June 13, 2017
Graduation is such a special day for all those who have given the last many years of their lives to studying Asian medicine. A sweet celebration of all the triumphs over the challenges, the many hours of dedication to the medicine, the deep bonds between peers, mentors and the web of support that all students need to make it through the gauntlet of graduate school.
Many came out to commemorate the accomplishment at this year’s graduation ceremony at the Grandview Pavilion in Alameda on Sunday, June 4, 2017. The ceremony told the story of what it is like to conquer the masters’ program, the love story with the medicine and the growth that is necessary to step into the role of practitioner. As needed with any arduous task there were many moments of humor, from creating fictitious relations of graduating student Barbara Hammer to the Bay Area’s own MC Hammer, equating of AIMC Berkeley to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and the overall sense of joy found at completion of any task.
The ceremony began with the precession of a majority of the 24 students graduating throughout the year. Mike Morgan, MSTCM, LAC, DiplOM, Clinic Director, gave the opening remarks and was the Master of Ceremonies. Nishanga Bliss, D.Sc., MSTCM, LAc, Academic Chair, Dennis von Elgg, MSOM, LAc and David Caruso Radin, MSOM, LAc as well as Suzannah Stason, MS, LAc were all in attendance.
“Going to graduation gets us in touch with our purpose as teachers,” said Nishanga who also read the Acupuncturist’s Oath at the ceremony. “It’s very inspiring to see the students we’ve nurtured reach this milestone. It feels refreshing and rejuvenating. I make it a point to go every year.”
Suzannah, the school’s medical qi gong instructor, provided the benediction, which included an I-Ching reading for the class and ended with a heart-connecting visualization. The reading was Hexagram III, difficulty in the beginning. Suzannah reflected that in fact this is a very auspicious hexagram, a continued theme of triumph over challenges. The ceremony overall held the acknowledgment that the challenges of life are not over with graduation but as Dennis von Elgg, the faculty speaker, shared in his speech, all students decided to take this path, full well knowing that it is not supposed to be a path of becoming a lawyer or a dentist but that students chose this path so that they could be creative and free. “You are giving your essence, your jing, as we say, giving a part of yourself to your patients,” he said. “These people now stand tall with their patients.” Dennis provided the inspiration of the Chinese herbal formula, Xiao Yao San, translated as “the Free and Easy Wanderer” to help guide the graduating class as they navigate next steps with flexibility.
“I love graduation,” said Karen Villaneuva, a student at AIMC Berkeley and a Level II clinic intern, who volunteered at the ceremony. “This is the second year in a row that I have volunteered to help out. It’s great to see everyone decked out in their finery, and all the speeches are inspirational and heartfelt. I always get a little choked up with the recitation of the Acupuncturist’s Oath. I love bearing witness to such a special time, and I am most definitely looking forward to participating in my own graduation next year.”
Student speakers, Barbara Hammer, Katie Gieschen Keville and Autumn Ross spoke about their unique reflections of their school experience and marked the passage of time with reference to the growth that the medicine has brought to their life and those around them.
Barbara Hammer concluded her speech with the acknowledgment that the class is now in the apprenticeship stage, they know a little more than fools, as the saying goes but the key is to rely on the wisdom of the medicine, on the knowledge in the classics and the ancients that studied them. She gleamed wisdom from her family member, Leon Hammer, the Shen Hammer diagnostic pulse method, that when you feel led astray as the class ventures out on their own, always come back to the teachings of the medicine and it will lead you to the right place.