AOM Leaders?

Who decides the future of the profession?

Did you know about the meeting of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine “leaders” last weekend?

Who represents working acupuncturists at these meetings?

These meetings started in 2005. You can read about previous meetings herehere, and in CCAOM newsletters. Attendees typically include reps from ACAOM, CCAOM , NCCAOM, SAR, NFCTCMO, CSA, AAAOM, AOBTA, and sometimes COMRE. It’s good (I think) that these groups are communicating. It’s not good that most acupuncturists in the US are several degrees of separation away from representation there.

There’s not yet a publicly available report of the 2015 meeting. I do know —

The AAAOM continues to be invited and to attend, despite being out of compliance with their bylaws for years. The AAAOM website currently has no news of the recent elections, the board information is outdated, and there is still no whistleblower protection policy. Word is that the current board overlaps significantly with the board of the NGAOM. Michael Jabbour continues to fill the board position of Immediate Past President (what happened to the real immediate past President Don Lee?) and was present at the AOM Leaders meeting. Membership numbers of the organization are a mystery and I hear the AAC continues to provide much of their funding.

The others present at these meetings know that the AAAOM is a deeply troubled organization that represents only the smallest handful of practitioners. Why, oh why, does the AAAOM rate a seat at the table?

Representatives of the Council of State Associations are also in attendance at these meetings. I am glad that the CSA exists, working to mitigate the damage done by the lack of a functional national organization. I’m concerned, though, that few practitioners have any direct knowledge of this group and what they have to say at the AOML meetings. If you are involved with a state organization, and if the state organization participates in the CSA and communicates back to the membership, then you’ll find out about the CSA. Otherwise, you’re in the dark.

Why isn’t POCA invited? I don’t suppose they’d enjoy being there, but if the AAAOM with their mystery membership is invited, and the NFTCTCMO is invited, why isn’t POCA?

It’s difficult to find the right tone for this post.  I know the groups representing acupuncturists depend on volunteers who are doing their best. I also know that working practitioners too often find themselves at the mercy of the “good ideas” of credentialing agencies, accreditors, schools, and a few powerful colleagues. To make it worse, most practitioners have been misled about what actions are likely to be effective and create positive change.

When I look at who is invited to the AOM Leaders meetings, and how far most of us are from what happens there, it’s no surprise that so many of the developments within the profession seem to work against the best interests of acupuncturists. It reminds me of Congress, and that’s not a good thing.




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© Elaine Wolf Komarow and The Acupuncture Observer, 2013-2033. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from Elaine Wolf Komarow is prohibited. Excerpts and links are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

11 thoughts on “AOM Leaders?

  1. Your comments are always spot on. Sadly the problems plaguing our profession are deep and complex and hard to address in comment sections. Somehow the “leadership” of our profession is made of mostly self appointed people who rarely or barely derive their income from the actual practice of acupuncture. The failure and attrition rate in the profession has increased over the years because these people are not connected to the real issues that face practitioners. These organizations work hard at supposedly raising the “standards of the profession” by increasing requirements for initial training and re-certification, so that we can be more like
    “them” (western medical practitioners). Ironically when “they” try to be more like us, as in the dry needling issue, our “leardership” cries foul. Most other professions require their leaders and organizations that speak for them to be made of seasoned professionals with successful careers. We have left the hen house to be guarded by people who are disconnected from the reality of acupuncturists. (schools, publishers, professional board members, etc.). These organizations don’t even reach out to seasoned practitioners for direct feedback, but they continue to find ways to increase their revenue, often at the expense of the profession. After 20 years in practice, i wish i had answers or optimism. Sadly, I have neither.

  2. Since we’re asking for additional leaders to attend. Perhaps the NGAOM would be appropriate too….?

    You gotta love the egos!

    Being flip here but seriously, who makes these decisions?
    Interesting the whole AAC thing and Don Petersen going after Jabbour and the AAAOM….

    Never got an answer from the AT folks regarding the decision to eviscerate the AAAOM. While many of the points about AAAOM are valid, much of what was written struck me as a hatchet job. Would have been nice to know his and AT’s agenda.

