The Education of a Young Acupuncturist
Updated October 15, 2004








The Education of a
Young Acupuncturist
Reflections on the Process by a Graduating Student

by Monica Bloch, MS

After taking the California state licensing exam in January 2005, Monica will be continuing her studies of the Mandarin language and Chinese medicine in Taipei, Taiwan.

Monica Bloch, founder of, graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in May 2004. This is the text of the speech she gave at the graduation ceremony, a revealing look at the education of acupuncturists.

I would like to share with you an interesting story. Last Monday, there was an unfamiliar, brand new white Mercedes parked in the faculty and staff lot. Within minutes it was towed. It wasn't suspected to be a car bomb or other insidious terrorist threat. It was towed quite simply because it couldn't have possibly belonged to a faculty member.

This got me thinking. If our professors had chosen the well-worn path, they would have become Western medical doctors, made six figures, and they would drive brand new Lexus SUV's. Fortunately for the graduating class of 2004 at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, they took the path less traveled. These faculty members have served as a shining example of the pursuit of knowledge - not the pursuit of material wealth.

Why They Teach Chinese Medicine

Teachers are overworked and underpaid no matter what field, and this is no exception. Clearly with the expertise and humanity our faculty possesses, they could make lots more money in their own private practices, not in the classroom or the clinic. I asked two separate instructors why they teach. They both answered because they love it, and it certainly shows. However, they have another impetus to teach: their unmistakable passion for the subject material. These men and women have a vested interest in our understanding and competency, because we are the future of Chinese medicine in this country. They give so that the medicine they love is implemented in a manner that meets their standards of excellence.

Braving the Student Clinic and Your First Patient

Every semester, the student clinic supervisors face a daunting task, fit only for the truly brave and fearless: They lead a new group of students through their first clinical rotations as interns. I can only speculate what it might be like for the supervisor, but let me tell you what it is like for the intern.

You're an intern. The day has finally come. You've passed your second year ends, you're CPR certified, you get to throw away the name tag that says Assistant and trade it for one that says Intern. Your newly purchased Pocket Manual fits nicely in the pocket of your clean (because you finally washed it), white lab coat. You actually arrive early to your clinic meeting, hoping your shift won't be in the back room with the pink curtain dividers, and you sit down. The meeting begins, and there it is on the clinic schedule: your very own first patient.

With a sense of accomplishment and pride, you gather them from the waiting room and escort them to your treatment room, where your name hangs on the door. You appear confident and collected and are eager to heal whatever ails them. There is nothing you can't handle. The interview begins, and they begin to speak.

And suddenly, everything that you have learned in the past three years completely vanishes into thin air as you watch their mouths move. You are trying your hardest to remember what hematochromatosis is, or Meniere's Disease, or fill in the blank, wishing you had spent more time listening to Cliff's lectures, and less time griping about the air conditioning. Your patient is speaking tangentially, you can't seem to guide the interview, and the clock is ticking.

Finally, the interview ends, and you check their pulse. Suddenly, as if losing your hearing wasn't enough, you lose your sense of touch and can't figure out what the pulse is trying to tell you. In a panic, you use this time to go through a mental rolodex of diseases and cures that, in all honesty, couldn't possibly be the problem. The words "Fake it till you make it" pop into mind as you go through all the motions of the diagnosis without any of the answers.

Resigned, you leave the room and hope that what you had managed to write down would be enough to regurgitate to your supervisor.

Yet through experience develops confidence, and soon we begin to become competent. Our clinical supervisors guide us and encourage us. As a mentor of mine always says, our novice hands burn 'em, bleed 'em, and give 'em hematomas, all under the sanctity of someone else's license, I might add. Not only do these brave men and women let us forge our own way and make the mistakes we inevitably will, they graciously take the brunt of responsibility.

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Our Faculty Were Pioneers

From Korea to Iceland to China, our instructors bring to us their unique experience and passion for traditional Chinese medicine. Many are truly pioneers, having graduated from some of the very first classes of TCM colleges in this country. These individuals forged their way through a society with little knowledge of acupuncture, and often encountered cynisicm and criticism. It was a far cry from the publicity and acceptance the field enjoys now. Our instructors from abroad face other challenges, as they are restricted to practice as they would in their countries, due to the litigiousness and restrictions placed upon the medicine in U.S. As brilliantly as they do with herbal formulas, they themselves simply modify, and keep on.

Thank You

To produce such an excellence class as this, there must be credit given where credit is due. Our faculty have lent us valuable stories of their own clinic practices, and shared with us strategies and techniques that have worked for them. They have been unselfish with their time. If society worked correctly and people got paid based on their impact on people's lives, then these people would be some of the richest in the country. And the parking lot will be full of white Mercedes.

Except for Bob Damone of course, who would still ride his bike.

(Ed.- See Bob below, and click to read an interview with him)

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