Sara Haag joined the OCOM Community as a transfer student in 2014. Haag has quickly become a leader in the OCOM Student Association, works in the OCOM Herbal Medicinary, and also handcrafts items such as Chinese herb-infused eye pillows that are sold in the college's bookstore. We asked Haag a few questions on her experience as a transfer student.
What did it mean to choose OCOM?
When I began looking at transferring schools, I wanted to be in an environment that I felt was conducive to my learning style, had a respectable reputation, and fostered a compassionate attitude for everyone. There’s a saying that it’s “in the details,” and I found with OCOM this statement was very true. From the first point of contact to the moment I walked into OCOM for the first time, I knew this was where I wanted to complete my acupuncture education. Even the aesthetic and feng shui components of the campus meant a lot. Having consideration and thoughtfulness to ensuring the “juju” is positive was incredibly important.
How was the process of changing schools for you?
Changing schools for me was made pretty easy in terms of the process. I had clear instructions on what OCOM needed from me and what I needed to wrap up from my old school. The Admissions team at OCOM was great and very attentive in helping with the process. I didn’t have any surprises or unforeseen hidden costs, etc, and everything was laid out clearly.
Do you have any recommendations for those wanting to learn more?
Definitely talk with the Office of Admissions, make of list of questions, concerns, ask about housing, location, what’s it like living in Portland, and also request to talk with a current student. I think that that is important from a firsthand perspective to know what you’re getting into, i.e. the time commitment, and also keeping balance between personal life and school. Also, have acupuncture, and visit the school in person.
What are some exciting aspects of your education here?
I love being on the OCOM Student Association (OSA) and being a part of making the program and school better. I love the opportunities that I am presented with to participate in community service, such as volunteering at the Cherry Blossom Gala, speaking with prospective students, and participating in the MS Bike event. These are great opportunities to network and make connections with the community and alumni. I am also very proud to help facilitate awareness for Animal Asia — particularly the Moon Bear Project, to which we donated the proceeds from the school’s annual No Talent Show and to which I hope to form a volunteer chapter in Portland, since we don’t have one here. I am also very proud of having the opportunity to make a product based on my education thus far using Chinese medicinal herbs for therapeutic rice pillows. Last but not least, I love working in the medicinary, I love being around the herbs and interacting with patients.
How will OCOM's education empower you to be the practitioner you want to be?
OCOM is very special for me because it has allowed me to be open to all possibilities. As an adult learning student, some of us are coming into this as a second career and we have already experienced a lot of life and worn many hats, and had previous careers. I think that this is an advantage to youth. OCOM has held space for me to explore and develop who I want to be as a practitioner, and changed me in very positive ways. The education I am receiving here will give me the technical skills along with some life skills that need some fine tuning. I have no doubt that I will be successful due in part to my education here.
What is it about your OCOM education that you gained by transferring?
I gained confidence to be fearless, to be courageous, even to the extent of singing bad karaoke. OCOM is a safe place to explore my humanity and what makes me a unique individual, without judgment. The instructors at OCOM want their students to succeed and their willingness to share their knowledge is genuine. That’s not to say that they are marshmallows; they can be stern — not in a way that breaks their students down — but it comes from a place of true integrity, a love for the medicine, and really wanting the students to become the best they can be as professionals.
On May 14 and 15, Ben Marx, MAcOM, LAc, Research Associate, represented OCOM at the inaugural conference for the PROMIS Health Organization in Philadelphia. This multi-day interdisciplinary forum examined aspects of assessing and using patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in research and clinical settings. Among Chinese medicine schools, OCOM has been a front-runner in integrating the collection of patient-reported outcomes into its intern clinics. In 2009, OCOM added three PROMIS questionnaires to assess the effects of acupuncture and Chinese medicine on our patient’s health.
PROMIS, which stands for Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System, is a bank of questionnaires developed over a 10-year period and funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). The questionnaires are highly reliable, precise measures of patient–reported health status. In contrast to more traditional biomedical measurements, such as blood pressure, PROs allow patients to directly report on their own feelings and experiences. Data from these questionnaires allow clinicians and researchers to better understand how treatment affects what patients are able to do, and the symptoms they actually experience. The findings generated by PROs can be used to demonstrate effectiveness of treatment over time, and be used by to improve patient-provider communication.
The conference, “From Basics to Applications in Clinical Research, Practice, and Population Health,” brought together researchers, government scientists, clinicians, industry representatives, and experts in outcomes measurement from around the country to discuss applications of PROMIS in health care, and the current state of the science in this emerging field.
Marx presented a research poster at the conference entitled “Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the Management of Pain – A Prospective Cohort Study.” In brief, the study assessed four years of data collected with PROMIS questionnaires on patients treated for pain conditions in the OCOM clinic. The study concludes that “statistically significant improvements in Global Physical Health, Physical Functioning and Pain Interference from Visit 1 to Visit 5 suggest that intern-delivered AOM is an effective intervention for the management of pain.”
