International Medical Tai Chi and Qigong Association Inaugural Conference

International Medical Tai Chi and Qigong Association Inaugural Meeting

The inaugural conference of the new iMTQA was held in Boston on October 5-6, 2018 at the Simches Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

I was fortunate to be able to attend this pioneering conference.  I now have a better understanding of what this newly formed (2018) international, volunteer group of medical doctors, researchers, and Ph.D academics is looking to achieve.  Their initiative is not meant to replace, threaten, or compete with existing Taiji & Qigong certification programs.  Their mission is quite specific and necessary for doctors to be able to refer patients to taiji & qigong instructors for wellbeing and healthcare since this isn’t currently a “standard of care”.  My understanding is that without an accreditation standard for Taiji & Qigong training, this puts healthcare providers at risk for lawsuits should a patient of theirs referred to a taiji or qigong instructor sustain an injury or suffer an ill effect because of taiji or qigong training.  Also, accredited standardization could lead to patients being able to benefit from medical insurance coverage for taiji & qigong training, but this can be a double-edged sword for the provider/instructor who will earn less once the insurance company takes its cut.

Nearly all of iMTQA players have personally been doing Taiji & Qigong for 10-40 years, and most teach these practices in some capacity.  They are in the fields of research, medicine and education where the prolific evidence-based studies have been conducted globally and increasingly published in the last two decades (though the definition of taiji & qigong vary in the literature, so it is often difficult to distinguish which the study is about).  The PowerPoint presentation of Dr. CJ Rhoads on “Economic Issues of Integrative Medicine & Healthcare” (expected to be posted shortly on the iMTQA website) contains many informative statistics about the studies and more.  She is looking for academic reviewers of the resulting articles on integrative medicine economics and perhaps, you, the reader, can be of assistance.

Evidence about the health benefits of Taiji & Qigong will continue to mount: there’s no turning back.  This group can only succeed because the caliber and professionalism of the individuals and the institutions involved are staggering.  The Advisory committees read like a who’s who of the integrative health world ( and the President of the organization is Dr. David Rosenthal from Harvard Medical School.  Many of the individuals have known each other for decades from attending international conferences, doing research and publishing together.  They’ve been working on the iMTQA certification standards for the past two years, and are inviting comment.  You, the reader, can be of assistance, here, too – please review and send comments to Dr. Oh or Prof. Penny Klein. 

What iMTQA would like to see happen is for any currently certifying organization in the United States to review and compare their program to these standards.  If they already meet them, then the organization can go through a brief accreditation program with iMTQA.  Once accredited all people certified through the accredited program would immediately be certified by iMTQA without any further testing or process or costs.  The iMTQA doesn’t want to duplicate what’s already been done, but wants add-to-and-enhance existing programs in all countries in the world.

In the context of iMTQA, “medical Qigong” is not the same as some organizations (such as the NQA or Prof. Jerry Alan Johnson’s definition), but has a much broader meaning – an umbrella term that includes taiji and any other evidence-based meditation and/or movement therapy.  For the iMTQA, “medical” relates Taiji & Qigong to the licensed medical arena to help patients referred by healthcare providers for these specific and separate ”units” (tracks) of specialization (each with additional fees): (1) health promotion, (2) arthritis, (3) cancer care, (4) diabetes, (5) hypertension & healthy heart, (6) obesity & weight loss, (7) pain management, (8) wellbeing for seniors, and (9) stress & mental health.  A taiji/qigong instructor can specialize in one, several or all units.  Their use of the word “medical” does not include Qi transmission currently, but that could be included once there is scientific evidence of its efficacy and effectiveness.

There will be a level of certification called Traditional Tai Chi & Qigong Instructors that recognizes current teachers (without the further safety and medical knowledge required for medical Qigong).  Teachers would be encouraged, however, to increase their medical knowledge, and that would result in a higher level of certification: Registered Medical Tai Chi and Qigong Instructor (RMTQI) (although the term Registered is still under discussion).  While doctors may refer patients to Traditional Tai Chi and Qigong Instructors, it may be that insurance companies might require the higher level to be covered under their plan (and this refers to both malpractice insurance and health insurance). 

Again, the proposed, comprehensive iMTQA accreditation guidelines are in this 16-page document: 

Accreditation Standard Guideline Initiative for Tai Chi and Qigong Instructors and Training Institutions

Until mid November, the iMTCA invites the public to review the contents of this document to make suggestions that the association currently considers to be a work in progress, despite the thoroughness of what is proposed. 

Keep an eye on the iMTQA website where conference presenters who agree to have their PowerPoint presentations available to the public will be posted.  Remarkably, all 20+ presentations had high-level and unique content.   

The next iMTQA conference is scheduled for San Jose, California at the end of April 2019.

Luisa de Castro, Professional Member of the National Qigong Association