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Graduate Profile of Katie Walker, MS, MAOM, LAc

  1. Date of graduation: August 2013
  2. Full-time or part-time practice: Full-time
  3. Current practice setting: I work part-time in a neurosurgical office treating spinal injuries on the Norwood Hospital campus in Norwood, MA, and I work part-time at the Massachusetts General Hospital Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, where my team conducts acupuncture research using fMRI to observe changes in the brain with acupuncture.
  4. Areas of practice specialization:
    • Type of patients:My patients at Norwood Hospital are predominantly Worker's Compensation cases, and tend to be people who have sustained serious spinal injuries from accidents while on the job. I treat a lot of construction and utility workers, truck drivers, postal workers, and nurses-generally those whose professions require a high degree of hands-on work or heavy lifting that puts them at risk for spinal injuries. For most patients, my treatments are their first exposure to acupuncture, and so I spend a lot of my time educating about how acupuncture works and fits into their pain management and recovery strategy.
    • Type of therapy used: I work in a very fast-paced environment at Norwood Hospital, so I tend to do more Chinese-style acupuncture, although occasionally I will use Japanese techniques. Generally, I find Chinese-style works better for me timing-wise. I also often use a combination of electroacupuncture, sliding cupping, and massage to specifically target pain and tension for these patients.
    • Principal conditions treated: Back and neck pain with radiculopathy due to spinal fracture, sprain, disc degeneration or protrusion, sacroiliac joint pain, spondylosis, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, as well as symptoms of concussions and traumatic brain injury, plus post-surgical pain management. I also treat a lot of stress, anxiety, sleep issues, smoking addiction, and medication-related side effects, including upper and lower gastrointestinal issues
  5. Postgraduate Education:I received a Masters of Science from Tufts University School of Medicine in Pain Research, Education, and Policy in 2014. This education provided me with an in-depth understanding of the physiological, sociological, and psychological aspects of chronic pain, as well as the public health issues surrounding these conditions. I currently serve as an adjunct instructor in this program, consulting with students on their Capstone projects, and co-teaching a Medical Acupuncture course.
  6. Most rewarding aspect of practice: I love working in an integrative environment with a surgeon who places a high value on improving not only the pain levels of patients, but also their quality of life. Many of my patientsí lives have been turned completely upside-down after sustaining their injuries, from loss of functional mobility resulting in both physical and mental distress, to the realization that their livelihoods are now at the whim of lawyers and insurance companies. The stress and emotional turmoil is palpable. It is so rewarding to introduce people to a medicine that not only has the ability to mitigate pain and enhance mobility, but can also reduce stress, anxiety, sleep difficulties, reliance upon medications, and a myriad of other symptoms that accompany their injuries. Acupuncture treatments give my patients a glimpse into their pre-injury life and a glimmer of hope that it can be possible to manage their pain and enjoy life again.

    At the Massachusetts General Hospital Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, I feel incredibly honored to be involved in research that is investigating the mechanisms behind our medicine and underscores to the scientific community that our acupuncture needles are having real, biological, neurological, and physiological effects that enhance the ability of our bodies to heal themselves. It is phenomenal to be a part of a team that is pushing not only acupuncture research forward, but also uncovering a deeper understanding of how the human body functions.
  7. Most essential tips for other graduates desiring to establish a successful practice: It entirely depends upon what your goals are. If you are interested in working in integrative medicine, my advice is to create and foster connections-with your professors, school administrators, people whom you meet at health fairs, conferences, or speaking engagements. You never know where a short conversation or quick introduction might lead. I knew before entering NESA that I wanted to work in integrative medicine and acupuncture research, so I always kept that goal in mind throughout my education; I would go out of my way to find opportunities that gave me more experience in integrative and collaborative settings. I also highly encourage those interested in integrative medicine to continue seeking education in both Eastern and Western modalities, because both medical approaches have a lot to offer patients. It is easy to become caught up in the ideals of what we do because it is effective on so many levels, but sometimes we need a well-rounded approach to patient care that involves multiple disciplines and points of view.

Katie Walker is a 2013 graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture, a CCAOM member institution. For a list of all CCAOM member colleges see state list.