Collier and Lee Counties Edition
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The Path to Acupuncture Mastery

Asking a local acupuncturist to recall the most common comments that patients ask about their profession or a treatment include, “Did you have to go to school for this?” and “Does this stuff actually work?” While these queries may be interpreted as amusing, in reality they point to a deeper issue—a lack of understanding and public awareness about this proven approach to prevention, wellness and the treatment of pain, as substantiated by statistics published in PubMed. Only 6 percent of Americans are using acupuncture as a complementary and alternative approach to conventional treatment for a specific health condition.

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes to its blueprint on pain treatment education. The guidelines now recommended that doctors and other healthcare providers receive information about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies for a multidisciplinary approach to pain management that might help patients avoid prescription opioids. Yet to the majority of individuals, as well as traditionally trained physicians, an acupuncturist’s skills and knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acquired through a formal and rigorous education, remains a mystery.

Required Education

Tasha Perez, founder of Quiet Waters Wellness Center, at Wellbridges, sheds light on an acupuncturist’s education. “The 3,048-hour curriculum for a Master of Science degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree combines classroom and practical study that includes the philosophy, theory and clinical application of Oriental and Western medicine. Oriental medicine courses cover classical diagnostic approaches, acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, tuina medical massage and qigong exercise therapy,” explains Perez,” who holds a Master of Science degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the East West College of Natural Medicine, in Sarasota.

“Additionally, western biomedicine courses cover tools for diagnosing and executing a complementary approach to healthcare. Courses include biological sciences, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic skills, pharmacology and nutrition. We also learn Japanese acupuncture and alternative therapies such as homeopathy. Prior to admission in a college of natural medicine, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree,” she says.

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

“The curriculum in a college of natural medicine prepares the graduate to sit for four examinations—Acupuncture Point Location, Biomedical, Chinese Herbology, and Foundations of Oriental Medicine, offered through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM),” says Ellen Teeter, executive director of the Florida State Oriental Medical Association.

The NCCAOM is the only national organization that validates entry-level competency in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) through professional certification. NCCAOM certification or a passing score on the NCCAOM certification examinations are documentation of competency for licensure as an acupuncturist by 47 states plus the District of Columbia, which represents 98 percent of the states that regulate acupuncture.

Teeter points out that the nonprofit American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) is devoted to teaching, research, and the practice of Oriental medicine as it relates to the treatment of reproductive disorders. “Acupuncturists who specialize in this field complete continuing education courses such as TCM for Complex Infertility Conditions: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Autoimmune and Premature Ovarian Failure, which are offered by ABORM-approved providers. In order to be ABORM certified, acupuncturists must be licensed two years prior to sitting for the certification examinations, as well as accumulate 45 hours of ABORM-approved continuing education units [CEU].”

Licensing and Insurance

The Florida Board of Acupuncture ensures that every acupuncturist practicing in this state meets minimum requirements for safe practice. The board also tracks continuing education credits. Compliance is verified by the Florida Board of Health at the time of license renewal.

“We are all required to have a city, county and state acupuncture license, as well as insurance,” says Charles Caccamesi, owner of Acupuncture Care of Naples. This graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture, in Boston, indicates that his annual cost for all of this is about $1,300. “Additionally, I renew my license through NCCAOM every four years for $280. This allows me to practice in any of the 48 states that recognize NCCAOM,” says Caccamesi, who estimates that throughout his 28 years of practice, he has invested $200,000 in his profession.

Continuing Education

“Just as medical doctors are required to take continuing education courses to maintain their license, we are also. Acupuncturists must take a minimum of 30 hours in continuing education classes every two years. Studying Florida laws and rules for acupuncture is a mandatory class to stay current with any changes. I’ve elected to study things such as how to interpret lab tests, as well as the effects of ionizing radiation used in dental X-rays and mammograms. I also studied other subjects that relate to my profession,” says Cacamessi.

“Internships are also available, and some states require them. Often, these are summer travel programs. I completed a three-week internship in China, along with other students. We treated patients in a hospital setting and earned CEUs. I also completed a weeklong cadaver dissection class and earned CEUs,” says Phyllis Weber, owner of Gulf Coast Acupuncture, with offices in Naples and Fort Myers.

In 1997, the National Institutes of Health formally recognized acupuncture as a mainstream medicine healing option, documenting its safety and efficacy for treating a range of health conditions. “Acupuncture isn’t just for managing pain. It’s particularly effective for autoimmune disorders, anxiety, sleep disorders, post-traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD), multiple sclerosis or any kind of neurological disorder, which is why CEUs are offered on these subjects,” advises Weber.

