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Martian Geology: Response to The Integrator, 10/4/10

Thanks to John Weeks for reviving the discussion of the NCCAOM Job Task Analysis (Part 1 and Part 2). There are a few points I need to address from his post and his interview with Kory Ward-Cook.  Need, not want; because suggesting that the solution to the problem of acupuncturists not making a living is to graduate fewer acupuncturists -- which would of course result in even fewer patients receiving acupuncture -- is the blogging equivalent of walking up to my house and heaving a rock through my window. You've got my full attention; there's no way I'm not going to take it personally; and it looks like we're really going to have a conversation now.

But first, I want to go back, a couple of CAN blog posts ago, to the Dept. of Education's comment period on the proposed rules for gainful employment. We sent out repeated pleas via Facebook for folks to send in comments about their experiences with acupuncture schools and gainful employment, or the lack thereof. I said I wanted us to send in 100 comments, but privately I wondered if I was being too optimistic about that. Comrades, forgive me for doubting you. 265 comments about acupuncture schools got submitted to the Dept. of Education thanks to our organizing efforts. If trying to navigate the Dept. of Education site doesn't annoy you too much, it's worth wading through them, especially in chronological order. The first 4 pages are back-to-back pleas from graduates of acupuncture schools to investigate their alma maters' abuse of Title IV funds. Around page 5, some fairly entertaining attempts at defensive maneuvering by acupuncture schools start showing up. Um, about that? A little tip for future reference? Making all of your employees write to the Dept. of Education about what rewarding careers they have, gainfully using their degrees by TEACHING IN FOR-PROFIT ACUPUNCTURE SCHOOLS, indicates a certain, ah, insensitivity to the issues at hand. But anyway! Looking at the 265 comments, pretty much what you see is a concerted effort by lots of licensed acupuncturists to get the Dept. of Education to re-evaluate acupuncture schools' access to student loans, and then a delayed, frantic reaction to our efforts, mostly from schools and some acupuncture students who, sadly, seem to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. All in all, even better than I hoped. You can read them all here:

http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#docketDetail?R=ED-2010-OPE-0012

Before getting back to the Integrator blog post, I'd like to quote from four comments that I thought packed a particular emotional wallop. I don't know the authors personally (and the last one was anonymous), but their words are haunting me.

1) Dear Program Integrity Committee, I urge you to thoroughly investigate all acupuncture colleges in the United States receiving Title IV funds. I have personally incurred over $150,000 worth of student loan debt in completing my degree. I was repeatedly told that acupuncturists earned $100,000 or more per year and led to believe there were plenty of jobs available and multitudes of willing patients. Unfortunately, I only practiced for about a year after getting my degree and license...

2) I am a licensed acupuncturist, licensed in 2005 after four years of full-time school that I financed with student loans. After being in private practice for five years, my income is still hovering around the poverty line. Although acupuncture is effective, it is still not part of the medical establishment and it is extremely difficult to make a decent living practicing this form of alternative medicine. I left a good career thinking that earning a Masters would keep me at a similar income level or improve my situation, but it has proved to be a financial disaster from which I have not yet recovered. Even worse - after four years of full-time schooling, I was so far out of step with my former career - working as a copywriter in marketing and advertising - that I could not get full-time work in that profession any longer. I now work a retail job to supplement my private practice, which barely breaks even, making a fraction of the money I was before I started school in 2002. I think that if I had to pay for this education out of pocket, I would have looked harder at the financial rewards, but I assumed that because it was funded by federal money, it was a legitimate and lucrative degree. Of course everyone at the school assured me that it was a great way to make money...

