June 20, 2015

Acupuncturists Stepping Up to the Cancer Challenge

By Harvey Kaltsas, AP, Dipl. Ac., Past President, AAAOM

One of the greatest challenges in medicine is treating the cancer patient.

Successful treatment often involves bringing to bear many different modalities to restore health, a multi-disciplinary model followed regularly in Asia – where acupuncture, nutrition, exercise, hyperthermia, and herbal medicine are often combined with the more commonly accepted Western modalities of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Now, more and more licensed acupuncturists prepared with high levels of academic and clinical training are assuming integrative roles within Western medical settings. This is especially so at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), which employs eight state licensed or NCCAOM certified acupuncturists (Oklahoma has no licensing statute) at its five hospitals across America – in Seattle, Phoenix, Tulsa, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

In this interview, Acupuncture Today asks three licensed acupuncturists and NCCAOM Diplomates about their experiences working at CTCA. Dr. Irina Aleynikova, MD, LAc, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM) earned her MD at Minsk Medical University in Belarus and her Masters of Oriental Medicine at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. She practices at CTCA’s Chicago center. Jennifer Feingold, LAc, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), PA, earned her Master’s degree in Acupuncture from The New England School of Acupuncture and her Bachelor of Science and Physician’s Assistant certificate from Hahnemann University. She practices at the Eastern Regional Medical Center, CTCA’s Philadelphia hospital along with Dr. Gurneet M. Singh, ND, LAc, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM) who earned both her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and her Master of Science in Acupuncture at Bastyr University in Seattle.

AT: How did you come to work at CTCA?

Dr. Irina Aleynikova, LAc, MD: My major paper in college was on the use of Chinese medicine in breast cancer treatment. The dean of the school saw this and recommended that I apply to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America due to my interest in the topic and my prior background as a physician in Belarus. After that, I met with Dr. Ray, a reconstructive surgeon and medical acupuncturist, and he told me about the unique approach at this hospital that integrates complementary alternative medicine to treat cancer. After this meeting, I knew that this hospital would be a great fit for me.

Jennifer Feingold, LAc, PA: While I was working at Great Brook Valley and learning both Western medicine and Eastern medicine with Jeff Satnick, MD who is also a NESA graduate, I was strongly considering attending acupuncture school. Jeff encouraged me to look into Naturopathic School as well before I made my final decision. I went to a Naturopathy conference in Seattle around 1996 or so and there CTCA had an informational booth. I was impressed with their integrative model. I had only been a PA for a couple of years and was already feeling somewhat frustrated with the limitations of Western Medicine. I can still remember the woman’s face at the CTCA booth and my positive experience with our conversation. I remember thinking to myself that it sounded like an interesting place to work. Perhaps it was an omen. Fast forward many years later. I moved back to Philadelphia to be close to my mother with her ailing health. A massage therapist acquaintance mentioned to me that he had interviewed at CTCA and had passed on my information. I interviewed and knew it was a special place as soon as I walked in the door. And that’s how it all started!

Dr. Gurneet Singh, LAc, ND: How CTCA and I found each other is a bit of a story! I received a phone call from a caregiver of a patient at CTCA, who had researched local Philadelphia acupuncturists and found me. She was interested in learning more about how acupuncture could benefit her husband and wanted to know if I could come to CTCA to treat her husband. I told her that I would like to help and would look into it. I called CTCA and was connected with the Director of the Rehabilitation department at that time. At the same time, the director had been looking for an acupuncturist to initiate the development of the acupuncture program at Eastern. She was contacting local physicians, who were also trained in acupuncture. Included in her search, she contacted the doctors that I was assisting in research at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and they recommended me. As I learned more about CTCA, visited and interviewed at Eastern, I was very excited about the integrated team, the patient focused model, and the wonderful people I met during my interviews. I knew I was in the right place and was thrilled to start my work here!