THE SURVIVAL OF THE AAMA IS ESSENTIAL FOR PHYSICIAN ACUPUNCTURISTS, BUT MAJOR CHANGES ARE NEEDED TO INSURE THIS AS ACUPUNCTURE BECOMES INCREASINGLY ACCEPTED BY MAINSTREAM MEDICINE
Ten years ago I would not have been writing this letter, Even though there are a still a few groups of non-MD acupuncturists who would still demean our training and have, through shrewd lobbying, convinced a few state legislatures to prevent qualified (ABME certified or eligible) physicians from exercising their right to practice acupuncture, there recently have been significant inroads made by Drs. Richard Niemtzow and Steve Burns to finally “bury the hatchet” by communicating with the AAAOM leaders to enter a new and necessary era of mutual respect, cooperation and continuing education. If we do not seriously re-examine our relationship with the AAAOM and its many hundreds of licensed acupuncturists, and establish a very positive adult relationship based on trust, the AAMA will continue to fade into the background as a major player in acupuncture medicine in the United States. There will still be some “die hards” on both sides who want to maintain the status quo and keep the turf war alive, but this must end through charismatic and sincere peacemakers in both the MD and non-MD organizations. A demonstration of such sincerity would be for the AAAOM national directors to actively work with their appropriate state organizations to reverse those legislative decisions which have prevented fully trained physician acupuncturists from practicing acupuncture and to stop all future attempts to make LAc training the only route to practicing high quality acupuncture medicine. We all will all stand to gain by focusing on our common ground, i.e. the ultimate acceptance of acupuncture as a modality of treatment that is equal and most often better than a purely pharmacologic approach with its plethora of side effects. To this end I strongly support the pioneering diplomatic work of Richard and Steve toward establishing a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with the non-physician acupuncturists. We must all consider the following points:
1. The AAMA must continue to exist, not only because it is a unique society of physicians trained in acupuncture, but also because it is one of a very few vehicles for acupuncture physicians to obtain the Category I CEU’s in acupuncture and related topics as part of the requirements to maintain our state licenses. In fact, I specifically asked The Oregon Board of Medical Examiners if I could use CEU’s from an acupuncture college CME program to fulfill part of my CME requirement. The answer was an unequivocal “NO”. So I hope the AAMA will invite practitioners and authors such as Giovanni Maciocia or Kiiko Matsumoto to lecture at one of our future symposia. In the past 25 years I have taken (as well as taught) numerous courses at CME events sponsored by acupuncture colleges. These have, for the most part, been excellent programs with internationally recognized practitioners, but I can only claim CME Category I credit through AAMA programs, Helms Institute programs or the like.
2. The AAMA should welcome non-MD acupuncturists to attend our symposia and courses just as we can attend theirs (of which there are many, many more). If we could invite some of the well-known acupuncturists to give courses or lectures at our symposia or at another AAMA sponsored educational event, we could get the necessary Category I CME. Physician sponsorship may be needed but there should be a work-around. On a purely practical level, the AAMA could benefit from the additional revenue if we open our symposia to all acupuncture practitioners.
3. The acupuncture colleges with their large clinics and patient base – not members of the AAMA - are currently engaged in joint outcome studies with major medical schools. For example, the Oregon Health Science University GYN department is working with the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and its research director, Richard Hammerschlag, PhD, on several outcome studies. Few of us have the facilities let alone the time to engage in acupuncture clinical research. The federal government does not look to physician-only AAMA members when it comes to such studies. Whether we like it or not, it will be the acupuncture colleges who will be at the forefront for research.
It is time for both the physicians and non-physicians who have been fortunate enough to learn this ancient healing art in this lifetime to emerge from the adolescence of “my training is better than yours” and turf wars into an era of true cooperation and mutual respect, and to share the various approaches we have learned in our respective acupuncture training programs with the goal of showing mainstream medicine that acupuncture and Oriental medicine are not alternative nor complementary to the Western model, but actually fundamental and necessary to truly understand the evolution of human emotional and physical illness.
Lowell E. Kobrin, MD, PhD, DABMA, FAAMA