3) I graduated from an acupuncture college 6 years ago; I came out of school with a debt close to $100,000. At age 56, and 6 years into my practice, I am barely able to pay the interest. I will be paying this debt off well into my retirement years. 50 to 80% of graduates no longer practice acupuncture 5 years after graduation; 91% are self-employed because salaried jobs are almost non-existent. Most cannot support themselves but rely on a second job or a spouse's income. I do both. Last year I netted less than $3,000, including income from my part-time job as a college instructor. I would like to be able to contribute to my family?s well-being instead of being a drain on our resources. 11 years ago, I interviewed the admissions director at my school, he told me the latest statistics said acupuncturists could earn up to $100,000 a year. I wish that were true. I wish that were even half true. Then I could afford to pay off my crushing debt and retire without having to worry about the government garnishing my meager Social Security income, or continue to work until age 80. Could I have made a different choice? Yes. But by the end of my first year of school, when I realized the level of debt I would incur to complete my education, I was already severely in debt. I had been successfully self-employed, so I believed I could make a successful living as an acupuncturist. I have tried in to create employment opportunities, but to no avail. I am not lazy. I work hard at my business. I?m not trying to welch on my student loans. Every day I feel the stress of this debt. Every day my spouse reminds me of the huge load I have put on our family.

4) Title IV Funding for Acupuncture and First Professional Degree Acupuncture school is a scam that ruins students lives forever. There is no way for me to ever pay off my student loans. I am too old to start over. I cant find a way to work it off and I am exhausted from trying for the last 13 years. This was my last shot at a life and a career. Acupuncture ate my life and has destined me to a life of poverty and nothing to retire on. Please stop this abuse and destruction of students lives. There is no living to be made in acupuncture because there are no jobs. You might as well learn martian geology for all the good it will do you as a business. Ongoing costs of maintaining licensing, certification, malpractice, CEU's all feed somebodys pocketbook but mine is empty. 

John Weeks kindly described my earlier blog post as "widely-read". That hadn't occurred to me, because when I'm writing here I'm mostly talking to you, comrades, but I really hope he's right. I want that anguished lament about Martian geology and ruined lives to echo in a lot of people's ears besides mine: prospective students, school administrators, and all of the people who benefit, one way or another, from the illusions of the acupuncture profession.

Now, let's juxtapose those comments with Kory Ward-Cook's, that aforementioned rock through my window: ""Instead of criticizing the messenger, let's address the problem. Maybe we don't need to graduate so many. Maybe we need to figure out how to employ them. We've got to figure out if the profession will be a two-tier system or non-tier, whether it will be doctoral level or non-doctoral or both. We have to figure this out."

I'd just like to clarify: I'm not criticizing the messenger, I'm criticizing the entire structure of the profession. I'm criticizing its goals, its values, its foundations, and also its ability to do arithmetic. I had some quibbles --and still do -- about the way the message was delivered; meaning, there was so much spin it made me dizzy. But in the end, this isn't about the Job Task Analysis. The messenger who delivered the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news of the JTA is also a major part of the structure that I'm criticizing. The one that ruins students' lives.

And this thing I'm doing right now? And for the last five years? This blog, this website, this business model, this movement? The hundred thousand plus acupuncture treatments that WCA has provided?  That would be "addressing the problem". I'd love some help from people inside the structure, but I'm fairly certain that's not going to happen. The rest of this post is about why.

I'd like to start by looking at the two basic business models that together make up "the acupuncture profession". No, I don't mean the boutique model and the community model. I mean the business model that is built on selling the fantasy of being an acupuncturist, and the business model that is built on delivering acupuncture treatments to real patients. The first business model is known as acupuncture education, and it has spun off a slew of secondary businesses: the business of certification, accreditation, CEUs, and insurance, to name the big ones. The first business model is viable and real, largely because it is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers in the form of Title IV funding. It and its secondary businesses create jobs and profits. The second business model is viable at such a small scale and in such limited circumstances that, unlike the first model, it can barely be considered business at all; unlike the first business model, it creates virtually no jobs and no profits. This is why, as John Weeks points out, acupuncture professional associations are famously and intractably weak: most acupuncturists aren't really working. They're not generating funds by treating patients. The federally subsidized stability of the first business model upholds the illusion of the second business model: schools keep pumping out graduates who keep opening practices, and they keep them running for a year or two or five -- often by means of second jobs or supportive spouses -- before they realize they'll never be able to support themselves. But by then there's a new crop of graduates ready to pick up where the previous ones left off, because the Title IV funds keep coming. The first business model is the only reason anyone thinks there is an acupuncture "profession" at all.

