Archive for tag: faculty

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!).

AOM group

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!

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!

Japanese Acupuncture

Lately I've been brainstorming ideas on how to study Japanese acupuncture after I graduate. I knew that it was something that I wanted to learn and practice since I learned about this style of oriental medicine many years ago. Japanese acupuncture treatments also happened to be a lot more effective for me than Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) styles.

Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion differ from Traditional Chinese Medicine in many ways, but its techniques resonate with me mostly because of the following aspects:


1) Strong emphasis on palpation and sensory awareness of the Qi's arrival when needling. Japanese acupuncture and massage were originally practiced by the blind, which led to the development of a palpation-focused diagnosis.

2) Extensive use of moxibustion. Japanese style uses direct moxa more than indirect (see picture). This involves burning little cones of mugwort the size of rice grains on the patient's skin to warm and tonify, while also producing white blood cells to reduce pain and inflammation and increase the immune response. TCM also uses direct moxa, but not as extensively, usually using "cones" of moxa that are much larger.

3) Application of both "root" AND "branch" treatments, or treating the entire person (root) and their symptoms (branch). When treating patients, I feel that the treatment is incomplete if the treatment strategy only focuses on the patient's chief complaint or current symptoms.


4) Tendency to use finer needles and a more superficial, less aggressive needle technique. There are Japanese techniques that involve only brushing the needle against the skin. The Japanese also invented the guide tube, a useful tool for reducing discomfort for the patient.

Although there are many styles of Japanese acupuncture, most of them employ the techniques mentioned above, making it beneficial for pediatric and geriatric acupuncture patients, or those who have an aversion to needles. Since I would like to focus my practice on working with geriatric patients, I feel that the Japanese style would be a good fit.

Now to find somewhere to learn Japanese acupuncture! Last week in clinic, Dr. Kim advised me to go to Japan to study. Hmmm....

Formula Constitutions

2016-06-03_bookI'm currently taking the herbal course "Classics of Chinese Medicine" with Dr. Xie. At first, I wasn't sure what the "Classics" referred to since most of the Chinese formulas that we learn as students are based on the classics.

The herbal classics embody the essence of Chinese medicine and the wisdom and knowledge of the classical medical conceptions of the human body. As it happens, this course looks at classical Chinese herbal formulas from the perspective of Dr. Huang Huang and is based off his work, "Ten Key Formula Families in Chinese Medicine."

Dr. Huang, a TCM practitioner and professor at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, approaches classic Chinese herbal formulas as formula "families." This categorizes them by their chief herbal ingredient and formula presentations. These presentations are also described as "formula constitutions" that represent certain signs and symptoms in a patient. For example, a patient may display a Gui Zhi Tang, or 'Cinnamon Decoction' constitution. This would indicate that they tend towards having the signs and symptoms related to a formula family, which could therefore make them more vulnerable to certain pathologies. But their constitution would also make them well suited for treatment with a Gui Zhi Tang family/constitution formula. This is similar to our body's affinity for certain foods.


This may sound confusing to those not familiar with Chinese herbal formulas, but for herbal students it's pretty revolutionary. Not only does it simplify the way we learn formulas, but it also gives us a new way of diagnosing and treating our patients.


On the extracurricular side of student life, I wanted to include some photos of the absolutely gorgeous Memorial Day holiday weekend weather.... The warmth, sun and cool breezes could not have been more perfect for planting veggie and flower seeds in the community garden, lounging (and studying) lakeside, and watching Cubs games -- an ideal balance for my constitution!

What's in a Pulse?

I've always considered pulse diagnosis to be the foremost diagnostic skill of oriental medicine practitioners. Maybe because I once saw a teacher from China who had been practicing for over 40 years read someone's pulse and recollect health events that had occurred decades prior in their life.


Pulse examination can reveal layers of information about organs, body systems, and substances -- qi, blood, yin, yang, and essence. Despite knowing this diagnostic modality's importance, I've only recently been able to see how crucial it is for the proper diagnosis of our patients, as well as in accurately completing case studies on board exams!

I came to this conclusion during our last class of H.B. Kim's herbal review course when Dr. Kim guided us through formulas case study questions, similar to those we would find on our herbal board exams. He instructed us to approach the case study questions by first scanning the answers and then reading the information on the patient's pulse and tongue. This method can reduce the time spent on each question, as less time is spent on the presenting symptomology. By going directly to the tongue and pulse, we can eliminate answers that don't fit the patient's presentation. For example, if an answer indicates a cold condition and the pulse is rapid (indicating heat), we could quickly and easily eliminate it. But if we don't know what a certain pulse indicates, we will likely struggle with figuring out a diagnosis and struggle on our exams. 


