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  • Doctorate 2018 Graduate Testimonial Nick Dougherty

    Dr. Nichola Dougherty DAOM, L.Ac., AAAOM MN — August 2018
  • A Student’s Clinical Experience

    A Student’s Clinical Experience

    Student clinic is the time we students put our learning to practical use. It is a challenging, yet very rewarding time in our studies at AAAOM. Challenging because at first we don’t yet posses the experience and knowledge to know exactly which points and herbs to use with every patient but rewarding because our confidence and abilities as practitioners seem to grow by leaps and bounds. As student clinicians we are experiencing many conditions for the first time but as we see patterns repeated in our patients we gain confidence from knowing how to treat that particular pattern.

    In my own student clinical experience, one of the most challenging things at the first patient visit, was to form a diagnosis and an effective point prescription relatively quickly compared to a classroom setting. As I have continued to practice this has become much easier and when I encounter a new condition I’ve not yet treated, I have learned to rely on some of the most commonly used and effective points initially and research the patients condition well for future visits. From this approach I have seen that the most commonly used points have proven to be some of the most effective points for many conditions and I’m well prepared for the next time I encounter a patient with a similar condition.

    Another challenge for a student intern can be gaining the patients’ trust to help them follow practitioner suggestions outside the clinic. I have learned that patients really do desire to be guided by their practitioner and as we treat each person as an individual per their diagnosis and treatment we need an individual approach to build their trust as well.

    The rewards of practicing in the student clinic are many. Working closely with the doctors has been especially rewarding for me. The one-on-one relationship with the doctors gives us a chance to see the diagnostic thought process and to hear the doctors’ individual insights on points and herbs. This is tremendously helpful while we try to form our own approaches to treatment. We are fortunate to have the benefit of learning from such experienced doctors at AAAOM. Of course, the most rewarding part of student practice is seeing our patients get better. Seeing them regain their health and to see them start to smile more with each visit and know you have been a part of that, is what we all strive for.

    An often overlooked area of the clinic is the reception staff and the administrative staff that helps the clinic run smoothly. Their professional attitude and skills make it easier for the student clinicians to practice and there is much to learn from them about a well run clinic.

    The student clinical experience at AAAOM is an invaluable part of our education. It helps us put all the parts of “the web” together and gives us the tools to offer our services to the public as we continue on the lifelong learning of our TCM careers.

    Barb Fowlds,
  • Kristi Berry

    Kristi Berry

    Getting patients can be a headache or it can be painless. I have experienced both situations. When I first started clinic, I remember sitting in the intern room thinking, “How am I ever going to get 300 patients?” Now looking back, I have realized what caused the headaches and what made it painless. As professionals, I believe we need to learn and help each other with these things. Building a successful practice is a challenge that we are all going to face at one time or another. So building up a patient base as interns is our training ground for building a successful practice outside of AAAOM.

    Instead of completely depending on my own experiences, I thought it would be best to ask others how they got their patients. Some said they solely depended on the front desk to place patients with them, while others seemed to have connections through work outside of AAAOM. And yet others are still not sure just how to get patients. I also asked potential new patients what would entice them into coming to see an intern. When I mentioned that we were using coupons as an incentive for a first visit, they thought a coupon was a good idea but needed more information on what acupuncture could do for them. Another suggestion was to give educational demonstrations in the community. These are all good ideas, and here are a few of my own:

    1. Keep a positive attitude and be passionate about what we do.
    2. Make a list of all the people you know and contact them, letting them know what you are doing and be able to explain what it is. Ask for referrals, or if they themselves want to come in.
    3. Figure out what your strengths are and figure out how to target that population.
    4. For a sort of business card, take the Faculty/Student clinic business card and place an Avery return address sticker on the back with your name and email address. If you feel comfortable you can also put your phone number on it.
    5. Be ready to talk about TCM with anyone and everyone you meet. Know what we can successfully treat. Find out what each individual’s needs are (or what his/her friends’ needs are) and find a way to connect with them.
    6. Be prepared if you don’t have a coupon on you, take down the potential patient’s number and get a coupon to him/her.

    These are just a few ideas, but remember to trust yourself and the gift you’ve been given.

