American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Spring 2011 Graduates, from left, Jinan Zheng, Travis Young, Daniel Stettler, Kathleen Sowada, Rachel Nudd, Kinh Ly, Elise Garafola, Nayoung Lim, Rhea Dykoski, Sarah DeLaForest, Rosemary Britt, Esther Aldrich and Mona Abdel-Rahman. (AAP staff photo by Tom LaVenture)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ROSEVILLE, Minn. (May 21, 2011) – The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine held its spring graduation ceremony last month at its Roseville campus. Faculty, family and a several other practitioners of Oriental medicine were present to recognize the achievement of the 12 students that completed a four-year program to become its 10th graduating class.
“This success rate is the result of a collaborative effort by our faculty members, our Advisory Board members, our Board of Directors, our staff members, students, patients, and community,” said Dr. Changzhen Gong, founder and president, AAAOM, adding that the effort puts the school in position to provide mainstream health with education and support for understanding and using Chinese medicine theory and practice.
The ceremony was held in the AAAOM school building at 1925 West County Road B2. The graduates carried candles in black gowns. Dr. Yubin Lu, Academic Dean, presented them with a red sash inscribed with characters from the Chinese equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, written by Sun Simiao in the 7th century.
“Everyone one of you has devoted so much time and energy to achieve the dream of becoming a TCM practitioner,” said Gong.
The master of ceremonies was Elise Garafola, a 2004 AAAOM graduate who expressed her admiration for the hard work that led to this day. She credited the hard work of the students but also the selfless example and expertise of the faculty as mentors and for Dr. Gong’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit to establish the school.
Dr. Gong called this an exciting time for acupuncture as it continues to gain acceptance in the mainstream of western medicine. Breakthroughs and testimonials have led to TCM research at leading medical universities.
Three Asian graduates, Jinan Zheng, Kinh Ly, and Nayoung Lim, each had a unique story.
Lim is a Korean student who plans to bring TCM back to help the underserved poor of Korea.
Ly is a Vietnam refugee who was a teacher and practicing dentist for two decades prior to coming to the United States as an elder. He decided on a new challenge of learning TCM.
Zheng is a successful freelance writer, who was introduced to TCM and now treats patients from as far away as California and Chicago.
Dr. Peter Dorsen, a physician who teaches western medicine for AAAOM, said he often asks the students from all walks of life why they are pursuing traditional Chinese medicine. He said the frequent answer is that they are either unhappy with western medicine or had an experience with TCM that changed their life.
“I hope to just inspire a little and be their first friend in western medicine,” said Dorsen.
He explained his path to AAAOM as being in the “seventh phase” of a caregiver after 30 years of practicing, teaching and writing, referring to the late Alan Wilson Watts, a writer and interpreter of Eastern philosophies to a Western audience.
Dorsen said he hopes to reach the eighth and ninth phases of wisdom, and ultimately find a rich and satisfying perspective that encompasses all that he has learned and experienced.
He said that nature is the often the best cure and that the good doctor keeps the patient amused and comfortable to stay on that path. He said it is important to bust the myths about doctors and that for most mistakes and oversights will be made along the way.
“Listen to your patients,” said Dorsen. “That is important no matter how distracted you are by the day or in life. Treat patients as people and not as lab tests; observe their bodies and feel their spirits.”
Dorsen concluded by acknowledging the moment as a shift from student to professional, and welcomed the graduates as colleagues.
As the students progressed they began to apply their classroom learning into clinical training, treating hundreds of patients from family members to walk-ins as interns under the guidance of school faculty to enhance their academic curriculum in the five specialties of neurology, gynecology, immunology, dermatology, and gastroenterology.
The students also complete a Practice Management class where they are taught the essential techniques on how to build a solid practice. They learn clinic location selection, legal, marketing and public relations, community networking, retaining patients, building clinic capital, and setting up a business plan.
The full-time and part-time students successfully completed AAAOM’s Masters Degree Program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The curriculum includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui Na, Oriental dietary therapy and the other traditional Chinese medicine methods to accurately diagnose and effectively treat patients.
Depending on the course load, the program takes four to five years to complete, and meets the standards required to allow students to successfully take the acupuncture, Chinese herbology, and Oriental medicine diplomate exams of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
The program is approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, a specialized accrediting agency and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. AAAOM maintains faculty and student exchanges with the China Academy of TCM in Beijing and the Shandong Academy of TCM in Jinan.
Other speakers included Candyce Clayton, a graduate of the Eight Class in 2009. She was already an Augsburg College professor with a doctorate in English Literature, as Clayton her experience and fears of following up with the study of science and medicine.
Clayton encouraged the graduates to become proactive in their work, and to understand the warning signs of an acute condition and to not hesitate in making referrals.
She said it was the pain associated with fibromyalgia that brought her to traditional Chinese medicine, and that it succeeded where pills and other therapies had failed. She was able to walk and to sleep peacefully for the first time in years and said it saved her career from a declining condition.
In the student remarks, Daniel Stettler said he followed an education and career path that wasn’t really his calling. He did well but was not complete. He turned to traditional Chinese medicine as a calling but said he was surprised as he did not like the sight of blood and hated needles.
He thanked his friends and family for understanding his new career path and a field they did not understand and sometimes appreciate until they became his patients.
Stettler thanked the faculty but also the administration and office staff that are patient to students about their financial aid and scheduling problems. He said they do a wonderful but thankless job without recognition.
Fellow student Esther Aldrich took a moment to thank her classmates and faculty for helping her succeed through the program after the devastating loss of an uncle to pancreatic cancer. She said the faculty and students encouraged her along the way and “carried her through the moment.”
Then Aldrich turned to the informal comradary of the campus, where hugs and food accompanied the long study sessions. She said the teachers were patient with endless questions to help them grasp the difficult concepts or to understand the eastern or western medical training. She said the students worked together more than competed and that ensured more of them made it through the program than might have on their own.
Aldrich referred to a poster of a turtle on top of a fence post – made popular in part because it was in the office of the late “Roots” author Alex Haley.
“The turtle needed someone to help him get on that fence post,” said Aldrich, quoting Haley. “That is where we all are at this moment.”
The commencement entertainment was provided by saxophonist Yufei Du, who performed a traditional Chinese song, “My Country.” Flutist Melissa Stoudt performed “Sarabande” by J.S. Bach.
Visit AAAOM online at www.aaaom.edu or call 651-631-0204 for more information.