Though the first semester of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine 's doctoral program in acupuncture and Oriental medicine is barely half over, both the students and faculty participating in the program are already excited about its opportunities for advanced study.
"The program starting now has been received very enthusiastically by the students, and all of the students involved in the doctorate are extremely skilled and versatile," said Pacific College Director of Academic Affairs Tom Haines.
The program, which began at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine 's San Diego campus in the winter of 2004, offers a five-semester, 1395-hour, 70.5-credit program of doctoral study. The program consists of a series of courses in five tracks: integrative medicine, application of Chinese classics, Chinese medical language, evidence-based medicine, and clinical studies. Within these tracks, students may choose neuromuscular medicine, geriatrics or mental health as their comprehensive specialty.
Greg Sperber, who earned his Masters of Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College in1997, is pleased to be in the first class of doctorate students at Pacific College .
"I'm very excited about being in the first cohort [of doctoral students] because I think we're really going to create the program for the people who follow," Sperber said.
Though he has also attended medical school in Australia , Sperber feels that the advantages to attending an Oriental medicine school and having a doctorate in acupuncture and Oriental medicine will prove invaluable as he advances in his alternative medicine career .
"Having a doctorate allows you to have a lot of clout in the medicine and make a lot of positive changes," Sperber said, citing the recent controversy over the use of ephedra and ma huang as an example. "If you think about it, if the FDA has a bunch of Western MDs saying ephedra is bad, and a bunch of masters graduates saying it's OK, of course they're going to listen to the MDs. With a doctorate, Oriental medicine practitioners are going to have a lot more clout."
Robin Tiberi, who has maintained a private practice since she graduated from Oriental medicine school at Pacific College in 1995, is also looking forward to the benefits of having a doctorate in terms of her alternative medicine career .
"I often have the opportunity to travel and teach in Europe , where they really have a different way of talking about Chinese medicine - they use a lot more Chinese terms and refer to the classic texts a lot more," Tiberi said. "I feel like with this program, I'll be able to communicate with anyone about Chinese medicine."
Tiberi said she also really enjoys her classes in Chinese medicine.
"What I like a lot is that rather than having the professor be a talking head with you just absorbing the information, it tends to be more discussion-based," Tiberi said. "It's very stimulating - the classes are just riddled with debates."
Sperber said that his favorite aspects of Pacific College 's doctoral program are its emphasis on integrative medicine and the fact that learning Mandarin Chinese is required, something that will benefit any alternative medicine career .
Chair of the Department of Clinical Practice Lynda Harvey, who is also a Ph.D. candidate of clinical psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, teaches the case review and psychiatric specialty classes for the doctoral program . Harvey said that the integrative aspects of the doctorate definitely make it unique.
"The integrative program is what excites me," Harvey said. "In our clinic, there's going to be someone from biomedicine, someone like me who has more of an integrative background with Western and alternative medicine , and someone who comes from a classical alternative medicine background, all working on the same patient. So we're going to have Western medicine really working with Eastern medicine , and that's not being done anywhere."
Pacific College President Jack Miller agreed, adding, "Pacific's program is also unique in that it maintains the Chinese language component that was envisioned in the original doctoral proposal of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine ."
Miller went on to say he is proud of the fact that as an Oriental medicine school Pacific College has the opportunity to offer doctoral experience to its students.
"Seeing these programs come to fruition is the result of over 10 years of professional struggle by the leaders in this profession," Miller said. "I must admit that I was a bit emotional once our doctoral students told me that they really value the coursework we've delivered, as we've worked very hard to ensure that they get the best possible program."
However, Miller feels that the best reward is knowing how much a doctorate will benefit both individual students and the profession.
"Participation in the doctoral program is a rewarding experience that will open many doors," Miller said. "All of the administrators at Pacific are excited about what these students will achieve. As the history of Oriental medicine continues to be written, these early DAOM students will certainly play an important and invaluable role. I admire each and every one of them for the dedication they are exhibiting."