    Isn’t he one of the Board Members or owners of AT? I know he’s listed as the Publisher of Dynamic Chiropractor and believe the owners of that own AT also.

    Hard to draw any conclusions without knowing the back alley.

    All the Best!

    • Pete — if the rumors are correct that the AAAOM Board is pretty much the same as the NGAOM Board, then the NGAOM was represented at this meeting. I believe that CCAOM is the group that arranges/invites folks to this meeting, so that is who makes the decisions.

      As for AT and the AAAOM, that was no hatchet job. In fact, it is amazing that the paper that has become something of the news of the profession has reported so little and so kindly on the AAAOM over the years. I think they should have been reporting on the dysfunction there far earlier, and continued to report on it after those articles. AT was not “going after” the AAAOM, they were finally reporting on something of critical importance to the profession that continues to damage us. If it weren’t for the AAAOM’s willingness to harass and intimidate so many of its past directors and associates you’d know more about just how bad things have been there.

      There are all kinds of mixed loyalties behind the scenes. If you really want to make yourself crazy keep in the mind that Marilyn Allen is the Editor-at-Large of Acupuncture Today and also the Director of Marketing for AAC. Remember, AAC has given the AAAOM hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, and also had a role in the “reunification” of The AOMAlliance and the AAOM.

      • I disagree that if the AAAOM was there, the NGAOM was represented.

        If what you and others assert that it’s lots of the same players in multiple organizations, having one person wearing multiple hats does not necessarily mean anything about representation. It just means certain personalities are consistently stepping forward for whatever reasons.

        You and I should probably agree to disagree about the NGAOM. I hope the various connections I’ve made (and respect) over the last 5-10 years can play nice…….?????
        I respect your work and courage, and also see things differently. I keep coming back to the same place. What are our commonalities? What can we agree on to work together towards? Precious little of that….? Ah…. Hope springs eternal!

        …..And clinicians wonder about the lack of leadership and lack of willingness to step forward. Really bizarre all the stuff flying around the profession. Pretty sad stuff watching human beings sometimes.

        Ted Cruz for President!

        No seriously! 😉

        • Well, Pete, first off, I haven’t written much about the NGAOM, so who knows whether we’d agree or disagree. I will say that the NGAOM has had a narrow focus on increasing insurance reimbursement for acupuncturists. Is that same focus shared by the AAAOM membership? Who knows. How many people voted in the AAAOM elections? Who knows? Has increased reimbursements been good or bad for the average practitioner? Who knows.

          Is it possible for one person to accurately represent two groups of individuals with different goals and visions? Perhaps. Perhaps it might be possible for the head lobbyist for Monsanto to simultaneously work for the Chair of the Senate Ag Committee and do both jobs well, but I wouldn’t trust it. Having one individual represent both the NCCAOM and the AAAOM when it came to legislation in DE didn’t work out well for practitioners.

          But where I really take issue with your comment is your claim that we’ve had to settle for people wearing multiple hats because those are the people who step up. It ignores the recent history of the AAAOM. Two years ago we had three board members step down from the AAAOM Board, and a year ago we had three more members step down, all of those people were dedicated, involved professionals. Now, we have a past President who seemingly wants nothing to do with the AAAOM. I think we’ve had lots of people step up to serve who have been driven out/driven away by the experiences detailed in that “hatchet job.” There is something very rotten at the AAAOM. This is widely known. But as long as CCAOM gives that organization a seat at the table the AAAOM will lurch forward like the Walking Dead.

          We all talk about finding common ground, but that isn’t something that is just found. We could develop common ground if there were venues to explore the differences, if there were a place where all of the voices could come to the table, where people were honest about who and what they were representing. So far, we don’t have that place.

          • I hear you Elaine and I respect both your efforts and experience. My impression is if there were more people pushing for leadership positions and service of the profession there might be a different outcome. Then again, you were there. You saw what happened at AAAOM and have a better sense and the facts to back it up. I frequently am informed by a body of experience where clinicians get wrapped up in day to days and end up not seeing how they might lead to a place that has to be better. I have never belonged to any organization other than NGAOM and that only recently. It does seem like their agenda is as you described. Just read Eric’s comments and thinking much to learn for this 15 year ‘kid.’ I will continue to read and post in the Observer and trust most of us really want to help.

