Fine Farewell

Two weeks until graduation, but this will be my last blog. This past week has been crazy. I think I have spent every extra minute studying for my HB Kim herb test as well as my herb board. I will admit I am burned out. As much as I study, sometimes I feel as if it goes in one ear and out the other. This may be in part due to plans of my future business rolling around in the back of my mind or the valedictorian speech I need to write. It seems like every minute counts in these last few weeks.

As much as I feel I have studied for my herb test, in actuality I have yet to even conquer all the information. I have found that spending extra time in the herb room with the herbs and preparing formulas for the other interns has helped me remember the herbs better. I am a visual learner, so seeing the herbs over and over again actually helps me remember what they do. So, if you are thinking about studying herbs, the herb room may benefit you as well.

My fellow graduate has passed three of his board tests so I shouldn't be worried about taking them. National's classes really do prepare the student for the boards. The key to success, however, is to stay on top of your studies and don't wait until the last minute to cram. Cramming may allow you to pass the test, but when it comes to board or comp exams, it just won't cut it.

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My fellow student Kim (pictured above) will be taking over the AOM blog (view Kim's blog). She transferred in from another TOM school and is sure to shed a new light of comparisons between schools. She comes with a lot of experience having worked with an acupuncturist in the field, and may share that with you, too. I had hopes of shadowing a few acupuncturists but unfortunately with my schedule I was not able to.

So my last word of advice is: If your schedule allows, try calling an acupuncturist in the area and asking if you may shadow them for a few days to experience how an actual practice runs. They have much information that may assist you in the future.

Well, it was my pleasure sharing my school experiences with you and I hope it has shed some light as to what it is like to be a student at National. In good health :)

Editor's Note: Congratulations, Elizabeth, on your achievement as the valedictorian of the Summer 2011 graduation class, and best wishes for an exciting and successful practice.

Naval Cupping

I learned a new technique this week from a friend also in the OM program. It is called navel cupping. She found this technique online browsing YouTube. An acupuncturist in Australia, who specializes in infertility, uses the technique in her clinic and demonstrated how to do the technique. Women who are infertile often have "cold in the uterus" and moxa is used to warm up the uterus. 

My friend often has an abdomen that is cold to the touch and wanted to try this technique. Being a student in clinic is the best chance to try different techniques whether it be needle technique, new needle protocols or new modalities such as navel cupping. 

The Process

We began by collecting everything we needed and preparing it. We needed a warm glass cup as well as warm salt. The navel cupping is used to pull the cold out of the body. The thought is, why moxa and add heat if the body hasn't rid itself of the cold? By removing the cold, the yang qi may be able to flow and regulate the organs again.

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The whole process took two hours but in the end it worked. I began by monitoring her abdomen temperature and other areas that are typically cold on her. I also used tender acupuncture points as a guide as well. I began by cupping the navel to pull out the cold. I also took pictures of her tongue to document progress.

After about an hour, I pulled off the cup because her belly was warm as were the other areas I was monitoring. I then used salt and ginger as a medium to moxa her navel. This took many sticks but in the end there was significant improvement. Improvements included a less purple tongue, a warm belly and ankles, a serene mood, and clearer sheen in the eyes. I am happy I was able to try and experience this new way of cupping and hopefully use it on other patients.

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Graduation

Graduation is closer by the day. As I am preparing everything for graduation I am also studying for my Herbal board and have yet to write a valedictorian speech. This has got to be one of the most stressful trimesters! My wonderful husband is supporting me and helping me in any way he can.

Many may think as the program nears the end it may get easier, but that is definitely not the case. It is bittersweet. I am joyous to be finally entering the business world and sharing my knowledge with my patients, but sad as I will miss my classmates and professors. But it is just the beginning of a great career.

Webinars

In previous blogs, I have spoken about extra webinars or seminars being very beneficial. I was able to attend the AOM pulse club's webinar hosting Jimmy Chang. Jimmy Chang is well known for being an expert in pulse diagnosis. The webinar was an hour long, and since they are free, anyone can watch if they have Internet connection.

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Noel, the president of the pulse club, standing next to the webinar.

The webinar was an introduction in how to examine the patient's hand, wrist and arm. These parts can tell the acupuncturist a lot. For example, he spoke of feeling for temperature differences between the wrist and the forearm, the color of the veins in the wrist and forearm, and whether they travel up the arm or not. It was fascinating and I have already started implementing the tactics in my clinical experience. 

Thinking Ahead

I recently signed up for my other three boards. I would definitely recommend signing up in advance because what I have found, is signing up a month before you want to take an exam may not result in many choices of days available. The other option is to drive to a further location such as Chicago, Wisconsin or Indiana.

