OCOM's Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAcOM) degree program provides comprehensive training of practitioners and provides a foundation for ongoing study and development in the field. In so doing, the MAcOM program presents:
- Coursework and training in all aspects of Chinese medicine, including the theory and practice of acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, therapeutic massage, exercise and qi cultivation;
- Course sequences in biomedicine (including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology and clinical diagnosis);
- Relevant coursework in public and community health, research, practice management and practitioner/patient dynamics; and
- Varied clinical experiences observing and providing supervised patient care.
Goals and Competencies
The master’s program emphasizes three broad programmatic goals:
- Provide students with a thorough understanding of the theories and systems of Chinese medicine and knowledge of the historical roots and modern applications of those systems;
- Train students in the clinical skills required to apply that knowledge to the treatment of illness and the maintenance of health through the safe and effective treatment of patients;
- Develop student understanding of their roles and responsibilities as participants in the contemporary health care delivery network.
— Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of Chinese medical theory and practice in the areas of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, qi cultivation and Asian bodywork;
— Apply their knowledge of Chinese medicine to the safe and effective treatment of patients in a clinical setting.
— They will be able to: interview and obtain the necessary information from their patients, utilizing traditional diagnostic methods; organize and analyze information to formulate a diagnosis; create a treatment plan; provide effective treatment by choosing appropriate modalities and techniques; modify treatments according to changes in the patient’s presentation;
— Be able to apply biomedical knowledge of the human body in health and disease to better evaluate and understand their patients’ conditions;
— Be able to communicate with other health care providers and appreciate potential needs for additional approaches to patient care and treatment. They will recognize situations requiring referral or emergency interventions and will respond appropriately;
— Be able to communicate effectively with patients, demonstrating the ability to listen, empathize, and guide a patient. They will be able to incorporate patient education and lifestyle counseling into their patient care;
— Be able to work with a wide range of patient populations and health conditions and will be aware of the many issues that influence health, including (but not limited to) addictions, socio-economics, culture/ethnicity and family/community;
— Recognize their limitations and seek assistance and information to solve or approach complex situations presented by patients. They will be able to utilize such resources as texts, research data, continuing education seminars, journals, professional consultations and other medical information sources to investigate challenging clinical cases;
— Develop their awareness of qi — in themselves and in their patients. They will understand the importance of continuing to develop this awareness in their personal and professional lives;
— Practice within established ethical, legal and professional guidelines;
— Be aware of various options for establishing a practice and will know how to establish and manage a private practice, work in clinics with other health care providers, and create or pursue opportunities in community health.
OCOM’s three- and four-year enrollment plans are both full time. Twelve or more credits during a 12-week quarter constitutes full time. For the abbreviated Summer quarters — two (2) of six weeks; one (1) of eight weeks — eight or more credits is considered full time.
The academic year is organized according to the quarter system, with three 12-week quarters in Fall, Winter, and Spring and a six-week Summer session (*eight weeks in the final year). Full-time master's students may complete the program in 36 consecutive months or in 48 months with the first Summer quarter off.
Students who elect part-time enrollment options and go through the program at a slower pace (5-8 years) carry a smaller credit load per quarter. During a 12-week quarter, 9-11 credits is three-quarter time; 6-8 credits is half time; 1-5 credits is quarter time or less. For the abbreviated summer quarters, 6-7 credits is three-quarter time; 4-5 credits is half time; 1-3 credits is quarter time or less.
To help accommodate student study preferences, classes are offered in sections with options in the morning or early afternoon as well as in the later afternoon and some evenings, five days a week. While students have the opportunity to request a particular track of classes, they should be aware that their preferred schedule cannot be guaranteed, as class sizes must be balanced for educational effectiveness. In the internship year, students take classes and participate in clinical internship during both daytime and evening hours, and must make appropriate arrangements to accommodate that schedule. In addition to these times, all students should anticipate scheduling an occasional weekend for special workshops, elective seminars and certain required classes.
Course credit for didactic classes, practicum-based classes and clinical courses are calculated differently:
12 classroom hours + 24 hours of outside study = 1 credit
24 contact hours + 12 hours of outside study = 1 credit
24 clinic hours + 12 hours of outside study = 1 credit
36 clinic hours = 1 credit
36 hours independent/guided work = 1 credit
The four-academic-year (three-calendar-year) professional degree program consists of a total of 3,334.5 hours, for which 214.86 credits are awarded. Of these, 994.5 hours are devoted to clinical education.
