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Acupuncture Today – May, 2008, Vol. 09, Issue 05

Whether or Not to Survive and Flourish: That is the Question

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

Acupuncture has a long and turbulent history, yet it has survived. There is some discussion that it began with a legend of a soldier with a frozen shoulder cured when he received an arrow shot into his leg.

No one is completely sure how acupuncture works. To some, it's like magic, to others it's based on the information a Frenchman brought back from China and for still others, it can be explained and documented with Western terms. Whatever your choice, you have the freedom to speak and practice the way you choose in America.

When the founding fathers met together and formed the Declaration of Independence, they argued long and hard. They finally announced that these states would form a union. Each individual still had their own ideas but they would compromise and join together for the survival of the union.

In some ways, this is where this profession is in the United States. There are many individuals who practice in numerous ways. They use many protocols, modalities and interventions to meet the needs of patients. What I do not seem to grasp is why this profession cannot unite to create strength of purpose.

On Feb. 9, 2008, the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine met and released its findings that "There is currently insufficient evidence of consensus with the acupuncture and Oriental medicine communities of interest to warrant implementing a first-professional doctorate as entry-level into the profession. This information has come as quite a shock to many practitioners around the country. I encourage you to look. Log onto the ACAOM Web site and read the documents posted.

Of course, as in any issue, there are many varied opinions that should be respected. But how can the profession take its place in the global health care system if our education is not equal to that of others around the world also practicing this form of health care treatments and interventions. Is there insufficient support because of fear? Uncertainty about how existing practitioners would fit into the new educations standards? Or is it because some do not want to change or adapt to the unknown?  

The Acupuncture Today Web site posted a question concerning the entry-level doctorate. The responses were mixed. I would encourage you to get involved, ask questions and discuss how this medicine will look in the next three to five years. We already know that doctors of chiropractic can perform acupuncture treatments in 23 of the 50 states. This is done with 100 hours of training in some cases. Of course, it's not possible for DCs to know all that the Oriental medicine provider knows. Medical doctors are taking courses with 250 hours of education in order to practice this medicine. It looks to me that it's time for this profession to look at educational standards and the hours of academic learning and be ready to step into the gap and assume the rightful place of this medicine in the global health care system. Practitioners from the U.S. cannot have less training than others around the world.

The WHO is working with the countries of the Pacific Rim to standardize acupuncture point location and terminology. This is leading to an International Classification of Disease for Traditional Medicine in ICD-11 , to be completed in 2014. This work is being undertaken so that other countries around the world can use this medicine to help defer the high costs of Western diagnostics, costly surgical interventions and pharmaceuticals. The profession has a responsibility to be as well-educated as possible in order to serve the needs of its patients.

Whether you agree, disagree or are undecided about the necessity of the entry-level doctorate, it's imperative these discussions continue. This profession must not lose the market share it has worked so hard to achieve. We also must remember that this medicine has tried to take hold in the U.S. before and then disappeared for many years. This time, the medicine is in a stronger position, but it does not guarantee the medicine will be delivered by acupuncturists. The profession must join together and present a united face to the other groups that would take this medicine and make it part of their scopes of practice.

I would encourage you to talk to your peers, no matter how they practice. You are all delivering some form of Oriental medicine. Work together and respect each other. As Leon Hammer, MD, wrote: "Of all the beliefs and values by which we must function for mutual enhancement, respect is the most ineluctable."

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

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