A Written Questionaire/Interview with AAAOM, 2007
(American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)
Affiliation: Whom did you represent in your leadership capacity? Indicate all that apply. For example: AAAOM, NCCAOM, CCAOM, ACAOM,
I was in the founding group of the AAAOM (the, AAOM), back in 1982 or 1983. I was the first editor/writer for the American Acupuncturist. Also, with Stuart Kutchins at a Worsley conference (1982 or 83), we were the first to recommend national board certification, which eventually became the NCCAOM national exams. Other participation:
- Advisor and Site visitor, Accreditation Commission
- Commissioner, National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, 1983–1985
- Site Visitor, National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, 1987-1993
- Chairman, Subcommittee on Herbal Medicine, 1983-1985
- Preparation Committee, National Chinese Herbal Examinations, National Council for Certification of Acupuncturists (NCCA), 1994
- Blue Ribbon Task Force, NCCAOM, Defining Oriental Medicine, Alexandria, VA, Oct, 2000
- Chairman, Continuing Education Task Force, NCCAOM, 2002
What led you to study acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
I intended to go to medical school, but was turned off by the reliance on pharmaceutical medicine, which even then had deep profit-making goals. I studied Chinese language, qi gong and tai ji quan, and switched to Oriental medicine in 1976. I apprenticed with Ineon Moon, a Korean acupuncturist from 1976 to 1982, and with several Chinese herbalists in Chicago. Later, I was able to study in China.
What was your biggest challenge as you developed as a practitioner or educator?
This would be my failure or delay to gain licensure. I got permission to practice in the state of Wisconsin in 1978. I was the first non-medical acupuncturist in the state, where I worked for 4 years. I failed my exams in the state of Washington in 1984, which was very disappointing. To be honest, it was due to the desire to limit the profession on the part of the local acupuncturist-examiners. This was a problem in several states at that time, and represented a very petty world-view. Eventually I got my license in New Mexico in 1986 and later Colorado in 1990.
Who inspired you in your training during Acupuncture and OM school?
Dr. Ineon Moon, Korean acupuncturist, and Dr. Zhengan Guo, herbalist, both in Chicago. I apprenticed with Dr. Moon for 7 years and Dr, Guo for 2 years. Later, I would be very awed by the 33 master herbalists I studied with at Xi Yuan Hospital in Beijing (1987-1988). All were extraordinarily inspirational teachers who deeply believe in their healing arts.
What keeps you inspired in your practice or tutorial/academic life now?
The feeling that I am part of a long and honorable tradition, which involves both study and practice. I am constantly motivated by teachers from China and Japan, and by the TCM literature generated in China and available in English. Equally important is my contact or exposure to the master American practitioners who, due to their experience, have been able to realize high levels of proficiency. These include Will Morris, Efrem Korngold, Stuart Zoll, Glenn Wilcox, Subhuti Dharmananda, Miki Shima, Andy Ellis, Chip Chase, Mark Seem, Elaine Stern, Whit Reaves, Stephen Brown, Jeffrey Dann, Jeffrey Yuen, Alex Tiberi, Richard Dreyfus, Dan Bensky, Claudette Baker, Tai Lahans and many others.
Do you have any advice for today’s practitioners/educators?
In herbal medicine, constantly keep up with the English language material coming out of China. It still represents the highest levels of clinical application. For acupuncture, pay close attention to alternatives to TCM: Japanese meridian therapy, French systems, Mark Seem, etc. For everyone, study more Western physiology and diagnostics, such as Functional Medicine.
What is your hope for our medicine going forward into the future?
I’m not very optimistic. As health care providers, we are marginalized because most acupuncturists are undereducated in Western medical sciences. Also, we are not respected because we are unable to produce scientific evidence for the validity of our work. Acupuncture may enter the general medical system as an adjunct, like physical therapy, but herbal medicine will always be excluded until it achieves respectable and accepted research evidence.
In your previous position(s) of leadership, what do you identify as your most significant contribution?
My involvement with NCCAOM has been the most satisfying. I participated in exam preparation and guidelines for CEUs. Also, my experiences as a site visitor for the Accreditation Commission proved very informative about the education system in the USA. As for my contribution, I have spent 25 years teaching herbal medicine and Japanese acupuncture, hopefully in a lively and clinically relevant manner. Numerous practitioners make the effort to express their appreciation.
In your previous position(s) of leadership, what was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you overcome this challenge? If applicable: is this challenge still faced within our community today?
I am discouraged by the low ambition or willingness of American practitioners to study more, and also by the low admission standards set by the acupuncture schools. In China many of the best and brightest are attracted to TCM. In America, it is often those who cannot get into other healthcare schools. So said, about 15% of those graduating have the true qualities to become good TCM herbal practitioners, and about 50% should become good acupuncturists. TCM requires the same level of raw intelligence and drive of those going into Western medicine, and we aren’t getting it. I speak here of herbal medicine, which is a medical system requiring knowledge of Western medicinal sciences (physiology, microbiology, diagnostics). This is not necessarily true for acupuncture, which should stand alone as a profession without herbs. The skills necessary to be a magnificent acupuncturist lie more in the hands then in the brain.
If you had to select one area of focus that to you represents a “key” to the future of OM, what would that be and why?
Study Western medical sciences to a level equal to a medical doctor or physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. This is followed in the Chinese TCM schools, and should be here. Why? To gain both knowledge and credibility.
We are now more sought after than ever as a profession compared to Western medicine. What are the significant factors that you have seen causing this shift and why?
First, we act like doctors who practiced in the old days. We listen to our patient’s complaints, and give time to trying to figure it out. Western doctors are forced, economically, into a 5-10 minute visit. They throw medicines at symptoms, without understanding the deeper aspects of the condition or accepting the responsibility of the side effects of combining drugs. We, on the other hand, listen to the whole history, and try to fix all of the problems simultaneously, which we can do. Patients come to us because we act like doctors, not drug pushers. Of course, they also come because our medicine works.
JAKE PAUL FRATKIN, OMD is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine in practice since 1978. After seven years basic training in Japanese acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in this country, he went to Beijing for one year to do advanced hospital training in herbal internal medicine, pediatrics and medical qi gong. He is the author of CHINESE HERBAL PATENT MEDICINES, (2001), a respected reference work of 1200 Chinese herbal products available in this country. In 1999 he received the national award, Acupuncturist of the Year, from the American Association of Oriental Medicine, and 2006 he received the award as Acupuncture Teacher of the Year. He is a recognized expert in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome, chronic respiratory and digestive disorders. Jake lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado
© Copyright 2007 Jake Paul Fratkin. All Rights Reserved.