The presentation of this study at a mainstream medical conference is an important step in expanding the presence of acupuncture and Chinese medicine within the scientific community. At its best, research in these settings acts as a translational tool, facilitating an understanding of the clinical effectiveness of the medicine for those who may be unaware of the possibilities of traditional Chinese medicine.
— Ben Marx
OCOM's June 27 Cherry Blossom Gala was a resounding success, bringing together 180 alumni, students, staff, faculty and community partners to the college’s campus for a unique “night market” experience. Contributions from our Lotus sponsors -- NW Natural, The CHP Group, The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, Elizabeth Wakeman Hendersen Charitable Foundation -- helped fill three floors with magic, music, a photobooth and spa treatments. Featuring tributes from trustees, family and academic leadership, this festive gathering was also a warm and joyful send-off for OCOM’s President, Dr. Michael Gaeta, who is retiring this month.
In addition to enjoying a great party, attendees helped the college raise $39,535 for OCOM and those it serves. Their support means more scholarship dollars for students on their way to becoming the nation’s most skilled practitioners; more low-cost treatments for people who couldn’t otherwise access OCOM’s clinics; and perhaps most importantly, these generous donations primed the college to move confidently into the future.
Presentations throughout the event highlighted the signature accomplishments of Dr. Gaeta’s 10 years as college president. Under Dr. Gaeta’s leadership, OCOM has enhanced students’ educational experiences, increased the number of patients served, and expanded its role in the Old Town Chinatown community:
Thank you to all who were able to join us for this third annual fundraising event. Photos can be viewed on OCOM’s Facebook page or by following these links to the Panda-monium photobooth and event photo albums: http://tinyurl.com/ougodxm and http://tinyurl.com/qehhye8. If you missed the fun this year, please save the date for next year’s event, to be held on April 16, 2016.
Explore the night market! On June 27, 2015, the OCOM campus will be transformed into a light-filled celebration of food, music, healing and culture in the Chinese tradition. Various experiences on four floors will showcase the signature accomplishment of OCOM’s retiring President, Michael J. Gaeta, EdD: our LEED Gold certified downtown location in Old Town Chinatown.
All proceeds from the event go to OCOM’s annual fund — supporting our mission to transform health care by providing exemplary education and affordable care to the Portland community.
5:00-6:00 PM "President's Reception" – 5th Floor Rooftop
Limited to 60 guests with special food and entertainment in honor of President Gaeta. Reception tickets include general admission to the night market gala event from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. $100 tickets; advance online purchase only.
6:00-9:00 PM Cherry Blossom Gala: Night Market Theme
6:00-7:30 PM — Food street, culture street, relaxation spa and lucky lounge open for entertainment!
7:30-8:15 PM — Magic Show and Live Auction, Community Room
8:15-9:00 PM — Entertainment, food, and drinks continue!
The "Gala" portion of the evening will include:
Introducing Greg Livingston, PhD (China), LAc – Master’s Faculty
When his father died young, at age 53, Greg Livingston began to contemplate how to avoid a similarly premature death. This first step towards a path in medicine and health care was the question, “How do you take care of yourself?” Upon finishing his biology degree, Livingston decided he needed a career. He looked at all kinds of medical traditions, but after growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, with herb shops around every corner and the strange but familiar smells of decoctions from friends’ homes, he felt drawn to Chinese medicine.
While licensing and a well developed educational structure supported a profession and career in the U.S., he didn’t foresee what a journey he was undertaking when he started at Five Branches University — at the time, he hadn’t even had an acupuncture treatment!
Quickly realizing that a master’s degree wasn’t enough, he felt he needed to study in China. Shortly after graduating in 1997, he lived in China for two years, following senior practitioners in Hangzhou outpatient clinics and Beijing’s Academy of Chinese Medicine. He then moved to Suzhou, where his specialty as a classical jong fang style herbalist coalesced during a year-long mentorship.
After five years of practice in San Francisco, he returned to Hangzhou to pursue his PhD and received a license to practice in China. He completed his PhD degree in 2009 and published three articles on Shang Han Lun related topics, particularly on the treatment of cold pathogens in Westerners with classical formulas.
In 2012, the question of “how to live well” drew Dr. Livingston away from China. The constant effects of urban pollution — bronchitis, fevers, fatigue — led him to seek an open faculty position at OCOM. Based upon its reputation in the professional community and the calibre of the graduates he had met, he relocated his family before even visiting the college. As a full-time faculty member for the last two years, Dr. Livingston notes, “OCOM is obviously not like institutions in China, but it’s also clearly not run by your average Westerner. OCOM people are progressive, alternative and fair-minded. They really care — about the school, the students, the employees, the patients. The faculty cooperates, even honoring varying strengths and weaknesses. In some corporate cultures, you might be afraid of showing weakness, because people will take advantage. At OCOM, they help you improve.”
As someone who has spent twenty years bridging East and West, Dr. Livingston observes, “If you study the China model of health care, there is much you have to change when you move the medicine here. The fundamentals don’t change — the herbs, the acupuncture — it’s all the same. But Western patients differ significantly from Chinese patients when it comes to the clinical encounter. China is so crowded, and largely poor, so health care has to be delivered without a lot of time or privacy. In America, Chinese medicine practitioners don’t need to see as many patients per day and we’re required to give them privacy. It’s a different way of practicing the medicine.”
