Acupuncturist's education gets straight to the point

April 23, 2013 - 9:54pm

Her school supplies were glass cups, dried mugwort, three-thousand-year-old textbooks and, of course, needles.

“It kind of reminded me of the Hogwarts School, only because it was all these really ancient things,” Mary Ann Petersen says of her first impression of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, where she studied for her career as an acupuncturist.

Today, Petersen is the resident acupuncturist at the University of Oregon’s Student Health Center. Since joining the Health Center’s Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine department in January, she has seen patients for everything from headaches and knee pain to allergies and acne.

Most people don’t realize the range of maladies that acupuncture can treat, Petersen says. Along with the predictable pains that she sees in her office, such as soreness and strained muscles, Petersen enjoys pursuing other kinds of healing through acupuncture.

“Another thing I treat is PTSD, and that is fairly new to everyone’s awareness,” she says. “A lot of it is just involving calming the heart, because the heart is the organ that’s associated a lot with PTSD.”

Other misperceptions surround the world of acupuncture – the most signficant of which, Petersen says, is that it has to do with magic. “Do you have to believe?” is a common question from first-time patients.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Petersen says. “I always remind people that acupuncture is used with animals, and with seemingly good results. I don’t think animals have opinions about acupuncture and whether it works.”

Students can schedule a 45-minute appointment with Petersen, in which she and the patient will determine the issue at hand and develop a plan for effective treatment. Though Petersen mainly performs acupuncture, she may also use acupressure, which, like acupuncture, targets specific “acupoints” along channels in the body. These points are connected to various organs and yield certain results when stimulated.

Petersen has worked in a handful of other acupuncturist positions, but is pleased to now have what she calls her dream job: working with students.

“What I enjoy a lot about my patients here is their youthful enthusiasm,” she says. “It’s really an honor for me to be able to introduce this to many people. For me, that’s very satisfying.”

- by Dillon Pilorget, UO Office of Strategic Communications intern