Saying Goodbye to AOM Graduates

This week we will be saying goodbye to another class of AOM students as they graduate and move on to their professional lives as Oriental Medicine practitioners. This summer all of our graduates are students of the Oriental Medicine program (go, OM!).

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Since I started in the spring of 2015, I haven't seen a more dedicated group of students and practitioners. All of them came to AOM with estimable professional backgrounds and life experiences, which made them secondary teachers and clinicians to students in classes and clinics. I will miss them all! But it brings me joy to think of them sharing their knowledge and passion for Oriental Medicine with the world.

I asked each of them to share what their future plans are, what they'll miss about school and words of advice for future AOM students.

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Robert Fischer, DC '94, MSOM '16

What are your future plans?
I've decided to make no major decisions for six months, but rather will focus on my physical, mental and spiritual well-being that have been neglected while nurturing my already-existing (chiropractic) practice that I've cultivated over the past 20 years.

What do you look forward to most about graduating?
I'm eager to really start learning and applying my skills, but on a different level and in a different way.  My head is already immersed in texts, but on my own terms. Dermatology and men's health interest me. I've just started to read, "Live Well, Live Long" by Peter Deadman; apropos and right on time for me, I highly recommend it. I've also recently enrolled in a language school to hone my Spanish acumen.

Favorite class or instructor?
Each instructor had their good and bad qualities, which challenged and taught me equally -- a gift to be bestowed. I have reverence and gratitude for each of them as do I have for my fellow students. Some instructors I've even had intellectual crushes on (they are well aware of who they are!).

Words of wisdom for AOM students?
I would like to remind others to embrace change. Let things ebb and flow. There are many metamorphoses in life, of that I can surely attest. Be true to yourself; be humble and mindful without judgment while presenting the truth only as you know it to be, both personally and professionally. There is always room for excellence. In that respect success is sure to come your way; you won't have to chase or look for it. Have tenacity and perseverance, but conversely recognize the importance in letting things unravel and flow as they were meant to be. Get out of your own way. Essentially, Wu Wei...

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Linda Oster, DDS, MSOM '16

Words of wisdom?
Just remember to keep "showing up" for wherever your passion leads you, and at some point you will really appreciate your efforts and will, at the same time, realize how much more there is to learn. And remember, even more importantly, you are never too old to take on a new project!

Favorite class or instructor?
I found all my classes to be thought provoking and challenging, some more than others. I am grateful to have worked with so many different instructors, each with different strengths (and shortcomings).  Each one has touched me and changed me. I will always treasure that.

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20-16-08-12_beBrittney Epps, MSOM 16

What are your future plans?
Open a clinic in my hometown in South Carolina.

What do you look forward to most about graduating?
Going out into the world and applying what I've learned.

What will you miss about NUHS or your time during grad school?
My teachers and fellow classmates.

Words of wisdom for AOM students?
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me." Philippians 4:13

Favorite class or instructor?
Dr. Cai's Materia Medica

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Bi Feng, MSOM '16

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All that light could've been generated from the brainpower of the students who were working overtime and getting their final days and nights of studying in before their last exams of Week 15. I'm very proud and impressed by all the students who made it through. This summer trimester has been a tough one for everyone. Congratulations to both the graduates and the students who keep on keeping on!

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A final picture of the LRC taken this past Saturday night.

And lastly, this is my final AOM blog post. It's been a great experience reflecting on and sharing my AOM adventures with fellow and potential AOM students. The AOM Blogger torch is being passed to Iuliana Lixandru. I look forward to reading her posts!

Getting Down to Business

This week the AOM Student Association held its speaker event. Every trimester speakers are invited to come present to students from the AOM program and any other NUHS students interested in attending. This trimester they invited NUHS alumnae Barry Hinman (MSAc '09) and Kathi Wotal (MSOM '13), to present on "How to Start an Acupuncture Practice and Work with Insurance."

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Their presentation was fantastic; they shared the trials and tribulations they experienced starting their practices, as well as insider tips on everything from marketing and insurance to social media and logo design. AOMSA couldn't have found better speakers for the topic -- they're both insightful, detail-oriented, have had broad work and life experiences, are dedicated to their practices, and devoted to their healing professions. I'm very grateful that they took the time to put such a nice presentation together!

