Post Yo San Life

Now that I have completed this four year master’s program, passed all of my licensing exams, can officially call myself an L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist) and had a graduation trip to China, it is time to figure out the next step in my journey. Many of my friends who just passed the CALE are starting their own businesses, and it’s exciting to see them launch websites and open practices. When first finishing acupuncture school, my understanding is that most graduates start small by taking private clients and/or renting a room from another healthcare professional such as a chiropractor, an MD, another acupuncturist, etc. There are a few places that will hire acupuncturists as employees, however these opportunities are not very common.

I am still in my planning stage, but am gathering ideas about where I might like to set down my acupuncture roots. I will keep you posted as I make progress in this arena!

One thing that I have done in this lull is take advantage of having the time to relax and take a few trips. My husband and I got away from LA for a week by taking a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. It was so nice to get out of the city and revel in a beautiful setting for a few days.

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It took us about eight hours by car to get to the Grand Canyon. We arrived in time to experience the sunset. 

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Beautiful Sedona, famous for the red rocks. It was only a two hour drive from the Grand Canyon.

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TCM China Trip: Beguiling Beijing

When I first heard that Dr. Zheng, one of our teachers at Yo San, annually takes a group of students to Beijing to observe the use of acupuncture in a Chinese hospital setting, I knew I wanted to go. In previous years I have had some friends that have gone with him and loved it. I was so curious to see how Chinese Medicine is practiced in its country of origin. I decided to make it an educational as well as celebratory graduation trip.

We were there for a total of two weeks. Each weekday we went in the morning to do observation in one of several hospitals in different departments. We were divided up in to groups and had a translator who specializes in translating Chinese Medicine concepts between Chinese and English. I was interested to learn that this is actually a major, and the translators have to learn everything about Chinese Medicine theory and points and herbs, etc, but they don’t practice, they just facilitate communication.

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My observation group consisting of me, Pei-Jen, Jenny, and our translator Christine in front of the Chinese Hospital of Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

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Pei-Jen in the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialty Clinic at Tong Ren Hospital. One doctor was treating all of the patients in this room, which had at least eight beds in it, and a few in the next room as well. I was impressed with the volume of patients that one doctor is able to see, making acupuncture a very cost effective treatment. Additionally, most patients are instructed to come at least two to three times a week, so the doctors are kept very busy.

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Making formulas in the Herb Lab.

In the afternoon after lunch, we had lectures on different topics in Chinese Medicine ranging from healthy aging, to treating cancer, orthopedics, dermatology, fertility, and an interesting microsystem based on needling only the diagram of a turtle drawn on the abdomen.


Our afternoon lecture classroom. There is Christine at the front translating for us.

In the evening we either had free time to explore, or a planned group activity. One night we ventured out to the Silk Market, which is a large building filled with shops primarily for tourists where you can bargain for your purchases. It turns out that I am terrible at bargaining, and intimidated by the extremely aggressive sales people, so after my first foray into buying something, I just window shopped. Others in my group loved the bargaining, and came back to the Silk Market many times to buy souvenirs. I enlisted them to make a few purchases for me.

Another night we ventured to an area called Wangfujing, which had shopping as well as a small side street filled with street vendors with what was to me, unusual food items. If you have ever wanted to try scorpion, grub, grasshopper, starfish, seahorse or tarantula kabobs, then this is your destination. Alas I am not brave enough to eat scorpion on a stick, but Pei-Jen immediately purchased and consumed one, declaring it delicious. Scorpion, or Quan Xie, is actually a Chinese herb by the way, good for pain and expelling wind.


Pei-Jen, scorpion connoisseur.

Other weeknight activities included a Kung Fu Show, as well as a Chinese Acrobatic show which I especially enjoyed. On the weekend we went sightseeing and took in the Great Wall, the Jade Museum, the Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square. I love jade, and had decided that I would splurge on a jade bracelet while there, since I have no idea when I will be back. Jade is a precious and beloved stone in China, and it is said to have properties of improving the health of the wearer, even changing colors as it does so. Although I don’t like bargaining, Pei-Jen and I were able to orchestrate a discount because we both purchased one at the Jade Museum. Actually she arranged it because she speaks Chinese and I don’t, and I was very happy that it worked out.

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Our Jade Bracelets in the Forbidden City.

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Pei-Jen, our translator Frank, Kia, me and Jenny at the Great Wall. Climbing up to this point was quite a workout! It was pretty smoggy, so we felt right at home.

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Pei-Jen and Donica at the Summer Palace.

