The MSTCM Program At a Glance
ACTCM operates on a quarter system and each quarter runs for 11 weeks with 2 week breaks between quarters. Learning Chinese medicine is like a spiral rather than a straight line: the knowledge repeats and builds upon itself. Therefore, the sequencing of the classes is very important. ACTCM has structured the curriculum into various programs of study, or tracks, which allow students to proceed through the program at a pace suited to their lifestyle. The sequencing of classes is designed as such:
• The accelerated student will finish the program in 13 quarters.
• The standard/full-time student will finish the program in 15 quarters
• The three-quarter-time student will finish in 18 quarters.
• The half-time student converting to full-time will finish in 19 quarters.
• The half-time student will finish in 27 quarters.
Students also are encouraged to meet regularly with the academic advisor to plot their progress through their track, particularly if they plan to alter the structured program of study. The program is divided into three levels:
The first level of the master’s program lays the foundation on which the rest of the program is based. Students learn about the main theories of TCM, including Zang Fu theory, Five Element theory, the Yin Yang relationship, the properties and medicinal uses of Chinese herbs, the various meridians and acupuncture points of the body, Tui Na or Shiatsu, acupuncture needling techniques and TCM diagnosis. First-level students also complete the general science courses, begin a focused study of biomedicine, and are introduced to QiGong and Tai Ji Quan. Students gain valuable clinical exposure as they begin observing patient-practitioner interactions and learning about the fundamentals of patient intake, clean needle technique, diagnosis, treatment principles and the Chinese herbal materia medica.
During level two, students study Chinese herbal formulas, classical and advanced acupuncture techniques and theory, TCM and Western pathology and Western nutrition. Students also begin their study of Western internal medicine, and continue studying TCM internal medicine. Students strengthen their skills in a number of areas, including diagnosis and treatment of various diseases.
During the second-level clinical experience, students exercise greater autonomy. Working under the direct supervision of clinical supervisors who are experienced acupuncturists, students at the trainee level perform health assessments, including pulse and tongue diagnosis, and begin to develop their own diagnosis and treatment strategies. They also recommend various Chinese herbs and herbal formulas, and apply a range of TCM techniques including Tui Na or Shiatsu.
During level three, students focus on their clinical training while taking advanced and specialized courses in TCM and Western clinical medicine. These courses enhance their skills as independent health care providers and enable them to communicate effectively with biomedical practitioners. Students also study scientific research methodology, TCM classics, practice management, and public health and have the opportunity to review case studies in depth.
At this stage of clinical training, student interns are given still greater autonomy in patient intake, developing a treatment plan, and treating the patient—functioning essentially as independent clinicians in relation to their patients. Students may also pursue individual clinical interests by doing rotations at ACTCM-affiliated offsite clinics in the San Francisco area.
During their last quarters of study, students also prepare for the California State Board and/or the national certification exams. This final period of study allows students to refine their skills, deepen their clinical experience, and develop areas of specialty and professional relationships that will influence their practice as licensed acupuncturists.