Pacific College of Oriental Medicine


Photo Credit: Pacific School of Oriental Medicine

The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM), with locations in Chicago, New York and San Diego, offers training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and bodywork therapy education. Since 1986, the school has been at the forefront of student education, advancing the standards of the holistic medicine profession while offering acupuncture, massage and other therapeutic treatments for patients in a private or group clinic setting.

        Brendan Mattson is a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine (DACM) and serves as academic dean of graduate studies at PCOM. Mattson draws from his training in TCM, bodywork, qigong, Chinese language and Chinese history in his teaching and curriculum development. He notes that PCOM’s integrative approach, seasoned alumni network, community involvement, commitment to personal growth and career development, and unique doctoral programs all contribute to its unparalleled reputation.

What draws students to study TCM?

TCM is a system of medicine that looks at how the body is functioning as a whole, and includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, and mind/body exercises such as qigong and tai chi. Acupuncture is becoming embraced as mainstream intervention for pain management, but also has a wide range of applications that include digestive issues, depression and anxiety, fertility support, stroke recovery and alleviating side effects from drugs.

        Many students at PCOM come from conventional medicine backgrounds, including nursing and pharmacy. They find that TCM allows them more opportunity to connect with patients and get to know their whole story, so they can treat them more effectively. We ask questions about the patient’s overall constitution, including things that may seem unrelated to the chief complaint, such as appetite, menstrual cycles, quality of sleep and how they respond to stress.

        Acupuncturists create personalized treatment plans that balance subjective and objective information. Acupuncture is a low-risk, high-reward treatment. Patients can feel remarkably better with a few sessions, which can be incredibly rewarding for a practitioner.

How can TCM be used in clinical practice?

The majority of our students at PCOM will pursue their own private practice, which allows them the flexibility to see as few or as many patients as they want, and set their schedule to accommodate other commitments. This also allows them to develop a deeper relationship with their patients and move away from a traditional healthcare model, where the doctor has limited time with each patient. The PCOM curriculum has a strong focus on inter-professional communication and mentoring students on how to work with other health care providers.

        Although more people are turning to TCM, there are still some cases where conventional medicine is necessary, and that’s why we focus on an integrative approach. Acupuncture and other TCM treatments are ideal for alleviating side effects of medicines that are crucial for treatment of many chronic conditions, for example. Safety comes first in any healthcare model, and PCOM graduates have a robust bioscience education in addition to the TCM training. PCOM also offers students the opportunity to practice in off-site clinics, providing community-based acupuncture and holistic health education to populations that may otherwise not have access to it. We have relationships with many programs around the city, including at Heartland Health Center, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Project Vida and Stroger County Hospital Pain Clinic.

What is unique about the PCOM doctorate program?

PCOM is the first college in the Midwest to offer accredited doctoral programs in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. We also offer a transitional doctorate to acupuncturists who already have master’s degrees, but are looking to further their education. The added doctoral competencies focus on evidence-informed practice, advanced integrative diagnosis, integrative case management, current healthcare systems, inter-professional communication and practice-based learning. The curriculum at PCOM was developed by doctoral educators, subject matter experts and experienced distance education designers, and focuses on the skills needed to practice in the emerging multi-disciplinary clinics and hospital-based practices.

        Each subject is approached in a way that enriches the acupuncturist’s understanding of Chinese medicine, biomedicine and their cross-pollination. Graduates become confident advocates for patients and for Chinese medicine, and may also have access to higher pay scales and more opportunities in academia. PCOM offers financial aid and scholarships, flexible class schedules, and an international network of alumni to provide ongoing support. Small class sizes allow for person-centered learning and for the students to fully engage in the community of PCOM and the larger TCM profession. They come away as well-rounded professionals with the compassion, substance, and intuition to make a difference in whatever path of healing they pursue.

The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine is located at 65 E. Wacker Pl., 21st Fl., in Chicago. For more information, call 773-477-4822, email or or visit

Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect with her at




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