I hate to break it to you, but you people who are operating the first business model --  you in the NCCAOM, the ACAOM, the CCAOM -- are not going to be able to figure out how to employ people in the second business model, in the business of delivering acupuncture. Because you don't have the faintest idea how acupuncture works in the real world. You don't have a clue what it looks like when you deliver acupuncture to actual people, especially people of ordinary incomes. You know why I'm so sure about that? Because I am actually pretty good at delivering acupuncture to real people, and I got that way by rejecting virtually everything I learned from you. You can't help any of us with the realities that we face after we graduate, because your business has nothing to do with reality. You traffic in dreams. And if you're wondering why we're all so mad at you, it's because we were your consumers; we bought your dreams, they weren't cheap, and at some point, we woke up.

The real problem that needs to be addressed is that acupuncture isn't Martian geology, but your business model requires you to act as if it is. Acupuncture's not complicated; it doesn't have to be exotic and rarefied; and it was never meant to be out of reach. Acupuncture works beautifully for ordinary, boring, garden variety problems in the lives of ordinary, boring, garden-variety people. Acupuncture often has generalized rather than specific effects. Receiving acupuncture is more like taking regular walks around the neighborhood than it is like receiving, say, brain surgery -- with the caveat, of course, that every so often, taking those walks utterly transforms or outright saves somebody's life. Anyone who really practices acupuncture, who does a lot of treatments on a lot of different people over a long period of time -- and who is honest with himself or herself about the results -- knows this to be true. Acupuncture isn't Martian geology and it isn't rocket science, but that doesn't mean it isn't precious to the people that it helps.

If you approach it like that, entering the real world as a licensed acupuncturist doesn't have to be, as John Weeks quipped, getting pushed out onto an ice floe; it's more like falling into the arms of thousands of people who love you. I'm serious. That pretty much describes my practice, and lots of other CANners'. But the people who love me, the people who support my business and allow me to support myself by practicing acupuncture, are not the kind of people that you folks operating the first business model ever pay any attention to. Lots of them are not glamorous; lots are old or sick or disabled; most of them don't make much money. They don't really care whether or not acupuncture is "a complete system of medicine", as a number of defensive commenters on the Dept. of Education site claimed; they just want to sleep through the night, maybe, and wake up with a little more patience to deal with their teenage kids or their toddlers or their grueling jobs. They just want to be able to mow their own lawns, or walk up a flight of stairs again. They have no interest in the dream of acupuncture, they only care about their own day to day reality. Dealing with their reality takes all the resources they've got. Taking care of these people, giving them what they want and what they need at prices they can afford, bears absolutely no resemblance to the dream of acupuncture that you have created via the NCCAOM, the ACAOM, and the CCAOM.

Even before the recession, these people made up more than 80% of the population. They don't have insurance that covers acupuncture, and they never will. What you really have to figure out, Dr. Ward-Cook and other leaders of the acupuncture profession, is not whether we need two tiers or no tiers or first professional doctorates, it's whether you have any interest in helping more than 80% of the population. So far, it's painfully obvious that you don't. Otherwise, how could you so blithely go directly to the option of graduating fewer acupuncturists? It doesn't concern you at all that 99% of Americans already aren't getting acupuncture? Maybe because those 99% don't factor into your business model, except that they pay the taxes that make the Title IV funds available.

You know the really heartbreaking part about all those comments on the Dept of Education site? It's not the picture of crushing financial stress as a result of student loans, though that is awful; it's not even the fact that so many graduates of acupuncture schools don't make enough money to support themselves. It's the fact that so many graduates of acupuncture schools never got to really help anybody with what they learned. My salary is $35K annually, with no raises in sight, and mostly I am overwhelmingly, transcendently happy with my career because of so many patients telling me what a difference acupuncture has made to them. Watching someone else's reality transform, from pain and depression to hope and vitality -- day after day after day! -- is about as good as it gets. And that's really the dream that led all of those students into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. What keeps them from realizing it is the total economic disconnect between the first business model of the acupuncture profession and the second one.

