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Indybay Feature

Community Acupuncture Network Votes "No" on New Doctorate Degree for Acupuncture

by Larry Gatti
The board of directors for the Community Acupuncture Network (CAN) has voted unanimously to oppose a new doctorate degree for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine on the grounds that such a move would be detrimental to practitioners, patients and the profession. Due to its large membership, the vote represents a significant hurdle for professional consensus for the ACAOM to renew its review and finalization of standards for a first-professional doctorate in acupuncture and in Oriental medicine.
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Portland, Oregon, January 11th- In 2007, CAN was instrumental in organizing opposition to a proposed new entry-level doctoral degree amongst practitioners and patients. Lisa Rohleder, founder of CAN and co-owner of Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, Oregon explained. "We oppose the first professional doctorate as an entry-level degree because it is clearly not in the best interest of our patients. Fewer and fewer people have the kind of insurance that covers acupuncture, and so already, conventional acupuncture treatments at $60 to $150 per treatment are accessible only to a tiny percentage of the population. Increased educational requirements ultimately mean fewer practitioners charging more money, and that means even less care for all of the people who need it the most."

Working Class Acupuncture is the flagship community acupuncture clinic as well as one of the busiest acupuncture clinics in the country, providing over 400 acupuncture treatments per week. CAN estimates that between 5,000 and 7,000 patients every week receive acupuncture in community acupuncture clinics across the country. "What this means is that there is a genuine, visible grassroots movement of acupuncturists and patients who are committed to keeping acupuncture financially accessible," Rohleder said. "If we need to mobilize thousands of patients, we can and we will."

Estimates show a high practitioner failure rate, with somewhere between 50%-80% of new graduates not practicing acupuncture five years after graduation- after having taken out student loans of $40,000 to $150,000 to fund their acupuncture education. While other healthcare professions, such as physical therapy, have changed their entry-level degree status to the doctorate level, there exist actual jobs for physical therapists upon graduation. Jobs also await occupational therapist, nursing, chiropractic and physician assistant graduates. The same is not true for acupuncture graduates, for whom entrepreneurship is the most likely option upon graduating. CAM use in western health facilities is in decline and there is no evidence that a degree change in acupuncture will change this trend.

CAN maintains that the community acupuncture business model is both the best way to bring acupuncture to the masses with its $15-$40 sliding scale, as well as the most realistic way for graduates to make a living doing acupuncture. The CAN Board President, Andy Wegman, commented. "Acupuncture schools already encumber students with an unrealistic business model, not to mention significant student loan bills. What this adds up to is higher costs for patients, as students try to recoup their losses. The proposed doctoral degree would likely compound this problem, pushing acupuncture even further out of the reach of working and middle class people."

CAN is a 501c4 nonprofit organization (federal status pending) with over 400 active members (licensed acupuncturists and acupuncture students) from 25 US states and 5 foreign countries. CAN was founded in 2006 to address the growing inaccessibility of acupuncture to people of ordinary income. For additional information on CAN and its position the first professional doctorate, contact Cris Monteiro at shichangpu [at] gmail.com or visit http://www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org

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