By TAN SHIOW CHIN
STUDENTS interested in traditional chinese medicine now have the option of pursuing a degree in the subject at Inti University College (INTI-UC).
The institution is the first in the country to offer such a degree approved by the Higher Education Ministry.
INTI-UC president Prof Dr Lee Fah Onn said that although there are smaller institutions offering courses in traditional chinese medicine, INTI-UC is introducing the degree in full compliance with the guidelines given by the ministry, as well as the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
'We have fully-qualified lecturers, complete facilities and practical training,' he told reporters during a media preview of the course recently.
'Our objective is to enable students to practise traditional chinese medicine with the underpinning of a strong scientific base,' he said.
To this end, the four-year honours programme will consist of one year of basic medical sciences, including anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, two years of clinical subjects and one year of clinical training.
The final year of clinical training includes seven months of internship - two months locally and five months in China at either the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine or the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.
Students will also have the benefit of practising their diagnostic and management skills in clinical skill labs before they can actually work on real patients.
Altogether, the course includes 1,200 hours of clinical training, which will be conducted primarily at the Negri Sembilan Chinese Maternity Hospital and Medical Centre, where INTI-UC will be starting a Traditional Chinese Medicine wing soon.
The medium of instruction will be mainly in English, with some basic terminologies in Chinese.
'This will enable us to attract international students to study here.
'It also means that any of our graduates can go overseas to any English-speaking country to work, so we are increasing their market value,' said INTI-UC Medical and Health Sciences Faculty dean Dr Timothy Song.
Compulsory technical Chinese classes will also be held for students who are not fluent in or do not speak the language, during their first year to help them pick up the appropriate terms.
Lecturers from China who conduct the classes in Chinese will have teaching assistants to help them translate into English for students.
However, Dr Song said that he does not foresee many problems in terms of language as many of the traditional chinese medicine classics have been well translated into English. The teaching staff, he added, will consist primarily of practitioners from Malaysia.
He explained that the curriculum for the course was designed with the help of qualified Chinese physicians from around the country.
'We asked individual practitioners what they want to see in a Chinese physician, and included their input in the curriculum.
'Then we sent off the syllabus to three internationally-renowned traditional chinese medicine universities ' the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and the Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine - and got their feedback.'
Therefore, INTI-UC's Traditional Chinese Medicine degree is benchmarked against the best universities for the subject, he said.
He added that students will be taught how to do research as well, as 'everything must be evidence-based'.
INTI-UC managing director Boh Boon Chiang said that the institution will not only look at the applicant's academic qualifications, but will also conduct personality profiling and interviews.
'The emotional aspect of candidates is very important to us; we will select students who are the best fit to become doctors,' he said.
So far though, most enquiries about the course have come from working adults, rather than secondary school students. Applicants need a pre-university qualification to enter the programme.
The first intake of students for the degree will start their lessons next month.