NCBTMB Elections: Massaging the Rules?

NCBTMB is holding their Board of Directors elections, and I must say, I think the Election Committee is massaging the bylaws of the organization. One of the open Board positions is for the public member.

According to the bylaws, a public member shall not be a certificant, or a practitioner of massage therapy and/or bodywork within three years of election, and shall have no material financial interest in the field of massage therapy and/or bodywork.

I am curious as to how the committee arrived at the choice of Stuart Watts as a candidate for public member. I don’t know Watts, personally. According to his bio, he is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, licensed in New Mexico and Hawaii. He is also the founder of five institutes of Asian medicine, co-founder of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), two entities that ultimately created the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) and the national testing organization, the National Commission for Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Among other things, he also has a background in accounting and for the past 16 years, has served as the treasurer of the American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA).

According to his bio, Watts also has extensive training in various forms of Asian bodywork therapy, among other things. He has in the past been a site reviewer for COMTA. In his status as someone who is currently licensed in two states, that would seem to shoot a hole in his eligibility as a candidate, at least from where I’m sitting.

Doctors of Oriental Medicine do indeed have substantial training in bodywork. That issue was brought up time and time again during my service on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy–the right of acupuncturists to practice and/or advertise massage. An investigation into that showed that a minimum of 750 hours of training in Asian forms of bodywork is a part of formal training in Oriental Medicine. That’s more than the 500 hours that is required for a massage license in our state. Personally I was of the opinion that they are at least as qualified as we are to practice massage. Our Board ruled that even though massage and bodywork is within their scope of practice, that in order to advertise themselves as massage therapists, they needed to have a massage license, a ruling I was personally in disagreement with.

If Watts had been retired and out of the business for at least three years at the time of the election, according to the bylaws, he would indeed be eligible. The fact that he has a current license in two states and is apparently still practicing his art is a deal-breaker for me.

A public member, on any board, is meant to be an individual who is able to represent the consumer from the consumer’s point of view, not an expert or current practitioner in the field in which he is to represent. Although Asian bodywork may not be the same thing as Western massage, there is too much overlap there for me to feel good about this decision. There are plenty of board seats available to practitioners–at least 8, and possibly 9, as there are 10 seats on the NCBTMB Board of Directors, and no more than two of them may be held by public members. As a practitioner of bodywork, Watts would have been more suited as a candidate for a therapist member, in my opinion.

I believe his selection as a candidate for public member by the Committee shows a blatant disregard for the bylaws. Again, I don’t personally know Watts or have anything against him. But this is just one more concern on my growing list of concerns about the NCBTMB.

I urge certificants to contact the NCBTMB to express an opinion on all this. Voting in the election is open to certificants until November 11. I am not just suggesting that you not vote for Watts. I am suggesting that it is totally inappropriate for him to be the public member candidate in the first place, and that the NCBTMB needs to quit massaging the bylaws and acknowledge that they have made an error in judgment by placing him on the slate for that position. It’s the right thing to do.


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