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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Midwest College of Oriental Medicine: Upholding the Profession of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the U.S.

Aug 01, 2013 04:27PM ● By Sheila Julson

Since 1979, Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM), with campuses in Racine, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois, has led thousands of aspiring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners from the classroom to clinical work, graduation and forming their own practices.

“Our mission is to offer Traditional Chinese Medicine; not Americanized, but similar to what they teach in China,” says William Dunbar, BMed, Ph.D., and president of Midwest College of Oriental Medicine since 1985. “We offer here, in English, the same depth and level of Chinese medical education that they currently teach in China.”

Dunbar studied at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, in China, the sister college of MCOM, where he earned his bachelor and Ph.D. degrees. He also holds a doctorate from the National College of Naprapathic Medicine, which combines elements of osteopathy and chiropractic medicine, using therapies and exercises to treat anatomical conditions of the vertebrae, muscles, tissues and ligaments.

MCOM provides a four-year program that culminates in a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine degree. Students learn the principles of TCM through coursework and clinical internship. Teachings include acupuncture and Chinese herbs and nutrition, as well as zang fu, a technique used to diagnose the organ system using pulse, tongue color and coating. Dunbar points out that the focus of TCM practitioners is also the theoretical underpinning of the school’s curriculum: to treat the whole person. Between both campuses, there are 39 faculty and staff members, including instructors from China.

“Our average student is 35 to 42 years old, and 80 percent are women,” Dunbar says. “Many of our students had always wanted to be in a health career, but life got in the way.” Classes are held on weekday evenings and Saturdays, which accommodates the schedules of most working students. The fully accredited MS degree program is generally four years, but can be completed within three. Federal student loans and grants are available to those that qualify. Once students pass the national boards of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture, they are eligible for licensing in 46 states. “We have grads currently at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, at Northwestern University Doctors Hospital, and a grad at every Cancer Treatment Centers of America clinic,” notes Dunbar.

Dunbar facilitated a lecture for Centegra Health System, located in McHenry County, Illinois, about integrating TCM into a hospital medical system. He also completed a lecture series for Baxter Healthcare, a major pharmaceutical company headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, that discussed integrating TCM into today’s healthcare services. As professional healthcare providers and consumers in the United States become more aware of the ways in which TCM can effectively supplement Western medicine, the demand for acupuncturists and the demand for training are growing.

“There are now more acupuncture colleges in Los Angeles than chiropractic colleges nationwide,” Dunbar says, adding that MCOM’s curriculum sets it apart. “We’re using a modern Chinesebased curriculum taught in English, but a lot of the other schools are teaching what you’d call medical acupuncture. We’re traditionalists. We’re teaching Traditional Chinese Medicine, and we’re using the Chinese terms.”

MCOM has its own clinics that allow patients to receive affordable care while providing hands-on training for students. Dunbar explains that clinical internship starts from day one, moving from observation to participation to independence and finally, graduation. “The week that you start your classes is the week you put on a white lab jacket and start working at the clinic,” states Dunbar, adding that the school clinics treated 15,000 patients in 2012.

The college holds events and open houses, and encourages prospective students to observe Saturday classes and to talk with the students and instructors. According to Dunbar, the college has an 85 percent completion rate, and 91 percent of graduates over the last four years now practice in the field. Post-graduation support includes help with writing business plans and developing websites and social media. “We’re taking someone who may know nothing about operating an independent healthcare practice, and we’re getting them to the point where they can successfully practice,” explains Dunbar.

Dunbar is inspired by the success of the thousands of students that have graduated from Midwest College of Oriental Medicine. “I can practice through my graduates, [because] I’m in such close contact with [them].” MCOM graduates often serve as presidents of associations and licensure boards or even as staff teachers. Dunbar shares the story of a graduate that founded the first acupuncture college in New Zealand, as well as graduates that were successful in advocating for acupuncture licensure in states that formerly had not recognized the practice professionally. One graduate that relocated to Minnesota founded the first acupuncture clinic in a prison, focusing on treating addictions, and the first acupuncture specialist at the Mayo Clinic is a graduate, as well.

Midwest College of Oriental Medicine is located at 6232 Bankers Rd., Racine, WI, and 4334 N. Hazel, Ste. 206, Chicago, IL. For more information, call 1-800-593-2320 or visit

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