Curriculum development at OCOM is a dynamic and ongoing process, paralleling the rapid evolution within the acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) profession itself and the changing environments of private and public health. Our program is subject to change based on these influences and new perspectives. However, students may be assured that, except in rare circumstances, required classes will not be added retroactively.
The following description provides an overview of student progression through the program:
Early in the program, students study the basic theories underlying Chinese medicine. Concepts of energetic physiology, notions of health and the origins of illness (Traditional Chinese Medical Theory) and the location of acupuncture points and channels/meridians (Point Location) are presented. Students will study and practice traditional diagnostic methods such as tongue and pulse diagnosis (TCM Diagnosis Lab).
They simultaneously begin an aspect of study unique to Chinese medicine: personal development training in the classical internal arts (Qigong/Taiji Quan). Selected readings in classical Chinese texts will reinforce and deepen these topics. Students are introduced to basic elements of Chinese medical terminology throughout the curriculum by study of the classical meanings of the Chinese acupoint names, theoretical concepts, and names of Chinese herbs.
Students develop awareness of personal and professional boundaries in the Respectful Touch course. This awareness prepares them to engage in physical medicine as they study Living Anatomy, Oriental therapeutic massage (tuina/shiatsu) and non-needling techniques such as cupping and moxibustion.
Students begin their study of traditional Chinese herbal medicine (Introduction to Chinese Herbal Medicine; Chinese Herbal Medicine: The Pharmacopoeia) with intensive work in the individual botanical, animal and mineral-based substances used in the traditional Chinese herbal medicinary.
The foundation of research literacy begins with the course Oriental Medicine Research I. Students begin to develop insight into the practice of Chinese medicine through formal observation of practitioners and interns working in clinical settings (Clinical Observation).
After mastering foundational material, students apply their knowledge of basic theories to an understanding of the disease process and the therapeutic strategies used to transform that process and stimulate health (TCM Pathology and Therapeutics; Point Actions and Indications; Western Pathology; Western Pharmacology). The study of herbal medicine parallels the emphasis on therapeutic applications, focusing on the art of combining the individual medicinal substances into coherent, clinically specific formulas (Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas; Herbal Prepared Medicine; Herbal Prescription Strategies; Chinese Nutrition; Chinese Herbal Medicinary Practicum).
Students train in the essential techniques and clinical skills of the acupuncturist, including needle insertion and manipulation, moxibustion and related techniques such as gua sha and cupping (Acupuncture Techniques; Electro-acupuncture/Micro-systems); the development of practical diagnostic skills, and the study of the ear as a micro-system (Auricular Acupuncture). These individual techniques and skills come together as students begin the transition from classroom learning to coordinated, practical application (Clinical Skills; Patient-Practitioner Relationship).
Students also explore the issues surrounding physiological and clinical research in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, as well as the application of the medicine to community and public health concerns (Oriental Medicine Research II; Community Health and Chemical Dependency). Clinical marketing and professional skills are developed as students approach the beginning of their clinical internship (Practice Management I: Marketing; Ethics and Jurisprudence).
The didactic and practicum work of the program culminate in the treatment of patients in OCOM’s clinics. The mission of our clinics is to provide high quality, affordable health care to the public and to support the development of Oriental medicine as a vital healing methodology, complementary to Western medicine. Acupuncture and Oriental medical services are provided in the clinic by interns who practice under the direct supervision of acupuncturists licensed in the state of Oregon.
Interns additionally have opportunities for off-site experiences at several public health facilities with which OCOM is affiliated. Students work with the elderly, troubled youth, individuals with addictions or behavioral health issues, persons living with HIV, and others with multiple community health concerns.
Advanced study of TCM Pathology and Therapeutics supports and reinforces the clinical experience with focus on several specialization areas within Oriental medicine, such as OB/GYN, pediatrics, dermatology, etc. Acupuncture treatment techniques are expanded in coursework incorporating specialized modern and classical approaches (Advanced Acupuncture I-II).
Additional biomedical approaches to physical and psychological assessment and treatment are explored (Western Clinical Diagnosis; Structural Diagnosis; Mental and Emotional Disorders: An Integrated Approach; Diet and Nutrition).
Finally, students focus on the transition from student to professional health care provider through a year-long sequence in case management (Clinic Seminar: Case Management and Intern Evaluation), business management (Practice Management II: Business Skills) and further insights into issues of public health care access (Issues in Public Health).
