January 6, 2021
At Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College (AIMC), Berkeley, we provide an integrative approach to medicine by combining Eastern and Western practices in our didactic curriculum and clinical internships. In this supportive, collaborative culture, our students can prepare to become professional practitioners and achieve their goals in the healing arts.
AIMC graduates have gone on to do great things in the field of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Many have opened their own successful private practices. Sydney Malawer is one of those examples. Despite the coronavirus pandemic and consistent shutdowns in the state of California, she’s been able to open a successful private practice in the Bay Area.
After completing her studies in late 2019, Sydney took the California Acupuncture Licensing Examination (CALE) in February 2020 and opened her own practice in March 2020. Her in-person practice was closed from March 15th through mid-May because of the pandemic, but during that time she offered telehealth appointments. When she opened again in May/June, things were slow, Sydney was only seeing between four and six clients per week. However, it wouldn’t take long for things to start picking up.
Building a Steady Client-Base
With patients coming from current patient referrals, Next Door, referrals from the former tenant of the space she rented, and of course, Google searches, Sydney is now up to 20 appointments per week.
“With starting a practice you’ll find that the universe brings you gifts to take advantage of,” she says. “ [On June 15th, 2020, I] moved into space where an acupuncturist worked for years, that person went on sabbatical because of COVID [and ended up retiring]. She referred patients to me and the other practitioners in the building.”
She also noted that her experience as a Clinic Intern Practitioner was another factor of her current success. “Two people followed me from the AIMC student clinic to my professional career,” she says. “The clinic is a great way to build your clientele during school, if you put the work in you can get a lot of clients and be extremely successful.”
Sydney’s School Experience
As a student at AIMC, Sydney was proactive about creating an experience that would prepare her for her future career. This meant learning as much as she could on her own through research and practice. However, perhaps more importantly, it meant knowing where and when to seek guidance and ask for help.
“I was adamant about conferring with great minds. I had really great supervisors and met my [Japanese Acupuncture] mentor, Barbara Martello, through school,” she says. “I’m grateful I had supervisors who pushed me and also those who gave me boundaries. The teachers who supported me gave me a safe space to test things out. I felt very competent as a practitioner leaving school because of this. I knew enough to help patients but also knew here to look for answers when I didn’t. I see competence as knowing where to look for answers and information. Being a practitioner is about growth.”
Practice Focus Areas
At Sydney’s clinic, she focuses mostly on treating chronic auto-immune conditions. “I love a challenge. Give me a weird case that no one can figure out,” Sydney says. “[There are so] many benefits and challenges of a case that takes several months to work out.”
As a professional practitioner, Sydney has seen patients with the following conditions:
- Psoriasis & Psoriatic Arthritis
- Body and Joint Pain
- GERD/Acid Reflux
- Plantar Fasciitis
To provide the patient with the best care possible, Sydney collaborates with their Western physicians to make sure that none of her treatments will counteract their Western treatment plan. This type of collaboration between Western doctors and Eastern medicine practitioners is exactly what we push in our curriculum.
“You have to be really careful not to over-treat or give the wrong treatment to patients with autoimmune conditions,” she says. “In school, you have a set treatment plan, but in real life, you can deviate from that plan. Each patient is unique, and with each treatment I learn more about the level and type of treatment each patient needs in order to have a positive outcome.” For her patients with more severe issues like lupus and hypopituitarism, Sydney has seen great success in her patients that combine acupuncture, moxibustion, and Western medical treatments.
Advice for Future Practitioners
For current and future students, Sydney is a great example. Not only has she built a successful practice, but she did it during a pandemic! Even in difficult circumstances, she’s continued to work hard, push herself, and show up for her patients during a critical time. Starting and running your own practice is hard. While our curriculum covers the basics of this, entering the workforce can be a different and sometimes intimidating experience.
“There is no set path for an acupuncturist. It’s not like going to law or business school. If you feel like this is your calling and you have grit, you will be successful,” she says. “Success is what you make it in this field. There’s no guarantee or formula for success…The ability to show up for your patients is crucial. You need to be prepared to answer questions and always be available.”
Sydney met colleagues, mentors, and lifelong friends at AIMC who continue to provide support to her today. When she graduated, she felt lucky to have practitioner friends to offer her guidance in building her own practice.
If you are currently researching acupuncture and herbal medicine programs, Sydney suggests getting familiar with the staff and faculty of the school. “It doesn’t matter if the curriculum is great, it really depends on who your teachers are,” she says. “They are your mentors and they’re the people who form you. My teachers at AIMC really made my experience great. The faculty [at AIMC] listens to students more than they do at any other school.”
Learn More About AIMC
Feeling inspired by Sydney’s story? So are we! If a future in healing through East Asian medicine and acupuncture interests you, learn more about our programs at AIMC. We offer a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine degree and a Doctor of Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine degree.
In addition to these program tracks, we also offer continuing education classes, certificate programs, and community workshops.
Contact us today to learn more about exploring a future in integrative medicine!