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Finals are coming up and I'm once again up to my ears in studying and working on final assignments for all my herbal seminars. In spite of my anxiety with trying to regurgitate so much info in such a short period of time, I am excited to have an herb-only shift in clinic next trimester! Yes, I get to dedicate one of my clinic shifts to putting together patient formulas! As interns we don't usually have the time to dedicate to putting together formulas, so this shift is really key to learning them well and getting used to doing formulas on our own. Eek!

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Amidst all the chaos of finals, the AOM program will be getting the first glimpse into ATHENA, the new electronic records system being implemented in the clinic. After months of waiting, the days of writing SOAP notes are now over! We still compile the general SOAP information, but will no longer have to suffer from carpal tunnel after speed-writing 4 patient notes in a shift or worry about crossing out and initialing errors or writing addendums. The DC and ND programs will also start using the system in the coming weeks.

Yoga for the Meridians

Midterms, clinic exams, and one final down! To my great surprise, I passed all of my senior clinic exams and I believe I passed my acupuncture board review final (though I have a long way to go to prepare to take those boards)!

Now to prepare for finals...

Since finishing my board review final exam on Friday night, I've been able to resume my yoga practice, which got the boot during these last few tightly scheduled weeks of exams. I know that I shouldn't be disregarding yoga during the times when I need it most and that I should try to practice for at least a minutes a day, but as I wrote last week, my Spleen Qi was feeling especially deficient and I was often too exhausted.

While I was practicing yoga at home on Saturday and feeling my reduced flexibility from lack of practice, I was able to more readily feel the tension in specific muscles, which led me to think about their correspondence to the points and meridians in Chinese medicine. I started to notice how each of my movements affected the channels. This consciousness led me to transform my practice that day into one of movements that might alleviate stagnation in my Liver and Gallbladder meridians or that stimulated my Spleen channel.  

For example, the Gallbladder channel runs from the temples through the side of the head, neck and torso, down the sides of the legs and lateral side of the foot to the 4th toe. I noticed that this channel was extremely tight and while stretching it during side-angle pose or triangle pose it felt like I was opening up the area around the Gallbladder channel in my neck and around my eyes! I realized the poses that I had more difficulty with either involved areas where I have stagnation (Liver and Gallbladder channel) or Qi or blood deficiency (Spleen and Liver).

I'm excited to have found another way to associate TCM into my daily life. It will make me more aware during my yoga practice and help me to focus on the parts of my body that need it the most!

Along with neglecting my yoga practice, I had also been neglecting my garden plot at Madison Meadows' Community Garden. With all the heat and rain we got last week, I found on my visit yesterday that all the plants had exploded with a bounty of produce and flowers (and weeds)! Everything had grown a few feet in just a week. It really amazes me how well things grow here in the summer! Squash anyone? 

Students and Spleen Qi Deficiency

I just finished 12 exams in 9 days -- 6 midterms and 6 clinic exams and I have a final this week for the review class for the acupuncture and foundations boards. My Spleen is beat! In a past blog, I've written about how the stress of exams can cause Liver Qi Stagnation in students -- feelings of frustration, moodiness, irritability, chest stuffiness, and other symptoms that occur when the qi stops moving freely. And in last week's blog I wrote about how the Spleen plays a big role in allergies and sinus problems. Since I'm feeling a little Spleen Qi deficient, I thought I'd elaborate on Spleen Qi and how it's well being is a cornerstone to our academic success.

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In Chinese medicine, the Spleen, along with its paired organ, the Stomach, is responsible for the transformation and transportation of food and drink in the body. The Spleen transforms the food it receives from the Stomach and transports the qi and essence created from it to various organs within the body for further qi and blood creation. Other responsibilities of the Spleen include governing the blood -- keeping it circulating within the vessels, ruling the muscles and four limbs -- muscle tone and strength are reflected in the Spleen, raising the qi and keeping organs in their place (preventing prolapse) and finally ruling thought -- the one that influences our capacity for concentration, memorization, thinking and studying.

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As I mentioned last week, if a person worries excessively, focuses too intensely, or exhausts themselves mentally and physically, the Spleen takes the hit. These insults, along with others like eating a poor diet, eating too quickly, eating while reading or stimulating the mind with TV or other electronic stimuli, and multi-tasking all harm the Spleen. When this happens over a long period of time, one will start to feel tired and lethargic, their digestion may become compromised, and their focus and concentration will suffer.

