This past April I was fortunate to receive my Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or DAOM.  I went back to school full time while juggling my busy work load and was so excited to announce this news to my patients. I am now a Doctor of Acupuncture! The response was not what I had expected.  “I thought you were already a doctor of acupuncture?” “Wasn’t four years of school to train as an acupuncturist enough to be considered a doctor?”

Confronted with these questions, I believe they are worth addressing.

Aren’t all acupuncturists considered “doctors”?

No, sadly. I believe that the assumption that acupuncturist hold the title doctor is based on the chiropractor model. In chiropractic school, one completes four years of schooling including all medical training and clinical practice hours and they receive their Doctor of Chiropractic or D.C.  It took many years of determination and battle for chiropractors to be allowed this title even though they deserved it. Acupuncturists were still fighting for this honor until recently.

Four years, not enough?

A school can only offer degrees in which their program is approved. While acupuncturists are required to learn Western and Eastern medical theory, acupuncture application, herbal prescriptions AND clinic hours which takes four years (at least), my school was only accredited to offer a Master’s program when I attended. It was not until a few years ago that doctorate degrees was available.

In fact, currently only 7% of acupuncturists have earned their DAOM because of the programs lack of existence.  It requires an additional commitment of time to receive this honor and as I mentioned many of us were also treating patients and running our businesses. Our classes were focused on integrative medicine, sustainable business management techniques and a deepened knowledge and skills of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I suspect we will encounter more doctors of acupuncture over the next decade and I encourage it. It is sign that people and medical professionals are embracing the efficacy of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Until then, I continue to take pride as one of the first acknowledged acupuncture doctors to be practicing in this field.