The 2017 Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR) conference, co-sponsored by the Department of Anesthesia at Stanford University, held its international conference in San Francisco on April 27-29, 2017. This year’s topic, “Advancing the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) through Acupuncture Research,” focused on the benefits of research in acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine within the emerging field of PMI to explore the variability and responders/non-responders in acupuncture studies. The biennial conference included multiple plenary lectures from leading international researchers highlighting the role of precision medicine in acupuncture research. In addition to original research presentations, pre-conference workshops explored a variety of engaging topics discussing the future of acupuncture research.  

A few highlights from the 2017 SAR conference:

  1. A preconference workshop, “Successes and Challenges of International Collaborations in Acupuncture Research,” presented by Elisabeth Stener-Victorin, PhD, Claudia Witt, MD MPH and Lixing Lao, PhD discussed their personal experiences in the cooperative partnership of conducting an international acupuncture research study in China and Germany.  The challenges such as language and social barriers became an opportunity to offer different, yet insightful, perspectives while designing a study.  
  2. Jiang-Ti Kong, MD, Helene Langevin, MD LAc, Jennifer A.M. Stone, MSOM LAc, Ming-Chih Kao MD, PhD presented “High-tech/Low-tech: Instruments for Objective and Subjective Research Applications for Acupuncture,” discussing a range of objective and subjective measurements for acupuncture research including heart rate variability, connective tissue, and an electronic data collection program designed at Stanford University.
  3. A symposia panel by Sheila A. Boudreau, PhD, Florian Beissner, PhD and Younbyyoung Chae, KMD PhD presented “Electronic Symptom Drawings: A New Tool for Mapping and Quantitative Assessments of Bodily Complaints,” which supported personalized medicine by mathematically quantifying patient illustrations of their pain symptoms and more accurately assess treatment progress.  
  4. Sean Mackey, MD PhD, Ben Kligler, MD, MPH and Hugh MacPherson, Phd LAc discussed the importance of research in “Clinical/Policy Research on the Role of Acupuncture in Mainstream Medicine” to further expand the role of acupuncture in integrative medicine and health care policy.
  5. “The Power of Research in Healthcare Policy: Lessons from Oregon and Vermont” presented by Robert Davis, MS LAc and Laura Ocker, MAcOM, LAc (an OCOM alum and past president of the Oregon Association of AOM) presented their experiences in utilizing acupuncture research to support health care policy changes and extend acupuncture insurance coverage in both states.  

Three original research projects were presented by OCOM affiliates at this year’s conference:  Interim director of OCOM’s Research Department, Ben Marx, MAcOM, LAc, presented his research on seven years of patient outcomes data from the OCOM intern clinic. Lee Hullender Rubin, DAOM, LAc, an adjunct faculty member, presented her research on acupuncture augmentation of lidocaine for provoked, localized vulvodynia, and Tamsin Lee, MAcOM, LAc, an OCOM research assistant and DAOM candidate, presented a retrospective case series on the effectiveness of acupuncture on Herpes Zoster.

OCOM master’s students, Sara Snyder, Whitney Tuxbury, Dusty Bodeen and doctorate students, Amy Chang, and Tamsin Lee, received scholarships from SAR to attend this year’s conference. “It was wonderful,” said Tuxbury, “to see acupuncture at work in our health care systems outside of the classroom setting, and a great chance to meet other students and professionals from around the U.S. and world.” Also supporting OCOM’s presence was DAOM student, Jessica Dahlton, and OCOM professor, Dr. Chico Livingston.  

Central to the practice of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is individualized treatment, and this conference highlighted the important contributions the field provides to the emerging Precision Medicine Initiative in biomedicine. For more information, visit www.acupunctureresearch.org, and save the date for the 2019 SAR conference on the East coast.