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Home > Newsletters > March 2004 >

An Open Letter to the Oriental Medicine Community:

I have recently experienced an appalling and disturbing interaction with our national certification organization, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). I want to share this experience with the Traditional Oriental Medicine community so that everyone is aware of a shockingly incongruous policy stance within an organization that is supposedly supportive of our profession and has respect for the scope of care we provide.

I am a practicing Acupuncture Physician in the state of Florida. I am licensed in my state by virtue of the National Certification I was awarded by the NCCAOM upon passing its exam. I graduated with honors from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, California in April 2002 and have being practicing both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in Florida since August of 2002. Remember that we are not required to have any form of license in order to recommend and sell Chinese herbal medicines. This is where I thought I would get ahead of the game.

As most of us know, the NCCAOM has a national certification exam in Herbology. You do not need this certification to dispense herbal formulas because they are classified as dietary supplements and are therefore outside of the realm of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I have long held the belief that it is simply a matter of time before Chinese herbal medicine, as practiced in this country, will eventually be regulated because herbs are, in fact, medicinal. I refuse to sell any herbs to inquiring people unless they at least have an herbal consultation for this very reason.

When I took the certification exam for acupuncture, I did not take the herbology exam at the same time for one simple reason – The NCCAOM exams are expensive tests! After finishing my schooling I needed to make some money. I decided it would be better to take the herbology exam later because I didn’t need it to practice and that would give me a chance to save up for it. Good plan, or so I thought.

Sometime in the summer of 2003 I applied to take the Herbology exam on October 26, 2003 in Miami, Florida -- a four-hour drive from my home in the Tampa area. I paid my $650 fee and took the next few months to go over my herbs and formulas. Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned. The Friday before the exam, October 24th, I became ill with a simple but acute case of wind-cold turning to wind-heat. That weekend I was chilled, then feverish, weak, experiencing headaches, coughing up copious yellow sputum regularly, congested, and generally miserable. I was certainly unable to drive four hours to Miami and when I attempted to do so, fearful of losing my exam spot and money, I was exhausted before I got to the end of the block.

I went online to look at what the NCCAOM website had to say about excused absences, and there it was, nice and simple: You download their form, send it with a note from the licensed professional who treated you, and wait to hear from them. I had been treating myself with herbs -- first Gan Mao Ling, then Yin Qiao San and then Zhong Gan Ling. I have an acupuncturist colleague in my area and I asked her to treat me on Saturday the 25th. She did so and I was feeling better by the next day, but by then it was too late to race down to Miami. I figured “Ok, I’ve done what I need to do. I really was too sick to go; I guess I’ll just take the next one”.

Almost three weeks later I received a letter from the NCCAOM that shocked and surprised me. I was told that based on the document I had provided (the letter from my fellow Acupuncture Physician) that I was being denied the excused absence. The letter went on to say that, “NCCAOM’s policy requires that you supply a letter from a licensed health care provider who must be licensed in your state to treat the specific illness/condition that you claim as the reason for your inability to take the exam.”

I was, and still am, outraged! I was just told, in essence, that the NCCAOM, the very organization that certifies Acupuncturists as health care providers, doesn’t see a Licensed Acupuncturist as qualified to treat a simple case of Wind-Heat! Call it the flu or a severe common cold - the NCCAOM expected me to go to a western medical doctor to have this treated!

I called the NCCAOM and was told that I needed to write a letter stating my reasons for why I believed it was an incorrect judgment in order to have the decision appealed. I did so, based on the argument above, and waited for a response. It is now the end of January 2004 and I have my final verdict. The NCCAOM’s second letter states outright that “illnesses that cause a candidate to be absent from an exam should be treated by a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy.” Unbelievable.

So there you have it. I paid $650 dollars to be insulted by an organization that doesn’t understand what it is that the people they certify actually do. This is a very sorry statement. I won’t be taking any herbal certifications until the day comes that I must. Hopefully by then a new tone and a new policy will be in place at the NCCAOM.

Becky Rubright, Dipl. Ac., A.P.

This Month's Articles

March 2004
Volume 2, Number 2

Preserve Your Health all Year Long

Acutonics: Integrating Sound Healing into Your Acupuncture Practice

An Open Letter to the Oriental Medicine Community

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor


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