TCM: A multicultural pursuit

  • Education
  • Sunday, 30 Aug 2020

Making a difference: Wan Amirah (front), with her classmates and lecturer.

SHE had never heard about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) let alone know of its existence until a movie sparked Wan Amirah Aminah Wan Mohd Nizam’s interest in the ancient treatment method.

Her fascination grew so strong that she decided to pursue a TCM degree at INTI International University even though she did not speak a word of Mandarin, a language essential for the course.

“I was while watching a Chinese movie that I saw how acupuncture was used to treat a patient. I’d been curious about it ever since.”

Having attended a national secondary school, Wan Amirah had no basic knowledge of Mandarin but she was determined not to let that stand in her way of learning about TCM.

Every night, she attended eight hours of intensive Mandarin classes per week for four semesters, and put in extra effort to make sure that she could keep up with her Mandarin speaking coursemates.

“I kept pushing myself to learn the language and whatever extra time I had would be spent on practising and memorising Chinese characters.

“I also watched more Chinese dramas and listened to Chinese songs to improve my proficiency,” she said, adding that her lecturers were always supportive and encouraging.

Despite the challenges, Wan Amirah was determined to one day successfully provide relief and treatment to future patients and to dispel the misconceptions some people have about TCM.

“I remember attending a TCM charity treatment event we had at a shopping mall. A lady came up to me and asked about the ingredients we used for treatment. She thought that TCM herbs and medication contain alcohol and had non-halal meat.

“Some of my relatives are also skeptical about the efficacy of alternative treatments like TCM,” she shared.

She believes that being one of the few Malays taking TCM meant that she would soon be able to communicate better with patients from the Malay community on treatment options and advantages.

Wan Amirah’s coursemates, Lily Qarmila Mohd Lotffee and Hadijah Sofia Badrul Hisham, also share the same fascination towards TCM.

Despite attending a Chinese primary school, Hadijah Sofia struggled to juggle her packed syllabus and extra-curricular activities, and night classes to refresh plus improve her Mandarin.

“My first semester was rough. I was not prepared for the amount of work required during the classes and workshops.

“Fortunately, I had lecturers who listened to my problems and advised me on how I could improve not only my grades, but also manage my university life,” she shared.

She aspires to serve in a hospital, clinic or at the Malaysian Chinese Medical Association (MCMA) after graduation.

She is also planning to get her Masters degree in China and to set up her own practice.

For Lily Qarmila, memorising the names, properties and formulas of herbs she had never heard of, is a challenge.

“To know the herbs is one thing, but you also have to know their properties and the ailments they treat.

“One of my seniors came to the rescue and shared with me tips on how to remember these names,” she said, sounding thankful.

Lily Qarmila said the best part of taking up TCM was the real clinical experience offered by the university.

“Studying TCM has truly widened my perspective about treating patients.”

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