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AOM School Initiates IM Certification Program PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

AIMC-Berkeley offers Integrative Medicine Certification to AOM Practitioners

The Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC) in Berkley, California, is offering an "Integrative Medicine Certificate" to AOM practitioners. The set of courses is offered through the school's Program in Integrative Medicine, directed by Yoon Hang Kim, MD, MPH, DABMA. Image

AIMC defines integrative medicine as "the practice of combining alternative
and complementary therapies with conventional, scientific (allopathic) medicine to take advantage of the strengths of each system and to minimize their weaknesses." AIMC's president Skye Sturgeon sees the program as a part of realizing the school's "vision of becoming a leader in the advancement of integrative medicine."

The certification involves a total of 9 modules -- roughly 72 acupuncture CEU hours -- offered through a series of weekend trainings. Faculty members are typically guest lecturers.
Certification  Overview

 Modules  9
 Total hours (and AOM CEUs)
 Approx. 72
 Sequencing Any
 Pre-requisites  None
(open to students)
 Testing  Per completed
 Cost $130-$180
per module;
for all nine

The program kicks off with Module A on May 27: "Nutritional Approaches to Common Neurological Diseases," taught by Jim Cross, ND, LAc. The second day is devoted to Module B: "A Comprehensive Approach to Figromyalgia," from Daniel Wasserman, AP, Dipl Ac, whose education includes a degree in dietetics/nutrition. The two courses have been approved for a total of 16 CEUs.

AIMC's four-bullet promise to participants leads with the clinical goal of "practical, effective, problem-based information on Oriental Medicine topics relevant to Integrative Medicine." The other three bullets all focus on potential financial benefits to the participant: "distinguishes practitioners", "increases marketability to patients" and "improves marketability to other types of health care practitioners, hospitals, and a growing number of healthcare organizations."

Kim, AIMC's Dean of Integrative Medicine, joined the school's faculty in July 2005. His training includes the two-year Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the better-known Program in Integrative Medicine at the University Arizona School of Medicine which targets conventional providers. (The program was founded by Andrew Weil, MD, and is directed by Victoria Maizes, MD.)  Kim is also certified by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture and through the American Board of Holistic Medicine.
We need training in
integrative medicine
for CAM professionals.
Yet the AIMC program

raises questions about
how well
this certification
addresses the need.

Comment:  Developing specialized training of distinctly licensed CAM providers for practice in IM environments is laudable work. Certainly, with appropriate training, an acupuncturist - in the AIMC instance - can be more familiar with the language, culture and clinical concepts which will facilitate his or her appropriate integration. More CAM practitioners might be exploring this new territory, and be more influential in shaping the environment of "integration, had they the confidence of at least a Berlitz course and a little "Allopathic Hospitaleze for the CAM Traveler" handbook. A more significant certification wouldhelp the CAM practitioner participate without getting lost in the reductive paradigm.

This program - and I confess to having
only reviewed their electronic fliers and website materials, and spoken to a marketing person - doesn't appear to rise to the opportunity.

  • There is no introductory grounding to program intention, vision, and the integrated care universe for which students are being prepared.
  • The haphazard, take-'em-when-you-want sequencing of the modules may be friendly to the schedules of the enrollees. But the approach limits the ability of a group of participants to develop an esprit de corps and the adult learning environment which can help professional in making practice transitions.
  • While the two initial faculty members are apparently bilingual (in AOM and at least one other field), the full culture-clash of an alternative system and the dominant system through the experience of a health system MD, or better yet, a hospital medical director, leaves the war-of-the-worlds muted. Dr. Kim's absence from the early program is noticeable.
  • The AIMC focus on marketability gives the program an opportunistic tint. To the extent that this is so, we confront a mirror-imaging irony: Many distinctly-licensed CAM providers like to lambaste MDs for opportunistically adding "integrative medicine" to their credentials. Is that what's happening here?

I reviewed the course from a couple of perspectives. First,
in the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integated Health Care process, we repeatedly return to the question of competencies in integrative medicine

One doesn't want
AOM practitioners

walking into hospitals
bleating "Qi! Qi!"
lack of a more culturally-
If they study a JCAHO
manual, they
can learn to bellow
with the
best of them.

and integrated health care - for both CAM and IM providers. Deeply controversial questions arise. The AIMC course designers do not seem to have bellied up to this bar by explicitly trying to shape a standard that constitutes a quality certificate in AOM IM.

Second, a good certificate program in integrative medicine will teach practitioners the language of continuous quality improvement (CQI), credentialing and other system processes. One doesn't want
AOM practitioners walking through hospital doors and bleating "Qi! Qi!" for lack of a more culturally-appropriate language. Consider a course in which required reading is a Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations accreditation manual. They can then learn to bellow "CQI! CQI!" with the best of them -- then help them find the Qi in the CQI ...

Third, the Associate Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona takes two years, requires an ongoing commitment of internet and onsite time, and costs $28,000 last time I checked. The Global Medicine Education Foundation program in Transformative Medicine takes 18 months, is also a combination of onsite and web-based learning, and costs roughly $6,000
This program brings
to mind
some CAM
discipline "specialty"

programs which confer
exotic initials,
conventional medical
but, on
closer inspection, well,
more like certificate

. A "certificate" (such as AIMC) offers, is not a "fellowship", of course, and the education funds available to an AOM practitioner are typically quite limited. Yet this program brings to mind some of the CAM discipline "specialty" programs which confer initials, like conventional medical specialties, but, on closer inspection, well, look more like good certificate programs.

Finally, I think of the time and financial commitments of the new clinical doctorate programs presently offered through a half-dozen AOM schools. These may well be the model "integrative medicine" programs for AOM providers at this time. Merely to meet the clinical hours requirements, these accredited programs typically require students to gain clinical experience in hospitals or other conventional settings.

Note to AIMC people: Feeling a little harsh here. If I've missed something, or got something terribly wrong here, I welcome the dialogue.

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