Enhancing Traditional Chinese Medicine Studies Through International Study Pathways

November 1, 2018

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a style of traditional medicine built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice, has contributed tremendously to the health of Chinese people for thousands years. Through its special clinical effects, rational theory system and rich practice experience, it has become an alternative medical treatment that is increasingly sought after by people from all backgrounds and cultures.


A delegation led by INTI’s Vice Chancellor Dr Joseph Lee (centre) visits Tianjin UTCM. The delegates are (from left) Dr Tung Taim Chai (from left), Dr Heng Aik Teng, Dr Chin Pau Ming; (from right) Leong May Ho, Tan Foong Ping and Dr Lai Yin Ling.

In recent years, with growing awareness and interest in traditional medicine and herbal remedies, traditional Chinese medicine has gradually become an essential part of the healthcare system, particularly in Asian countries.

According to the findings of the Malaysian Health Ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, more than 29 per cent of the nation’s population sought the services of TCM practitioners to address various ailments in their lives .

In order to keep abreast with this emerging healthcare system, the Malaysian government has integrated traditional Chinese medicine into the national healthcare system, with Hospital Kepala Batas in Penang being the first hospital in the country to have a TCM unit since 2007. Subsequently, a Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council (T&CM Council in short), which includes traditional Malay medicine, traditional Indian medicine, Homeopathy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Islamic medical practices, was established under the Ministry of Health in August 2017.

Besides regulating traditional and complementary medical industries, the ultimate goal of setting up this council is to enhance the quality of T&CM services provided by government hospitals and private entities, stipulating that only those who have gone through proper and professional training, or those who are registered with the council can practise in the field.


Every TCM student who pursues INTI’s Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine programme needs to complete more than 2,200 practical training hours.

A member of the Joint Technical Committee under the Ministry of Health, and a TCM academician from INTI International University, Dr Heng Aik Teng explained, “The Ministry of Health is putting in place processes and guidance that will give TCM practice a legal status. Its requirement for qualified and legalised practitioners means only those who have gone through undergraduate training will qualify to practise.”

In light of this, TCM education at tertiary levels will become a crucial part of the TCM practice in Malaysia, as universities that provide TCM training and education, will be regarded as the only formal training ground for TCM practitioners in the country after 2009.

Citing the history of TCM education in Malaysia, Dr Heng stated, “In the older days, TCM professionals from China could not enter into this country due to immigration limits. Their skills and knowledge were therefore passed on to selected apprentices mainly through night schools.”

“In 2009, when the Higher Education Ministry approved TCM degree programmes to be provided locally, INTI International University emerged as the first local university to provide a Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine programme, establishing TCM as part of Malaysia’s general education system,” continued Dr Heng.

Besides Dr Heng, INTI’s TCM academicians who have been selected as councillors with respective committee under T&CM Council are Dr Yong Kian Fui and Dr Sik Cheong Khai.

With strong partnerships with renowned universities for traditional Chinese medicine across China, the TCM degree programme at INTI is helmed by highly qualified TCM practitioners from both Malaysia and China, providing students with a strong foundation in TCM clinical practices and treatments. In fulfilling their practical training, INTI undergraduates complete five months of internship at either the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Shandong University of TCM or Tianjin University of TCM before graduation.

This comprehensive training regime overseas has been made possible as many INTI TCM graduates are awarded full scholarships by the Chinese government to further pursue their TCM Master’s programmes in various universities across mainland China, including Nanjing UCM, Henan UTCM, Shanghai UTCM, Tianjin UTCM and Beijing UCM.

“Since 2015, there are eleven graduates who have been awarded full scholarships by the government of the Peoples’ Republic of China in pursuing their master’s degrees. While most of the graduates obtained full scholarships through the Chinese Embassy, a few of them obtained the scholarships through the recommendation by us at INTI,” explained Ooi Lay Khuan, Director of Operations of INTI’s TCM Department, a part of INTI’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Recently, a delegation led by INTI’s Vice Chancellor Dr Joseph Lee for the 60th Anniversary of Tianjin UTCM and the 5th World Education Congress on Chinese Medicine, met with INTI graduates who are currently pursuing their master’s degree.

One such student is Chong Jing Yuan, who secured a full scholarship from the Chinese government to study acupuncture and tuina at Tianjin UTCM. Recalling the stiff competition that he encountered, Chong said, “My competitors included both mainland Chinese and Malaysian undergraduates. Thanks to my strong foundation at INTI and the efforts of INTI’s lecturers, who wrote an extensive letter of recommendation for me, I was able to secure my place at Tianjin University of TCM.”

“I learnt a lot during my clinical training at INTI, and this helped me adapt quicker to how things worked in China. INTI’s programme structure is very similar to what Chinese UTCMs practice, hence, I don’t face much difficulties in my studies and communication with the physicians here,” said Chong.

Another master’s student, Connie Wong Hsuah Nee, who is also pursuing the same specialisation, credited her alma mater for arranging her internship at Tianjin UTCM. “This provided me with sufficient clinical practice in securing a full scholarship for my masters. It also helped me prepare for the clinical sessions I am undergoing now.”

Yong Yii Pin, who specialises in Internal Medicine for her master’s studies enthused, “With sufficient clinical practice during my undergraduate studies at INTI, I have gained more confidence in treating patients and communicating with them. This has also provided me a firm foundation in developing more in depth TCM skills from my supervisors in Tianjin University.”

In renewing INTI’s Memorandum of Agreement with Tianjin UTCM, Dr Joseph Lee also signed a new MOA with its Deputy Vice Chancellor, Guo Lipin. The agreements will continuously provide a study path for INTI TCM undergraduates in completing their five months’ internship there.