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Two female acupuncture students in the NESA herbal dispensary.

New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) Students Study Chinese Herbal Medicine

  • MCPHS is the only accredited Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine institution in Massachusetts.

    New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) at MCPHS students can study both Eastern and Western medicine with the Master of Acupuncture with a specialization in Chinese Herbal Medicine.

    Dean and Professor of Acupuncture Dennis Moseman, DC, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), explains that acupuncture programs appeared in the United States in the mid-70s, and their curricula were modeled similarly to those developed in China.

    “In China, acupuncture and herbs are learned together,” he explains. “Herbs treat patients from the inside out while acupuncture treats a patient from the outside in. By incorporating both in clinical practice, you are able to treat a patient comprehensively."

    Coursework

    Students in the Master of Acupuncture with a specialization in Chinese Herbal Medicine program complete the same coursework as the Master of Acupuncture program with the addition of coursework related to the clinical practice of Chinese herbal medicine.

    “Students learn clinical medicine from both an Eastern and Western medical perspective so that they are able to understand subject matter such as physiology, pathology, and pharmacology from an integrative perspective,” he says. “As a result, they are able to recommend Chinese herbs in a safe and effective manner to provide optimal patient care.”

    He explains that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are five principal areas of study: acupuncture & moxibustion; Chinese herbal medicine; Eastern nutrition; tui na (a bodywork technique); and self-cultivation practices such as tai chi or qi gong.

    In the first year, students learn essential foundational theories and principles of both Eastern and Western medicine. Students also participate in clinical assistantships in which they observe at NESA’s Acupuncture Treatment Center as well as at offsite clinical affiliations.

    “This allows students to see how acupuncture works in the real world,” he says.

    In the second year, students integrate fundamental material from the first year with more advanced concepts of Eastern and Western medical clinical practice. Students continue to develop professional competencies and learn to formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan. Students continue their clinical training as clinical interns and are responsible for the management and delivery of patient care.

    In the third year, students complete clinical training and are placed in a variety of clinical settings providing patient care under the direct supervision of senior faculty. Students continue their professional development by completing a series of practice management courses. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) board examinations and to seek licensure.

    “If I had to generalize, Western medicine is reductionist in its approach . . . a podiatrist treats only the foot, a cardiologist treats the heart, but acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is based on a holistic model that treats the whole body,” he says.

    Hands-on clinical training

    Dean Moseman emphasizes that the curriculum focuses on hands-on practice of clinical skills.

    “There are many acupuncture programs where you do not really get into the hands-on portion until the second year of the program. But in our program, you are practicing and mastering all the skills that an acupuncturist needs to know for the entire three years that you are here,” he says.

    Small Classroom Sizes

    Students also benefit from the small classroom sizes and ratio of students to faculty.

    “For example, in a class of 40 students, students work in pairs. You might have five acupuncturists in the class and one lead teacher who is lecturing but there are also five or so other teachers there to help you,” he says. “This is important when you are learning to perform a skill because acupuncture is a highly-skilled profession.”

    State-of-the-Art Herbal Dispensary

    Students assist in NESA’s herbal dispensary, which is stocked with an extensive selection of high-quality Chinese herbal products. Students learn to formulate concentrated granules and compound raw herbal formulas in a safe and accurate manner. They also gain experience in operating a successful herbal dispensary.

    “One of the unique experiences that students have is that they can work in the state-of-the-art herbal dispensary where we dispense a variety of types of Chinese herbal formulations. A formula could consist of 10, 15, or 20 different raw herbs which could be made up of leaves, stems, minerals, or flowers. These are all put together and boiled in water in what is known as an herbal decoction,” he says.

    Japanese Acupuncture Specialization

    Students also have the option to specialize in Japanese Acupuncture Styles (JAS) which teaches the use of very thin needles as well as other tools for non-needling techniques used for gentle treatments.

    “There aren’t many programs in the United States that teach Japanese acupuncture so it is something that has been very important to NESA and we’ve taught it for several decades, so it’s something that we’ve always been committed to offering,” he says.

    Teaching distinctive styles enables students to know powerful, patient-centered treatment options for a variety of health concerns.

    “The acupuncture that you would administer to someone who works outdoors with their hands such as a construction worker is a very different kind of acupuncture that you would administer to someone who works in the city in an office and has more of a sedentary lifestyle,” he says. “The hardiness of the patient can affect how you would apply these treatments.”

    Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Chinese Herbal Medicine

    NESA also offers an Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (ACAHM)-accredited Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Chinese Herbal Medicine (CAGS CHM) program is designed for those currently enrolled in or who have completed an ACAHM-accredited/pre-accredited master’s level or professional doctoral program in acupuncture.

    This program encompasses the comprehensive study of Chinese herbal medicine and its clinical application. In addition to extensive coursework, students complete more than 200 hours of clinical training. In the NESA Acupuncture Treatment Center, interns treat patients with a variety of conditions under the direct supervision of clinical faculty highly experienced in Chinese herbal medicine.

    Graduates are prepared to effectively utilize Chinese herbal medicine in clinical practice. Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine board examination in Chinese herbal medicine. This program meets the standard required to dispense Chinese herbs.

    Careers

    Dean Moseman explains that alumni of the Master of Acupuncture with a specialization in Chinese Herbal Medicine program have a diverse array of careers.

    “We have graduates working in hospitals, some in multidisciplinary environments with other healthcare practitioners, and certainly in private practice,” he says.

    He also cites Boston’s Longwood Medical Area as a huge benefit for students. “We have had over 40 years to develop some great affiliations with some of the top hospitals in Massachusetts and the surrounding region. Our students complete rotations in hospitals in specialties such as oncology, pediatrics, or family medicine. Career opportunities are advancing and growing in the United States.”

    “The field is really starting to expand more now than ever.”

    MCPHS is the only institution in Massachusetts accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (ACAHM). The following programs offered by MCPHS University are accredited by ACAHM: Master of Acupuncture, Master of Acupuncture with a Chinese Herbal Medicine Specialization and Certificate in Advanced Graduate Study in Chinese Herbal Medicine. ACAHM is recognized by the United States Department of Education as the specialized accreditation agency for institutions/programs preparing acupuncture practitioners.