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Chinese study of traditional medicine lags behind growing Western interest

2014-08-01 15:47 China Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Fernando Davino arrived in Beijing eight years ago to learn about Chinese medicine and to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Davino, 37, grew up in Minas Gerais, Brazil. He went to IMAM-INCISA, a medical college in Brazil, in 2001. The school had a five-year program and a partnership with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where students could go intern in Beijing for their last year. Davino was in the inaugural class to explore Chinese Medicine with 30 other classmates.

Davino said he was drawn to Chinese medicine's different approach to healthcare. "Chinese medicine is not like Western medicine where you study cells, different parts of the body and how to treat them, and then you become a doctor," Davino said. "Chinese medicine is different. It focuses on people's relationship with the world."

He earned his bachelor degree at Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is now working on a post-graduate degree.

Davino was drawn to Chinese medicine in Beijing because he felt the city had top-notch doctors. During his studies he was surprised to find many Chinese residents were as familiar with the centuries-old practice.

Research from the China Education and Research Network indicates only one-twelfth of medical students in China are studying Chinese medicine, with the vast majority studying Western medicine. The number of well-known Chinese medicine doctors has dropped from 5,000 people in the 1980s to less than 500 today.

"Passing on the knowledge of Chinese medicine is really slow, rarely Chinese people know about yinyang right now," Davino said.

Traditional Chinese medicine, also known as TCM, includes a range of traditional medicine practices and is based on a 2,000 year tradition. It's a practice that includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, Tui-Na (massage), qigong(a system of deep breathing exercises), and dietary therapy.

Davino said Chinese medicine consists of three parts: philosophy, culture and medical knowledge. Medical knowledge is used to treat disease; philosophy is like yinyang-how different forces complement each other-or knowing the relationship between the environment and the world. Western medicine focuses on diseases and how to treat them.

Unlike Western Medicine which requires basic medical knowledge and for the treatments of diseases, Chinese medicine must study a wider range of practices. Chinese medicine requires practical experience to find precise acupoints, and it takes students a long time to be professional doctors and find jobs. Chinese Medicine doctors pass their knowledge and skills to their students, but the students need to take exams to demonstrate adequate knowledge and application.

Yu Jianer, head of Shanghai Chinese Medicine said he believes not enough is being done in China to preserve this ancient practice. "Governments need to pay more attention on to Chinese medicine and to better publicize the knowledge of it, letting more people know about Chinese medicine and Chinese culture," Yu said, who's studied Chinese medicine for more than twenty years.

Davino said, as an outsider, he's noticing a lapse of interest in this unique medical practice that has been handed down for centuries. But he is seeing increasing interest by Western people, like himself, in Chinese medicine. There are more than 3,000 Chinese Medicine hospitals in England and more than 100 Chinese Medical Schools in America, according to Xinhua Network.

Davino said he's attended a Chinese Medicine International Conference and was amazed to find the number of doctors from Western countries who knew a lot more about Chinese medicine than Chinese practitioners.

Davino said his county is one specific example of Western society taking interest in Chinese medicine. A Brazil Chinese Medicine Institute built in Brazil in 2006. The Brazilian government launched policies regarding Chinese medicine. More than 30,000 doctors use Chinese medicine, acupunctures, massages and Chinese herbs in Brazil, according to the Sina Network. Brazil is also building a community health center to train professional Chinese medicine doctors.

"If Chinese medicine continues in this way, Chinese medicine will vanish from Chinese society and foreigners will teach Chinese people how to use Chinese medicine in the future," Davino said.

Davino said he doesn't plan to stay in China forever, but hopes to return to Brazil one day and use his knowledge of Chinese medicine in Western society. "I want to do what people do it here now, helping people and I want to bring it back home," Davino said.

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