Leaders of the acupuncture profession, you can't prepare anyone for a world that you don't live in yourself, not to mention a world you apparently don't even want to visit. I'd like to suggest, since your salaries are supported by our debts (not to mention that your salaries are three or five or seven times what ours are), you have some obligation to learn about our world. Because you get to decide who can sit for the NCCAOM exam, and which schools get accredited, and what someone has to borrow to get an acupuncture license, you have an obligation to learn about all of the people that acupuncture could help -- but doesn't, because they can't afford it. You need to take a look at the suffering you're creating, and also at the suffering you could help resolve if you wanted to. Because unlike the dreams that you're selling, all that suffering is real.

This story was posted on October 9 2010 by Lisafer.

Comments

  • October 10 2010 at 8:50 AM
    Nora writes:

    This post is on fire,

    and if the first business model folks don’t feel burned, it’s because they don’t know how to feel.  Which would further explain that business model.  (And actually, I’ve had arguments with acupuncturists and other healer types who don’t believe that that suffering is real, so there you go.  Given that, why they went into a healing profession is beyond me.)

    The idea that we need fewer acupuncturists also makes me crazy.  I wonder how many of us have had patients drive an hour or more to our clinics because there was no acupuncture (or none they could afford) where they lived?  Even if folks picked up and moved from the towns where they spent forever going to acupuncture school, and fanned out across the midwest and the south and the plains and hell, even *inland California*, there wouldn’t be enough of them.  Not that it’s easy for people to make that choice, since many acupuncture students are older, have families and spouses who have jobs that the family depends on, etc.

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  • October 10 2010 at 11:19 AM
    tatyana writes:

    great post

    those DOE comment excerpts made me cry with anger and frustration. my story of debt, being mislead by my acupuncture school and acu-establishment’s disconnect with how it works in the real world and disillusionment post graduation is similar. community acupuncture practice model basically saved my ass (and my heart) as a practitioner. since beginning acupuncture school i was increasingly and keenly aware of this disconnect. it is in every fibre / aspect of the first business model operation - people who run acupuncture schools, write and administer licensing exams, put on big “professional” organization conferences, print “professional” newspapers and journals, publish a lot of useless TCM books, run a lot of useless CEU seminars, peddle useless overpriced liability insurance, etc. i know some of those people treat patients sometimes, but somehow it is not enough to get the disconnect through their thick sculls. there is something really wrong with the dream machine that uses our beautiful medicine (which is so well suited to relieveing suffering quickly, simply and inexpensively) to create more suffering at the expense of practitioners, students, patients, taxpayers. time for their hearts to get cracked open already.

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  • October 10 2010 at 1:16 PM
    david villanueva writes:

    Excellent post, Lisa.

    My own experience in the acupuncture field reflects the same truths you have stated in this blog.

    “Leaders of the acupuncture profession, ... since your
    salaries are supported by our debts ... you have some
    obligation to learn about our world… you have an
    obligation to learn about all of the people that acupuncture could help
    —but doesn’t, because they can’t afford it. You need to take a look at the suffering you’re creating, and also at the suffering you could help resolve if you wanted to..”

    Exactly. 

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  • October 10 2010 at 10:18 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    Thanks, comrades

    This one kept me up at night. 

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  • October 11 2010 at 10:57 AM
    tessmcginn writes:

    some of those comments made me feel sick in my

    stomach…it proves how difficult it is to make a living as a self-employed acupuncturist.  Even if we are doing well in our clinics, it does not mitigate the school’s poor performance/track record in employment opportunities. The lending practices allowed by and promised by the Federal government is akin to usury. 

    As an organization we can only focus on our profession.  In fact, this has become a sad fact across the education board.  We have allowed lending agencies to extract as much as they can off as many as they can and then get a tax break for the rest.  Nobody loses but the borrower. 