Speaking of Indiana, a fellow soon-to-be graduate took his Foundations exam and passed. He said the Acupuncture Strategy class we take with HB Kim really prepares the student for the test. There were a few cases of difficult terminology on the test. Different schools, especially the Five Element schools of acupuncture, use different terminology for excess or deficiency and the different pulse positions. But these questions were few and need not be worried about.

I will be taking my exams in the next month and a half. I want to finish as soon as I can because the state application process can take several months. A past graduate friend of mine waited at least three months for her state license. So be prepared, you may have to wait. I am going to try and start the application process and mail as many documents as I can in advance to hopefully speed up the process.

Comprehensive Exams

Only four more weeks to go and I can barely believe it! 

With graduation, comes what seems like never-ending tests. I have previously spoken of comprehensive exams that must be taken as an intern increases in clinic rank. Well, the Exit Exam is similar but only for those that are graduating. The exam's purpose, I have heard, is to make sure the graduates are fully competent and will be able to pass the boards tests.

The comprehensive test is an accumulation of questions from various instructors of the program. They often are old test questions so they should be familiar to the student. The exam includes sections of Biomed, Foundations, Points, Differential Diagnosis, and Herbs for those in the herbal program. The comp test usually includes a practical portion, but this portion is excluded for those taking the Exit Exam. After taking the Biomed Board and currently studying for the Herbal Board, I am not worried about taking this exam; it should be a piece of cake. The comp exam does require a pass rate of 70% to continue in the clinical portion of the program. The instructors have chosen the 11th week to take the exam so there is sufficient time to make up the exam for those who need to retake it. The same applies for graduates taking the Exit Exam.

Projects

Photo of Dr. CaiAnother project I am working on is a uterine fibroid case study for my Herbal Senior Seminar with Dr. Cai. This class specifically focuses on OB/Gyn topics. This is very important since at least 70% of our patients are females who may have some gynecological complaint. Infertility, painful periods, no period, or menopausal disorders are often seen. I have not had a patient with uterine fibroids so this is a great opportunity to research the topic. 

I will obtain a complete medical history from the patient and then come up with a treatment plan and herbal formula for the particular patient. On the day of class, I will bring the patient in and we will have a grand round-like atmosphere. I will share the case with the classmates and Dr. Cai. Then there is opportunity for any other questions to be asked directly to the patient. After, we will provide treatment to the patient. This type of class format is great because instead of paper cases we can actually talk to the patient, take pulse, and look at their tongue and observe their constitution. Whatever your learning style, I think one will find that the program accommodates all of them.

39 Days to Go

Oh my gosh, I just counted the days to graduation and it leaves me with two feelings--a feeling of dread and one of joy. Dread, and I am not going to fib, because next few weeks are going to be tough with so much studying that has to get done between my six clinic shifts. Joy, because after six years of schooling (undergrad and master's), I will be able to share with the community everything I have learned by applying it to my patients.

At the same time, as goes with most graduates, I wish I had a year of residency to follow a master in my field. In the next few weeks I will be on the search for someone whom I can shadow once a week to increase my skills, especially in herbal medicine and needle technique. I have spoken with a few of my instructors and they have done something similar and found great useful knowledge from their master herbalist or acupuncturist. I know there is one acupuncturist in California, whom I might contact, that specializes in the pulse. His name is Jimmy Chang, but he does charge a fee to follow him, so I'm keeping my options open.

Naturopathic Medicine

As a student at National, you have the option to use the DC, ND or MT clinics at a low cost or for free. I advise going to see the other medical students in their clinics so you can see what their patient visit consists of, as well as what they treat and how they may benefit one of your patients. National prides itself on integration and prepares students on how they may incorporate it into their practice.

I began to see an ND student at the beginning of the trimester to help me with a cleanse. She gave me advice of what to take and eat and what to eliminate from my diet, but she has also incorporated some constitutional therapies for me, one of which is hydrotherapy.

2011-07-13_StudentFellow ND student helping me with treatments.

Hydrotherapy is the use of alternating hot and cold water to bring about homeostasis to many bodily functions. My intern has specifically tailored my treatments to boost my immune system and increase my parasympathetics to reduce my feelings of stress. The treatment usually lasts an hour and consists of alternating hot then cold towels over the chest then the back. Usually, during the cold phase, electrodes are placed on certain areas of the body. The patient is then wrapped tightly for a certain amount of time. The time is chosen by the intern to meet the patient's individual needs. After my treatments, I am extremely relaxed. I believe they have helped me manage my stress and keep my immune system high so I can better fight off any colds during this extremely busy trimester.

Trust me, I love acupuncture and know it is great for relaxation and boosting the immune system, but I also know there are other options that can be explored, like naturopathic medicine or Tai Chi or yoga, etc.