I've noticed my energy level has decreased over the past couple of weeks. My memory isn't as clear and my concentration is suffering. I've been trying to eat healthily and mindfully to help my Spleen process and assimilate my food, but I still feel taxed, most likely from all the stress and worrying about how to fit study time into my schedule. Worry and pensiveness are the emotions of the Spleen, and in excess they are also what makes the Spleen vulnerable.

Last week, my ND intern suggested that I practice a guided relaxation meditation (in addition to my weekly constitutional hydrotherapy), which I've been trying to do before bed. While lying there and relaxing, I've realized that I haven't taken a minute for rest and inactivity in I don't even know how long. Not good! So now I'm trying to get in some moments of non-doing to see if that will help my Spleen and me get through the rest of the trimester. (I'm also getting acupuncture and Chinese herbs for additional brain support!). Hold on Spleen, only 4 more weeks left!

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I've really been enjoying the amazing clouds that have been forming in the evening skies. One of my favorite things about the Midwest is the storms and the amazingly beautiful and striking skies that they produce! Here's some shots I took around campus after a storm passed last week.

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Allergies and Chinese Medicine

For the past month or so, I've been seeing quite a few patients in clinic, primarily students, who have complaints of sinus issues due to allergies. Many say that they're reacting to seasonal pollens or to molds and are experiencing symptoms such as itchy eyes, sinus pressure, stuffy or runny nose, headache, post-nasal drip and sneezing. I've been keeping track of the air quality this season and have noticed that level of pollens and air particulates have been pretty high this summer season, which could be causing or exacerbating their symptoms.

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In Chinese medicine, allergies fall within a few different patterns of disharmony. The one consistent factor in all cases on allergies is the external pathogen wind. Characteristic of wind, it comes on suddenly without warning. In the case of allergies, wind combines with other external pathogens - damp, cold, heat or dryness. In the case of summer/seasonal allergies like hayfever, it would most commonly be due to damp, which is what creates the feeling of heaviness of the head or there is mucus or stuffiness involved.

Usually with allergies, there is also some underlying deficiency that is allowing this "excess" of wind and damp or other external pathogen to affect the body. In Chinese medicine, the Lung is responsible for our respiratory tract, as well as our defensive qi, which fights off external pathogens. It opens to the nose, which is usually the sense organ most affected by allergies. If it is deficient due to constitution, smoking, or long-term grief and sadness, it's necessary to address that first.

The Spleen also plays a role in allergies; when it's deficient and the digestive functioning is compromised, fluids aren't properly transported, which leads to damp and an overproduction of mucus, which will then affect the Lung's functioning.

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A compromised spleen may make students more susceptible to allergies, especially during exams. The Spleen gets taxed by "pensiveness". Traditionally this would be worry and overthinking, two things that students do a lot of. But in modern day, this includes the excessive mental activity of studying. Eating in a hurry and reaching for sweets for an afternoon or late night pick-me-up make matters worse. One of my teachers once told me that AOM students will usually start suffering from Spleen Qi deficiency within 6 months of starting school.

An underlying deficiency, especially in the Spleen makes it all the more important for one to have a diet that doesn't contribute to the dampness, especially in the summer when the humidity is high and external dampness is at its peak. This means avoiding dampening foods like dairy products (say no to ice cream in the summer!), cold foods (iced tea and iced water), fried foods, sugars, and overconsumption of raw fruits and veggies. Although it might sound counterintuitive to drink warm drinks in the summer like herbal teas, they can actually be beneficial, since they don't tax the spleen and the warmth helps to dry the dampness.

Chinese herbal formulas are very effective at treating both acute and chronic allergies. In Hawaii, the volcano has been producing a lot of volcanic emissions (vog) in the past few years, causing many people to suffer from allergies and asthma. One of the most effective products I've seen to alleviate sufferers is a product called 'Vog Buster'. It's a tea made by acupuncturists in Maui who modified a Chinese herbal formula that helps with wind-invasion symptoms. I believe they also make a 'Smog Buster' for southern Californians who suffer from respiratory distress due to poor air quality. I personally have made up formulas for allergy and sinusitus patients using the same herbs used in those products.

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Acupuncture is also effective for treating acute symptoms, as well as helping to tonify underlying deficiencies and alleviate chronic allergies. Local points around the nose and on the forehead can help to alleviate congestion, sinus pressure, headache and itchy eyes. Other points on the Lung channel can help with the respiratory tract to clear the nose and stop wheezing, while working to tonify the Lung and build up the body's resistant to that pesky wind!