Blind woman makes second bid for acupuncture license
A blind student of acupuncture is making a second request for a state license to practice the trade after being rejected last year because of her lack of vision.
The licensure committee of the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners was set to rehear Juliana Cumbo's request for a license on Friday. She would be the first blind person to be issued a state license, board members said.
"I wanted to be more involved in health care ... and I thought it was a perfect profession for a blind person," Cumbo said of her decision to pursue acupuncture, a method of diagnosing, treating and preventing illness by placing thin needles along specific points on the body.
The 31-year-old practices as a graduate intern in the student clinic of the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin. She has earned a master's degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine and passed the national board exams.
"Juliana is an exemplary practitioner ... and she is extremely talented," said Will Morris, president of the Austin academy. "I am proud to sign her diploma."
Meng-sheng Lin, the licensure committee chairwoman, said she's inclined to repeat her vote against Cumbo's application. She said Cumbo's case was the first time she had encountered the issue.
"I'm just trying to fulfill my duty to protect the public," said Lin, an acupuncturist in Dallas. "Would you go to a blind acupuncturist?"
Lin said acupuncture can lead to bleeding, which could be a problem if it went unnoticed and created a situation where the acupuncturist or patient could become contaminated.
Hoang Ho, a member of the acupuncture committee who also voted against Cumbo's license, said licensing Cumbo would be a liability for the board if something were to go wrong.
"You have to know exactly the point" to insert the needle, said Ho, who practices acupuncture in Kerrville and San Antonio. "There are a lot of blood vessels, and there can be injuries."
Cumbo, who said she also has a bachelor's degree in classical guitar, completed 3,218 hours of training in acupuncture. About a third of that was clinical experience in which she worked on 592 patients without any formal safety complaints, said Xiaotian Shen, the director of the Austin clinic and one of Cumbo's teachers.
Cumbo received extra hands-on training, and now she is better at finding acupuncture points than many students who can see, Morris said.
Shen said Cumbo was tested on a live model to pass the national boards.
Dr. Terry Rascoe, the acupuncture board's presiding officer, said the committee could approve Cumbo's request, reject it or ask the full board to consider it. The case could also go before a state administrative judge.
Cumbo's lawyer, David Cohen of Austin, said denying Cumbo a license "on the basis of her blindness alone" would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bob Simpson, general counsel to the board, said there are no state laws prohibiting the licensing of a blind person.
Having had acupuncture treatments in the past, I would not want a blind person working on me.
"Sandstorms inflict damage of about $540 million per year, and losses of crops and forests due to acid rain amount to about $730 million per year. More serious are the $6 billion costs of the "green wall" of trees being built to shield Beijing against sand and dust, and the $7 billion per year of losses created by pest species. We enter the zone of impressive numbers when we consider the onetime cost of the 1996 floods ($27 billion, but still cheaper than the 1998 floods), the annual direct losses due to desertification ($42 billion), and the annual losses due to water and air pollution ($54 billion). The combination of the latter two items alone costs China the equivalent of 14% of its GDP each year." - Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed