The development of first professional doctorate degrees in Chinese medicine

chinese_medicine_doctorateI must confess that the issue of accreditation of programs, levels of education within the acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine profession(s) and all related issues sometimes evade my understanding. While the degree that I will get at the end of my training is a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine, I will obtain a certification that will give me the title of Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc).

At this point, further education is possible in accredited DAOM (Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) but it brings with it no further licensure benefits. At this point, all Doctorate programs require the student to have their Masters degree and have some amount of clinical experience before they are considered for entry. The standards vary as to how much clinical experience is required. The Doctorate is clinically based and generally requires some amount of clinical research to be done.

NCNM, the school I attend in Portland, OR, has been working to create a first professional doctoral degree that focuses on Classical Chinese Medicine. I’m unclear as to whether other schools are seeking something similar. It’s been a long road, one that was started down long before I came to the school. Students, faculty, staff and community practitioners have been involved in the creation and refinement of the program.

Most of the students currently in the MSOM program had high hopes that ACAOM (the Chinese medicine accreditation organization) would create a set of standards for first professional doctorates in time for us to complete our “first professional doctorates.” To that end, we have been taking the extra coursework necessary for our proposed Doctorate program. Some of us have been quite active in the process, attending committee meetings and submitting comments to the ACAOM in support of a certain set of standards.

On February 8, ACAOM released their recommendation – which is essentially that they feel they can make no recommendation because of lack of consensus in the community. If you would like to read the official document, read it at ACAOM’s website. I’m unclear what, exactly, this means for our program at NCNM. Almost certainly those of us in our third or fourth year that were hoping to graduate on time with our Doctorate will not be able to do so. That’s not my biggest concern – I’m simply interested in understanding what the essential disagreement is in the community.

So, I would like to hear from my readers. What is your stance on First Professional Doctorates? What do you feel needs to be in place before a program like that goes through? Do you have other thoughts about how education and licensing works in the Chinese medicine profession in the United States? Let us know in the comments.

About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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