It was recently revealed by Korea Biomedical Review, an online English healthcare-related newspaper based in the Republic of Korea (ROK), that eight Chinese medicine schools, including top schools like the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, were delisted from the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDMS), managed by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) under the World Health Organization (WHO). How much does this delisting matter to these schools and its students? It is possible that graduates from these eight schools will not be able to attend international exchanges as medical doctors, while foreign students will not be allowed to work as medical doctors in their home countries. To some extent, the removal from the directory will undermine traditional Chinese medicine's (TCM) future development.
In response, China's Ministry of Education said that in accordance with Chinese laws on academic degrees, graduates from Chinese medicine schools will continue to be granted degrees and receive medical qualifications after passing relevant exams, adding that this would not change simply because these schools were delisted from a directory run by a non-governmental organization (NGO).
The news of the delisting has stirred up a sensation within medical circles in China and across Chinese society. While finding it unfair and difficult to understand, most people believe this action will not lead to the sidelining of TCM in China or the world. In any case, modern medicine and traditional medicine like TCM belong to different medical systems, with respective standards to measure their efficacy. Some believe the most important thing is not to scramble for international approval, but to make TCM stronger.
Different academic systems
Yi Yan (The Beijing News): Whether it's Chinese or Western medicine, they both share the same goal: To save lives, cure diseases and help people live a healthier life.
The WDMS measures medical schools by modern medicine standards, thus, the eight schools that were delisted did not meet these standards. This is not the first time traditional medicine schools have been delisted. In 2012, an ROK school was also taken off the list.
The theory of TCM is hard to explain with Western medicine theory. Experimental methods used in modern medicine can hardly reflect TCM's true medical function. In this sense, there must be a standard based on TCM to test and measure the efficacy of Chinese medicine, instead of Western medicine standards.
To some extent, the delisting of the eight schools falls along this logic. Since modern medicine is unable to decipher the function of TCM, it's understandable that they were removed from the directory.
Thus, it does not matter whether the Western medicine system acknowledges TCM as long as it is recognized and respected in China. There is plenty of room and time for TCM to compete with modern medicine. Let's just wait and see!
Liu Chen (Guangzhou Daily): The news of the delisting has provoked heated discussions online and some people believe that this means that international medical circles have negated TCM.
Actually, the WDMS only includes schools that run Western clinical medicine. In other words, it lists schools that have been accredited by its own system. It's not that the WHO doesn't recognize the status of the eight Chinese schools, which only have TCM clinical programs, it's just that they do not live up to the WDMS definition of medical schools.
That this news has sparked debates reveals a sensitive topic related to TCM. In recent years, medical quacks have hurt people's health in the name of TCM and thus have discouraged people from believing in it. However, TCM has made great contributions to human health throughout history. Both Chinese and Western medicine are designed to improve people's health and strengthen them against disease. The two systems have their own respective advantages and thus both training methods should be respected and encouraged.
It's well known that the eight schools have been recognized by major global medical institutions in terms of talent nurturing and academic research. The important thing is not to enter into endless arguments about their delisting, but to shatter the myths about TCM, fight against quackery, help TCM integrate into modern science and increase its comprehensibility in modern scientific principles.
Kong Deming (www.banyuetan.org): The WDMS is quite influential and schools on its list can expect to see their reputation enhanced. In this sense, the delisting of the eight schools does have a negative impact, leading some to believe that it signals that TCM is not recognized by global medical circles.
In the past, it was the WHO that was in charge of the WDMS, and at that time, Chinese and Western medicine schools were listed side by side. However, after taking over the WDMS, the WFME has begun trimming the list to only those offering Western clinical medicine programs, thus the delisting of schools that do not use Western medicine was inevitable. Actually, the WFME is only an NGO, making its list not authoritative and legally binding, so it should not be used as the only measure for the quality of a medical school.
In fact, a growing number of countries have begun to allow and recognize TCM. In July 2012, Australia became the first Western country to officially recognize the legal status of TCM by providing unified management and registration to TCM and its pharmacists. In 2019, the 72nd World Health Assembly approved the 11th
revision of the International Classification of Diseases, integrating traditional medicine originating from TCM for the first time.
As Chinese people, we should have strong confidence in TCM, since it has been around for thousands of years, helping the Chinese nation with its health and physical development. TCM is a treasure of the Chinese nation, reflecting its unique wisdom. Squeezed by modern science and civilization epitomized by Western medicine, TCM is struggling under various pressures.
However, this does not mean that TCM is an inferior medical system. It has its own syndrome differentiation and treatment and its own well-developed education system. Thus, whether Chinese medicine schools are listed on the WDMS does not have direct bearing on the value of TCM, nor will it change China's supportive attitude toward its development.
Qing Feng (news.sohu.com): Chinese medicine is a great creation of the Chinese nation, which has made many contributions to world civilization and human history. In 2015, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her role in digging into the treasures of TCM and surmounting daunting medical issues to discover artemisinin for the treatment of malaria.
Although this put a spotlight on TCM, we still have to wait for some time before TCM is widely recognized around the world. For thousands of years, the Chinese were not eager to introduce TCM to the rest of the world, so why should we be so anxious now? China's Ministry of Education has responded to the delisting by saying that Chinese medicine schools are an inseparable part of China's medical colleges and universities, and their status in China will not be undermined just because they are delisted from a directory compiled by an NGO.
TCM's significance has been proven by history and will be proven again in the future.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo