Welcome to our first acupuncture student interview!
I know I’m behind in giving you interesting interviews to read, but work has been crazy this semester. I somehow underestimated how much physical and mental effort it takes to travel around New England for almost seven weeks in a row. Finding time to interview acupuncturists and acupuncture students while traveling proved too difficult for me to juggle. Apologies for that, but now we’re back on track!
Today, I’m excited to interview Sam, a fourth-trimester (i.e., second-year) acupuncture and Oriental medicine Masters student (MSAOM) at the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture Oriental Medicine (FLSAOM) in Seneca Falls, New York.
The MSAOM program at FLSAOM is essentially a double major, involving extensive study of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. The program is organized into nine trimesters, which is three years of study. A trimester is exactly the same as a regular semester, except that FLSAOM also has a semester in the summer. So “trimester” simply implies that we have three semesters a year.
Sam is from Maine and is a work study student in the Admissions office at FLSAOM. Let’s learn more about why she decided to become an acupuncturist, what it’s like to be in acupuncture school, and what she plans to do after graduation!Anything in [brackets] I added for clarification.
1) Hi Sam! Thanks so much for being here today. Let’s dive right in. What was your first exposure to acupuncture?
I was taking a botanical therapies class back in Maine when my teacher suggested acupuncture as a treatment for Lyme disease. I got involved in a “pay it forward” type of program where alternative health care providers donate their time and services to uninsured individuals. In return, the patient donates their time out to the community. I started receiving weekly treatments and quickly became addicted.
2) What made you decide to pursue acupuncture as a career?
Receiving acupuncture changed my life. I became a new person and I owed that to my practitioner. I wanted to be able to do that for someone else.
3) Where did you go to undergrad and what was your major? Did you know in undergrad that you wanted to be an acupuncturist?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started undergrad. I did my core classes at the University of Southern Maine, focused on horticulture for a while, than started working towards a holistic health major. One thing that I have always loved and known that I wanted to work with is plants.
4) Why did you choose FLSAOM?
There were a number of reasons but the biggest is all the resources this school offers. Not every acupuncture student can say that they have a cadaver lab, full library and athletic center, multiple clinic locations to learn at, a full herbal dispensary, a trip to China, and some of the best professors in the profession.
5) What’s been your favorite class at FLSAOM so far?
I love Theory. [Oriental Medicine Theory.] It’s silly but the theory of this medicine is almost magical to me.
6) What are your duties in the acupuncture student clinic, as a fourth trimester student?
I’m an assistant in clinic right now. We chart, interview, do tui na, and have just started needling patients. Our clinician asks our thoughts on diagnosis and what points or herbs we would use for the patient.
7) What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far from clinic?
I honestly think some of the best lessons I’ve learned so far have come from me and my classmate’s personal experiences of being patients in a student clinic. Not only do we get to experience our teachers as clinicians and truly understand the type of clinician we want to be, but also we see a lot of different students. Sometimes that’s the biggest teacher of what not to do.
8) What’s the most interesting or amazing case you’ve had so far in clinic?
I think my favorite is when someone who really doesn’t believe that acupuncture works gets relief on the table and books another three appointments right away.
9) Did you go to China for the FLSAOM China Trip Elective, or do you plan to?
I’m going on the next trip [April 2015] and I cannot wait!
10) How would you describe the workload for the MSAOM program?
I’ve always worked multiple jobs while going to school and still had time for family and friends. That’s not something I can do here. My whole world is acupuncture now. This is harder than anything I have ever done, but it’s also the most inspiring.
11) So you’re studying both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine?
Yes. [Studying herbs] is a love-hate relationship. It is the hardest part of school but the tools that it gives me make it worth it. I’ve already seen enough herbal treatments be successful in my time in clinic to know that herbs are something I want for my clinic.
12) Where do you plan to practice and why?
I’m going back home to Maine. I love the smell of the ocean, the culture, and the people.
13) What are you doing before graduation to prepare for your practice?
Asking for equipment for birthday and holiday gifts. I think I forget how soon school will be over sometimes.
14) Do you plan to find a mentor after graduation, someone you can bounce ideas of off for diagnosis, practice management, etc.?
I’m fortunate enough that my acupuncturist back home is that person for me. She went to school at FLSAOM, knows many of the professors, and has years of experience running a practice in Maine.
15) What advice would you give to AOM students in the year behind you?
Study hard and get your notes together early! I know it sound like a no-brainer but when you figure out how to feel good about managing acupuncture school and real life, let me know. And as hard as it seems, it can always be worse so remember to breath and smile. But really smile, because someone else feels exactly the way you do and a smile always helps.
16) What advice would you give to people who are thinking of choosing acupuncture as a career? How would they know it’s right for them?
Just to trust yourself. Only you can know if it’s right.
17) Anything else you want to add about acupuncture school, acupuncture itself, your future practice, how acupuncture school has changed you, etc.?
Acupuncture school will change you so be prepared. There is not a single person in my class that hasn’t changed a little, but honestly all for the better. Yeah we may be a little (well a lot) grumpy some (most) of the time, but I will probably never meet a better group of people.
Thanks for giving us a peek into what it’s like to be an acupuncture student, Sam!
Want more? Check out the awesome blog of third-year acupuncture student Danielle, Acupuncture Flow. See her recent trip to China here:
- The China Chronicles – Beijing City Part 1 by AcupunctureFlow
- The China Chronicles – Beijing City Part 2 – The Great Wall of China by AcupunctureFlow
Are you an acupuncture student? Where do you go to school? What motivated you to choose acupuncture as a career?
Are you thinking of becoming an acupuncture student and have questions for Sam? Let us know in the comments below!