A brief history and the future (and name) of Pacific College of…

By Pacific College - June 20, 2019


In 1986, before many of its current students were born, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine rose from the ashes of the San Diego branch of the California Acupuncture College (CAC). Pacific College offered its first classes in January 1987 to the few dozen students stranded by the demise of CAC. With a couple administrators and a few teachers, the new college offered a certificate (not a degree) in traditional Oriental medicine, as well as massage certificates. In 1989, the college presented the first Pacific Symposium. In 1990, the college achieved accreditation and California state authority to offer the master’s degree in traditional Oriental medicine. In 1993, in response to New York’s new regulations allowing acupuncture schools, Pacific College opened a branch in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. It was named Pacific Institute of Oriental Medicine because the use of “college” is reserved for degree granting institutions there. It took another five years to earn that distinction in New York, at which time we became Pacific College there, too. Responding to similar new acupuncture legislation in Illinois, the college opened a branch in Chicago in 2000. Today, the PCOM community experiences the benefit of multiple geographic locations, the employment opportunities provided at each campus, the expansive, talented faculty provided by three campuses, and the immense and diverse alumni network created over the last 30+ years.


Pacific College’s degree offerings have expanded from the few, original certificates described above to include the following:

  • Doctorate of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (entry level)
  • Doctorate of Acupuncture (entry-level)
  • Doctorate of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (online, transitional)
  • Doctorate of Acupuncture (online, transitional)
  • Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (post-graduate)
  • Master of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine
  • Master of Science (Health and Human Performance)
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies/Master of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies/Master of Science of Acupuncture
  • Bachelor of Science Holistic Nursing (completion program)
  • Associate of Science (Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork)
  • Associate of Applied Science (Holistic Health Science)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies (Massage Therapies)
    Massage Therapy (Asian Bodywork) Certificate
  • Advanced Certificate in Chinese Herbology for Licensed Acupuncturists
  • Holistic Nursing Certificate
  • Medical Cannabis Certificate

In addition to its relatively new nursing programs, the college was just approved by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) to offer the Master of Science (Health and Human Performance), as well as the Medical Cannabis certificate. These usher in the next stage in the college’s development and will help continue the college’s mission of improving lives by educating and inspiring compassionate, skilled leaders of traditional medicine and integrative health sciences.

While the mission’s language has evolved through the years, some things don’t change. From the “Core Value Statement & Core Values” in the college catalog:

All members of the Pacific College community embody the intention of improving lives exponentially by supporting health and well-being through our daily actions.

We lead by example and by practicing the values of:

Integrity, Mindfulness, Compassion, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Education


The college’s vision statements (where we want to be) are forward thinking, while being informed by and responsive to the needs of the day.

Pacific College is the recognized leader in delivering traditional medicine and integrative health science education to practitioners and the public.

Pacific College is a catalyst for the adoption and expansion of traditional medicine and integrative health science principles, practices, and research, empowering individuals to gain and maintain health and enjoy life.

Pacific College is contributing to the transformation of the structure and economics of healthcare by bringing education and integrative health science to where people live, learn, and play.

Chinese medicine remains at Pacific’s heart and core. Additionally, there are so many promising developments across the entire spectrum of health and science that can be embraced by institutions of Chinese medicine to the benefit of its students and alumni. By expanding into the world of integrative healthcare, the college and its graduates create opportunities to impress upon other healthcare providers the benefits of Chinese medicine and its holistic offspring. It is amazing what graduates of our DAc/DACM have already done in this regard. In the next stage of its evolution, Pacific College will be developing new programs to realize this vision more fully.

For example, the MS in Health and Human Performance graduates apply an integrative coaching model that combines holistic and modern coaching methods, the current evidence in the physiology and psychology of performance, and whole food nutrition, as well as dietary supplementation strategies to advance health and performance in all areas of life. They also study holistic medical paradigms, Chinese medicine particularly, to deepen their knowledge of personal, social, and environmental influences on human behavior.

Expansion into these new areas will widen your alumni network and affiliations with healthcare organizations, allied healthcare providers, and faculty. This provides a wide range of new experiences, as well as career opportunities, for students in the acupuncture, massage and nursing programs, along with those in the new programs. Just as the “new” campuses in New York and Chicago expanded the opportunities for San Diego students and faculty, so the new degrees and affiliations expand opportunities for everyone in the Pacific College family.

Time to expand our identity

Pacific College alumni websites already reveal an exhilarating and inspiring diversity of interests, skills, and therapies. The interests of our students, faculty, and alumni clearly extend well beyond the borders of Chinese medicine. The time has come for the college to adopt a name that embraces that diversity, and which will accommodate the needs of future generations, as well as today’s nursing, acupuncture, massage, and health science students. The college sought input from students and faculty at each campus over the last two years. They contributed many creative and thoughtful suggestions. The administration considered them all during innumerable meetings. Finally, the Board of Trustees considered them with great seriousness and eventually decided that Pacific College of Health and Science (PCHS) best meets the needs of the present and foreseeable future.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) will remain as one of the colleges under the new structure, much as the Wharton School of Business is a famous school within the University of Pennsylvania.

Why this selection?

  1. It embraces the most fundamental concept in Pacific College’s long history: Health.
  2. It reflects respect for the method of science, by which health professions develop and advance.
  3. While Pacific University may have been preferable, the term “university” in New York (which therefore limits the other two campuses) may not be used until the college has doctoral programs in multiple disciplines, along with other requirements.
  4. It was also advantageous to maintain Pacific College because of its website presence.
  5. It allows us to minimize the use of the term “Oriental” which has found disfavor in some sectors.
  6. And, while not currently anticipated, it allows for expansion beyond the health sciences into other sciences. For the same reason, we decided against using the currently popular term, integrative medicine. Imagine if Harvard or Yale had remained divinity colleges.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine will not go away. Pacific College of Health and Science will simply be a structure layered above it. PCHS will also sit above the school of nursing, the school of body therapy, the school of human performance, and other departments or schools that may develop over the years.

A few questions were posed during the meetings with students and faculty that are answered here:

1. What will my diploma say?

For acupuncture and Chinese medicine graduates, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine will be prominently displayed. Once the change is in effect, we will discuss options with graduating classes and develop a mechanism to decide on the preferred diploma design. Similarly, the college will consider the potential desire of alumni to replace their original diploma. Nursing diplomas will feature PCHS. Massage cohorts will also be surveyed about their preference.

2. What will our acronym be?

The most frequently used abbreviation for a college is something that is determined by general consensus by stakeholders over a period of time. Some employees remember a time before the college was referred to as P-COM. Of course, PCHS are the initials, though stakeholders may determine that Pacific College or just Pacific is easier to say. PCOM will remain the acronym of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. It may take years for Pacific College of Health and Science to be more recognized than PCOM.

3. What is the timeline for the change?

The change will occur over the next 6-12 months, barring unforeseen circumstances.

As always, thank you for your contribution to the Pacific College community. If you have other questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact President Jack Miller at [email protected].

Featured Posts:

Is a Career in Acupuncture Right for You? Take The Career Readiness Quiz