    Nobody loses but our profession.  Descrease the number of attendees?  That is going to happen with the increased awareness that an acupuncture degree does not mostly add up to a living.  What is needed is actual reform.  Less schooling, more viable internships in big clinics (really NESA, a student treatment is now $40?), make herbal medicine a separate degree and all of the biology/martian geology, western science be available at a local community college.  Why not relocate some of these schools to areas with less expensive real estate?  How much can be accomplished online in the form of webinars and such?

    The schools that figure out how to be mean and lean machines will win the prize in numbers of students graduating.  Everyone who practices out here in real world knows that you don’t learn to be an acupuncturist until you are out in the real world anyway.

    Thanks Lisa for our lesson in martian geology, I will not soon forget how the comrades in my profession suffer.

     

     

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  • October 11 2010 at 10:58 AM
    emily writes:

    Yes

    I hate trying to refer someone and there are no community acupuncturists (or any acupuncturists) in that area.

    What about a campaign to reach out to former acupuncturists, who couldn’t make it work in the BA style, and try to get them working in CA practices?  I know they would be a little rusty and require some reprogramming, but we do need more working acupuncturists!

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  • October 11 2010 at 4:35 PM
    Linda inDetroit writes:

    That’s a good idea Emily.

    That’s a good idea Emily.  I was out of practice for a few years, I did want to come back, but I wasn’t sure how to do it until I found CAN, the support and inspiration of the members helped me form a plan and build a practice I could be proud of.  I’m not sure how to find former acupuncturists, but I bet there are some who are feeling like I was, and thinking about trying again, but feeling very alone and unsure what to do.

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  • October 11 2010 at 6:48 PM
    mitylene writes:

    Love this quote!

    “My salary is $35K annually, with no raises in sight, and mostly I am
    overwhelmingly, transcendently happy with my career because of so many
    patients telling me what a difference acupuncture has made to them.
    Watching someone else’s reality transform, from pain and depression to
    hope and vitality—day after day after day!—is about as good as it
    gets.”

    This is exactly how I feel! smile

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  • October 11 2010 at 11:36 PM
    Demetra writes:

    This:

    What you said here really stood out for me: “Taking care of these people, giving them what they want and what they need at prices they can afford, bears absolutely no resemblance to the dream of acupuncture that you have created via the NCCAOM, the ACAOM, and the CCAOM.”

     

    While I was finishing school and preparing for the boards last year, it actually shocked me (maybe I’m naive) how many of my classmates were gearing up for lengthy vacations after finally getting licensed. It was the undisputed top topic of conversation for months, the “reward” for finishing school. It really blew my mind. I mean, here we were entering dark economic times, national stress through the roof, health-care discussions saturating the news, and no one felt a responsibility to be out there treating people? We have a real, viable solution to the health-care crisis in our community acupuncture practices, and no one wanted to make it happen?

     

    I’m not saying I wasn’t tired after boards, and I did take a few months to clean my house, try to seem involved at my daughter’s school, and take endless notes from CAN. But my plan was to get a clinic up and running stat, and while plenty of people professed interest in the CA model, when it came time for me to start contacting folks to talk about teaming up to start a clinic, suddenly everyone was too busy..vacationing. Sure, several were in China doing internships, but those were usually a few weeks among several months of travel.

     

    I don’t dispute anyone’s right to know when they need personal downtime- I just thought it was really telling how few people seemed to feel any sense of responsibility or obligation to participate in relieving the increasing amount of suffering being collectively experienced. And then of course I realized that responsibility to community is rarely discussed in the “dream of acupuncture.” 

     

    I share your dismay at the suggestion of graduating fewer acupuncturists as a “solution” to the employment problem. We need more practicing acupuncturists; more who can afford their acupuncture education not because of federal loans, but because it the education if of reasonable cost for a reasonable length of time; and more who are practicing community acupuncture. Because even after only six months of practice and just a few hundred treatments under my belt, I can see that even my little clinic (in a city overflowing with practitioners) is making a real and significant impact in the quality of life for my neighbors. And that’s work that not enough people are doing.

