South African student pinpoints her dream job in TCM

2021-03-01 12:05:38

JOHANNESBURG - If you ask Andy Carr, a 22-year-old South African student, what she would like to do in the future, her answer may amaze you. "It would be really exciting to open my own practice and help people with their general well-being using traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture," she says. Carr is among around 100 students who are learning acupuncture programs offered to bachelor's and postgraduate students at the University of Johannesburg. "I have been raised on natural medicine, so I have been exposed to Chinese medicine and acupuncture from a very young age," she says. After almost two years of studying acupuncture at university, Carr tries to treat family and friends who need assistance and are not afraid of needles. "Initially, obviously, there is skepticism when you tell someone that you can treat these conditions using something as simple as just a needle. But, doing it yourself is amazing, because you can actually see the effect that it has on your patients," says Carr. She says many South African people have a misunderstanding of acupuncture, regarding it as a painful treatment. "I always have to convince people that it is not supposed to hurt," she says, adding that, "When I treat a family member or friend, they will ask 'Is the needle in yet?' And I am like, 'Yes, it is in.' "I actually spent the whole of my Christmas holiday last year assisting family and friends who had problems," she says. "My dad injured his back over the holiday, so I treated him. When he woke up the next day, he said it felt like nothing at all was wrong. Normally, he would be in pain for about two to three weeks after the injury." In the department of complementary medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, where Carr is studying, there stands the Acupuncture Teaching Clinic and Acupuncture Museum. The ATC consists of 10 consultation rooms and 20 beds, which serve as the clinical teaching base and research facility where the training of students' clinical and research skills takes place. It will open to the public and start to receive patients from July 1, 2021. The museum aims to provide a visual history of acupuncture as a part of traditional Chinese medicine. The history from ancient times to nowadays has been presented and exhibited, including the classics, stories of famous doctors as well as historical items. This museum will also serve as a valuable resource for students like Carr. Due to COVID-19, Carr and her classmates transitioned to online learning last year. "When ancient medicine meets modern technologies, the results might be confusing," says Hu Zijing, a supervisor at the University of Johannesburg. "After almost one year of online teaching, we see very good results, and we are confident with the process, so the students are leading us to engage in online teaching to ensure the quality of the outcome," he adds. "The remote study doesn't reduce the quality of the teaching, because we are making use of the videos, the recordings and the live sessions of lectures," Hu says, adding that "the live online teaching sessions are very similar to the contact classes". Hu says acupuncture was regulated in 2001 in South Africa. Successful graduates will be able to register with other health profession councils of South Africa to practice acupuncture in the country. He believes South Africa's rural healthcare could benefit a lot from the procedure. "Rural health in Africa, and also in South Africa, can be improved by Chinese medicine and acupuncture, especially because of the cost of these medicines," he says. Opening an acupuncture clinic "is a way of uplifting the community here in South Africa, specifically in my own home of Melkbosstrand, Cape Town," says Carr.