Doctor Referrals

Diane Renee Sarra, a doctor of Oriental medicine (DOM), is part of Lee Physician Group’s Integrative Medicine team. Heather Auld, M.D., and Teresa Spano, a naturopathic consultant, collaborate to achieve the best outcomes for patients. “A good example of how we work together is one where Teresa is having a patient do a detox or a weight-loss program. She refers the patient to me and I do auricular therapy [ear acupuncture],” says the graduate of East West College of Natural Medicine.

Acupuncture and Children

Richard Murdoch is a DOM who practices at AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, in Fort Myers, on Tuesdays and Fridays. A graduate of The College of Traditional Acupuncture in England, Murdoch has CEUs and certifications in health issues such as in Western medicine’s approach to the treatment of breast cancer, as well as in homeopathy and acupuncture injection therapy, which stimulates the acupuncture point for a much longer period of time, thus enhancing the therapeutic effect.

“I see a lot of children and adults with gastrointestinal issues. I alleviate their symptoms and get to the root cause of their issues not only with acupuncture, but also with nutritional functional medicine testing, nutritional therapy and herbal therapy,” says the author of Asthma: If I Can Recover You Can Recover

More Than Acupuncture

David Martin, DOM, a Florida licensed acupuncture physician and co-owner of Lotus Blossom Clinic, in Fort Myers, teamed up with his co-owner and wife Deb to offer a series of classes based on Conquering Any Disease, a book by Jeff Primack, a qigong master trained in food healing from an Asian perspective. Certified in Primack’s Food Healing Sciences, the Martins teach the basic food class, which covers a variety of topics such as phytochemicals (plant chemicals) and their benefit to the body, as well as specific organs such as the prostate, gallbladder and heart. One example is how the glutathione in asparagus helps the liver with detoxing,” says David.

“Our clients and students have experienced everything from weight loss to increased bone density and lower blood pressure. People come to the class for 1,000 reasons, and the beauty of it is that we can help them all to improve the quality of their health and life beyond the use of acupuncture,” notes David.

Treating Imbalances

“While I treat imbalances that are the result of whatever organ or system is not functioning properly in the body, I am required to take CEUs in the study of diseases and medical errors that can happen,” says Teri Evans, DOM and owner of Tae Healthy Aging, in Naples. “Throughout my 26-year career, I have also invested a minimum of $200,000 in my education. Because Florida doesn’t allow teachers to demonstrate any techniques without a Florida license, many of us have to fly out of state in order to learn protocols that help patients.”

“The practice of acupuncture as an aspect of TCM has been an important part of health and wellness in Chinese culture for an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 years. “In China, an individual might have a daily day treatment in a community acupuncture clinic until their issue is resolved. TCM could be integrated into the present healthcare system as serious medicine, as well as for wellness strategies that can resolve the root causes of chronic illnesses,” advises Evans.

Dry Needling

Dry needling should not to be confused with the TCM technique of acupuncture. “All of us who have invested in formal and continuing education are concerned that the medical board continues opening the door for other types of healthcare professionals to take only a 100-hour certificate course in dry needling rather than requiring them to be fully trained in this complex field of medicine that takes years to master,” says Evans.

Watering down a multifaceted approach to resolving the root causes of chronic illness guarantees a less than desired result and gives the impression that acupuncture doesn’t work.

Local Resources

Acupuncture Care of Naples, 501 Goodlette Rd. N., Ste. D100, Naples. 239-877-2531.

Acupuncture Center of Naples, Xiu Qiong Cen, OMD, AP, 5683 Naples Blvd., Naples. 239-513-9232.

AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, 15971 McGregor Blvd., Ft Myers. 239-433-5995.

Gulf Coast Acupuncture, Phyllis C. Weber, AP, 6300 Corporate Court, Ste. 104, Ft. Myers; 1250 Tamiami Tr. N., Ste. 301, Naples; 239-841-6611.

Lee Physician Group Integrative Medicine, Renee Sara, 239-495-4480.

Liu’s Acupuncture Center, Tianyi Wei, M.D., OMD, 803 Myrtle Terr., Naples; 239-403-9077. Zhongwei Liu, OMD, AP, 8971 Daniels Ctr. Dr., Ste. 304, Fort Myers, 239-298-9076.

Lotus Blossom Clinic Holistic Healing Center, 6710 Winkler Rd., Ste. 2, Fort Myers. 239-277-1399.

Quiet Waters Wellness Center at Wellbridges, 9200 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 213, Naples. 239-246-6622.

TAE Healthy Aging Center, Terri Evans, AP, DOM, 11983 Tamiami Trl. N. Ste. 100-A, Naples; 239-430-6800.

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