     

    *Thank you* for questioning this broken business model of “selling the acupuncture dream.” I feel sorry for the people who have created it. The momentum is shifting so palpably against their way. I cannot wait for the day when I can encourage friends and patients who want to serve their communities to go to acupuncture school because it is straightforward, affordable, and an effective way to actually change the world.

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  • October 12 2010 at 11:13 AM
    Justine writes:

    Wow, Lisa - this is a

    Wow, Lisa - this is a masterpiece of real tragedy and truth.  I could never have put it into words as eloquently and intensely.  Those comments from acupuncturists to the Dept. of Ed. caused a lump in my throat.  Way to put it all together.

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  • October 12 2010 at 9:43 PM
    Guest writes:

    Applause

    Lisa,
    I think it is totally worth noting that you are choosing to make “only” 35k.  By doing so, this also allows you to have employees in your clinic.  Sure, you don’t “have” to have employees, thereby possibly having a “higher” salary, but you have chosen the path for the highest good for patients and practitioners.

    “Watching someone else’s reality transform, from pain and depression to hope and vitality” indeed!

    Keep it up.  Hopefully this model of delivery, well, in actuality, movement, will achieve greater success.

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  • October 13 2010 at 12:13 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    really good point

    about the post-degree vacation. I’ve noticed that too, but didn’t connect the dots with the missing responsibility to actually use your degree to help people. You’re right. Also, it seems like a fair number of people never actually get back to doing acupuncture after that vacation—they just drift away. The thing that always bothers me about the school-to-work transition, or the lack thereof, is that acupuncture is a skill. The longer you don’t do it, the harder it becomes to pick up again. Especially for people who never felt confident in the first place. So they take a vacation in part because they are scared to start practicing, and months or years go by—honestly, what are the odds that they are ever going to start needling again?

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  • October 13 2010 at 12:37 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    thanks

    for the applause—I want to clarify that I’m not being all sacrificial or anything. I prefer working with other people, I like my coworkers, I like feeling like part of a community taking care of my community—there are a boatload of intangible benefits there, that more take home pay could not substitute for.

    You know, it’s just interesting how people think about money. 35K does not seem like a low salary to me, and I started to think about why. One—the obvious one—is that it’s a lot more than I made when I was trying to have a solo boutique practice, way back in the day, and more than I made when I was doing public health acupuncture. But also, I went and checked out the Bureau of Labor Statistics website for occupational employment and wage estimates for Oregon. FASCINATING. It’s immediately clear that I’m making more than a lot of my patients are—all the bartenders and servers and childcare workers and farmers and retail workers—and less than some of the others—some nurses and teachers and managers. The estimated per capita income for Oregon is 30K, median household income in Portland is 50K.

    But then I decided to see what would happen if I were doing the same jobs that people in my family did, because I suspect that is where my expectations come from about what is a “normal” wage. My father was a lab technician in a chemical plant; if I were doing that here and now, I’d be making about 39K. (He was also the only wage earner in our household when I was growing up, which is not true for me here and now.) One of my grandfathers drove a truck—38K, in the present; the other was a gas station attendant—21K.

    Sorry, acupuncture profession, this is the downside of those Title IV funds: you start giving out student loans willy-nilly and eventually you end up with people like me in your world, people who really, truly, genuinely feel that making 35K is normal, and good, and even successful.

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  • October 13 2010 at 1:40 PM
    Nora writes:

    This is REALLY important.

    Somewhere I have an unfinished blog post about working for people who make *on average* about the same amount of money you do, and how it is a good antidote to the kind of resentment that many acupuncturists seem to have towards the upper-middle-class patients they have to court in order to get the fees they are told they have to charge (or risk “devaluing” the medicine).  I don’t make 35K yet but am sure to hire more folks before I do…and around here (and probably in most of the country) that amount is a really decent, middle-range salary.  Add in the intangible benefits and one feels downright wealthy.

