Notes about Acupuncture Training in the US
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM)
Dr. Aaron received his doctoral training in San Francisco, California at the highly esteemed, ACTCM. American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) is widely considered one of the top few TCM schools in the nation and is the oldest TCM graduate school on the West Coast. Dr. Cashman also completed part of his doctoral training at TCM hospitals in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, China. Additional doctoral training included interning with the Director of Acupuncture Services in Brooklyn, NY, where acupuncture is performed alongside allopathy at the NYU Langone hospital.
In the USA, to practice Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, one is required to complete a 3-5 year Master’s degree. A Doctorate is not needed, so only a very small fraction of US acupuncturists pursue doctoral-level education.
What is a DAOM?
DAOM refers to “Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine”. Many various acronyms can follow an acupuncturist’s name, which can be quite confusing. So, it is important to understand the sometimes significant differences between these titles. DAOM is the highest degree earned by a licensed acupuncturist and is a clinical doctorate that includes a significant research focus. Practitioners who hold a DAOM degree have pursued over 7 years of academic Chinese medical study – beyond their undergraduate degree training.
DAOM degrees require a minimum of 1200 hours beyond what is earned in a Master’s degree program. By comparison, some other ‘transitional’ doctoral degrees in the acupuncture field require only 130 hours of additional training. Thus, a DAOM holder likely has over 1000 hours or more of training than TCM practitioners with transitional doctorates.
Dr. Aaron might be the first and only licensed TCM practitioner in the state of Pennsylvania with a DAOM degree (there are currently no other practitioners in PA with a DAOM degree, to his knowledge).
Dr. Aaron’s doctoral research focused on the emerging phenomenon of Integrative Medicine in the US, which includes increased utilization of acupuncture for numerous conditions in hospital settings. Dr. Aaron completed most of his doctoral research at Zhejiang TCM hospital in China and at NYU Langone hospital in Brooklyn, NYC. During his doctoral program, he also completed externship training in Guatemala, where he practiced Pro bono acupuncture and herbalism alongside several very prominent, experienced acupuncturists, many of whom have taught at top TCM schools around the nation.
Master’s of Traditional Chinese Medicine (MSTCM).
To earn a Master’s in TCM, Dr. Aaron attended the highly-respected Five Branches University in Santa Cruz, California. Five Branches University is often considered one of the top 5 TCM universities in the US and recently became the first TCM university in the US to include a hospital residency program for its TCM medical students- at Highland hospital in Oakland, California. Five Branches University is very well-known amongst Oriental Medical Universities for its academic rigor, its very high CA Licensing Exam Pass Rate (often highest in California), its top-notch faculty from Asia, Europe and US…and for its excellent Chinese herbal medicine program. At Five Branches University, Aaron graduated in the top tier of his class.
MSTCM is a 4-5 year Master’s degree program that prepares students for both California & National licensing exams. During the 4.5 years of study to receive a Master’s of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Aaron successfully completed intensive Medical Internships in hospitals and clinics in both China and Taiwan and received additional certification from Five Branches University in 5-Element Acupuncture.
While attending Five Branches University, Aaron’s clinical experience focused on Pain Management, Stress/Anxiety Relief, Chronic Illnesses/Internal Medicine, Women’s health and 5-Element Acupuncture (which deals primarily with mental-emotional ailments).
As with doctoral degrees in TCM, at a Master’s degree level, there are huge variabilities in the number of hours spent in training within the field of TCM in the US. In California, where Dr. Aaron received both his Master’s and doctoral degrees, TCM practitioners licensed there are required to have undergone hundreds of hours of herbal medicine training- unlike in most other states where practitioners are trained in acupuncture but not the entire field of TCM, which includes herbalism. Those who are licensed acupuncturists (LAc) in California, like Dr. Aaron, are also given ‘Primary Care Provider’ (PCP) status, unlike in most other states. Thus, TCM Master’s degree programs from universities in California tend to be longer, with far more hours, than the national average. Many acupuncture students in the nation can graduate with a Master’s degree and attain a license in 3 years. However, in Dr. Aaron’s Master’s degree cohort in Santa Cruz, California, most graduated in 4.5-5 years.