Acupuncture student and patient.

New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) Joins MCPHS Community

September 01, 2016

  • At Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), we believe in innovating healthcare education. We also believe in the power of integrative medicine. Put those two together and it’s easy to see why we recently combined forces with the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA), the oldest school of acupuncture in the U.S.

    We now offer degree programs through NESA at MCPHS, including the Master of Acupuncture (MAc) program, which offers opportunities for concentrations in Japanese Acupuncture Styles (JAS), Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM), and Pain Management (PM).

    This fall, we welcomed the first incoming class of acupuncture students to beautiful, newly re-designed facilities on our vibrant Worcester, MA campus. The facilities are outfitted with the latest equipment, including private practice areas in an on-site clinic, where our students treat real patients from our community.

    “What we are doing is so cool here, being part of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences,” says Susan L. Gorman, Executive Director at NESA at MCPHS. “We say we’re educating a new healthcare provider, the future of healthcare. Our mission is to be the premier source for medical education rooted though in the traditions of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, with the goal of training that new healthcare provider.”

    We sat down with Susan to hear more about NESA's new home at MCPHS and the evolving role of acupuncture in today's world of integrative medicine.

    Tell us a little about the NESA and its students.

    We’re the oldest acupuncture school in the country. We have just over 1,700 alumni. With graduates at Mass General Hospital, Tuft’s Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, our field is growing – and more and more in demand by patients.

    Our graduates go all over the world. Most will also start their own practice either on their own or with other acupuncturists. But more and more we’re seeing graduates hired by doctors’ offices, chiropractic offices, and hospitals.

    What is studying at NESA like?

    We train practitioners to be licensed acupuncturists. Most states require a license and you have to go to an accredited school, take national exams, and get a license. Our program is almost 3,000 hours, which is three to three and a half years. It’s all the pre-med sciences and almost 700 hours of hands-on needling. It is rigorous.

    The first two to two and a half years of the program they’re practicing on each other. By the second half of the second year of the program we have a white coat ceremony. It’s at that point that they start to go into clinical rotations and treat patients.

    Why do you think the field of acupuncture is growing?

    It’s patient driven. Most people try acupuncture because of pain, low back pain, athletic injury pain, so they’re seeking relief from pain. Now more patients are saying to their doctors, “Wait, I don’t want another pill. I don’t want surgery yet. Let me try something different.” That’s what acupuncture is. It’s another option for a patient’s care.

    Acupuncture is also an alternative for an opioids. Also, people try acupuncture for all kinds of things other than pain: sleep disorders, depression, infertility. No matter the reason, acupuncture makes somebody feel good.

    From NESA’s perspective, what are some of the benefits to joining the MCPHS Worcester campus?

    Our students will get to study, eat, and maybe even live with students from other disciplines -- nursing students, physical therapy students, physician assistant students, pharmacy students.

    They will be getting to know each other and encouraging students in more traditional fields to come and try acupuncture so that it’s not so scary. Maybe they’ll help them respect of our medicine so that one day those future providers say to their patient, “Have you tried acupuncture?”

    That’s the beauty of this – having our program be on par with those other graduate programs and living, working, studying with them.

    How else does NESA prepare students for healthcare’s changing landscape?

    We train healthcare providers to talk to the nurse, the doctor, or the physician assistant about what we do for that patient. It’s called “team-based care.”

    Team-based care for patients is holistic, meaning there is more than one provider that takes care of that patient. The nurse, the physician assistant, the psychiatrist, the acupuncturist. We’re training future healthcare providers to be able to talk at the table with people of these other modalities. We’re training people to be part of that team.

    What else sets NESA apart?

    We’re one of the only schools with over $5 million in federal funding from grants. We’re doing groundbreaking things like studying the effects of acupuncture on veterans who suffer from Gulf War illness.

    On a different note, we really care about each other here. Integrity is important. I call this business the “high touch” business because we train students how to touch. That’s what we’re all about. It’s very intimate. We touch each other. We look out for each other. We respect each other. It’s an intimate training program. 70% of our program is hands-on needling, touching a human body.

    Interested in a future in acupuncture and oriental medicine? Our Master of Acupuncture (MAc) program prepares students for meaningful careers through 33-months of full-time study on our Worcester, MA campus.