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Acupuncture Unity: AAOM and AOM Alliance End 14 Years of Damaging Divisiveness PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Acupuncture Unity: AAOM and AOM Alliance End 14 Years of Damaging Divisiveness

Summary: The two national organizations which have engaged a divisive battle for 14 years to represent the nation's licensed acupuncturists have re-united as the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). A press release from the new organization announced that the members of the former American Association of Oriental Medicine and the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance will immediately become members of the new entity. Leaders hope that the unified AAAOM will soon grow into a 10,000 member organization from the presently anemic level of dues paying members to lead the nation's 23,000 licensed acupuncturists.

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On January 15, 2007, the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) was re-birthed after nearly a year of quiet talks and deliberations. The new organization takes the name of the organization which split 14 years ago into the American Association of Oriental Medicine (AAOM) and the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance (AOM Alliance).

Disbanded, now part of AAAOM
In a shared press release the two former presidents, Will Morris, LAc, MS, DAOM, of the AAOM and Leslie McGee, LAc, of the AOM Alliance called the unification
"the best way to move the profession forward. We are thrilled that our differences have been bridged to the extent that it no longer makes sense to have two competing organizations. The vast majority of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine community has been asking for this to happen for several years, and the time was right to make this happen."

McGee, who will be the new organization's first president, told the Integrator that "the acupuncture community has been wanting and needing this." She adds: "It's about time we get together and become a lot more powerful in serving our profession."

Will Morris, LAc, MS, DAOM, former AAOM pres becomes president emeritus of AAAOM
The AAAOM leaders announced an intention to build a 10,000 member organization. By agreement, the new organization is not announcing the present combined set of licensed members
, but it is believed to be in the 1500-2000 range. The new organization also did not share what will become of the former AOM Alliance members who were not licensed acupuncturists, such as MD acupuncturists and acupuncture detoxification specialists.

Morris, an Integrator advisor, will take the title of president emeritus. He said, bluntly: "We've been trying to wrangle this down for 10 years." Morris credited "a whole lot of people" for making it happen, and reflected: "It's almost like awakening from a dream. We discovered, when we got together, that the core values were there, and shared."

Morris stated that, by agreement, he was not authorized to comment about the decision process on who would be the AAAOM's first president. However, the Integrator has known for nearly a year that Morris held the position that if efforts at unity were successful, he would be happy to step down.

Disbanded, now part of AAAOM
The AAAOM release notes the full list of officers, who will serve until October 2007. The first national meeting will be held May 9-13 in New Orleans. The AAAOM thanked mediator Mike Schroeder, vice president of the
American Acupuncture Council (AAC), a malpractice insurance broker. The AAAOM notes that the cost of the reunification negotiations were paid for by the AAC.

Comment:  The divisive battle between the former AAOM and the former AOM Alliance left the rapidly growing acupuncture profession without significant representation at the national level. Despite 53 accredited schools (and another 5-10 with candidate status) and an estimated 23,000 practitioners, the profession has had virtually no lobbying presence in Washington, DC, or other ongoing participation in national policy.

Why? Many LAcs used the divisiveness as a reason to not part with dues money to either group. Why participate if they can't get their acts together?  The result is the anemic membership. The estimated total is roughly 7.5%-10% of the potential. (For comparison, the American Medical Association, frequently blasted by CAM-ish types for its declining membership, still has 25%-30% of the nation's MDs as members.) Low membership has meant a paltry turnout of 150-350 practitioners at recent national meetings. With little membership or conventional revenue, budgets and staff have been thin.

Success in building to 10,000 will allow the profession to take advantage of the recent openness the public and the conventional medical establishment have been showing to licensed acupuncturists.

The successful negotiations also gave us one more interesting side-note in the odd way politics unfolds in integrated care ... Schroeder, credited with mediating the relationship, is himself embroiled in a deeply divisive battle inside the Orange County, California, Republican party. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times ("The Orange County Republican politicos love and hate", January 7, 2007) credits Schroeder with being an exceptional political "chess player," a skill that can certainly be useful in mediation. But the article notes that
Schroeder, who once sued his Mom on a business deal, is also a "ruthless" Hummer-driving leader of a "Republican mafia" that came to power in the rise of social conservatism in that party.

Politics, as is said, makes strange bedfellows.  Here is hoping that the AAOM and the AOM Alliance are less strange bedfellows in the re-united AAAOM.

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