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Acupuncture school plans $11 million, 12-acre campus; N. Laurel site to include space for 500 students


The Traditional Acupuncture Institute, a school for alternative medicine and Columbia-based institution for 25 years, plans to break ground this fall on an $11 million campus in a North Laurel business park.

The school has a contract to purchase 12 acres in Montpelier Business Park at U.S. 29 and Johns Hopkins Road to build what the institute president says would be the first facility of its kind in the country.

The first structure will be a 45,000-square-foot building that will house educational and clinical programs specializing in complementary or alternative medicine. The site could expand by an additional 120,000 feet to include a regional wellness conference center, a free medical clinic, incubator space for research or alternative medicine businesses.

"Our enrollment has doubled over the past five years," said TAI co-founder and President Robert Duggan. "We are simply running out of space."

The school has 228 graduate students in its master of acupuncture program, which is housed on two floors of the American Cities building in downtown Columbia. The institute has satellite facilities in Wheaton and in Belvedere Square in Baltimore, and operates Penn North Community Health Center, a clinic for people recovering from drug addiction.

The new campus is designed to accommodate 500 students and will allow the institute to offer two new master's degree programs -- herbal-natural pharmaceuticals and philosophy of healing. The school plans to increase faculty and staff from 65 to 75 over the next four years.

"Our goal is to bring together the best of complementary medicine and the best of Western medicine," Duggan said. "I know of no other place that has this collaborative effort."

TAI started in 1974 as the College of Chinese Acupuncture -- the offshoot of a program in Kenilworth, England.

Duggan said he and his co-founder, Dianne Connelly, came to Maryland because it had a simple law for permitting the practice of acupuncture. They chose Columbia, he said, because they liked its campus-like setting near Lake Kittamaqundi. The next year, the college opened an acupuncture clinic. In 1986, the Maryland Higher Education Commission gave the school the right to bestow the master of acupuncture degree.

So far, 628 students have graduated from the three-year program. The school reports that half of the acupuncturists practicing in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia are graduates of TAI.

"With complementary medicine now reported as a $27 billion industry and Americans purchasing over $4 billion in herbal products annually, TAI represents a dynamic new growth sector of economic opportunity and job training," said Richard Story, Howard County Economic Development Authority chief executive officer.

"Complementary medicine is moving into the mainstream, and we are responding to pent-up demand for our education, training and information," Duggan said.

The campus' first building will include 11 classrooms and lecture halls; a 28-room clinic; an herbal prescription pharmacy; a child care room; a bookstore; retail space; and a meditation room.

Initially, 320 parking spaces will be available. The site will be landscaped to include herbal gardens, ponds and outdoor learning areas.

The project architect is Gray Organschi Architecture of New Haven, Conn.; the site designer is LDR International of Columbia; and the developer is Manekin Corp.

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