International medical mission opportunities for acupuncture students and graduates
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Acupuncture: OWHP
The world is your Mu Li (oyster) when it comes to what you can do with your acupuncture skills. Just ask Emperor’s College graduates and founders of One World Health Project Sarah Nargiso and Meghan Miller. In September, Sarah and Meghan lead a group of acupuncturists and clinical level students to Sri Lanka and India on their fourth international medical mission to treat those affected by poverty, disability and inadequate healthcare access. I got a chance to sit down with participant and 2012 Emperor’s College alumni, Maureen Alexander to dish about her experience.
Tell me about where you went, what you did and who you worked with:
We spent a week in Kandy, Sri Lanka and a week in Mumbai, India. While we were there we worked in jungle villages and local clinics to treat all sorts of local people; many of the patients suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and pain. We treated stroke victims, patients with HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
In addition to our relief work, we spent time working with Open University in Columbo where Sarah and Meghan led courses on auricular acupuncture for local healthcare providers such as physical therapists and nurses. Auricular acupuncture is a safe and effective way for these non-formally trained practitioners to help treat patients. One of the goals of the mission was to develop protocols for establishing clinics to sustain our work after we left.
How has this experience changed your view or practice of this medicine?
I got great experience purely through the volume of patients we had to see. Some days there would be 80 people who would come to us for treatments and with only three acupuncturists available, we were definitely busy.
I had never realized just how reliant my diagnoses and treatments were on my patients’ ability to explain their conditions in specific detail. Although we had translators available, the language barrier forced me to rethink my methods – I had to rely on palpation and intuition to fill in the gaps. It improved my non-verbal communication tremendously and taught me to really watch my patients’ faces for feedback.
We also got exposure to other traveling volunteers – mainly from Europe. It was really interesting to see and compare their style and methods to our own; their tactics were more aggressive, and they did more freehand needling as opposed to using guide tubes.
Why do you think this type of medical mission work is important?
I really believe that every acupuncturist should be donating something and giving back in some way – it just aligns with the mentality of this medicine. It was an incredible experience all around. The people were so open and receptive, even though many of them had never been exposed to acupuncture before. The people were innately inclined to try to please us, no matter how intense the treatment needed to be to help them they were thankful and gracious.
Emperor’s College Passport Stamp
If you would like to follow in the footsteps of these world-traveling Emperor’s College alums, you don’t have to wait until you graduate. In fact, Sarah and Meghan not only allow clinical intern level students, it was here at Emperor’s College where they got the inspiration to found OWHP – like we said, the world is your Mu Li here! If starting your own NPO sounds ambitious, and you simply want to travel the world instead, here’s how: email Sarah to receive information on annual upcoming missions and local fundraisers for OWHP.