S. Erin Baldt is a doctor of acupuncture. She received her training from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, N.M. She is board certified by the National Certification Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She serves as vice president of the Rhode Island Society of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
PBN: How have attitudes toward acupuncture and alternative medicine changed in the last 18 months – have the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (which gives “alternative medicine” new recognition) begun to affect people’s perspective of what you do?
BALDT: I can’t say if the Affordable Health Care Act has been the reason that my practice both in Cranston and at The Miriam Hospital has really taken off in the last few years. I can tell you that the demographics of the typical acupuncture patient has broadened immensely. I see patients from every socio-economic background. I am glad to see that acupuncture is viewed with much more acceptance mainly because its both cost effective and clinically effective.
PBN: Who has shown the most surprising openness to your work to date (someone who might normally be perceived as too “old school” to be treated)?
BALDT: I have a handful of medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy and chiropractic doctors who regularly refer difficult cases to me. Ten years ago referrals like this would not have happened. I think the fact that The Miriam Hospital saw the need to incorporate several complementary and alternative medicine practices for their oncology patients shows real progression in the integration of the two styles of medicine. I treat several MDs who have shown such respect for Chinese medicine. It’s been wonderful to see the changes in perspective once someone has been treated and gotten better with acupuncture.
PBN: Are you working already – or do you anticipate working – with insurers more closely in the ACA era?
BALDT: I work with those insurance companies that cover acupuncture already. I would say that 40 percent of my practice is insurance patients. For the most part (because we can offer acupuncture to more people) I look forward to working with the ACA insurers. All the paperwork required by insurance companies and low rates of reimbursement are what makes many acupuncturists not want to participate. Let’s hope that the insurance companies that will cover acupuncture will understand both our diagnostic and treatment paradigms.
PBN: How did you personally become open to Chinese medicine – were you treated before you ever studied it?
BALDT: My mother exposed us to all sorts of healing modalities as children: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbs and transcendental meditation. My older sister is an acupuncturist in Charlottesville, Va., and my twin brother is a chiropractor in Lewes, Del. I lived in Santa Fe, N.M. for years before going to school to learn acupuncture. Integrative medicine has been accepted for years in the West – the ripples of acceptance throughout the East have really picked up momentum!
PBN: In what ways does the Department of Health regulate acupuncture practitioners in the Ocean State – is the state a relatively easy or relatively difficult place for an acupuncturist to practice?
BALDT: The R.I. Department of Health requires that all acupuncturists practicing in Rhode Island be certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This is an organization that assesses the competence of acupuncturists – not unlike a medical doctor who has board certification in a given specialty. Rhode Island is a relatively easy place to practice. But to be successful its so important to become part of the community in which you practice and to speak to groups as often as you can to bring more exposure to the profession of acupuncture.