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Kwantlen University to be the new host for traditional Chinese medicine in B.C.

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RICHMOND, B.C. - Weidong Yu gently punctured his patient's left arm with three small needles — two near the elbow, and one near the wrist — then smiled and told the man to wait five minutes.

Yu's patient, British Columbia's Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk, then moved his neck from side to side.

Yu, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, was demonstrating his acupuncture skills on the minister who said he had been suffering from a neck injury ever since a car accident during his days as a police officer.

On Friday, Virk announced that British Columbia's first public school of traditional Chinese medicine will be hosted by Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, south of Vancouver.

The new school is part of a promise made last year in the B.C. government's speech from the throne to create a publicly funded Chinese medicine program.

Virk said the new school will offer B.C. residents more options in health care.

"It's expanding access, it's offering British Columbians additional choices for preventative, complementary health care and global learning opportunities," he told reporters.

There are already six private schools in the province that train traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, who are regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C.

While traditional Chinese medicine is becoming increasingly popular, the minister said there are still skeptics.

"The fact that you have a publicly-funded university adds a different level of acceptance to a program," he said. "So it will be closely monitored by the university as well by the different schools that govern traditional Chinese medicine."

Yu agrees that a public school will help ensure medical standards are met.

"A public university with non-profit in mind, but that (wants to) produce the best practitioner and is objective is to the best interest of British Columbians," he said.

B.C.'s medical services plan does not generally cover traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, though the government pays up to $23 per acupuncture visit for 10 treatments for those under premium assistance.

Virk said he believes the demand for the traditional medicine is high, and many people have extended health plans that will cover the costs.

"I don't believe that's going to be an impediment to the use of TCM," he said. "So many individuals already use it and so many individuals have the plans to cover it."

Traditional Chinese medicine includes a broad range of practices, including acupuncture, massages, herbal medicine and lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

Yu said the practice is rooted in the ancient philosophy that illnesses stem from an imbalance between "yin" and "yang" energies within people's bodies. Healing occurs once harmony is restored.

Just moments after Yu poked the needles into Virk's arm, the minister claimed his neck felt much better.

"I started at about six or seven, I'd be down to a three or four right now," he said, referring to the level of pain.

Gordon Lee, vice president of finance and administration at Kwantlen, said the school will now put together a committee to help design the new medicine program. He said the program may involve collaborating with the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine in China.

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