In October 2014, Dr. Livingston served as faculty for OCOM’s clinical studies program in Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine (NJUCM). “With students that study in the West versus those studying in China, one of the shortcomings is the amount of clinical herbal experience they receive. In the United States, we have limited resources and patient access to herbal internal medicine. This is why going to Nanjing is so valuable, even though it is only a five-week externship, those students saw more patients in those weeks than they saw the whole time they were interns at OCOM. You can see between 40-60 patients a day in clinical settings in China, and you get to watch really experienced doctors treat them. One of the big things is that beyond sitting in class or doing rounds, you need to chao fang, where you follow doctors and write their prescriptions down.”
Although Dr. Livingston began his clinical career in 1997, he didn’t start teaching until 2005, when he was living in China. At the Long Island University program on Zhejiang University campus, he taught introductory Chinese medicine and health cultivation classes to visiting foreign students and, ultimately, to Chinese graduate students studying family medicine.
Chinese students, he found, tended to have more rigid thinking. “However, when you find someone who can think outside the box and they get clinical herbal training in China, they will be unstoppable.” He believes OCOM strikes the right balance. “We have a wide range of faculty with different backgrounds and experience. If students here use all the resources available to them and have a natural ability for medicine, they can go far and get a lot out of the program. In medicine, you have to have some natural ability, a certain strength with logic and memory. If you possess those and you take advantage of everything, you can graduate from here and go right to seeing patients.”
On March 20, OCOM’s former campus and clinic buildings were sold to Adult Learning Systems of Oregon (ALSO), which supports adults with developmental and intellectual challenges by providing vocational and residential services. To sustain their growth across the greater Portland area, OCOM’s property provides a more centrally located base of operations.
“It is truly a gift to know our former home is occupied by providers working to care for those with developmental challenges,” said OCOM President Michael Gaeta. “The college wishes Adult Learning Systems of Oregon nothing but the greatest of successes as they get settled in their new home and continue to administer their healing work.”
The outer southeast Portland location was expanded in 1999 to include the addition of a clinic facility and doctoral classrooms with the assistance of a $100,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust. Construction of the two-story building and parking lot were completed in 2000 with broad community and political support. As enrollment continued to grow in both the master’s and doctoral programs, with growth within the staff and students services team as well, additional space was leased, including a second location for clinic facilities in the Hollywood district.
Under the leadership of President Michael J. Gaeta, EdD, who joined the college in 2005 , the college adopted its first six-year strategic and operational plan. OCOM’s relocation to Old Town Chinatown was a signature outcome of that planning process. The “Cherry Blossom” property sale improves OCOM’s balance sheet and marks the completion of a significant period of change and growth for the institution, setting the foundation for operations under the new 2015 six-year strategic plan.
OCOM’s current campus and clinic facility features upgrades in sustainability, including LEED Gold certification and enhanced access to public transportation. Located at 75 NW Couch Street in the historic Old Town Chinatown district of downtown Portland, the ground floor includes herbal medinary and bookstore with natural products and acupuncture supplies for practitioners. Public wellness offerings such as the Lan Su Chinese Garden lecture series and qigong classes can be found at the college’s website: ocom.edu/events.
A $130,000 capacity building grant awarded to Oregon College of Oriental Medicine by Meyer Memorial Trust on March 1 will fund a new Director of Annual Giving position over the next three years. This new full-time staff position and expansion of OCOM's annual fund will increase the ability to build long-term, sustainable funding for the college.
Since relocating our campus to Portland’s Old Town Chinatown neighborhood in 2012, we have initiated a successful annual fundraising event and built a more visible community presence in the new neighborhood. While these successes mark important milestones for the college, an increased need to expand development efforts became clear after OCOM's February 2014 six-year strategic planning session.
The planning group identified the need to create a more diverse funding base to support our mission by expanding efforts to move away from tuition dependence. Like many universities and colleges across the U.S., a downturn in enrollment in 2012 and 2013 which, coupled with campus relocation operational costs, led OCOM to prioritize an expansion of our Institutional Advancement department in 2015. The new director position will support growth of OCOM's annual fund, deepened collaborative partnerships, and expanded capacity for community giving.
The greatest beneficiary of enhanced fundraising capacity will be OCOM’s clinics. Our teaching clinics intentionally provide low-cost health care options for the Portland metro region to ensure broad access to affordable integrative health care. While the college charges $25 per treatment, the full cost of each visit is $40. Foundation grants, individual donations, and revenues from student tuition cover the difference between the actual cost of delivering the care and the patient fee.
In 2013, the college's two master's program teaching clinics provided 22,000 patient visits; 85 percent of those visits were for individuals who self-identified as low-income. In addition, OCOM's community partnership projects and externship opportunities are focused on expanding access to low-cost or free acupuncture health care in the region to underserved community members and chronically ill patients at other health care institutions. Those include organizations such as Outside In, Central City Concern, Hooper Detox, and other Coalition of Community Health Clinics’ locations.