Educational standards…a professional matter

May 7, 2008

AAAOM%20logo.jpgI am always surprised when I encounter professionals unfamiliar with how their profession is governed. The common arrangement is to establish three organizations that represent the profession’s principal internal stakeholders: the association of colleges (CCAOM), the association of licensed professionals (AAAOM), and the accreditation body (ACAOM). The public interest is represented by the state (or national) licensing agency which in theory holds regulatory sway over the internal groups.
Healthcare providers across disciplines are more likely to not know than know who these groups are and how they interact. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) is comparatively young as a licensed health profession in the USA. Acupuncture is a profession struggling to organize itself politically and educationally. The number of US licensed acupuncturists – approximately 20,000 – is actually quite small. There are more than 600,000 physicians.
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While healthcare is a business, healthcare education must be very careful to reinforce the perception that academic credibility comes before business. The various governing bodies inside a profession should work together to ensure this principle can never be questioned. The number of acupuncturists and AOM educators prepared and willing to occupy seats on the three AOM organizational boards is very few. The number of trained educators in AOM is probably fewer. Drawing “regulators” from a small and insulated pool is a good way to maintain the status quo and poses an easy target for “super” regulators.
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Many health professions programs seem to arrive at a tipping point in their history when educators’ interests take precedence over business interests. Conventional medicine experienced this at the turn of the 20th century when release of the Flexner Report changed everything.
In our recent article, Diving Integrative Medicine, published online we argue that external scrutiny can be expected to increase in AOM education as integrative medicine receives closer scrutiny. The justification for pointing the microscope at AOM will be framed around the need to ensure that standards across health professions education are comparably rigorous. The recent abandonment of the first professional doctorate degree was in large part rationalized by the colleges’ reluctance to implement greater rigor.
“Divining Integrative Medicine” is the second publication on integrative medicine in a series on the importance of raising standards within acupuncture education.

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