California Acupuncture Board turns blind eye to regulatory role

June 21, 2008

I attended the most recent meeting of the California Acupuncture Board (June 20 2008) where a new Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) college received temporary approval despite the college President’s statement that his occupational goal for his students was “training missionaries”. The school is owned by a religious organization that only provides classes in the Korean language. Presumably, all the students are international, although the President stated they all “lived here”.
Apparently, nobody thought to ask the obvious follow-up question to determine if the students, before living here, came from abroad in order to enroll in the program.
A second item on the Board’s agenda had to do with evaluating and accepting transfer credits. The Board’s Executive Director had proposed that transfer credits should not be accepted unless an original transcript was provided by the school where the credits were purportedly earned. Incredibly, representatives from several California schools insisted this decision should be left to the AOM colleges bypassing Board regulation. You can read a letter signed by four school officials
arguing for this position. Note the specious references to the University of Toronto and Berkeley.
This profession is hurting because of fundamental issues reflected in these topics. In a profession where as many as half the graduates are unable to support themselves it seems the Board should be doing everything in its power to prevent the proliferation of more unemployable acupuncturists. Instead the Board approved a school where the goal is not even to practice acupuncture.
And what about transcripts? Transcripts have to be originals. To permit anything else is completely irregular in higher education. The Board is housed under the Department of Consumer Affairs whose mission is to protect the consumer. The Board’s role includes ensuring “excellence in practitioner training and education”.
I believe there is a place for acupuncturists in mainstream medicine as primary care providers. Acupuncturists acquire a fundamental understanding of illness and disease in the Chinese Medicine model. As an allopathic medical system there are many parallels with western biomedicine. One of the missing learning strategies is extended clinical experience placing acunpuncturists in clinical settings with mainstream medical providers. We believe most of the current clerkships in mainstream settings are nominal and, if employment is a valid outcome measure, these experiences are wholly insufficient to prepare LAcs to work in mainstream medicine.
How might licensed acupuncturists (LAcs) be prepared to work in mainstream settings? We believe a one year program wherein LAcs are immersed in mainstream clinical rotations might do the trick. If the graduates of such a program were able to work in a community clinic, where the need for primary care providers is tremendous and where physicians generally work on a part-time basis, we are confident there are many LAcs that would jump at the opportunity.
We are just as confident such a program would be strongly resisted by the groups that are presently guiding the profession towards continued isolationism and maintaining the status quo wherein virtually any group can establish an AOM college and admissions practices are unaccountable.
How long can this system sustain? How long can the California Acupuncture Board continue to function to the benefit of professional schools instead of consumers?

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