Shayna Stringer, Academy graduate, and her dog. They are standing on top of a mountain.Shayna Stringer, Class 35

What is the most valuable thing you learned during your studies at the Academy?

I learned to have more confidence in myself and my skills. The Academy saw my full potential and what I was capable of before I did. They gave me opportunities that felt intimidating at the time, yet were incredibly growthful and empowering. Through this, I became a more capable, embodied practitioner and teacher. I learned what my skills are and that I can trust in them. Today, I have a greater connection with my full, true self than I did before I enrolled in the program.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing a prospective student at the Academy needs to know (or consider)?

There are two important aspects to the process of becoming an acupuncturist that may be intimidating.

Firstly, self discipline is necessary to succeed in this program and in acupuncture as a whole. You need to stay motivated, even when faced with setbacks. This is especially true once it’s time to take your board exams for certification, as it’s 100% self-guided study. So being disciplined and knowing why you are on this path are crucial.

Secondly, the study of acupuncture is quite broad, and there are many specialities that you can pursue once you’re educated on the topic. You’ll need to consider what specific section of acupuncture that you want to pursue–do you want to practice on geriatric patients? People with specific symptoms? Are you interested in practicing abroad? You have the freedom to choose. It’s part of what makes the acupuncture field so exciting to work in today.

I think it’s important to trust yourself and the reasons you were guided here. This medicine is amazing, and the program as a whole helps nurture you as a person beyond your professional aspirations. I learned so much about myself in my time at the Academy, and it truly helped me grow into a more self-assured, grounded person. Even though it is challenging at times, becoming a Five Element acupuncturist at the Academy was the best decision I ever made.

What is a life changing experience you had while studying at the Academy?

It’s always an amazing feeling when you needle a point and a patient feels an instant response. One of my favorite instances of this is when a patient was so shocked that her vision improved and she felt completely energized. It was the first time someone had such an immediate response to acupuncture under my care. It was incredibly rewarding to witness the impact I had on how she felt and how quickly the medicine was able to help her. This experience, and subsequent treatments I’ve performed, have changed my life and how I view what is possible.

How has the study of Acupuncture and CHM at the Academy changed your life?

When studying at the Academy, we learn about points and herbs that can support a person’s alignment with the Dao. One of my favorite herbs is Ren Shen ginseng. We not only learn that it’s a qi tonic, but it has the energy of a strong mountain and can imbue that strength in those who utilize it as a medicine. The school has been like this herb for me. I’ve become more grounded in myself, more confident, and I know that no matter what happens to me in life, I’ll be able to handle it—able to bend without breaking, return to center, and nourish myself.

I’ve also learned to see people through a five element lens. Instead of viewing people from a narrow mindset focused only on certain aspects of who they are, I am able to see their virtues and hold them in health.

Finally, my relationship to the Gainesville community has changed. Studying here helped me realize my purpose in the community. I’m here to serve my community through this medicine and humbly offer an invitation towards greater wellness. Before studying at the school, I didn’t have a concrete way of doing this. Now, I have the skills to help others on their path.

Tell us more about your process of becoming an acupuncturist.

While I was preparing for my board exams, I served as a teachers’ assistant at the Academy and further honed my skills. I opened my business in November of 2021 in Gainesville, my hometown and the true love of my heart. I named my personal practice Empowered Yin. To me, Empowered Yin means the strength that comes from deep nourishment, embodiment, and connection to the Earth—something I feel many of us need at this time.

In addition to running Empowered Yin, I’m also shadowing Misti Oxford-Pickeral, President of the Academy, once a week with the possibility of becoming a supervisor. This has been an incredible opportunity to dive deeply into the heart of this medicine and continue learning from esteemed practitioners.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?

I love dog training! I have a blue heeler and standard poodle mix named Moses, and I’ve been training him myself. In the process of doing so, I’ve actually learned a lot about being a calm, confident leader. That knowledge has impacted how I hold myself in the world, including in the treatment room.