    Kristi Berry,
  • Intern Tips on Attracting and Retaining Patients

    Intern Tips on Attracting and Retaining Patients

    Here are ten little ways to show your patients that you have their best interests at heart. These are easy and quick things to do, but they can build trust. When your patients trust you, they are more likely to comply with your instructions and return for treatments.

    – Call: Call or leave a message for your patient when they’ve missed their appointment and let them know it’s ok, and that you hope everything is all right. Offer another opening to them that same day or in the near future.
    – Remember: Keep in mind things your patients tell you, such as their appointment for an x-ray, their child’s birthday party, or their decision to start drinking green tea regularly. Everyone appreciates being considered as an individual, rather than just being a patient.
    – Ear Beads: Patients love ear beads because they don’t hurt and they work. It is a simple way to increase the effectiveness of the treatment you’ve just given them, and it helps them to feel cared for. Beads are also a good advertisement for TCM. Order your own supply to carry with you. Some types are better than others, and last a week even in the shower.
    – Know Your Herbs: It is exciting to patients to hear about the various herbs, especially common plants , such as honeysuckle or dandelion. Most patients like to know as much as you can tell them about TCM formulas.
    – Warm Up: If you have a patient who is deficient, have a heat lamp warmed up in their room in time for their appointment.
    – Sized Right: If your patient needs a large gown, grab one at the start of your shift. They will appreciate the thoughtfulness. I know of two women from my office who stopped getting acupuncture because they were embarrassed about not fitting into the small gowns.
    – Explain Yourself: Go through the treatment you give your patient each time, even if it’s only to say you’re going to give them the same needle prescription as last time. If you are going to use a new point, explain why. We all like to be informed about what is going to happen to our bodies, and patients appreciate evidence that you are paying attention to their changing conditions.
    – Course of Treatment: With a new patient, tell them what the course of treatment is for their condition. Ask them if they are willing to commit a number of treatments in order to see results. Be sure they understand that it isn’t a one-time-and-you’re-cured process. If they can’t make that long-term commitment, discuss what they are comfortable doing. That way you both have a clear understanding from the start, and put it in their chart for future reference.
    – Red Goes to the Heart, Blue to the Kidney: Tell your patients about Five Element Theory and TCM dietary therapy. It’s easy for them to remember the colors of the organ systems, and patients enjoy coming up with healthy foods for their most deficient organs. Tell them they can apply the theory to their family’s diets, as well.
    – Hope: Tell your patients that acupuncture can help them to feel better in many ways, such as less pain, improved sleep, and less anxiety. Even if it won’t completely resolve their condition, many people who come for acupuncture come as a last resort when all else has failed to improve their health. When you tell a patient you can help them, they smile and relax, and so they are already starting to heal. TCM theory tells us that a soothed Liver and a calm Heart are important to the balance of Yin and Yang. Giving hope treats the Spirit.

    Candyce Clayton,
  • Treating Spiritual and Emotional Issues

    Treating Spiritual and Emotional Issues

    I have been a Qi Gong practitioner for 15 years, with a special interest in using it for healing. Studying traditional Chinese medicine has greatly expanded my knowledge in the field of energetic healing. When I went into clinic practice as an intern, my decision was to leave Qi Gong out of the acupuncture treatment. I wanted to experience the two modalities as separate entities so I could clearly distinguish between them. I found that both are based on the same fundamental principles, and that my ability to work with either one improves with patience, diligence, and experience.

    Qi Gong is founded on the concept of attaining awareness and developing intuition. After years of practice, I’ve developed different levels of awareness that are almost impossible to express with words. In my Qi Gong practice I use this intuition in one way; as an acupuncturist I use my intuition primarily to find acupoints and tune in to affected meridians. As I learned the principles of TCM, many things began to fall into place for me. In the past, I had an awareness of energy patterns, but I could not always “name” them or put them into a coherent structure. TCM theory gave me the tool I needed to do this.

    In treating emotional or spiritual problems with Qi Gong or Chinese medicine, I have noticed consistency of treatment principles and acupoint combinations. In healing qigong, we express the treatment principle by saying the patient needs “rooting” or “grounding.” The concept is to anchor and sedate the mind, therefore allowing mental clarity. In Chinese medicine, we speak of such treatment principles as “calming the Shen,” “purging fire” (fire flares upward and disturbs the mind), “opening the heart orifice” and tranquilizing the mind by unblocking the meridians and allowing pure yang qi to ascend to the head.

