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What to Expect From a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Ideally, the true physician leads an exemplary life, does no harm, ignores the wealth of the patient, has compassion for life, and looks upon the sufferer as if s/he had been stricken as well. A good doctor of Oriental Medicine is curious about the patient, and will want to know details about your way of life. Disease is rooted in the life of the patient, so the doctor must be a detective, sifting clues in order to solve the mystery. The doctor may administer herbs or acupuncture, and the doctor may practice philosophy, offering insight to reveal the cause and permit the cure. The doctor will diagnose according to The Four Examinations. The doctor will do no harm.  

When is a Practitioner Qualified?

Each nation has different standards. In the United States, each state sets its own standards for acupuncturists. In a few states such as California, acupuncturists have physician status. In some others, a visit to the acupuncturist requires a prescription from an MD. Laws are changing rapidly; so are educational standards and training in Chinese medicine. You'll find a confusing variety of initials after acupuncturists' names This is what they stand for:  

C.A. - Certified acupuncturist. This means that an acupuncture school has granted this person a certificate of completion. School programs can vary from 200 hours of training to 2,000 hours. Some school programs include herbal medicine training, some don't. A CA is not necessarily a license to practice.

L.Ac. - Licensed Acupuncturist. This is a license to practice. These practitioners have passed state board examinations. In California and New Mexico, these acupuncturists are primary care physicians, which means you can use them as your doctor. They can order lab tests, do physical exams, accept insurance (when it covers acupuncture), and supervise Worker's Comp.cases. Acupuncturists cannot perform surgery and can prescribe only "drugless substances". 

O.M.D. or D.O.M. - Doctor of Oriental Medicine. This is not a license to practice. It could be a doctoral degree offered by a school, however it probably isn't.  There are scant few real OMD or DOM degrees in the West. Many acupuncturists who display these initials, do so because they have registered to practice in the states of Nevada or New Mexico, which permit them to use this title. Acupuncturists from all over the country have paid high registration fees to these states in order to legally use these prestigious sounding initials.

M.D. (China) - Medical Doctor, licensed only in China. Physicians trained in Western medicine in China are not allowed to practice medicine in the U.S. Many of them, unable to practice modern medicine in the U.S., take up the practice of Oriental medicine instead. These initials don't indicate any training in Oriental medicine.

Dipl. Ac. or Dipl. Herb - Diplomate in Acupuncture. - Diplomate in Herbology. The bearer of these initials has passed a NCCAOM (National Committee for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) examination, and is a dues paying member of the NCCAOM. There are separate exams for acupuncture and herbs. Though not a license, the acupuncture test is used by many states as a qualifying exam.

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© Joel Harvey Schreck

Information about Chinese medicine on this site is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your own physician or other medical professional. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  

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