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  • October 13 2010 at 3:52 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    thanks, Nora

    this stuff is so hard to get at and put into words. For me, one of the hugest intangible benefits of my job is working for people who make on average what I make, and on average what the people in my family made—this is not something I tolerate in the name of “doing good”, it’s something I WANT, for its own sake.  It’s an antidote for a lot of class-based pain, it’s healing in its own right. I know a lot of people don’t get that at all, and I have no idea how to go about explaining why it matters so much. And of course it makes no sense at all to the folks in the first business model, the ones operating the dream machine (thanks, Tatyana!)—because it’s based on the economic stream that is  based on patients, real patients, and how that stream feels to me on the receiving end. OK, now I’m totally going to hound you about finishing that blog post.

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  • October 15 2010 at 9:55 PM
    melissa writes:

    it’s nice to know how much they care…

    so, spurred on by these recent posts, i have now read all 260 odd comments of the DOE. i know, it’s crazy. and it’s beyond frightening.

    hearing so many of the stories like those Lisa points out above. watching the schools require (or strongly encourage) their captive students to sign form letters to “save the AOM profession,” it’s just so sad.

    but all the more infuriating, if you put these next to the comments from actual school owners and administrators who have claimed to care about these students and all of us that have gone before—or are we different than “the profession” they claim to care about?  i offer you a sampling of the most caring (and confusing) among them:

    “I work for an acupuncture college, and not a single student who enters the college has been told that they can make anything. In fact, each and every semester, the college asks students to sign an enrollment agreement that explicitly states that there is no guarantee of employment.
    I have watched the costs rise in my profession because the profession has pushed the number of hours of education higher and higher in order to gain recognition as independent health care practitioners. The colleges actually fought against those increases, but seem to be convenient targets for those who won’t take accountability for their own financial decisions.
    Some of the posts here are from my students who were never forced into taking a loan or misled about employment prospects.
    The crisis in acupuncture has to do with rising costs of both health care and higher education. There may be some institutions that need to be held in check, but by and large the picture painted may not exist.”
    —Valerie Hobbs, SWAC Boulder

    ok, what? so you derive your income from an institution that creates glossy enrollment materials, open-houses, etc to lure students to “the profession,” create a bloated full-time program ( i love how she tries to separate the profession from the school owners) that basically REQUIRES huge amount of loans to attend, spend three or four years sucking in that loan money, coaching students to continue, all the while knowing there are no jobs, and then blame students saying they don’t “take accountibility for their own financial decisions.” Nice.

    so, just to clarify,  the schools selling the “product” of AOM education know full well that it is an overpriced and defective product (why else CYA by having students sign stuff every semester?) but want to whine about why they can’t keep selling it and then blame the victims they’ve swindled? but as Valerie clearly reveals in her comments, she has no idea what’s going on out here for us: “by and large, the picture painted may not exist.” *poof* the old dominant power structure makes us disappear.

    i encourage you to read a few of the other admin comments, where they basically admit that there is no way schools have the default rate data, at the same time claiming zero default rates. which says what anyway? that lots of conscientious grads refuse to completely default but stay in interminable low income repayment options, mostly not even working in the profession? spin, spin, spin…

    or where the school owner form letter sent by PCOM, SWAC and others, has the paragraph about how the poor schools shouldn’t be held accountable for any of the loan amounts used for living expenses while students go through their ridiculously scheduled, bloated, full-time program. and that to restrict loans will leave out all but the extremely wealthy. Wait, so now they’re defending diversity in the profession? but there’s the rabbit hole again. so you admit that only the very wealthy could afford it without loans, that it REQUIRES loans with living expenses to get through but it shouldn’t be part of the equation of debt to income? huh?

    but my all-time favorite is the letter from Carla Wilson on behalf of the ACAOM, and the other alphabets. i encourage you to feast on it in its entirety, with special attention to the misquoting of CAN and Lisa on bottom of page 3 onto 4—it’s a hoot, all right! (since the 509K figure repesents salaries for at least 6 punks plus other staff and expenses) Also when they whine that they shouldn’t be held to ratios that would require grads to make $60, 80, 100G within the first three years—even the first TEN, because almost none of them do. That’s funny, aren’t those the exact figures they tell prospective students they can expect to earn once licensed?

