"I was always into science and nature as a child," she says. Originally from Michigan, Andrea earned her bachelor's degree in microbiology and genetics from Michigan State University. There, she worked in genetic research, and later worked on a study with breast cancer patients.
Why did Andrea choose oriental medicine as a career path? "I didn't really like research, and decided I wanted to work with people instead of just me in the lab with test tubes.
"I found oriental medicine interesting, so I had some acupuncture done and researched it. I've always been into natural medicine and I liked what oriental medicine offered. I liked that it could address both physical and psychological imbalances and didn't seem as limited as the other health fields I had looked into.
"I looked into other schools, but picked National because of the western science courses and the anatomy lab experience they offered. With my background, I'm pretty big on having science as a foundation for my education," says Andrea.
"Studying oriental medicine is definitely a shift in way that you think about everything. It wasn't very difficult for me as it came intuitively, but it was a big transition. The Chinese have concepts inherent in their culture that are unfamiliar to western society.
"At National, you start observing in the clinic in the second trimester, and start needling patients in your fourth trimester. I think it's great to get as much patient exposure as possible. By the time you start treating patients, you're already comfortable with that setting.
"One reason I chose oriental medicine is because it treats on an individual level. Every individual should be treated for his or her unique pattern of disharmony. Five different people with arthritis can be treated differently based on their unique profile. That really drew me."
What's Andrea's advice to undergraduates considering a career in oriental medicine? "I think if you're going to succeed in oriental medicine and prosper, you really have to take the journey within yourself, too. It's really changed me personally, not just through using acupuncture, herbs, qi gong, and internal meditation. It's not just a job to show up for but rather a lifestyle that you want to live."
What about National's program? "I really feel that this is a great school. If we're going to move forward as a profession, we need that western base in order to communicate with other professionals. National offers that. Like taking a pharmacology course, if patients come in and are on five-six pharmaceutical drugs, it's useful to know their interactions and side effects. That understanding increases your knowledge of their situation and allows you to communicate with their primary care physician."
Andrea has exciting plans for the future. After graduation, she will go to China for a one-year internship in a hospital that provides both eastern and western medicine. She plans to pay for her room and board by teaching English.
"When I return from China, I'll most likely start up a practice in the Chicago area," she says.