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Community Spotlight: American Institute of Alternative Medicine

Ushering in New Generations of Holistic Professionals

by Susan Post

AIAM group CSThe American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM) presents a hands-on learning approach to holistic medicine. Founders Helen Yee and Diane Sater established the school in 1994 to provide a well-rounded education for medical professionals seeking careers in massage therapy, acupuncture, nursing and medical assisting. This small, accredited institution provides an intimate setting where the founders build a connection with each student to make a direct impact on their lives.

In 1990, Yee and Sater opened a massage clinic that eventually expanded to 18 massage therapists between two locations. Although they were seeing great success, they felt it was hard to manage the two locations and still achieve an outstanding level of service. The missing piece was the business acumen necessary to run a clinic. Seeing a gap in the curriculum at massage schools, the pair decided to create their own school to address the issue.

“We wanted to share what has made us successful with others,” Yee said.

Helping others become successful is why Sater loves her career as co-founder of the school.

“We teach specific skills to help people get jobs,” she says. “It’s an instant impact.”

AIAM offers practical experience in alternative medicine disciplines while also offering the businesses, marketing and ethics classes necessary to build a successful practice. The all-in-one location allows students to go straight from the classroom to practicing their skills. Massage tables line the back of classrooms for interactive demonstrations, while nursing students practice in a hospital setting.

Each of the four career curricula takes a holistic approach to medicine.

Massage therapy is a one-year program that develops students’ skills in Swedish and medical massage. Typically separated at other schools, focusing on both provides students with a wider breadth of knowledge. Using massage to relieve pain as an alternative to medication is just one way patients can benefit from this treatment. A massage can also improve circulation and help with specific types of injuries.

Students in the acupuncture program generally have a medical background, but are interested in taking a more holistic approach to healing. During the three-year program, they learn about this traditional Chinese practice focusing on the whole being. Students must learn to assess their patients emotionally and physically to offer the most effective needling for treatment. An acupuncture treatment can help a host of conditions from addiction to pain management to allergies.

More recently, AIAM has created their nursing and medical assisting programs to diversify the alternative approaches the school offers. The direct-entry nursing program builds on a holistic foundation. Students with no prior medical experience can complete the program in two years, while practical nurses can enter the program mid-session to become an RN. The curriculum focuses not only on medical care, but also on connecting with patients in an emotional and mental capacity. In the one-year medical assisting program, students learn the proper way to complete office work associated with the medical field.

Sater and Yee have developed a core staff that is growing with the school. They search for professionals who are active in their fields. Unique programs at the school set students up for success, and each employee lives by the motto, “Your success is our success.”

AIAM founders CSWhen Yee and Sater started the school in 1994, they had 14 students in massage therapy. AIAM has now expanded to over 200 students across four disciplines. The founders see continued growth as they build their outreach in the community. Participation at events like the Columbus Marathon, the Special Olympics and Asian festivals has piqued the community’s interest in alternative medicine.

AIAM also offers a public clinic where acupuncture and massage students gain real-world experience. Students practice their craft under the supervision of licensed professionals and make the treatments accessible to the public at an affordable price. The clinic offers the students invaluable experience. They learn time management, room set-up and effective patient assessment. As Yee points out, a major benefit upon graduation is that their first patient is not their first patient.

Location: 6685 Doubletree Ave., Columbus. For more information visit

Susan Post is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus. She enjoys writing about her city and the people and places that make it special. Contact her at

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