This applies to our patient's diagnoses, as well. During a treatment, we do a thorough medical history and ask the 10 traditional TCM questions, i.e., "Do you tend to feel hot or cold?" to figure out the patient's TCM pattern diagnosis. After the questioning, we are often able to come up with a diagnosis, but we will then look at the tongue and pulse to confirm it. At times, the symptomology might not be very straightforward or the patient might give unreliable information. They could be in too much pain to focus on answering questions or unable to answer questions due to a speech or hearing pathology. In this case, we will need to rely on pulse and tongue for our diagnosis. If we aren't skilled enough to do so, the diagnosis becomes a guessing game.

They say it takes a lifetime to learn the pulses. There are upwards of 40 different pulses, depending on the source, but most practitioners recognize about 29. These 29 pulses can be felt at 3 different depths and at 3 different positions on each wrist. That's 18 levels of pulse diagnosis! It's easy to see how it can be quite daunting for student interns or new practitioners -- I've even heard of some students who refuse to use pulse diagnosis because it's so challenging. But little by little we gather knowledge with each pulse we take.


Leon Hammer, MD, and recognized pulse master, writes in Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, a Modern Approach:

"The pulse is the symphony of the body and the only way it can be played and understood is by practice and more practice. The best instructions, however elaborate, cannot teach the student much. The way to learn the pulse is to examine as many patients as possible and observe the peculiarities and characteristics of each one for himself."

I'm grateful to our clinician, Mr. Eric Baker, MSOM, LAc, for taking the time to describe and demonstrate the many intricate layers of pulse diagnosis in clinic and for giving interns some insight into the wealth of knowledge that the pulse can contain. Last year he taught a CEU course on pulse diagnosis here at National; I'm hoping that he'll share his knowledge with National students in another pulse course in the near future so that I can start to scratch the surface of pulse diagnosis!

Acupuncture for Addiction

2016-03-17_earA couple of weeks ago in Seminar 1, Dr. Robin Fan went over some general points for treating addiction. The treatment plans that she covered focused on smoking, drug and alcohol addiction, or substance addictions. As we went through these protocols, I wondered if they would also be effective for other types of behavioral addictions to food, caffeine, Internet use, gambling, or even work.

2016-03-16_biteSince that class, using acupuncture to treat addiction has been on my mind a lot recently. I'm seeing a few patients who are taking strong prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, which have a high risk for abuse and addiction. I've also recently had a couple of patients who have asked if I could treat them for weight-loss and food addiction. And just a few days ago my mother asked if there were any patients in our clinic who were seeking acupuncture for help with heroin addiction recovery. She had recently read about the quickly spreading heroin epidemic and its association with opiod painkiller dependence/abuse.

The basis of the acupuncture treatments for addiction as we learned in Seminar 1 class focus on calming the "Shen" or calming the mind (spirit), and reducing stress and anxiety. We learned protocols that target particular TCM organ systems based on the addiction, e.g., Lung points for smoking cessation or Stomach (nausea/vomiting) points for drug and alcohol detox. These treatments can be modified based on the patient's presenting symptoms and complaints, which means they could be applied for food, gambling, and other types of addictions.

2016-03-16_nadaThough we didn't learn it in class, the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) Protocol is the primary method of treatment for addiction and recovery. This 5-point protocol uses the auricular points Shen Men, Sympathetic, Kidney, Liver, and Lung on each ear to reduce stress, anxiety, fear, and cravings, while also supporting detoxification of the body. The protocol is also widely used for PTSD and depression. It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Michael Smith, an M.D. from Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx area of New York City, to treat drug addiction, primarily as an alternative to methadone. Even though the protocol doesn't involve an individual diagnosis, its ease of use and efficacy lends to its success and application in substance abuse and PTSD treatment programs across the U.S. and worldwide.

The treatment can be done in a group setting, often with clients sitting in chairs while the needles are retained for 30-40 minutes. If the patient is still trying to quit, the treatment should be applied daily. Once they are able to quit, treatments would be recommended once or twice a week for a month or two, and then taper down to at least once a month until they are fully recovered. Additionally, ear seeds can be affixed to the points so that the treatment can continue between visits by having the patient press on the seed to manage symptoms of craving and withdrawal.