Sunday, July 30, 2006

Editorial: What's In A Title

No matter what your opinion of western allopathic medicine, no one can deny that medical school takes a great deal of drive, personal determination, and a large chunk of one’s twenties. Doctors sweat out a large portion of their youth in the troughs of sleep deprivation, condemnation from their superiors, and rigorous study in the hopes of providing a humanitarian service . . . and paying back their student loans. Whether the M.D. becomes a virtuous practitioner, or a money-grubbing autocrat, they all had to earn those initials.

Oriental Medicine training is tough. Most of us come from a western medical background and leaning TCM theories, acupuncture points, herbs, and all of the other modalities does not come easily. Those of us who have gone through the formal, master’s education route and have been nationally certified and licensed through our respective states have had our share of academic trials. While our scholastics are comparable to those of chiropractors and naturopaths, the later professions confer the designation of “doctor” on their graduates, while our titles are bestowed upon us by the state in which we practice. But for a group of complementary medical practitioners, it may seem puzzling as to why so many are eager to take the doctor title, without earning the MD credential.

While I hold a Doctor of Oriental Medicine license in New Mexico, I have never felt comfortable referring to myself as “doctor” – it seems presumptuous and misleading. I feel confident in my training and abilities as an acupuncturist and I do not feel the need to make myself seem more important or alleviate personal insecurities by putting on heirs with a title. Whenever I hear someone refer to a local practitioner as Dr. so-and-so, I cringe; especially when I find out the patient didn’t even realize they were not an MD.

But on the other hand, MDs are not the only people who call themselves “doctor.” The Associated Press states, “use Dr. only for physicians, dentists members of the paramedical professions (osteopaths, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists etc.) and clergymen who hold earned or honorary doctorates.” Paramedical profession? Well that “etc.” would include acupuncturists, wouldn’t it? If an RN is an RN, a DC is a DC, and an ND is an ND once they pass their respective boards, why are we a DOM, L.Ac., C.Ac., R.Ac., or OMD, plus whatever NCCAOM Diplomat status we may have earned? I am not advocating one way or another that we should be granted the title of “Acupuncture Doctor” or Doctor of Oriental Medicine,” but why do we not have one degree, with one title like the rest of our fellow healthcare professionals? Take a look at this muddled and unnecessary designation diversity:

Licensed Acupuncturist: Alaska, Arizona, California*, Colorado*, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii (“§436E-3.5 Physicians and osteopaths not exempt.” - nice touch)*, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (“certified” if you are a physician or dentist with 300 hours training), North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia (although OMD, DOM, and M.Ac. are used)

Certified Acupuncturist: Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire (2), Ohio*, Tennessee, Wisconsin

Doctor of Oriental Medicine: Arkansas, New Mexico

Registered Acupuncturists: Michigan, Ohio* (2)

Oriental Medicine Doctor: Nevada,

Doctor of Acupuncture: Rhode Island

Note that some states allow dual titles. Those with *s specifically mention in their statutes that only the title bestowed by the state may be used and that the term “doctor” is prohibited unless you have graduated from an applicable or approved medical or PhD program.

I have personally been a Doctor of Oriental Medicine once, a Licensed Acupuncturist twice, and am soon to be a Certified Acupuncturist, yet in all four instances I held the same degrees and practiced the same medicine! To transfer my RN license to another state, I submit current license verification, pay a fee, read up on the particulars of the state’s nurse practice acts, and keep my credentials. This is sensible, reasonable, and adaptable to our profession.

Now that nearly all of the states have enacted or are in the process of enacting legislation for acupuncturists, it makes sense that as legitimate healthcare providers, we have a unanimous and uniform title. Whether that means the CCAOM requires all schools to issue the same degree titles, that the NCCAOM creates something more viable than “diplomat,” or that we empower our own National Organizations for unification, we require a clean, descriptive, professional title that transfers in the same manner as our peers in the healthcare profession.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your email. I appreciate being contacted. Actually I enjoy your blog, too, and check it regularly. Your writing is very good, and you're much more on top of the political issues than I am... as you know it can be a sticky subject to broach, but someone has to do it so thanks! Since there's no email address on your blog or link to a website, I figured I should respond this way.