OCOM defines much of its success as an institution by the successes of our graduates as they each pursue their chosen career path. Our commitment to our student’s professional development is deeply embedded into the college’s curriculum and the ongoing engagement with our alumni.
Our programs’ comprehensive training in the healing arts is further enhanced by a through-line of educational support, offering valuable resources for practice management, marketing and identifying inroads to public education. The college’s Professional Development Center (PDC) empowers students, graduates and faculty members by highlighting opportunities for growth and best practices through individual counseling, financial education and speaker presentations by professionals in the field.
Oregon has an active complementary and alternative medicine community, allowing our students to engage with professional organizations as they explore their own options for practice. Integrative groups such as Student Alliance for Integrative Medicine (SAIM) and Oregon Collaborative for Integrative Medicine (OCIM) offer volunteer and professional development opportunities for students on campus and through association events in Portland.
Pre-internship Clinical Studies
The clinical studies program begins at the end of the first year with Clinical Observation in the OCOM Clinic, continuing to the beginning of Year Three when Clinical Internship begins. During Clinical Observation, students observe treatments by clinical faculty and interns in the OCOM Clinic and in clinical theater settings in the classroom. Observers will have opportunities to practice interviewing patients and to treat them with non-acupuncture modalities such as moxibustion, cupping, and massage under the guidance of the faculty member or clinical intern.
During Herbal Practicum, students will spend one academic quarter in the OCOM Herbal Medicinary assembling granule and bulk herb formulas, dispensing patent medicine, liniments and topical applications, and assisting in the overall operations of the medicinary. Herbal Practicum gives students hands-on experience with Chinese herbs and an opportunity to learn dimensions of the clinical and business-related practice of herbal medicine that do not get covered in the classroom.
During their first year of study, students take one of two Oriental Therapeutic Massage courses: tuina (a Chinese form of massage) or shiatsu (a modern Japanese form of massage). During their second year, students apply these skills in a clinical setting under the supervision of a clinical faculty member. This important clinical experience helps prepare students for clinical internship by building confidence and competence in treating patients through the clinical application of massage therapy.
In their third year, along with a lighter academic load, students begin Clinical Internship. Interns treat patients using Oriental medical therapies including acupuncture and non-needling techniques, Chinese herbal medicine and Oriental therapeutic massage. All interns are trained and supervised by an expert group of clinical faculty, with a variety of styles, strengths, cultural backgrounds and specialties.
The majority of students’ clinical training is guided by the clinic faculty on campus in the OCOM Clinic. Throughout the course of Clinical Internship, students treat a wide range of conditions including musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries; an assortment of internal conditions such as symptoms related to cancer treatment, gynecological complaints, digestive, respiratory, and urinary tract disorders; and ongoing conditions such as migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, and mood disorders (mild depression and anxiety). Patients are treated in one-on-one as well as group treatment settings.
Students also have clinical rotations off-campus at Outside In and Mercy and Wisdom Healing Center. At these treatment sites, students are exposed to a wide patient population and a variety of medical conditions. Another off-campus treatment opportunity is offered at Hollywood Senior Center, where care is focused on the geriatric population.
During their internship year, students spend at least one quarter in Herbal Internship, where a small group of interns work closely with a clinical faculty member to diagnose and treat patients using Chinese herbs exclusively. This unique clinical experience, with its focus on herbal therapy, greatly enhances student learning of and clinical experience with herbal medicine.
Community Health Externship
The Community Health Externship (CHE) is an additional, minimum 32 hours, specialized clinical rotation, providing an opportunity for students to gain practical clinical experience in an established community health setting by working with a population often underserved by complementary medical approaches and Western medicine alike. CHE takes place at Hooper Center, Project Quest, and Old Town Clinic, where addictions, HIV/AIDS and mental health issues are primary focuses for treatment. Treatments at these sites are primarily performed in a group setting.
Learn more about the master's program faculty members.
The master’s curriculum includes a sequence of three required research courses. In their final year, master’s students design their own independent research study or participate in a faculty-mentored group research project. Examples of such mentored research projects include: retrospective chart reviews of data collected by Acupuncturists Without Borders and affiliated acupuncture clinics in Mexico and Nepal; analyses of patient outcomes data that are routinely collected in OCOM’s intern clinic; and preparation of literature reviews for the Oregon Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM) and other advocates and policymakers that summarize the evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture to treat a variety of medical conditions. In addition, the Student Research Club sponsors monthly informal presentations culminating in an annual Student Research Conference where graduating students present their final research projects.
Learn more about the OCOM Research Department.