    and the part with my favorite fantasy math, which again reveals the assinine way they try to defend their income projections for “the profession,” without actually requiring schools to have hard data on their alumni in order to pass accreditation or even paying attention to the surveys done of actual practitioners by “the profession! “

    “According to the BLS, acupuncturists typically charge between $40 and $70 per one-hour session. At this rate, an acupuncturist who works with as few as six people daily would gross in excess of $100,000 per year.” Ok, so this is 6 people every day, five days per week 52 weeks of the year, all paying $70 to make $100,800 before a single expense is deducted. and for the most part, we know most private practitioners aren’t seeing nearly that many, or even working that many hours.

    So, it’s good to know how they’re coming up with this shit and just how much they care. here’s the link to Carla’s letter. really, you don’t want to miss it, it’ll make you laugh and cry. the myths and inconsistencies could be taken line by line, but i’m not sure i have the stomach for it today, so give a girl a hand, eh?

    http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#docketDetail?R=ED-2010-OPE-0012

    just click on the one with the adobe attachment

    Melissa

    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

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  • October 16 2010 at 1:20 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    I kept thinking

    when I read some of the comments from the school administrators, including the one that you quoted, that what I really need to do is to print them out and put them in a handout for prospective acupuncture students. Is it just me, or was there a strong whiff of contempt and disgust in there for students who have the temerity to take out the loans they’re being offered and then dare to use them to live on? Or, worse, dare to expect some tangible financial benefit after borrowing a hundred thousand dollars? Wow.

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  • October 16 2010 at 5:04 PM
    melissa writes:

    ah hah

     so i’m beginning to think thaat’s why they encourage so much moxa use in school clinic—helps cover the stench of that very strong whiff…

     

    Melissa

    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

      0 likes
  • October 16 2010 at 6:26 PM
    melissa writes:

    2 great comments from long-termers in “the profession”

    “I taught Oriental Medicine for twenty years in three schools of Oriental Medicine, one on the East Coast and two in the Mountain West. In the beginning, I believed that acupuncture and OM would become integrated into our medical system, simply because they worked so well. Over time (and many years of studying myself as well as training students) I found that, as the cost of education went up and the number of graduates increased, the job opportunities did not follow. We were not then and have not now been granted entrance into the Medicare ore Medicaid systems, despite efficacy studies.
    Over the past 20 years, I watched as costs of education were driven ever-higher by greed and illegal business practices of school owners (one school I taught at was forced into bankruptcy by its owners after their fraudulent business practices while operating a legally non-profit institution - for profit - were exposed. another made millionaires of its two owners while they exploited new immigrant doctors from China as poorly-paid teachers without benefits).
    I stopped teaching, added another Master’s credential , and entered another field of health care because I no longer believed that the situation was viable. While I still believe in the medicine, I do not believe that the manner in which these schools are organized or the cost to students matches in any way the situation in the real world.
    I suggest that, until the profession is admitted into the pantheon of federally-approved medical professions, until there is Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, and until there is inclusion in public health and ph loan forgiveness, these institutions should not be supported.”—Jenna Viscaya, Albuquerque, NM
    _________________________________

    “I am an Acupuncturist trained over 30 years ago through apprenticeship studies. No loans, no grants, no breaks. I have been in private practice since 1980. I have trained 10 practitioners through apprenticeship training - no loans, no grants, no breaks. They are all making a living in their profession - but not easily. Acupuncture schools SHOULD NOT have Title IV funding. The colleges and administrators are making fine livings sucking on the teat of public money - the young people being promised bright futures are being ripped off. There is no need for Doctorate programs and advanced degrees. There is no need for such nonsense. Do not use public funds to underwrite crappy acupuncture education.” Thomas E. Duckworth, L.Ac.; Doctor of Kototama Medicine, St Louis, MO.
     

    Melissa

    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

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