Five years after the South Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to allow acupuncturists to treat patients without a referral from a licensed medical doctor, acupuncturists have formed the South Carolina Oriental Medicine Association (SCOMA).Marina Ponton, LAc, owner of Greenville Natural Health Center in Greenville, NC, has taken the lead in establishing a state association to be affiliated with the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). The South Carolina Oriental Medicine Association is dedicated to the integrity, safety, excellence and advancement of traditional Chinese medicine by adhering to the highest standards of the profession. The new association seeks to promote continued success in treating patients and developing successful TCM practitioners in South Carolina. In addition to lifting the supervision and referral restrictions on acupuncturists, the bill established a new acupuncture advisory committee, and created licensure and license renewal requirements for new acupuncturists and those already practicing in the state.
A acupuncture physician in private practice since 1999, Ponton and her husband had been eyeing a move from Florida to South Carolina, but the restrictive law was a deterrent, Ponton said. "We visited friends in Greenville and fell in love with the area, but we felt that the laws governing my profession were just too restrictive."
After moving to South Carolina, Ponton opened Greenville Natural Health Center, specializing in women's health and wellness. She has sought to promote and advance TCM by holding several free seminars. She has also taken an active role in lobbying for passage of the federal acupuncture coverage act (HR 646), which would add acupuncture as a benefit covered under both Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. In addition to encouraging her patients to write or call their Congressmen in support of the bill, Ponton has made appearances on local television and written articles for the local newspaper to make consumers more aware of integrated care as a way to help solve the health care crisis.
"South Carolina has come a long way in recognizing the benefits or natural health and wellness," Ponton said. "Creation of a state association for the acupuncture profession was the next logical step."
Membership in SCOMA is open to acupuncturists and traditional Chinese medicine professionals practicing or seeking to practice in the state of South Carolina. SCOMA also offers support and guidance to students of acupuncture and TCM training programs, as well as acupuncture and Oriental medicine research. Those interested in membership or seeking more information can visit SCOMA online at www.sc-oma.org.
Kathy Vass is a writer and editor based in Greenville, SC.