Canadian TCM school applied authorities to offer university status

Updated: 2013-03-11
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Following six years of preparations, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) school in the Canadian province of British Columbia has applied to local educational authorities to become the first institute in the country to offer a TCM curriculum at the university-degree level.

PCU College of Holistic Medicine in Burnaby, a Vancouver suburb city, is hoping that with approval, it can launch a five-year degree program in TCM this September. Currently, the college offers three-year diploma programs in both acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

With some 1,400 TCM practitioners and 400 students currently registered in the western Canadian province, PCU College Dean Dr. John Yang told Xinhua in a recent interview that the start of degree offering would help in greater public acceptance of the practice.

"A degree program will set the standard aligned with the current medical profession ... (which is) beneficial to the development of traditional Chinese medicine in Canada," said Yang. But he clarified that such a qualification doesn't imply only people with degrees could practice.

With students at PCU needing a prerequisite of two years of university study to be accepted, Yang said those who completed the five years of post-secondary education deserved to be rewarded with a degree. It would also allow a practitioner to go on to further studies at the master's or doctorate level if desired.

PCU is affiliated with the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in South China, and is also considering an affiliation with the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, which is sending a delegation to Vancouver later this month. Scholarly exchange and experience sharing is a prerequisite for schools aspiring to offer degree-level programs in British Columbia.

With the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine forecasting the global industry to rise to 88 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, up from 55 billion in 2011, Yang believes that there's great demand for more industry practitioners with the greater acceptance of TCM and acupuncture among the Western population.

While Yang held firm that TCM shouldn't be taken in tandem with western medicines, John Blazevic, chair of both the College of TCM and Acupuncturists of British Columbia and the Canadian Regulatory Body of TCM Practitioners and Acupuncturists, believed the two practices could complement each other.

"Chinese medicine, acupuncture is very good at helping the patient become healthier, so that means let's let western medicine go in and do sort of the damage control, put the person back together. If they've got really high blood pressure, give them some meds temporarily, but that is not a long-term solution and a lot of people are finding the repercussions of taking the pharmaceuticals," said the registered acupuncturist, also owner of the Little Mountain Health Clinic in Vancouver.

"Unfortunately, we're in a position where the institutions are not letting us get a foothold. For example, a lot of insurance companies will not actually pay for acupuncture done by a registered acupuncturist, but rather (send the patients to) a physiotherapist or a western medical doctor. So this is one of the things where the climate has to change," he added.

While degree programs in TCM are offered in the United States, Australia and some European countries, one of the biggest problems facing the industry is government health authorities and multinational pharmaceutical companies often seeking to discredit the practice by demanding to know the makeup of the various herbal products, noted Yang.

With many TCM products dating back 2,000 years or more and made up of various compounds that interact, it was impossible to know why they worked, he explained.

"As a TCM community we don't have the resources to conform, and therefore there's always a perception of bias against us. 'Oh this is kind of a quack, it doesn't make sense,' so we face a lot of challenges here," said Yang.

"It's up to the scientific community, how do you perceive, how do you evaluate those kind of treatment ... We just focus on how we make the right diagnosis, get to the right pattern and help the people," he added.
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