“I had a lot of fear as a student. Fear of not having the energy to continue, fear of studying,  fear of not securing a job after graduation, fear of failure, and the fear that this was all for nothing. If I could go back, I would wipe that fear away. All being fearful did was take away my focus and energy.  I needed to stay in the present moment; take it minute by minute instead of fearing the future, because in the end, it will all work itself out. There isn’t anything to be afraid of.”

Jamie Starkey, a 2006 graduate of AIAMs Acupuncture program, is now lead acupuncturist and program manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

As a student, Jamie chose to commute from her home in Cleveland to Columbus for class multiple days a week, while also working at the Cleveland Clinic. Despite the drive-time, many AIAM students choose to commute to Columbus from their homes to pursue their education. This proved to be one of Jamie’s biggest challenges, and it was not easy to overcome. Long days in class followed by long nights working and studying took a toll.

“It’s difficult. All I did was study and work for 3 years straight. I thought of creative ways to study on my drive, so that those hours wouldn’t be wasted. It’s so difficult though, it really is, all I can say to current students is just bear down and push yourselves; its challenging, but it’s possible, if you can swallow that you will be fine.”

“It was hard to find time to relax, unwind and have fun with classmates.I remember getting about half-way through the program and getting so discouraged; thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore’- and I had to push myself through that moment. I stayed in hotels occasionally when I was too worn down to drive, crashed with classmates and friends, it was crazy- but I made it, and AIAMs current students will, too!”

Licensed Acupuncturist Jamie Starkey

Photo via The Plain Dealer

Jamie encourages current students to be passionate for Eastern Medicine– she took full advantage of asking instructors questions, small class sizes, and applying what she was learning. She compares herself to a sponge-soaking up all knowledge instructors taught in class, and after.

“The teachers at AIAM were beyond amazing. They poured out their heart and soul to us; I could tell it was their passion to help us learn and to transform us into caring clinicians.”

While working at Cleveland Clinic, Jamie sees more and more patients shifting to acupuncture as a proactive measure to treat ailments, rather than seeking it as an alternative treatment when Western Medicine has failed.  However, now and as a student, she faced skepticism- and offers advice on countering the skeptics during your career:

“It’s a grassroots effort to educate. When possible give presentations, offer to give presentations at community events, or with community organizations- you will be surprised at the acceptance community organizations will give you. Make the message of Eastern Medicine your life! I had to get out and pound the pavement so to speak- taking every speaking opportunity I was given and using it to educate and connect with the public.”

While working at the Cleveland Clinic Jamie has blogged and written medical articles for nationally known networks and publications- such as the Dr. Oz Show. These efforts, along with the national recognition the Clinic provides has paved avenues to help Jamie build a client-base. Networking has been an integral part of her journey in acupuncture.

“You have to start as a student. Don’t be intimidated to network with everyone, especially people practicing Western Medicine. Reach out to physicians through email, phone calls, and event invitations. Invite them to meet you for lunch to discuss how your practice can help them. Position yourself as help for them; someone to recommend their patients to, ask them to be a part of your network and team. It’s not an ‘us against them’ mentality.”

One of the most important things for Jamie as she continues practicing Eastern Medicine is to simply stay positive, and stay active in the field.  As a last piece of advice, she encourages AIAM students to dream big.

“More hospitals are integrating Eastern Medicine- I constantly get inquires about how to integrate Eastern practices. Just stay active in the field, stay on top of trends and do not be afraid to take risks. The courage to take risks will make or break you! Work hard to build your appointments; if you want to do more, do it- don’t limit yourself to one niche.”

“I really hope students there [at AIAM] take pride in their education. I know it’s a small school, but that is an advantage. I realized my education is phenomenal; my time there was amazing and the instructors really went above and beyond all expectations. I have found my personal education from AIAM is superior to those who went to large schools- we are on the same level as them- take advantage of that, and dream big!”


Click here for more information on AIAMs Master-level acupuncture program