What is the official title a person holds after they have
graduated from an Masters of Science program from a school
of accupunture and oriental medicine and passed the state
board test? I have heard several different title from Dr.
of Oriental Medicine to holistic practitioner. What is one's
official title to practice?
Great question- the official answer is that it depends on the
state law. The real answer is that it depends on you.
I believe that legally it's generally not ok for a chinese medical
practitioner to represent themselves as a "Doctor" unless
they have a PhD or doctorate in something else... however, there
are some who got OMD or DOM degrees back in the 80's.
In California, the law is quite specific that an L.Ac. cannot
represent themselves as a Doctor unless they have another degree.
However, in the business and professions code we are described
as "physicians." We can also act as primary care physicians.
Many schools award a Master's degree, but shorter programs offer
only a diploma or certificate. In a few states they are going
to be offering PhD's in Oriental Medicine soon.
Some Names and Acronyms
In California, we're called LAc, Licensed Acupuncturist.
In CO, it's RAc, Registered Acupuncturist.
Other places use DAc for Diplomate of Acupuncture.
What's in a Name?
Of course, these are inadequate titles because they don't say
anything about herbs, moxibustion, cupping- in fact, acupuncture
is just one modality (a treatment) rather than a system of medicine.
The system of medicine is called Oriental Medicine... it's not
just Chinese because there are distinct Korean and Japanese styles.
And actually it's not just Oriental because it continues to develop-
there are some distinctly French innovations (not sure if they're
good yet!), and American variations are developing as well. But
it's all based on the original Chinese Medical theory, pathology,
etc. Fully 25% of our California state board licensure test is
on herbs, but we are licensed as Licensed Acupuncturist.
It doesn't reflect the whole medicine. Our profession needs a
better name for it!
It's not the greatest to call biomedical physicians "Medical
Doctors" either... they practice only one kind of medicine-
biomedical. They don't learn Oriental Medicine. We do, but we
aren't officially called "Medical" doctors. I still
have a hard time saying I've been to medical school- most people
would assume I meant biomedical school.
It's the biomedical physicians' belief that their medicine is
the only real one. Some jokingly call them "R.D.'s"
(Real Doctors). And it's a sarcastic not a flattering term.
Arrogance and Ignorance
Masters Degree Licensed Acupuncturists cannot learn pharmacology
in a weekend course and then legally prescribe drugs. But MD's
and DC's (chiropractors) can take a 100hr course and practice
acupuncture. That should be banned. Imagine the outrage if LAc's
could take a weekend class on pharmacology and then prescribe
drugs. "We can look it up," they say. Yeah, so could
we. Not a high standard for medicine, is it?
The precedent is that one should be adequately educated before
they can practice any medicine- it' s only MD's who are allowed
to 'fool around' with other medicines. And that's due to the false
assumption that they already have the basics. It's an antiquated
notion from back when everyone had to be good enough at the basics
of medicine to be in the middle of nowhere without a hospital
or a ton of specialists. These days it's different, but the idea
that MD's know enough to practice anything has yet to change.
In fact, MD's can do plastic "surgery" without any specialized
training whatsoever. There is even an association that for a fee
will send them a certificate for absolutely no training.
In China there are 3 main division of medicine:
- Western medicine (WM)
- Chinese Medicine (CM) and
- Integration of Western and Chinese Medicine (IWCM)
Each of those 3 branches has their own hospitals, clinics, and
Chinese Medicine is an independent system totally different from
what MD's learn. The idea that they can practice one of our modalities
without the medical system from which it is derived is arrogant
and foolish. Sure, they can probably do it without puncturing
your lung, kidneys, or brainstem, but can they get good results?
If they don't, it's not acupuncture that's at fault, but their
arrogance and lack of training.
I don't blame them for wanting to get in on such an effective,
needed, and profitable medicine. And I understand that they've
already gone to school for 7-10 years and paid a lot of money
for that. But at least they could have the humility to learn our
medicine before they practice it!
However, some medical acupuncturists do learn the traditional
medicine, and practice acupuncture full-time. I have greater respect
for these MD's than those that just 'fool around' with acupuncture,
or rely only on recent acupuncture outcome studies."
(For more about medical acupuncture vs. licensed
acupuncture, read this article.)
Doctor as a Term of Respect
The fact is, though, that many patients call L.Ac.'s 'doctor'
anyway. They do so out of respect. After all, if the guy helps
you, maybe even more than your RD (Real Doctor) did, doesn't he
deserve the title too? These days, MD's have lost a lot of respect
and trust... legally they still are called doctors.
(I know another guy with a Master's degree that jokes, "Fine,
I'll call you Doctor, so long as you call me Master.")
The Historical Meaning of Doctor
But many people seem to have forgotten what a doctor is. The
original medieval latin meant "to teach." That implies
a relationship with the patient. Leadership, sponsorship, mentorship...
Fixing your medical problems became part of the word in the 14th
c., but we still recognize a broader doctor archetype. Carl Jung
expanded the doctor archetype to "healer," and discussed
the idea of a "wounded healer" implied by the Biblical
adage "Physician, heal thyself." The root of the word
patient and passion is the same: "suffering." The healer
must have compassion for his patient.
The Chinese Medical Physician as the Ultimate Healer
This is the golden nugget that most patients discover with traditional
acupuncturist/herbalists. Chinese medicine takes the whole person
into account and treats disease with that in mind, so the chinese
healer has to really get to know you.
Chinese Medicine is not a profession for those who dislike conversation
and relationship! Sure, you can treat pain and sports medicine
only, and that minimizes the necessary relationship time... but
most who are drawn to a holistic medicine are invigorated by the
interchange. It's stereotypically the opposite of the MD/DO...
instead of having to focus on relationship to keep their patients
happy, the acupuncturist has to focus on time-efficiency to keep
their business going! It's not black and white, of course, but
these are some generalities that explain what kind of doctors/healers
chinese medicine practitioners are.
All the best!
Find a Licensed Acupuncturist here: "Resources
for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"