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Graduate Profile of Philip Settels, L.Ac.

  1. Date of graduation: Fall, 2011
  2. Full-time or part-time practice: Full-time Chinese Medicine (part-time clinical, part-time teaching, part-time administrative).
  3. Current practice setting:
    • Lake Merritt Community Acupuncture, Oakland, CA
    • Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences (ACCHS), Oakland, CA, where I teach in the Herbology Department, coordinate the upcoming doctorate program (DAOM), and treat patients in the Faculty Clinic.
    • Octagon Community Acupuncture, Oakland, CA
  4. Areas of practice specialization:
    • Type of patients: The San Francisco Bay Area is very diverse and I treat a broad spectrum of patients, including low income patients, students, seniors, business owners, and tech employees in the downtown area.
    • Type of therapy used: I treat patients using primarily acupuncture and herbal medicine. For pain conditions, I use local, anatomically-influenced acupuncture, and traditional distal acupuncture methods such as Master Tung, Classical Yuan Qi Acupuncture, etc. In treating internal medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, digestive issues, etc., I primarily use Chinese herbal medicine.
    • Principal conditions treated: I treat a combination of pain and conditions relating to internal medicine.
  5. Postgraduate Education: I have obtained certification in: (1) Classical Herbalism from the Institute of Canonical East Asian Medicine, taught by Dr. Arnaud Versluys; and (2) Acupuncture Orthopedic and Sports Medicine from the Acupuncture Sports Medicine Apprenticeship Program, taught by Whitfield Reaves. I am also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Classical Formulas from the Nanjing University of TCM (NJUTCM).
  6. Most rewarding aspect of practice: Many of our patients come to us as a last resort. Their conditions are thus often chronic and difficult, and have persisted despite other approaches. Furthermore, a patient often presents with many different symptoms or conditions, which have always been seen as distinct disease processes. To be able to use Chinese medical principles in creating a narrative that explains what a patient is experiencing, and to be able to communicate that to a patient in simple terms, is very satisfying. Even more satisfying is to witness a patient's health improve with inexpensive, natural medicine, which allows them to leave your office feeling better than when they came in. This reinforces the idea that Chinese Medicine should be tried as a first approach, rather than a last resort medicine.
  7. Most essential tips for other graduates desiring to establish a successful practice:

    Don't expect opportunities to fall in your lap:
    Chinese Medicine is not a field in which graduates can simply focus on their academic studies, and await job offers upon graduation. Being pro-active, meeting local practitioners, interning, getting experience and learning what types of clinical settings you would like to work in (and what types of settings you would NOT like to work in) pays dividends. There are plenty of opportunities, but they have to be created rather than being offered.

    Don't wait to get inspired for deeper learning:
    Also, don't wait until after you're finished your schooling to explore specific areas of the medicine that appeal to you. Delving into Shanghan Lun herbal theory, or Master Tung acupuncture, or any other style that may not be emphasized in the Master's program, will keep you motivated and engaged, and also provide you with a certain amount of confidence which is critical when you first start to practice.

    What to learn first:
    There are some areas of study that provide you a leg up clinically, and also serve to reinforce your foundation for future learning. These include:
    • For acupuncture, learn to treat pain well, using both local (anatomically-based) and distal (channel-based, homologous relationships, etc.) systems. I recommend looking into courses and books by Whitfield Reaves, Anthony Von der Muhll, and training with Henry McCann, Robert Chu, Brad Whisnant, etc.
    • For herbology, there is a lot to be said about choosing a particular style and going in depth, rather than learning all styles shallowly. There are many excellent Shanghan Lun teachers, including Dr. Arnaud Versluys, Dr. Suzanne Robidoux, Dr. Huang Huang, Stephen Boyanton, etc.
    Don't ignore the practice management fundamentals:
    Lastly, maintain some balance in your skills (acupuncture and herbal), your marketing (self-promotion), and the development of your clinical capacity (how fast you can work, how many rooms you have at your disposal, etc.) so that you're not a busy but inept practitioner, or a brilliant theorist with no patients, or a sought-after doctor with a 2-month waiting list because you have a one-room clinic. Anthony Von der Muhll has a great course in creating and maintaining a practice with integrity.

Philip Settels is a 2011 graduate of the Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences, a CCAOM member institution. For a list of all CCAOM member colleges, see the state list.