“During my visit, the school spoke to me in a way that embodied who I was. I felt like I belonged there, and I wanted to cultivate my healing presence in a way that would positively impact others on a greater scale.”
What drew you to acupuncture?
Many years ago I suffered with chronic back pain, and was told I needed surgery and an indefinite regimen of narcotic pain medication. I tried chiropractic, which exacerbated the pain. I could barely walk and my kids had to tie my shoes. After eight months, I visited an acupuncturist. After twelve treatments, the pain was completely gone and has never returned. This life changing event stayed with me.
Years later after having my son by emergency C-section I was not feeling like myself and returned to acupuncture. My practitioner included Chinese herbal medicine to my treatment plan. After a short time I began to feel like myself again. I was amazed by the power of herbs, and later decided to pursue herbal medicine. I was so excited I came to the wrong open house at school, but it didn’t matter. Once I entered MUIH—formerly Tai Sophia—I was home.
Why did you choose MUIH?
During my visit, the school spoke to me in a way that embodied who I was. I felt like I belonged there, and I wanted to cultivate my healing presence in a way that would positively impact others on a greater scale. Although I knew I wanted to be an acupuncturist I also found Transformative Practices incredibly valuable. After meeting Tom Balles, Bob Duggan, and Dianne Connelly, I knew I’d reached my destination.
What has your path been since graduation?
After graduation I opened a private practice, where, despite making more than my fair share of rookie mistakes, I found success. I keep evolving as a practitioner through personal cultivation and continuing education, which I believe is critical in developing a rewarding and effective practice. I remain a student at MUIH, and will be graduating with the first class of Doctorate of Oriental Medicine students.
MUIH recently began treating patients at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center with acupuncture and you are one of the interns performing these treatments. Can you speak a little about your experience there?
It was amazing to witness the strength and courage of patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, especially given the harsh effects chemotherapy and radiation can bring. These patients deserve to have access to the best care available, including all forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This was an especially powerful time for me, as my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer during my internship.
What is the process like working with patients and medical personnel in a hospital setting versus in a small clinic setting such as MUIH’s NCC?
Hospitals operate on models of efficiency, serving a large number of patients through several modalities of treatment. It’s a large operation and things need to keep moving. In contrast, the clinic at MUIH provides a more personal setting and opportunity for more intimate interaction with the practitioner.
What have been the most fulfilling moments in your career?
I’ve found the most fulfilling moments involve populations that I originally had no inclination to work with, including incarcerated women, the elderly, and the terminally ill. As a function of my senior community service hours, I designed and implemented the G.A.L.S Program (G-geared to oneness A-awareness L-life as moment S-sake of others), a six week leadership and wellness program at the maximum security women’s prison in Jessup, Maryland. By all measures, the program was hugely successful. I treated an elderly gentleman in the final weeks of his life and witnessed firsthand how acupuncture helps bring comfort at a crucial time. His family was incredibly appreciative that he was able to find peace prior to passing.
What advice would you give recent graduates?
Should you decide to open your own practice, learn as much as you can from established practitioners. Keep your costs to a minimum and avoid long term contracts for office space, phone, internet, scheduling software, and other services. Most importantly, do not undervalue the worth of what you have to offer. I thought offering lower prices would help bring business in the door. In reality, it only attracted clients that were not committed. This medicine will change people’s lives. Don’t undervalue what acupuncture can do, and if you have any doubts as to the effectiveness of TCM, they will be extinguished quickly by the feedback from your patients.
Dawn Gifford completed her Master of Oriental Medicine at MUIH in 2013. She is currently completing her Doctor of Oriental Medicine.