What is POCA Tech?

tl;dr: please watch this short video!

In September 2014 the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) opened a school to train the next generation of community acupuncturists. Community Acupuncture is a social business model providing affordable & accessible acupuncture to whoever needs and wants it.

POCA Tech does not discriminate against any individual whether student, volunteer, instructor, or administrator, on the basis of age, physical disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin or any other status protected by the law in its admissions or employment practices.

POCA Tech is a 501c3 nonprofit educational corporation.

As we noted on this page, POCA Tech is a technical school which offers a Master’s level certificate rather than a Master’s degree. POCA Tech is not just a cheaper way to go to acupuncture school; it’s designed for people who want to do a very specific job in a very specific context.

Liberation Acupuncture affirms that the value of acupuncture is in its practical usefulness to people who are suffering. Or, as Ignacio Martín-Baró wrote, "True practice has primacy over true theory”, or what you do is more important than what you say. Liberation Acupuncture requires people willing to do the difficult, demanding job of providing acupuncture to lots of people who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

POCA Tech’s curriculum includes topics like the social determinants of health and the effects of structural violence because we think students need a basic grasp of those issues in order for them to do a good job of treating the people who walk through the door of a community acupuncture clinic. Some of the most marginalized people in the healthcare system are people dealing with chronic conditions and particularly chronic/persistent pain.  Community acupuncture clinics are designed with their needs in mind and POCA Tech spends a lot of energy preparing students to treat those people.

We also think it’s important for students who are studying the “tech” of community acupuncture to understand who is originally responsible for developing that technology: the laypeople behind the occupation of Lincoln Hospital. (For the full story, please see Rachel Pagones' book Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation and Love.) If it weren’t for their work, the concept of community acupuncture -- the idea of using acupuncture to meet the needs of a marginalized community -- wouldn’t exist. Community acupuncture was designed as an expression of solidarity, not charity.

That said, POCA Tech is still about training students to do a specific job in a specific context. People who are good at that job might be political or apolitical, conservative or progressive, libertarian or anarchist. Someone who identifies as an activist might be happy at POCA Tech, or they might not. You don’t have to espouse any particular political ideology to apply to POCA Tech. If your politics lead you to want to treat a lot of people who need acupuncture, that’s wonderful. If you’re not political at all and you just want to treat a lot of people who need acupuncture and who don’t have a lot of money, that’s fine with us too. (Just please don’t argue with us about where the concept of community acupuncture came from, or that structural violence exists and affects our patients.)  Our goal is to prepare you to make access to acupuncture a real thing for a lot of people, not just a lofty ideal. If that’s the hard, unglamorous, un-theoretical work you want to do, POCA Tech might be the right school for you.