It was a wonderful trip. I learned so much and was inspired to see the range of conditions that Chinese Medicine is able to successfully treat on a large scale, and it was fun to have this unique experience with a group of my Yo San classmates. It had always been a goal of mine to visit China, and this was a fantastic way to do it. If you are a TCM student and considering going, you should definitely do it! This trip also gives 50 CEU credits for licensed acupuncturists, so it is something that you can do even if you are finished with school.

I Got the Yellow Letter!

That’s CALE speak for “I passed the California Acupuncture Board exam!” Studying for the CALE (California Acupuncture Licensing Exam) has been the intense main focus of my life for the past four months (not to mention the previous four years of school before that), and it is such a relief to find out that all of my hard work has paid off. I almost don’t know what to do with myself now, although I can think of a few dozen things that I have been putting off doing that I’d better get started on.



So we graduated! Four years ago, I began this program knowing only that I thought Chinese Medicine was pretty cool, and having no idea what I was getting myself into. Now I have definitive proof that Chinese Medicine is more than just cool, and I have a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (MATCM) to prove it.

A highlight of the ceremony was the speakers. My friend and CALE study-buddy Mary gave the speech for our class, and we chose David Cohen as our faculty speaker. He was one of my favorite and most inspiring teachers at Yo San, and the one who introduced me and many of my classmates to Chinese Medicine Theory in our Intro Theory Level One, Two and Three classes. He was like our TCM Papa who taught us to have great respect for the medicine, and for our path as healers. It felt very appropriate to have him there with us in this step of completion.

Drs. Daoshing Ni and Maoshing Ni, the founders of Yo San were also there, along with administration and faculty who have been with us over the past four years. It was a moving ceremony, and quite surreal in the fact that it was hard for all of us to wrap our minds around the fact that our Yo San lives are over. We will always have our friends and the knowledge that we gained there, but Yo San as a part of our daily lives is in the past now.

During the ceremony, I had a pleasant surprise when they called my name. Apparently I got “With Honors,” which means that I had the second highest GPA in my class. My friend Jessie who got “With Highest Honors” is a true smarty, so felt pretty happy with my place. After the ceremony, there was a reception at the Skirball Center, and then I went with my family to Viet Noodle Bar for dinner. Their Ginger Fish Noodle Soup is the best! My husband surprised me after dinner with champagne and my favorite Sour Cherry Pie for dessert.

After all of the activity of the day, I went home to finish packing, because I had a plane to catch at midnight. And where should a newly graduated Chinese Medicine student go on the night of her graduation? To China of course! And that is a blog for another day.

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Happy Yo San Grads.

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Phillip, our teacher and faculty speaker David Cohen, Katie and me.

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Members of administration and faculty.
photo 4After the ceremony with my handsome hubby Jarrod.

The CALE Experience

If only I were referencing some kind of event where you eat a bunch of cruciferous leafy greens! However I am not speaking of Kale, but the CALE (California Acupuncture Licensing Exam,) which requires a bit more preparation than an all-you-can-eat veggie buffet. This year it was on Tuesday March 3rd, in Pasadena. Although I only live about 35 minutes from Pasadena with no traffic, morning traffic could add up to an hour to that time, so I decided that it would be best if I stayed at a hotel at the convention center. That way I would get a good night of sleep, and not have to deal with any extra stress regarding traffic or parking the morning of the test.

The morning of I received some good luck texts from friends, as well as our Assistant Academic Dean Matt. My study-buddy Mary and I planned to meet up outside the entrance before we went in. While outside we saw Sally, who is another Assistant Academic Dean at Yo San, who had come to wish us luck. Sally had snacks and offered to hold things that we couldn’t take inside with us, as they are pretty strict about what you can take in with you. Getting inside the testing area is a bit of a process. You are allowed to bring in only certain items such as chapstick, eyedrops, and feminine products in a clear plastic bag, and everyone has to walk through metal detectors. It was very TSA-like.

Once we got inside, everyone was assigned to a specific seating area. I would estimate that there were about 400 people taking the test in the room that day. Everyone had a nervous edge. My friend Ellen got to take the test in a different room where there are less people and there is more flexibility with the schedule because she was breastfeeding and needed extra time to pump, and she said that most of the other people in her area were pregnant.

After the morning session, by the time I was excused to leave my seat and exit the building, I had about 30 minutes to go eat lunch before we had to come back for the afternoon session. Luckily, Allied Professionals Insurance Company provided a tasty and healthy lunch for all of the test takers, so I quickly gobbled down some food before it was time to go back for round two.

