IF you ask Andy Carr, a 22-year-old smart South African girl, what she would like to do in the future, her answer may amaze you.
‘I would be really excited to open my own practice and help people with their general well-being using traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture,’ she said.
Carr is among about 100 students who are learning acupuncture programmes offered to bachelor’s and post graduate students in 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 said.
After almost two-year studying acupuncture in university, Carr tried to treat family and friends who need assistance and are not too afraid of needles.
‘Initially, obviously there has been skepticism when you tell someone that you can treat these conditions using something as simple as just the needle. But, doing it yourself is amazing because you can actually see the effect that it will have on your patients,’ said Carr.
She said many South African people have misunderstandings towards acupuncture, regarding it as a painful treatment.
‘I always have to convince people like, guys, it is not supposed to hurt when you do acupuncture,’ she said, adding that “when I treat 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 recalled. ‘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 was studying, there stands the Acupuncture Teaching Clinic (ATC) and Acupuncture Museum (AM).
The ATC consisted of 10 consultation rooms and 20 beds, which served 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 AM 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 the Covid-19, Carr and her classmates moved to online learning last year.
‘When ancient medicine meets modern technologies, the results might be confusing in the past,’ said 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 online teaching and so the students are leading us to engage in online teaching to ensure the quality of the outcomes,’ he added.
‘The distant 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 said, adding that ‘the live sessions of online teaching are very similar to the contact classes.’
Hu said acupuncture was regulated in 2001 in South Africa. Successful graduates will be able to register with other health profession councils of South Africa to practise acupuncture in the country.
He believed South Africa’s rural healthcare could benefit a lot from acupuncture medicine.
‘The 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. The benefit of these medicines is effective and cost-effective, so it is very suitable for rural health,’ he said. ‘As we can see from our practice, more and more patients especially the local patients, are coming in for these services.’
Carr held the same sentiment. She believed that acupuncture does work, and it has worked for hundreds of years. Opening an acupuncture clinic ‘is a way of uplifting the community here in South Africa specifically in my own home Melkbosstrand, Cape Town,’ said Carr.