    The most effective approach for me in choosing an acupuncture prescription is to use my Qi Gong intuition to choose the acupoints I want to use. Even though each patient is different, I still find that the same acupoints “pop up” with some regularity. These points are: BL 60, BL 57, BL 40, ST 36, ST 40, GB 34, GB 43, KI 6, SI 3, LU 7, LR 3, DU 20, RN 4, and Shenmen (auricular).

    The effectiveness of the Stomach (ST), Gall Bladder (GB) and Urinary Bladder (BL) acupoints is related to meridian theory. Since these three yang meridians begin on the head and end on the feet, energy can be directed downward from the head to the feet by needling points at the distal end of these meridians. In accordance with Qi Gong treatment principles of “rooting” and “grounding,” stimulating distal points of the ST, GB and BL meridians will anchor yang qi from the head and ground it into the lower limbs. From the moment I begin locating the point, I’m visualizing qi from the head being pulled down to the point. This intention process is important, and I’ve found it to be most effective.

    The use of LU 7 and SI 3 is also based on meridian theory, as they are confluent points used to open the Ren and Du channels. KI 6 is the confluent point of the Yin Heel extra meridian. RN 4 and DU 20 are key points on the Ren (Conception) and Du (Governing) meridians. They travel upwards from the perineum, along the spine to the upper jaw (Du meridian) and along the front midline to the lower jaw (Ren meridian). People familiar with Indian spiritual practices will recognize that the seven major chakras are positioned along the Ren and Du meridians, and that kundalini rises along the Du meridian.

    Today, many people are in pursuit of spirituality. All Eastern spiritual practices I am familiar with have some form of meditation that focuses on the body’s centerline, whether it is called “Dantien” or “Chakra.” To me, the particular system of spiritual practice which people choose is irrelevant. What I see as a Qi Gong healer, however, is that many people have done damage to themselves due to improper practice. We in the West have a tendency to “push the stream uphill” and think we can master ancient spiritual growth systems in three or four weekends. This can result in stuck qi, uncontrolled qi, chakras that have been “blown open,” etc.

    Acupuncture can be used to rebalance people who are out of alignment due to improper practice, and may even promote or accelerate spiritual growth (by means of opening the Ren and Du meridians, which run exactly along the Dantien and Chakra systems). In my opinion, adding acupuncture to one’s spiritual practice provides a safety net and promotes optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health.

    Peng Her,
  • Lindsey Zeutenhorst

    Lindsey Zeutenhorst

    As I enter my fourth year here at AAAOM it is hard to fathom that I have made it so far in such a short amount of time. Throughout this time I have maintained a full-time student status, making the study of Oriental Medicine take up the majority of my time. I appreciate the fact that the faculty at AAAOM is here full-time as well, which is very helpful as it allows for the availability of constant academic counseling. The faculty teaching my classes were also the faculty I was observing in the clinic, and finally the ones to supervise me as an Intern. This allowed me to get to know the faculty personally and keep all the pieces of what I was learning together. In addition to the opportunities for coming into contact with Chinese culture that the faculty provides, AAAOM also gave me the opportunity to travel to China. I cannot put into words the positive impact this has had in my life.

    I remember when I came to school I was so excited to learn about acupuncture. As I went through my studies I began to see that the program was set up to continually give me a foundation to work from, and then provide opportunities to apply my knowledge. I felt like I was constantly moving forward and completing the steps to my goal.

    AAAOM’s competitive curriculum has kept me busy and working hard, but the spirit of the faculty and students has been supportive and friendly whether it concerned my studies or my personal life. Thank you. I am amazed that my enthusiasm for learning about TCM today far exceeds my initial excitement. I am confident that I now posses the skills needed to venture out on my own.

    I am saddened to think of leaving AAAOM indefinitely, yet confirmed in my belief that I will always be welcomed back. I know this whenever I see alumni come back to be greeted by the smiling faces of students and faculty, eager to catch up and give continued support. When I finish this trimester I will have completed the work needed to receive the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree, and will set off to new experiences in Traditional Chinese Medicine, leaving full of knowledge and fond memories.

