BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – When Peggy Miller, LAc, MaOM, first heard the Minnesota Institute of Acupuncture and Herbal Studies (MIAHS) was merging into Northwestern Health Sciences University in 1999, she was terrified. As a MIAHS student, she loved the program’s heart and soul – its inconveniences seemed to be offset by the close relationships the 70 students had with one another. She loved the way students came together to overcome some of the challenges they faced at MIAHS, which was, at the time, the state’s only accredited acupuncture and Oriental medicine school. And she loved being part of a group of "older and wiser" non-traditional students who were pursuing traditional Chinese medicine as a second career.
"I didn’t like the change," says Miller. "Looking back, I can see now that it had to happen; the school would have had to close if it hadn’t merged into Northwestern. But a lot of us at MIAHS couldn’t see how we would fit in at the University. We were terrified the program would lose its heart and soul."
Eight years later, Miller, who graduated from the Minnesota College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (which was what MIAHS became) in 2002, says the merger was great for the program.
"I never thought I’d say this, but it was the right move," she says. "The resources we have access to – the library, the bookstore, the labs – are so much better than what was available at MIAHS. Our bookstore was in a funky broom closet. You had to snag a member of the administration to use it. And having access to the full-time Chinese professors is wonderful!"
Mark McKenzie, LAc, MaOM, is now the dean of MCAOM, which boasts an enrollment of nearly 100 students, but he began his studies at MIAHS. Looking back, he says he can see dramatic changes to the program – changes that ultimately strengthened it.
For example, the ability to hire full-time faculty is a huge asset for MCAOM. With part-time faculty, it was often difficult for students to get access to professors outside of class time. Additionally, a large number of the full-time faculty at Northwestern are trained in traditional Chinese medicine at its source – China.
In addition, the physical facilities at the University are far superior to MIAHS’s old home, says McKenzie. Students at Northwestern have access to a 10,000-square-foot library, the cadaver lab, and computer labs. "These things just are not available at a lot of other schools in the country," he says.
McKenzie adds that the University setting gives prospective students a different perception of the program. "The University’s reputation gives the MCAOM program credibility," he says. "I also think being a part of the University will open up additional clinical opportunities for our students that would probably not happen without our association with the University."
For example, in 2005, Northwestern began partnering with Abbott Northwestern Hospital to offer acupuncture services to patients.
Overall, McKenzie and Miller agree that the addition of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to the University has been beneficial for everyone involved.
"It’s been better for the students and for the profession in Minnesota," says McKenzie. "At the University, we are able to expose our students to other health care professions, which allows our students to develop relationships with other providers. Ultimately that benefits graduates as they become practitioners."
Miller concurs. "We have a lot to learn from each other," she says. "All the programs add to the flavor at Northwestern and make it greater than the sum of its parts. This is an awesome place where people can practice their passions and each program can celebrate itself while working together for the greater good."
Northwestern Health Sciences University offers a wide array of choices in natural health care education including chiropractic, Oriental medicine, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, human biology, and integrative health and wellness. The University has 800 full-time students on a 25-acre campus in Bloomington, Minn. Visit www.nwhealth.edu.