- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

Lisa Eaves excels in sports, both on and off the bench.
The District resident prides herself on her solid play on the volleyball court and her ability to motivate her teammates.
Those skills, Ms. Eaves says, indirectly helped during her training to become a licensed acupuncturist.
"My role on the team is a little bit like a spiritual leader. That's what I do here," the part-time acupuncturist says in her cozy Connecticut Avenue office across from the National Zoo.
Sports, she says, build on the connections among a person's mind, body and emotions.
Acupuncture is "one of the most accessible ways to touch all those aspects," says Ms. Eaves, a December 2000 graduate of the Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Bethesda.
Miss Eaves isn't alone. Acupuncture schools are popping up across the country, as more people college age and older seek training in the ancient Chinese practice.
Locally, the Tai Sophia Institute for the Healing Arts, in Laurel, and the Maryland Institute offer full-time courses in this holistic field.
Acupuncture is the Chinese medical practice in which tiny needles are inserted into the body to stave off disease, promote good health and ease emotional turmoil. The needles help regulate the body's flow of "chi," or energy, through as many as 2,000 points on the body along 20 pathways, or meridians. By manipulating the energy, acupuncturists help the body keep a healthy balance.
The practice is still regarded with skepticism in some medical circles. Few solid studies exist to verify its claims of treating aches, injuries and stress, yet its techniques continue to be accepted by patients worldwide.
Tierney Tully, executive director of The Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance, outside Seattle, says the field's demographics are changing.
Today's acupuncture classes are larger, more schools of "Oriental" medicine are opening up and the average age of acupuncture students is falling, Ms. Tully says.
"When I was in school, [acupuncture] was the second profession for everyone in my class," she says. "You're getting more young people doing it as a first degree."
More than 40 states including Virginia and Maryland plus the District of Columbia require that students pass a series of tests from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Alexandria before gaining a license to practice acupuncture.
Total costs for most accredited acupuncture schools is about $25,000 for three years.
Financial aid is an option for any accredited school, she says.
Troy Petenbrink, spokesman for the commission, says a student must have attended an accredited school, participated in an apprenticeship, or have elements of both to prepare for its exam. The testing process, which costs $900, involves passing a needle technique course, and written and point-location exams.
David Molony, professional executive director of the American Association of Oriental Medicine in Catasauqua, Pa., says most acupuncture schools demand that students arrive with at least an associate's degree and some basic sciences under their belts.
Mr. Molony says acupuncturists can make as much as $100,000 annually, particularly if they work in an underserved area. But most, he says, make much less than that.

Ms. Eaves, 44, had a career epiphany during a two-week river trip through the Grand Canyon at the time of her 40th birthday. She had read a few books on acupuncture, attended a local open house on the topic and underwent acupuncture treatments for stress management and to see what it was like.
After deciding to enroll, she attended classes three nights a week and on Saturdays for the first two years. The final year she spent two nights a week in classes, between serving clinic hours.
"It's an incredible amount of information," Ms. Eaves says.
"You learn to feel for the tendons and bones and the little depressions," she says of the hands-on training. "They teach you what to look for."
She marvels at what she says acupuncture can do. She says, for example, that inserting a needle into a pregnant woman's toe helps prevent a breech birth.
As an intern, she dealt mostly with clients suffering from back pain. In her own practice, Ms. Eaves says she sees a spectrum of problems, including many afflicting women.
Some problems have no physical basis.
"They have everything they need; they're just stuck," she says of some patients. "I unstick them. Some emotional issue can lodge itself physically."
During a recent session, District resident Amy Saidman, 32, received a treatment to ward off migraines.
Before breaking out the clean, gleaming needles, Ms. Eaves queries her patient about her headaches, her diet and overall well-being. She also asks about where in the menstrual cycle her patient is, since that information can dictate the needle's placement. Then she checks her patient's pulse.
"The pulse is so subtle, but you can get a lot of good information from it," Ms. Eaves says. Taking the pulse gives her a sense of the overall health of a patient, in part by judging if the pulse is racing or is relatively calm.
Some patients require electrical stimulation the needles are hooked up to a low-level electric charge for example, those seeking treatment for such chronic pain as backaches.
For Ms. Saidman, Ms. Eaves manipulates needles placed in her patient's head and hands to make sure the energy is moving through the head properly.

One advantage of studying acupuncture, as opposed to more traditional subjects, is that the course load is more focused, says Gail Doerr, The Tai Sophia Institute's director of communications.
"You jump right in and start learning about the physiology of the body," says Ms. Doerr, whose nonprofit school offers graduate programs in acupuncture, botanical healing and applied healing arts.
Classes deal as much with point location as they do mental health, she says.
"To become a healer, you have to heal yourself work out all your stuff," she says. "The program revolves around personal transformation."
The school's students, who range in age from 21 to in their 60s, must commit a minimum of three years to their education.
"For some people it's a first career choice," she says. "All their passion is around being a holistic healer."
The school has 224 students in its acupuncture program and accepts 70 new students each year.
Potential Tai Sophia students must have a bachelor's degree to be considered. The acupuncture education costs $31,000 for the full program.
She says the typical graduate makes about $60,000 annually, though practices can take time to build.
For Miss Eaves, her education in acupuncture continues well after her last class has wrapped.
"The patients teach you," says Miss Eaves, who regularly attends acupuncture conferences to keep abreast of her field.
A patient "might say that [after] the last treatment 'I had so much energy,'" she says. "I can do the same points on three different people, and they all respond differently."


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