The test was difficult, and there were many items that I didn’t know or had to guess on. However, I tried to calm myself with the remembrance that of the 200 questions I answered, 25 of them were “Experimental pre-test questions” and don’t count towards our final score. By the time I left the test, I was mentally exhausted and ready to be done. When I regrouped with my fellow Yo San test takers at Mary’s house for post-CALE decompression gathering, the general consensus was that the test was difficult, but we felt that there was a good amount of fair questions as well. Time will tell whether our assessment is accurate. For now, I am simply going to enjoy the fact that I don’t have to study anymore! Fingers crossed.

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Phillip, Mary, me, and Andrea on our break. Lunch was catered by Allied Professionals Insurance Company, the company of one of our Yo San Instructors for Law and Ethics, Marilyn 2When we exited the test, some Insurance, Acupuncture supply, and Herbal company representatives were waiting for us with packets and goodie bags.

Studying for the Big One

Right now it’s all about the CALE (California Acupuncture Licensing Exam). It is the biggest test that lies before me. At this point in my career as a grad student, I have become somewhat of a veteran at test taking. And usually I do fine. I have even passed a few of the National Licensing Exam Modules (NCCAOM) tests, which you can schedule at your convenience at a nearby testing center.

However, the California State Board is only offered twice a year, and it is known to be a very difficult exam. For August 2014, the overall statewide pass rate was 55%, and for February 2014, it was 49%. The worst that I know of occurred a few years back in August of 2012 and the pass rate was 38%. So you can see that studying for such an exam might be a bit anxiety provoking.

I have picked the brains of many students who have gone before me, and the main advice that I have heard is that if you put in the time, you will pass, but the studying process is grueling and by the end you will feel exhausted and braindead. At the beginning I didn’t believe it because I thought “I’ve been studying this stuff for four years, how could the test be so difficult? Plus I’ve already passed some of my National exams. I’ll be fine if I just put in the time.” But the truth is that school studying and what you learn clinically, and they things that they like to test on don’t always overlap as neatly as you would hope. For example, in clinic we were exposed to a lot of different supervisors who had different styles and preferences for choosing treatment points, but for the CALE, the options are limited to what a few textbooks say, and if you don’t know those cold, you won’t be able to answer correctly.

So my study strategy consists of the following:

1. TCM Review with Bina Jangada. This is an online review course that is very helpful to structure my studies. Bina helps point us in the right directions as far as where we should be focusing our energies, and she is a great motivator, telling us that we can do it, and that we can study 10-12 hours a day! To be honest, I don’t think I ever go beyond 8-9 hours a day. Beyond that, I get extremely loopy.

2. Study twice a week with my study buddy Mary. She is also enrolled in TCM Review, so we can review the week’s material together. She lives across town, so we meet a lot in Griffith Park to study. Our usual routine is we meet there at the Trails Cafe, study for a while, get an avocado sandwich and a slice of pie to share, then go on a one hour hike with flashcards and review something that we looked at earlier. Mary makes great flashcards. And she also makes great bread, which she had gotten me addicted to, but that is another story.

3. Occasionally Skype-study with Ellen while her nanny was watching Flora. I was surprised to find that I like this method, but it was great because you have the benefit of studying with someone, but you don’t have to travel.

4. Study by myself the rest of the time, including time spent reading, making and studying flashcards, listening to recordings of myself reviewing material, listening to Tunes on Tangs formula songs, and my own musical creations that I wrote to help memorize lists of things.

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The view from our flashcard hikes in Griffith 2 (1)

Our typical study 1Mary huffing rosemary essential oil. Rosemary is supposed to be good to enhance memory, and we want all of the help we can get.

Yo San Baby

My friend Ellen did the most miraculous thing. No, not just the fact that she had a baby, although that is pretty amazing. What I can’t believe is that she managed to get pregnant while in school, finish all of her classes and clinic shifts early, pass her Grad Exam, and then give birth to a beautiful baby girl! Personally I feel like it was great feat for me to finish everything and graduate on time, but I can’t imagine doing it while pregnant and preparing to have a little one.

Perhaps getting acupuncture helped? I had the privilege of treating Ellen in the school clinic especially during her last trimester. She responded really well to the treatments for most of the discomfort that came up with the pregnancy, and I felt lucky to be able to see first hand the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy. There are some special points that are contraindicated during pregnancy, so of course we avoided those. If you are pregnant and going to get a treatment, you should always inform your acupuncturist for this reason.

I should mention that as healthcare providers, acupuncturists can not disclose any information about who they are treating, but Ellen gave me permission to post about her on my blog as I have done so over the past four years of school, and she wants people to know that acupuncture works well during pregnancy.

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Ellen relaxing while getting a prenatal treatment at the Yo San Clinic.

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Healthy and happy sweet baby Flora!