    Lindsey Zeutenhorst,
  • Matt Priebe

    Matt Priebe

    My first year at AAAOM has been a good experience. A truly wonderful aspect of this school is the faculty. The instructors are approachable and they are always available and willing to teach. They take the time in the classroom as well as out of the classroom to thoroughly answer questions that students may have. Not only do they teach, they interact with students and take a genuine interest on a personal level with the students.

    The school has a comfortable atmosphere, and the students are laid-back and easy going. Everyone is friendly and helpful. Anyone who has something that may be beneficial to others shares it with others, so there is a continuous exchange of information. There is such a diversity of life experiences here that everyone can learn something new from everyone else.

    So for me, the expertise of the faculty and the life experiences of the student body combine to create a quality educational institution as well as the knowledge to live a better life.

    Matt Priebe,
  • Eric Hayward

    Eric Hayward

    In the fall of 2006 I unexpectedly lost a job. With two kids, a mortgage, and a full-time student for a spouse, I am the only breadwinner in our family. The bottom had truly dropped out. It was the perfect time to do something seemingly courageous, unexpected and risky, but in fact, utterly sane.

    In the summer of 2007 I enrolled in the Masters program at AAAOM. Reality is constant change; there is no better system to understand change at its most fundamental level than Chinese medicine. Still so early in the program, this is the kind of information I am absorbing-the philosophical and historical layers. Sometimes during lectures I get a feeling for the thousands of years of careful observation, testing and theory behind these mind-blowing statements of fact about the secret life of my internal organs, for example. The idea that human life is a process of change, connected with nature, rather than the sum total of its physical parts, has been the most profound piece of learning I’ve received.

    Actually, my old assumptions about life started to prove false some time ago. Even before I lost that job. I had already stumbled across the realizations that life is short and often difficult, that there is much suffering in the world, and that the happiness I seek in egotistical pursuits will continue to elude me, through an unexpected encounter with Buddhism. Losing the job showed me those truths more plainly than any theory. Enrolling in AAAOM was my way of taking action, making a conscious decision to step outside my adopted worldly nature into my birthright as a human being. Through my education I can learn to better understand myself and the world, and in doing so, help others.

    I am most grateful for the way my study of TCM, at this unique institution, deepens my understanding of practices like meditation and Tai Chi, showing how “spiritual” ideas can take form very practically in the world. I don’t believe I could have this quality and depth of learning at a school lacking the authentic traditional qualifications of the AAAOM faculty.

    With these words I wish that all beings might receive such a life education. But without having to get fired first.

    Eric Hayward,
  • Muni Ceulemans

    Muni Ceulemans

    A woman in her late 20’s came in for headaches, which had been bothering her for several months. The headaches were always accompanied by a rush of heat to her face and head. On questioning, I found that the headaches usually occurred between 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. She also mentioned that she had some emotional issues. According to TCM theory, qi circulates through all the meridians every 24 hours. The time frame of her headaches corresponded to the Pericardium meridian. So I decided to try removing heat from the Pericardium by bleeding PC 9, which is on the tip of the middle finger. Using a three-edged needle, I opened the point and pressed blood from her finger. In this technique, you are supposed to bleed the point until the color of the blood changes. In her case, first the blood was dark red, then it got lighter, then it got dark again, and finally it got lighter. As soon as the point was bled, the heat stopped and the headache was gone. Then I went ahead and did a regular acupuncture treatment. The patient bled her own finger a few times at home. She has not had a headache since we did that treatment.

    Muni Ceulemans,
  • Huyen Doan

    Huyen Doan


    I was treating a 50-year-old woman for multiple problems. She had stagnation of Qi and Blood, as well as deficiency of the Liver, Kidney and Spleen. One symptom that bothered her was tinnitus of the left ear. After a number of treatments the tinnitus was improving, but I wanted to open up the circulation of qi to her head by treating the Stomach meridian. I palpated ST 9, which is located over the carotid artery, next to the Adam’s apple. On the left side of her neck, the artery was swollen-looking and purple in color – it looked much different from the right side of her neck. I tried needling ST 9 on the left side. Later, the patient told me that the next day, the ST 9 area was even more swollen than before, but there was no pain. By the day after that, the swelling had disappeared and her ear was completely free of tinnitus. When I looked at her neck, the left side now looked even better than the right side.

    Huyen Doan,

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