Nearly 430,000 British Columbians with a Bachelor’s degree were employed in 2012. Statistics Canada records also indicate that 754,000 diploma program graduates were employed in the same year. Although this data indicates the diploma program is a more common choice for post-secondary education, in competitive fields such as health, a sector that only employed 159,000 British Columbians in 2012, a diploma may not meet employers’ competitive requirements.
Due to the income difference between those with a Bachelor’s degree and those with a diploma, it may not be surprising that the number of Bachelor’s degree graduates in British Columbia has increased in the past decade. Statistics Canada indicates that in 2005 B.C. residents with a Bachelor’s degree earned on average 53 per cent more than those holding a diploma or certificate.
For alternative medicine programs that currently only offer diplomas or certificates, this means taking matters into their own hands. The PCU College of Holistic Medicine presented the Degree Quality Insurance Board with a proposal to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – the first of its kind in B.C. and Canada. Both the regulator and practitioners initiated a push for this degree to raise standards in B.C.
Dr. John Yang, the dean and director of PCU College, believes that a TCM undergraduate degree will have a positive impact on the acceptance of TCM by the Western medical community.
“With degree training, the future practitioner will have the right credentials. Of course they will match with the medical system and medical community more easy,” says Yang. He explains how this acceptance will transition into acceptance by the general public.
“The public are looking for graduates with a degree credential in terms of their knowledge and safety and competency,” says Yang.
Dr. Jeda Boughton, Doctor of Chinese Medicine at BodaHealth, agrees that the degree will have a positive effect on acceptance. “I
think people will perceive it as more legitimate. It will give it a stamp of western approval,” says Boughton.
Dr. Bohdan Bilan, vice president of academic and regulatory affairs at the parent company Eminata, indicates the positive effect the degree will have on the academic community. Currently, diploma holders must upgrade to a degree before pursuing Chinese graduate studies.
“Students who would be graduating from this program now have the opportunity to go to China and to partake in graduate studies there,” he says.
The program will involve several general science courses, added hours focused on Western Medicine and diagnostic techniques, additional clinical practicum, extensive acupuncture study and a significant component speaking to the links between Eastern and Western Medicine. Yang anticipates that the degree will facilitate future TCM research. He acknowledges that current practitioners in the TCM community have responded positively to the idea of a Master’s degree, which PCU College plans to pursue in the next five years.
Registered Acupuncurist at Studio Health, Delphine Baumer, hopes the degree will help both the general and the medical community recognize the different strengths of each TCM and Western medicine.
“They have different purposes; TCM helps the body heal itself and this complements ongoing medical care. Working together we can create a complete medical system,” says Baumer.
Baumer says the degree can only be positive for the TCM community.
“We are only as good as our cohorts. This will give us a solid foundation,” she says.
As the public, current TCM practitioners and the Western medical community push for higher academic standards in fields of complementary medicine, degrees in alternative medicine may grant tomorrow’s students with more options in the health profession, the potential for a higher income and a greater acceptance by the Canadian community.
Dr. Jeda Boughton, Doctor of Chinese Medicine at BodaHealth
On acceptance of TCM in the lower mainland: “I think people will perceive it as more legitimate. It will give it a stamp of western approval.”
On altering TCM in order to “fit” Western degree program requirements: “There are TCM techniques practiced in China that are not allowed in Canada. Over time as acceptance changes this will likely change. I think the degree program is a stepping stone in that direction.”
On how it will affect current TCM practitioners: “I don’t see this as negative. We all have to pass the same rigorous licensing exams. Everyone is tested at the same level.”
On upgrading: “I personally likely would not, I’ve already been practicing for 10 years now. I think some practitioners might choose it as part of their annual continuing education depending on the courses.”
Delphine Baumer, R.Ac at Studio Health
On acceptance of TCM in the lower mainland: “There will be great interest from the general public, but the real strengths will be the bridges built with the Western medical community.”
On altering TCM in order to “fit” Western degree program requirements: “We are in this dichotomy of fitting classical Chinese practices into a Western mind and model. This degree will help people understand through a western perspective.”
On how it will affect current TCM practitioners: “This seems like nothing but good for our community. Having a degree program is something we can do to keep moving forward within our profession.”
On upgrading: “I think most likely. If there are advanced courses in acupuncture, which is my passion, then absolutely. This seems like nothing but good for our community.”