the creation of the first professional doctorate and transitional degrees,
there has been a lot of discussion within our profession about the DAOM degree,
and whether it is still relevant. Many practitioners feel that the quickest
route to the doctoral title is enough after a four-year master’s program. Will
our patients care? Will the western medical community know the difference? And
quite simply, do we as Chinese medicine practitioners need additional formal training after 4
years? These are valid questions, and they should be examined.
profession is growing, and experiencing rapid change. We, of course, still face
skeptics, but perhaps our greatest challenge is the acceptance of TCM and Asian
medicine by western medical practitioners and institutions, and their desire to
harness the power of the medicine, often without an L.Ac. on board. The
co-opting of techniques by those with less training (i.e. PT’s and DC’s) also
presents an ever-growing challenge.
With these challenges in mind, I would suggest our
institutions are only now beginning to address the needs of TCM practitioners
as true integrative medicine professionals. And this is where the DAOM degree,
as a post-graduate clinical research degree excels. To clarify, The DAOM is a
1200 hour, 2-year degree program, and includes 650 hours of advanced clinical
training. Though the DAOM is the terminal degree in our field and requires a
capstone project or dissertation, it is not a Phd, which typically requires 3
or more years, and is oriented towards teaching and research. An article in the
New York Times (2007) suggested the average Phd student takes 8.2 years to
complete their program of study, and this is after a bachelors and masters
degree in their field often reaching 13 years of education!
The DAOM program offers students better clinical skills
through mentorship and peer collaboration, enhanced patient communication
through classes in practice management, and increases their ability to read and
understand both current research and classical texts. The capstone or
dissertation is guided by professional research mentors to enhance both
practitioner writing, and peer communication. All of these objectives lead to
improved diagnosis, treatment and patient outcomes, while elevating the
profession to a higher standard.
Many of the DAOM programs excel at recruiting top
practitioners and teachers in our field to provide deeper understanding of
Chinese medicine theory as introduced through the master’s curriculum, and
integrating western medicine clinicians and researchers to enhance student’s
conventional medical knowledge. There are currently 13 accredited DAOM programs
in the United States focusing on women’s health, pain management, internal
medicine, and classical Chinese medicine; however, there are no regionally
(WASC, SASC, etc. ) or nationally accredited (ACAOM) Phd programs in Chinese
medicine as of yet.
Incidentally, our peers in China go through 8 years of
school (bachelor and master’s degrees), and generally follow their mentor for
an additional 2-3 years. As such, our master’s programs represent just the
beginning of our education. In my own studies, I considered the long course of
study in China, but in the end decided to attend a masters and doctoral program
in the states, with advanced coursework and clinical rotations in China via
Five Branches’ dual doctorate program.