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Doctor of Acupuncture and Integrative Health Program Director Maria Broderick, EdD, MAOM, LicAc,

Maria Broderick, EdD, MAOM, LicAc, on How the Doctor of Acupuncture and Integrative Health Program Meets the Demands of Today’s Healthcare Field

  • The Doctor of Acupuncture and Integrative Health (DAIH) program at the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) at MCPHS is designed to empower practicing acupuncturists to thrive as members of the integrative healthcare team.

    Maria Broderick, who holds a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree from NESA and a doctoral degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, serves as director of the program. She is passionate about advancing the field of acupuncture and oriental medicine, as well as preparing practicing acupuncturists to meet the demands of an evolving healthcare field.

    "The DAIH program opens the door to helping practicing acupuncturists to bridge their training in Chinese medicine with the standards and practices of healthcare providers trained from the ground up in Western medicine," said Professor Broderick. "We are joining the growing movement in Western medicine that honors an integrative approach to healthcare."

    We sat down with Professor Broderick to gain insight into the doctoral program and hear her advice for acupuncturists considering the degree.

    Why is NESA at MCPHS offering a doctoral-level degree?

    As the oldest school of acupuncture in the United States, we have rich experience in training clinicians from every possible background to go on to succeed in practice and become leaders in the field. In addition, our alumni want to be on the cutting edge of how acupuncture is practiced in the United States. They have asked us to advance our influence on the field by designing an acupuncture doctoral program that will prepare clinicians to participate fully in the integration of healthcare.

    Why is preparing practicing acupuncturists to serve as part of the integrative healthcare team so important?

    Acupuncturists are trained to address many of the most pressing challenges in healthcare. We offer safe, effective non-pharmacological treatment of chronic pain. We can reduce the side effects of medications. We provide supportive treatment for addiction, and we help ameliorate the impact of emotional trauma. These are conditions and challenges that are often best managed through a team approach, with coordinated care. To ensure that acupuncturists are part of these teams, they need to learn the competencies that will make them successful in integrative healthcare settings.

    How does a shift toward integrative healthcare benefit acupuncturists and the future of the field of acupuncture?

    Overall, healthcare is moving in the direction of enhancing prevention, reducing risk, empowering patients in their self-care, and finding ways to manage chronic illness and pain conditions through low-cost, safe, accessible approaches. The field of integrative health emerges from these aspirations. Acupuncture is a complete fit for this profile. Acupuncturists are trained to look at the whole person, seeing their disease or distress as a pattern specific to their unique history and personhood. This emphasis on the whole person is where medicine is heading—in a sense, biomedicine is catching up to us!

    Tell us about the clinical placement experiences in the DAIH program.

    Students participate in two 60-hour placements over the course of the program. The first placement ensures all students gain a wide range of experiences related to how acupuncture is practiced in premier healthcare institutions. Students in the program will have had a range of master’s level training experiences. Some will have trained or practiced in biomedical settings, while others will be seeking their first exposure to acupuncture delivery in hospitals and community healthcare settings. By giving all our students access to a range of environments, we bring to life the varied ways in which acupuncture services are structured, led, staffed, funded, and supported. In some, acupuncture is part of an integrative care delivery team. In others, acupuncture is a specialty service offered via referral. Often, an institution’s mission and vision inspire a commitment to provide integrative health services to their patients. Yet each institution will have addressed its own unique challenges or barriers to launching, maintaining, or growing their acupuncture services.

    How do these experiences benefit students in the program?

    Hearing the stories of how these practices are managed, observing clinicians in action, learning from leaders in integrative health, and building competencies to succeed in these settings will all help students clarify their individual capstone projects as well as the focus for their second clinical placement.

    What does the second clinical placement in the program focus on?

    In the second clinical placement, students focus on one of four areas: chronic pain, pediatrics, public health, or oncology care. Our students are already trained acupuncturists and, because of this prerequisite, these placements do not emphasize training acupuncturists in clinical competencies. Instead, they offer rich immersion in how acupuncture is delivered to these populations, where students shadow experienced practitioners who have succeeded in delivering acupuncture for many years to patients in hospital and community health settings. The evidence base for efficacy with these populations or environments is reviewed. Clinical enhancements offered in these settings are discussed and observed. Information systems utilized to support interprofessional communication and enhanced care are reviewed. Students also shadow members of the broader healthcare delivery team who are national experts in integrative health.

    Students in the program attend grand rounds at area academic medical centers, including the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Tell us more about this.

    Attending grand rounds affords students the opportunity to hear leading-edge research and explorations of clinical practice. Our faculty present at the Osher Center grand rounds, as do leading researchers and advanced practitioners in fields such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness-based stress reduction, osteopathic medicine, and nutrition. These sessions give students in our program direct access to innovations in integrative health. After the sessions, students mingle with presenters and practitioners from all over New England. These are scholarly sessions, yet they also afford opportunities to network with hospital professionals who are advancing integrative care delivery.

    Who is the best fit for this program?

    Students who will thrive in the DAIH program enjoy learning side by side with advanced students from other healthcare professions. They are self-directed, eager to make the best use of the blend of online and in-person experiences the program offers. They are curious about how acupuncture connects to broader systems of healthcare and may already be shaping a question they would like to explore through the required capstone. They are open-minded about Western medicine and excited about engaging in an extended conversation about how acupuncture fits into the larger fabric of contemporary healthcare. They appreciate the need for professional decorum in healthcare settings. They can be relatively new to acupuncture, but should be committed to helping our field extend its presence in biomedical environments.

    What’s your advice for acupuncturists considering this program?

    Earning your master’s degree was a significant undertaking, and it prepared you to take excellent care of patients with a wide range of conditions and concerns. Deciding to pursue the DAIH means you aspire to care for your patients in a biomedical environment or are committed to helping our profession strengthen its connection to biomedicine. It means you enjoy inquiry and wish to participate in a conversation across disciplines. You are hoping to contribute to the evolution of healthcare.