99th MDG providers receive acupuncture training

Dr. Joseph Helms, Helms Medical Institute president, demonstrates how to use a pointer plus on a patient at the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Oct. 26. A pointer plus helps find the most sensitive points on the ear.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Medical providers assigned to the 99th Medical Group recently underwent training for first aid acupuncture here to become certified acupuncturists.
The 99th MDG is partnering with the Acus Foundation to provide acupuncture training to approximately 120 medical providers over the next several years.
Acupuncture is a treatment that is highly individualized and it can include insertion of various types of needles into the body, scalp, or the ears. Most acupuncture needles are transient, meaning they are left in for about 20 to 30 minutes and then removed. Needles in the ear can stay in for about a week.
“Currently, the 99th MDG has very few acupuncturists and the training is expensive so we have partnered with the Acus Foundation to provide training to 120 medical providers here,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Paul Crawford, 99th Medical Operations Squadron Clinical Investigation Program and Family Medicine Residency program director. “The overall goal of this program is that we switch from a mindset that acupuncture is often thought of as a last ditch effort for treating stress, pain, or other medical conditions, to a mindset of ‘think acupuncture first’ which is our motto for this program.
“By training most of the providers at the 99th MDG, we will make acupuncture accessible to everybody. This will hopefully result in better, safer and more patient-centered care,” he said. “Our relationship with Acus started about a year ago when we contracted with them to provide additional training. Now through philanthropic donations, they’re providing training to us.”
Chronic pain, stress, insomnia, and other medical conditions have a huge impact on quality of life of Air Force beneficiaries.
“Acupuncture can transform those lives,” said Crawford. “Experiences at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders and while deployed have shown that acupuncture can help with wounded warriors and people affected by deployments dramatically.”
Acupuncture can be very useful either as the exclusive treatment or to complement conventional treatment, especially for pain and stress-related problems.
Airman 1st Class Tawni Deboma, 99th MDOS medical technician, volunteered to be a part of the acupuncture training to help relieve some pain she was having in her neck.
“I started with a five out of 10 pain and it decreased to a one out of 10 after all the needles were taken out,” she said. “I had a dull and aching pain and now the pain isn’t there. I’ve never had acupuncture before so having the needles put in was a different feeling.”
Crawford arranged for Dr. Joseph Helms — president of the Helms Medical Institute, a leading organization in the acupuncture field — and his team to come to Nellis AFB earlier this year in January. They trained 20 residents in first aid acupuncture, which is the first step in a five-step program to go through for the comprehensive program.
“We did the first first-aid program in March and the second one happened this past weekend,” said Helms. “Now we have all the family practice residents trained in first aid acupuncture as well as representatives from the (Family Health) clinic across the hall. What we’re doing here is special program where we come here rather than having the providers come to where we are.”
Crawford participated in the comprehensive acupuncture training program five years ago and has been providing acupuncture to his patients at Nellis AFB.
“The training has been well received both by the patients and the family medicine residency that he’s supervising. He sent a number of the residents to the comprehensive program so that more of his staff could be providing these services,” said Helms. “He invited the Acus Foundation to come out and provide additional training for the family practice residents initially.”
As more providers were trained, the enthusiasm for acupuncture grew amongst the residents and the demand for it grew amongst the patients.
By training many providers in the clinics at Nellis AFB, Helms said there should be a favorable impact on the symptoms, the general well-being, and the use of medications in the Nellis and Creech AFB population.
“In bases where there are only one or two providers, they rapidly become overwhelmed with the demand and can’t serve everyone that needs attention,” said Helms. “They get frustrated because they can’t provide services to all the people that want it. Once acupuncture is being provided, people come in because they really want to have acupuncture rather than medications. The idea here is that rather than having a three-afternoon-a-week acupuncture clinic where you then refer your patients there and there’s a long waiting list, we can do acupuncture right here in the clinic.”


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