Community Spotlight - Teaching Doctors of Acupuncture
by Sandra Yeyati
When William Morris, president of AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine (AOMA), was a teenager, he spent a great deal of time alone, reading and in contemplation. He enjoyed the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tsu, and hoped one day to become a sage just like him. Many of his friends came to him for advice because he seemed to propose sensible solutions to their problems. Morris was also a very good drummer; for many years, he toured professionally, playing in jazz and funk bands.
Perhaps influenced by Lao Tsu, who said, “The more [the sage] helps others, the more he benefits himself,” at age 22, Morris left the road to study Chinese medicine and acupuncture, a vocation and passion that drives him to this day. “Acupuncture is designed around low-cost, effective interventions that are low-risk, so for the social system, it’s extraordinarily important,” Morris says. “For me, as an individual, there’s a vast amount of knowledge to be pursued, and it’s an extraordinarily effective and rewarding form of practice.”
As president of AOMA, Morris oversees the school and ensures that it fulfills its mission, which he proudly recites: “AOMA’s mission is transforming lives and communities through graduate education in Oriental medicine. That’s where we’re committed—where we live and breathe—and we’re looking to expand our horizons with partnerships in the community and by creating greater access to good quality health care and good quality healthcare education.”
Morris also is involved in what’s called “profession building”, helping to develop and set accreditation, academic and care standards for key industry organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He has an academic specialty in the area of Chinese pulse diagnosis, and teaches all over the country, writes and publishes on the subject. He also writes a regular column for Acupuncture Today dealing with the problems of professionalism and knowledge-building within the profession.
Offering master’s degrees and doctoral-level graduate programs in Oriental medicine and acupuncture, AOMA has had some amazing achievements since its inauguration 20 years ago. Under Morris’ leadership, it is the first single-purpose school in the nation to receive regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. AOMA is also accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, allowing graduates to acquire licensure for national certification.
Morris adds, “AOMA stands alone nationally in the number of doctorally prepared faculty. We have medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic. In the Chinese medical arena, in addition to their professional doctorates, most of them are prepared at the Ph.D. level.” Morris himself holds a Ph.D. from California Institute of Integral Studies, a master’s degree in medical education from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in traditional oriental medicine from Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, California, where he later became the dean of the school.
Students come from all over the country to attend AOMA, and employment opportunities for graduates are far ranging. Private practice is the most common employment choice, and in that case, the school encourages its graduates to begin their practices in underserved markets where they are guaranteed the best level of success. “One employer of licensed acupuncturists in the country are schools—in faculty roles, as clinicians, supervisors, or even in administration and operations,” Morris says. Other graduates work in group practices with medical doctors, chiropractors or other acupuncturists; hospitals; herbal companies or even on international boat cruises, “which is pretty cool employment for those who like to travel,” Morris adds.
An integral part of the AOMA education, and one that greatly benefits the Austin community, is the school’s network of professional and student clinics which in 2012 conducted more than 17,000 patient visits, making AOMA one of the largest providers of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in Austin. For AOMA students, the clinics provide them with the experience they need. As Morris explains, “Medicine is ultimately one that is practical and requires a good deal of input from supervisors to produce the types of growth that are necessary for a professional entering the service within the society.”
For patients, the clinics provide quality healthcare at half the cost of a regular visit. Morris adds, “Student interns spend time on each patient. I find that learners are providing excellent care.”
Morris is proud of AOMA. “I think our actions speak for themselves in that we’re touching a lot of people’s lives and making a difference in this community. We’re also looking at making a difference in the U.S. and internationally,” he says, highlighting his commitment to good quality medical education. As Lao Tsu once said, “To see things in the seed, that is genius.”
AOMA has two locations in Austin. The campus and clinics are located at 4701 W. Gate Blvd. Additional clinics are available at 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Ste. 512. For more information, call 512-454-1188, email [email protected] or visit aoma.edu.