Out in the Field

As I promised last week, I was able to have lunch while interviewing a graduate of the Oriental Medicine Program. Margaret Thompson-Choi, you might remember, wrote this blog before me.  

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Margaret graduated in December 2009. After graduation, she spent 5 weeks in Korea continuing her OM education hands-on at a hospital. She visited Kyung Hee University in the months of January and February while staying with her in-laws. Margaret says the hospital specializes in Bell's Palsy, so she would feel very comfortable treating such patients in her office.

Kyung Hee University has 12 departments and students have the choice of touring one or all of the departments. Margaret spent 8 hours a day touring the university and was very impressed with the hospital. "It was similar to a Western hospital; they utilized all of the same equipment, such as MRI machines to help diagnose patients," she said, "and it was also very sanitary." 

Some of the interesting things she witnessed were the doctors doing manipulation to patients called Chuna, which she described as similar to chiropractic adjustments. The hospital also utilized pulse machines that were able to electronically print out the pulse diagnosis from a strap around the patient's wrist. The doctors also took high quality pictures of the patient's tongue. These were used in diagnoses but also to show improvement to the patient. Margaret also noticed that some doctors only practiced herbs. After writing a prescription for the patient, they would give it to the hospital's pharmacy. The pharmacy had big vats that they prepared and boiled the herbs in. They then put the individual dosages into little cartons that the patient could drink right away.   

Margaret really enjoyed her experience and recommends the university as shorter alternative to the year-long China trip. The trip would run around $2,000 plus lodging.  

Currently, Margaret is working at one location in Chicago and two locations in Naperville. At one of those locations, she is an independent contractor and is slowly building up her patient base. She currently sees one to seven patients a day but would be happy to see 8-12 a day. She also has the ability to recommend herbs if the patient chooses. 

She states, "There are jobs out there for acupuncturists, you just need to find them." She looked on craigslist, sent letters to chiropractors, and checked on NUHS's alumni site for job offerings. She also suggested joining a leads group in the town in which you would like to practice. The group meets weekly and exchanges business cards. She suggests working at two places maximum to build up a good clientele. When I asked her for her advice, she said, "Be prepared for set-backs." Things may take longer than anticipated such as getting your license and finding work. But it all works out.

I would like to thank Margaret for allowing me to interview her and for sharing her experiences with all of the future acupuncturists.

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