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WHAT’S THE ACUPUNCTURE BOARD?

By Selah Chamberlain, BAOM Chair

The Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is our regulatory board.  It is part of “Boards and Commissions” within the Regulation and Licensing Department.   Its duties are to set and enforce the rules within which we practice, and these have to be within the guidelines laid down in the law or statute that establishes us as a profession and defines what we do.

The board is required to meet at least once a year, but has usually met at least twice a year.  In normal times the meetings have alternated between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but this past year Covid has driven us online—the Department provides the Webex platform.

WHO’S ON THE BOARD?

By law there should be four professional members (who can’t be part of a school), and three public members (who can’t be DOMs or part of a DOM-related organization—they can be people who have had acupuncture or herbs, or people interested in oriental medicine.  In the past, public members have been teachers, pharmacists, members of non-profits, or just regular people interested in the profession and willing to help it out.  Members are appointed for three-year terms, and can’t be appointed for more than two consecutive terms.

To be a professional member of the board, a DOM must have lived and practiced legally in the state for five years.

Someone can nominate themselves or someone else by writing to the Governor, and will need at least two references—the more support the better.

Currently there seem to be 3 public member positions open on The Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and there are 2 professional members whose terms have expired or are about to expire.

WHAT DO BOARD MEMBERS DO?

As stated above, the board has to meet at least once a year, but usually meets at least twice a year.  When we could meet in person, the meetings alternated between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but this past year they’ve been online—we’ll see what happens when real-life meetings become possible again.  The meetings usually last at least for a morning, though they can sometimes last longer. (When something comes up like a change in the rules governing the profession, there has to be a Rules Hearing open to lots of public comment, followed by a regular meeting where the changes are either adopted or rejected, and those meetings can sometimes last all day.)  There are minor per diem and travel compensation payments—not as much as you would make seeing patients all during the meeting times, but something.

In addition, there are committees:  being a member of the Licensing Committee, for instance, involves going over licensing applications with the board administrator to be sure all the rules are followed so the applicant is really qualified; being a member of the Rules Committee involves looking at proposed changes to the rules about what is and isn’t allowed, and how things have to be done, and then being able to understand and write the kind of language that makes legal sense of all that, as well as being willing and able to explain it to everybody else.

WHAT DOES BEING ON THE BOARD REQUIRE?

It doesn’t require a lot of time, but it does require a fair amount of patience, and willingness to go through things step by step.  Sometimes people are frustrated when things don’t just happen as they expect they should, and they can express their impatience to the board and its members.  This can happen when the Department of Regulation and Licensing has its own bureaucratic procedures that don’t take individual boards or professionals into account, sometimes when there are human mistakes within the Department (once several years ago a new employee gave drastically wrong advice to an applicant which resulted in that person selling their practice and moving to a new country, only to find they couldn’t get a license in their new home), sometimes the rules and laws are not what a person expects or wants but they have to be followed anyway, and sometimes the procedures are so nit-picking the person loses patience and has to take it out on somebody.  As with patients who are having a difficult time, this means board members might have to have an extra dose of understanding and a willingness to help applicants or complainants through their processes.

There also needs to be clarity about what a board can and cannot do, as well as what our profession is and isn’t.  Also, the board doesn’t make the law, it only interprets and enforces is.  The board can change rules, but that’s usually a process that takes a year or more.  That’s why patience is needed, and the determination to get things right.

WHY BE ON THE BOARD?

The board’s main mission is to protect the public.  In order to do that, it has to protect the profession from ill-trained, irresponsible, and incompetent practitioners.  In other words, it also has to protect the profession.  It doesn’t promote the profession, and it doesn’t change the law.  What it does do is make as sure as it can that the law works, and that the profession’s members embody our potential as well as competent professionals can.

Note: NMSAAM and BAOM are not the same organization. NMSAAM does not issue DOM licenses or give BAOM exams.

This article expresses the opinions and expertise of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of NMSAAM, the NMSAAM BOD, or the ASA.