Healthy Manhattan: Long Island School Finds a West Side Alternative

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After Pedro Sanchez, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident, completed his occupational studies associate's degree in massage therapy this summer, he decided he wasn't finished.

"The last two trimesters, we go to the clinic," said Sanchez. "When you treat the people and see them getting better, the reward is so great, it's almost kind of addictive."

He wanted to broaden his holistic healthcare résumé, but there was one part of studying at New York College of Health Professions that he wasn't willing to commit to again-the commute to its campus in Syosset, Long Island.

As it turns out, he'll be working towards a combined bachelor's and master's degree in acupuncture this fall at the same school, but much closer to home.

On Aug. 29, classes will start at the New York College of Health Professions' brand new site inside The Riverside Church on the Upper West Side.

"They're clearing space out for us and I'm literally configuring the classrooms, just trucking stuff in," said Lisa Pamintuan, president of the college.

The school was founded in 1981 as The New Center for Wholistic Health Education and Research. Since then, it has expanded its programming to include coursework in massage therapy, acupuncture, Oriental medicine, holistic nursing and Asian bodywork.

It also offers degree levels from certificate programs to master of science, and is currently in the final stages of implementing a doctoral program in Oriental medicine.

Classes take place at the school's main campus in Syosset and at a 35acre medical facility in Luo Yang, China.

But recently, they decided it was time to expand.

The Riverside Church site currently has about 50 students preparing to start this month, with new students continuing to enroll on a daily basis.

"One of the things is the demand," said Pamintuan. "We've had a lot of requests from people asking us to open in Manhattan or the tristate area. We've been looking at different locations throughout, and we were selective in making sure it was a good academic environment."

One of the reasons the school has had so much success in the holistic health world, Pamintuan explained, is that, while there are many programs in New York that provide the training required to take the state licensing exam in massage or acupuncture, New York College offers a higher level of education.

"We offer a degree program that incorporates the required licensing but at a college credit degree level," she said.

At the Riverside site, students will be able to take advantage of that high level of training in all of the same degree programs that are offered at the Long Island Campus. They'll have to complete just one credit in Syosset during their time at the college.

Pamintuan believes the demand for what New York College of Health Professions has to offer is skyrocketing and will continue to grow. The Riverside Church site is just one step the college is taking as it works to meet that demand, moving to even more locations and expanding its degree programs.

"The overall plan is to start with this location and make sure that the students who are enrolled there have everything they need," she said. "Then, open up in other locations."

For students like Sanchez, the expansion couldn't have come at a better time.

"You learn so much about yourself and the people you're treating, so it's a reciprocal learning experience," he said of his time in the massage therapy program. "I trust the acupuncture program will do the same for me."

He's looking forward to the easy commute and to exploring the community of holistic practitioners on the Upper West Side.

Pamintuan is thinking about Sanchez and the others who will be sitting next to him as she arranges furniture in the school's first New York City home.

"It's important that wherever we go, we have to have the best of the best for our students and for the community," she said.

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