MUIH: As a thought leader in acupuncture and oriental medicine, what for you are exciting trends or happenings in the field?
Jeff Millison: The profession is in an exciting growth period right now that includes a number of things. First is the greater inclusion of acupuncture in Western medical settings. This is a development that I think is quite significant and noteworthy—and something that is definitively different than 20 years ago. A study this year on integrative medicine by The Bravewell Collaborative gives credence to this development. For example, of 29 national integrative medicine centers and programs surveyed [all of which the study showed were affiliated with hospitals, health care systems, or medical or nursing schools], 80% included acupuncture as a modality. This is consistent with the presence of acupuncturists on the national health care scene in the world of complementary medicine.
A second, related trend is greater acceptance of acupuncture by the insurance industry. This is largely a result of studies over the years that show acupuncture as an effective and cost-effective modality.
The inclusion of acupuncture in health care reform discussions is another exciting trend. The country is re-examining how health care is practiced and acupuncture is a part of that dialogue.
Another major development is that the acupuncture profession is actively moving to finalize standards for the first professional doctorate in acupuncture. This is very significant because earning a professional doctorate would enable students to strengthen their competencies in research, integrative practice, and critical thinking. In addition, many experts in the field see this development as an opportunity for acupuncture to be included in more integrative Western medical settings.
My assertion is that many hospital settings will not even consider having acupuncture practitioners be an integral part of their system unless they hold the title of doctor. So the fact that the profession is moving in this direction will ultimately serve the profession, its graduates, and, ultimately, patients.
How has your leadership in the fields of acupuncture and oriental medicine evolved during the last two decades?
My leadership in the field began two years after I received my acupuncture degree in 1991. I served as vice-chairperson of the Maryland Acupuncture Society from 1993 to 1997, and with the National Acupuncture Alliance from 1994 to 1996. After that, I became active in national accreditation as a site visitor for the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Currently, I serve as chair of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine curriculum committee, which helped draft the initial standards for the first professional doctorate degrees in acupuncture and oriental medicine, and I serve on the ACAOM doctoral task force, which is finalizing the standards.
Is there a difference in the types of students that you’re seeing now at Tai Sophia than when you began as director of the acupuncture program?
The students are generally younger. We’re getting more and more students right out of undergraduate school. So this is more likely to be a first career choice for our students, rather than a second. That’s the dominant theme that we’re seeing here. Because of the types of trends in the acupuncture field that we talked about earlier—namely the greater visibility and acceptance of acupuncture nationally—the field is seen as a more viable option for people as a first career.
Can you describe the opportunities and implications for students and alumni as a result of the recent expansion of the department of acupuncture and oriental medicine at Tai Sophia?
One of the recent changes is the creation of a Master of Oriental Medicine (MOM) degree, which is the fusion of our very successful Chinese herbs and acupuncture programs. We were responding to a growing interest in combining these two fields of study and to the fact that an increasing number of states require Chinese herbs as a part of licensed acupuncture practice. So the creation of the degree was a substantial development with positive opportunities for students.
Also, the creation of an evening and weekend format for our Master of Acupuncture and MOM degrees is a very big deal. It allows us to open up our programs to a whole new audience. It was a positive, proactive way to address a need expressed by many people over the years, and we were able to maintain the academic integrity of the day program as we modified the format. So this is a big piece of the expansion of the department.
Another piece is the expansion of post-graduate educational opportunities for our alumni in the areas of Chinese herbs, animal acupuncture, and women’s holistic health. That is certainly a very exciting development in the department, as well.
What would you recommend to people who have an interest in acupuncture either as a career or who want to try treatment?
If people are interested in exploring acupuncture as a career, I would encourage them to attend an upcoming event at Tai Sophia, including Careers in Acupuncture and an Open House. They are also welcome to visit Tai Sophia and to sit in on a class.
We also have a wonderful Natural Care Center on campus where interns work with licensed faculty members to provide a team approach to acupuncture and herbal treatments. It is a wonderful experience for many patients and a very economical way to start treatment.
Jeff Millison is the director of the Master of Acupuncture program at Tai Sophia. A graduate of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in 1991, he also earned his B.A. in English from the University of Maryland in 1985, and in 1988 completed course work for the master's degree in Holistic Psychology from Boulder College. In 1996 he completed a two-year program in Chinese Herbal Medicine. A faculty member of Tai Sophia since 1991, he currently serves as a supervisor in the student clinic and teaches courses on the Officials and Spirit of the Points. He also served on the board of the Maryland Acupuncture Society from 1992-96 and worked for the National Acupuncture Alliance from 1994-96. In clinical practice since 1991, in 1998 he cofounded the River Hill Wellness Center, a multidisciplinary, integrative health care center.