Man receiving acupuncture treatment

Alumni Spotlight: Timothy F. Sobo, MAOM

Man receiving acupuncture treatment

Discover the story of one graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture.

Some students follow their hearts in ways that lead to a career. For Timothy F. Sobo, Master of Acupuncture with a Chinese Herbal Medicine Specialization (MAC CHM) it was a knee.

In 2005, he tore his right meniscus in three places training for a Tae Kwon Do tournament. After seeing orthopedic surgeon and going the traditional medical path of having arthroscopic surgery and physical therapy, he was in more pain then prior to his surgery. His mobility? Worse.

Unable to return to the sport he loved after conventional treatments, he decided to give acupuncture a try. “It couldn’t make my knee any worse,” he said. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

“A few treatments later, the pain was gone, the swelling was gone, and my gait was normal. It was then that I decided that I wanted to pursue this as my career,” he said. “I want to show athletes that there are more options out there for your pain and injuries then just surgery, medication, and physical therapy.”

Timothy graduated from the New England School of Acupuncture with a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAOM) and is currently a Licensed Acupuncturist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Timothy shared insight into the world of acupuncture, his career, and his academic experience.

Beyond your knee injury, are there other reasons you were drawn to the field of acupuncture?

My introduction to acupuncture and Oriental medicine came about through a lifelong study of martial arts. My very first instructor was an acupuncturist among many other things from Korea, and at times he would use oriental medicine in class. I was exposed to Chinese Medical theory in both Qigong and Taiji classes.

What do you love about the field of acupuncture?

The most exciting aspect of my job is helping people regain their life. I often get patients who have been through the ringer. They have a chronic pain condition, back pain, neck pain, whatever. They have been on medication for years, have had multiple Cortisone injections and maybe even had surgery, yet all of those therapies have yielded minor results and relief.

They come in to see me as a last shot and hope, and after a few treatments, they tell me that they are taking less pain medication or they are able to bend more or climb the stairs. They feel that they are getting their life back.

What types of patients do you see?

I see a gamut of patients, from athletes with acute injuries to elderly patients with chronic pain, to motor vehicle accidents. I also treat patients undergoing chemotherapy, helping ease their side effects.

What is the biggest misconception about acupuncture?

In my practice, I spent a lot of time answering questions that people have about acupuncture. And I try to answer them as best as I can, using as much evidence and scientific rational that I can. The questions I get asked the most are; does it hurt? How does it work? And: Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?

The biggest misconceptions that I see are when people have only seen acupuncture in movies and there are hundreds of needles in people. They incorrectly assume they are going to get hundreds of needles too. Also, many believe acupuncture is a magic cure all – that after one treatment their problem will be gone.

I wish that people knew and understood that acupuncture like most therapies is a process that builds on itself and that you do have to stick with it for the treatment plan. You absolutely can get relief after one treatment, but that doesn’t mean the problem is gone.

What does it mean to be an alumni of the New England School of Acupuncture?

NESA is the oldest accredited acupuncture school in the country and is consistently ranked as one of the best acupuncture schools in the country and that makes me proud. I have many memories of being together with friends and classmates late at night studying together, many jokes together and laughing together.

What were your professors at NESA like?

My professors, teachers, and clinical supervisors were all great. They were knowledgeable, approachable and open to sharing all of the information and knowledge they had.

Did your undergraduate experience compliment your future acupuncture degree?

I have three BAs from Penn State: Classical and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Medieval Studies, and History. My undergrad degrees have given me the ability to filter through a large amount of data, make connections and correlations between information and arrive at my own conclusions.

NESA’s new home within MCPHS represents an unparalleled collaboration between eastern and western expertise. Why is combining eastern and western medicine and expertise so important?

The collaboration between all providers is essential to give patients all of their options. There is time when surgery and medication are required; there is time when more physical medicine (acupuncture, PT, OT) is better than pharmaceuticals. Of course, it all depends on the condition, but very often a true integration is best.

The collaboration of NESA and MCPHS allows for new provider training to teach the strengths of each and allow for acupuncturists, PTs, pharmacists, MPH, etc. to better understand each other and to know when and how to properly integrate with each other for the best patient outcomes.

Our incoming acupuncture and oriental medicine students study on our Worcester campus – in an environment totally dedicated to healthcare, alongside future pharmacists, nurses, and PA’s, among many other programs. As a healthcare professional, how do you feel such open collaboration positively impacts the educational experience?

I think this collaboration will allow for a “de-mystification” of acupuncture, nurture a better understanding between future acupuncturist and all other future healthcare providers, and in the end, allow for better treatment of patients.

If more healthcare providers can be shown and understand what acupuncture is and how it does help people, it will lead to the future PTs, OTs, PAs, etc. feeling comfortable referring patients to acupuncturists. Acupuncturists can also get a better understanding of how PTs, OTs, PAs, etc. work and allow for a flowing back and forth of information. In the end, it all leads to improved patient outcomes and patient satisfaction.

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.