In 1986, the only Oriental medicine college in San Diego, California Acupuncture College (CAC) closed its doors, leaving many students and faculty without an academic institution in which to practice their medicine. In order to ensure that Oriental medicine would continue to be taught in San Diego, four faculty members from the defunct college took action. Together, Joe Lazarro, Alex Tiberi, Rick Gold, and Ana de Vedia created a new school called Pacific College of Oriental Medicine to provide a place where CAC's San Diego students could finish their studies.
In those early years, the school functioned in a 3,000 square foot house on Fifth Avenue and Brooks in Hillcrest. The space was small, and had to function as both an administrative space during the day, and a classroom at night.