substandard Oriental medical care from more medical practitioners who see acupuncture as a medical sideline, or worse, as a marketing tool. The resulting decreased clinical effectiveness will not reflect the incompetence of specific poorly trained practitioners, but rather will reflect poorly on Oriental medicine as a whole.
David Bock, CAc, Dipl. Ac., Dipl. CH
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Comments on the ACAOM Doctoral Task Force
I strongly support the development of doctoral programs leading to an OMD degree. There are currently several unaccredited programs offering advanced training in Oriental medicine, leading to PhD, DAOM, DOM, and other potentially confusing titles. Oriental medicine needs a national standard for education similar to allopathic medicine, law and other learned professions. Until such standards are established and maintained, there is little chance of Oriental medicine becoming widely recognized and accepted by legislators, administrative agency officials and the general public.
One of the major issues raised by students attending the 2005 AAOM convention was reciprocity of licensing between states. Until a single educational standard is established, with one professional-level terminal degree (OMD) as the standard for licensure, licensing reciprocity will remain an elusive dream.
Another major issue raised by students was student loan forgiveness programs, such as those currently available to graduating MDs who commit a period of years to serving the needs of underprivileged populations. Until our current patchwork of varied educational and licensing schemes is resolved and unified into a national standard, it will be difficult to convince legislators and agency officials that loan forgiveness programs should be available to graduates of Oriental medicine programs.
Undoubtedly, much work must be done by OM associations on both the state and national level in order to advance the profession; however, professional doctorate programs leading to an OMD degree represent the necessary first step, and will provide the education and credentials necessary to elevate the status of Oriental medicine in the United States. The Task Force's final report reflected a sensitive and thoughtful analysis of core competencies for the first professional doctorate. I extend thanks to all individuals who participated in its development.
Rachel H. Peterman, MS, JD
Oriental medicine student