Beijing shares medical secrets

July 11, 1997

Britain may have lost Hong Kong to China, but a new degree of partnership is developing between the nations. Middlesex University has started interviewing for its new five-year degree in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which it will run in collaboration with Beijing University of TCM.

The degree, the first of its kind in Britain, follows a similar curriculum to Beijing's and will be taught partly by professors visiting from China.

Henry Lee, head of the school of multi-professional health care at Middlesex, said the only differences between the courses are that the British course will be taught in English, without political overtones and without using animal products. Students will be expected to learn Mandarin, ethics and the basics of orthodox medicine, and will spend six months of their final year practising in China.

Mr Lee was born in China and spent much of his childhood in Hong Kong. He came to Britain in the 1960s and started investigating the possibilities of introducing TCM degrees after learning that people were setting up in the west with insufficient training.

"People go to China and study for three to six months and come back with a certificate written in Chinese," said Mr Lee. "These people seem very well qualified but in fact it is not true. My concern as a Chinese is the potential damage this can cause TCM.

"I use TCM - I believe it has worked for me. So I started exploring the possibilities of a degree."

Dr Lee stresses the course will involve more than learning the clinical techniques of acupuncture or prescribing herbs. Instead students will be taught the theory and the traditions, as well as the practice of TCM, so they are able to diagnose and best treat individuals, as well as using their knowledge to complement orthodox western medicine.

"We will teach them to know 390 herbs, as well as the proper way to learn acupuncture," said Mr Lee.

"It has been imported and has been divorced from an understanding of the principles. We need to take it back to basics so future practitioners understand what they are doing and can shape treatment for the individual patient."

Twenty students are expected to start the degree in October. Details from Mr Lee on 0181 887 49.

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