          • Well, it’s true that it can be difficult to get people to want to volunteer their time towards organizational work. Again, though, take a deeper look and you can see how we contribute to that circumstance. Off the top of my head, I’d say there are about 500 people who hold Virginia acupuncture licenses, and probably about 300 of those people are actually in the state and practicing here. There is the Acupuncture Society of Virginia — I think they have 7 people on the Board. And for an organization to function well, you probably need additional people to work on committees. There is also an area association for Asian/Chinese practitioners in the area, and the same goes for that group. When all is said and done, it’s not a small percentage of the community that has done organizational work in the state or on the National level. We’ve also got people volunteering for IHPC, or people who work with CCAOM, ACAOM, NCCAOM committees.

            And the AAAOM isn’t the only place where people volunteer to serve and get treated like crap, or find out that all the decisions are made by one or two people in any given organization, and so that drives people away. And I think we have a lot of groups where all the funds go to things like fighting with PT’s, or sponsoring legislation, while busy practitioners are expected to spend hours and hours every week maintaining membership records or writing newsletters.

            So, I did spend years begging people to step up and serve on the ASVA Board, and I know that it is hard to find good people. I also know that a lot of good people who have worked for their state or national associations are treated poorly, so, we have not helped ourselves.

          • At one point about a decade ago, I volunteered to help ASNY. I was asked to help set up a membership database. The suggested method was to manually type in each member’s info. When I pointed out we could export existing documents as csv files and then import them into their database to save labor, I was met with hostility and a distinct sense that was unacceptable. Basically I was cut off from further communication. At that point, I walked away. I think that is not an uncommon experience. It did give me a bit thicker skin and taught me patience. Add in dealing with insurance companies doing verifications and claim followup and I’m ready to go! 😉

          • See, you did belong to an organization other than NGAOM 🙂

            I too have found growth from some of the dysfunction I’ve been exposed to within our organizations over the years. And, our experiences provide some more background to why more people don’t push for leadership positions, or even choose to be involved.

            You mentioned looking for common ground in one of your previous comments. I don’t remember the issue now, but I do remember being on the AAAOM Board and being told “There are five of us and four of you, so why don’t you go ahead and resign now, you’ll never win.” Certainly no way to find common ground, even in that group of 9.

            I also remember a vote for board positions in which, whoops, the votes were mysteriously miscounted. And, a request for an inquiry into the vote count was met with huge upset that how could I DARE to question the poor dedicated vote counter who had done so much for us. Except, of course, the count was wrong.

            So, sorry to be beating a dead cat, but the excuse that not enough people want to serve is about as accurate as the excuse that we are a young profession. We are old enough to do better, we have enough good people (with amazing backgrounds in law, and medicine, and business, etc.) and we have “Leaders,” acupuncturists and otherwise, who continue to set up a system so that they can attain their personal desires.

            That’s why I wrote the post.

  3. Good morning,

    I just attended my first conference with The Council of State Association (CSA). It is an organized and informed group that has displayed solid leadership within our profession, which we all know is desperately needed at this pivotal time. It is structured to represent the needs and pertinent issues of Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine within the United States. It’s members are made up of the individual states within the US. If an individual practitioner realizes that their state is not represented within the CSA, I highly recommend that they research it and/or alert their state Acupuncture Associations to the presence of the CSA and consider joining. It has become an invaluable association to my state!

    Lori Scott, AcA (LA)

    • I have high hopes for the CSA and know some really great people who are involved. I know that some of the energy of that group has been tied up as they’ve been trying to find a way to work with the AAAOM. I’m hoping they’ve given up on that.

      But — there are limits on what the CSA, as a federation, can do. For instance, the recent decision in FL to require full herbal credentialing is a problem for about half the acupuncturists in the nation. I gather that the FL association supported that change. That meant that the CSA had no room to take another position, correct?

      Additionally, there are states without functioning associations. It’s a heavy lift to ask practitioners to start an association. Again, a functional national organization would be helpful.

      I’m glad the CSA is on the scene, and, it isn’t enough.

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