Thursday, February 07, 2008

Woman seeks to become first blind acupuncturist in Texas

In Austin, Texas, Juliana Cumbo is being presented an interesting case as she attempts to get licensed to practice acupuncture. This will be her second time to attempt licensure after failing to receive it in October. She currently practices as a graduate intern, has earned a Masters degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, and has passed the national board exams.

What’s the problem, you ask?

Cumbo is blind and the licensure committee of the state board of acupuncture examiners doesn’t think she should be able to practice. In October, the state licensing board cited protecting the public as one of the reasons they had denied her request.

That goes against the beliefs of the president of the academy where Cumbo studied, as well as several of her teachers. Cumbo has modified her technique so that she, “is now better at finding acupuncture points than many students who can see,” according to the president.

If successful and she is approved, Cumbo will be the first blind acupuncturist in Texas. The Lone Star State isn’t alone in not having any blind acupuncturists, though. According to the article in the
Austin American Statesman,
Cumbo’s attorney only found three others in the United States.

While the committee cites protecting the public as their intention, they will be going against established practice in Japan, where more than 30% of the acupuncturists are blind.

The latest update about Cumbo is that the committee met last Friday and showed some insight. Instead of refusing Cumbo’s request outright, they voted to have
two neutral observers evaluate her skills
while she examines two patients, one male and one female. That evaluation will be done within six months and the observers, a physician and an acupuncturist, will report back to the committee.

Go get ‘em, Juliana.


Darrell said...

The thing that really chaps me about discrimination is that it is done to us often based only on stereotypes, without any real research. Why would this committee discriminate against Juliana here when 30 percent of practitioners in Japan are blind? One of the things I'm really starting to do in my advocacy is that, whenever someone wants to discriminate against us, I'm asking them to do one simple thing. Prove it. If they can't prove, through imperical research, that the discrimination is valid, then they must work with us. The issue is still that most people believe that discriminating against or excluding us outright remains the path of least resistance. Most want to take that path. If we in the blind community can effectively demonstrate over and over again that exclusion isn't the easiest path, that we won't just go away, then I'm sure we would find lots less discrimination.

Ron Graham said...

Thanks for your comment. I always appreciate your take on things.

I agree with you. I think the committee is completely ignoring the evidentiary support that the 30% of Japanese acupuncturists who are blind represents. That is going to be difficult to refute, and I think that the 30% is a statistical representation that Juliana should make a point to bring up during conversations with her two observers. While she may be a trailblazer in Texas, she is not the first to do this, and the committee should consider the global precedent which has already been set.

Phyllis said...

As an acupuncture student, I need to disagree with you. Japanese acupuncture is a completely different style of acupuncture compared to Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture, which is what she learned. Japanese acupuncture features insertions of 2mm or no insertions at all! And, all needles are not retained. I would have no problem with her practicing, if there were a way to restrict her practice to the Japanese form, but this system does not currently exist. Also, her claim to have taken a class in japan does not qualify her to practice Japanese acupuncture anyway. The apprenticeship in Japan lasts 1-3 years and sometimes as long as ten. And no acupuncture school in Austin teaches these techniques. I then she should push for specialization in different forms of acupuncture.
Chinese acupuncture can involve insertions of 4-6 inches and includes intense needle stimulation. Though she may promise to not practice this way, there is no way to ensure that she isn't once you give her a license.

Blind acupuncturists have made great contributions in Japan, but until that form is differentiated from the Chinese style, I think she should not practice.

Ron Graham said...


Thank you so much for that enlightened insight. I think that most people, like myself, who have no background in acupuncture, are totally unaware in the differentiations of which you speak.

You bring an obviously knowledgeable and heightened perspective to this discussion and I appreciate your input. I would also think the evaluators will be knowledgeable of this when they review Juliana’s work.

Thanks again.