This is an update on the recent dialogue session with SMS Dr Amy Khor held on 15 August 2018. Chairman of TCMP Board, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, and several other CMAA members were present at the session.
SMS had called for the dialogue session to discuss challenges faced by the TCM industry and in particular those faced by the NTU TCM graduates.
We are thankful for the feedback and proposals that many of you have provided.
Based on the feedback, a detailed write-up and proposal on ways to develop the professional standing of TCM was presented to SMS and Mrs Yu-Foo. Vice President of CMAA, Ms Ho Chin Ee gave a presentation summarizing the proposal on behalf of CMAA.
1. Challenges faced by NTU TCM Graduates
We shared with MOH that the lack of career opportunities and progression, and the low pay in the TCM industry were the main challenges faced by NTU TCMPs. We have attributed those problems mainly to the absence of structure in the TCM industry to nurture and retain talent.
We have also brought up other feedback from CMAA members included a lack of TCM component incorporated in our mainstream healthcare system, misconceptions of TCM by western medicine counterparts and a lack of vibrancy in local TCM research scene.
2. Integrated Healthcare System
We introduced the concept of integrated healthcare practiced overseas, where healthcare professionals of different disciplines collaborate and work towards achieving the best patient outcome. We also proposed that TCM treatment should also be included as part of patient care locally with increasing research and evidence supporting its use. More importantly, it could help in reducing overall healthcare cost.
SMS explained that team-based care was already practised in Singapore through collaborative efforts between doctors, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals in the management of patients’ conditions. TCM was not included primarily due to the lack of robust evidence supporting its use. SMS highlighted that all medical practices would need to go through rigorous validation process before they could be considered standard protocol in mainstream medicine.
3. TCM Clinical Practice
We proposed setting up TCM clinics across Singapore, co-located within the vicinity of polyclinics, to form a network affiliated to a local university to facilitate research and education.
SMS responded that while having TCM in polyclinics might bring some short term benefits, it would also continue to perpetuate the low cost image of TCM in the minds of the general public. SMS also highlighted challenges with space constraints in polyclinics, as there were multiple competing uses for space with increasing patient load.
SMS suggested that CMAA members should set themselves apart from the low-cost VWO clinics and build a strong brand name of CMAA, with higher standards that the rest of the industry could aspire to. CMAA could lead and set the benchmark for the industry.
4. Post-Graduate Internship Programme
We have also proposed a post-graduate internship programme modelled after the Hong Kong Hospital Authority Tripartite Chinese Medicine Centre for Training and Research. Under such a model, TCM graduates could practice under supervision of senior physicians to further gain clinical experience, and facilitate TCM clinical research.
SMS shared that MOH, TCMP Board and NTU were exploring such a programme where TCM graduates could take on a one-year internship including clinical and research components. More will be shared about the programme when ready.
5. TCM Research Scene
We shared that TCM research in Singapore was lacking in vibrancy. Therefore, proposed bringing in overseas researchers who were familiar with research in integrated healthcare, or collaborate with overseas institutions for TCM research, to mentor the relatively young and inexperienced pool of local TCM researchers, and to hasten the pace of TCM research in Singapore.
SMS responded that the relevant institutions would have to identify the right people for the job. She suggested Academy of Chinese Medicine Singapore (ACMS) could take the lead, and for CMAA members to play an active role in TCM research.
SMS also commended CMAA on the recently concluded third grant call of the TCM Research Grant, where NTU TCM graduates participated as co-investigators or collaborators in 11 of the 21 project applications received.
6. TCM Education
As Continuing Professional Education (CPE) was to become compulsory soon, we proposed that appropriate biomedical knowledge be included as part of the courses to be offered. SMS assured that the TCMP Board CPE committee would ensure depth and breadth of all courses offered and it was possible to include basic biomedical or western medicine knowledge in the courses.
We posed the possibility of regulating TCM education to be provided only in university setting so as to ensure common standards among future TCM practitioners.
We also suggested for current western medicine undergraduate curriculum to include a compulsory module on complementary medicines. The exposure to basic knowledge about complementary medicine during undergraduate study would keep future doctors more open-minded about TCM.
SMS shared that the current undergraduate medicine curriculum was already packed and intense. It could be a challenge to introduce more compulsory subjects. SMS suggested that CMAA conduct talks to clarify common misconceptions, and if students found it useful, it could be offered as an elective module for medical students.
7. Setting Higher Standards and Aims for CMAA
SMS shared that the history and development of the TCM industry in Singapore was unique and the huge presence of TCM VWO clinics was one reason for the current state of affairs. As part of their legacy, TCM VWOs would want to carry on their goodwill of providing free or low cost treatments to everyone and it would be difficult to change their modus operandi e.g. like implementing means testing. However, some TCM VWOs have realised and acknowledged that the free-for-all model will not be economically viable and sustainable in the long run.
Mrs Yu-Foo shared that CMAA could consider establishing its own group practice modelled as a social enterprise which was non-profit making but could still pay good physicians competitive market salaries. She expressed willingness to raise support for the clinic should CMAA be willing to explore this option.
SMS also expressed support should CMAA wish to apply to use public spaces e.g. HDB void deck as their clinic premise.
SMS encouraged CMAA members to make good use of the TCM Development Grant and participate actively in CPE events to keep themselves relevant.
Mrs Yu-Foo added that ACMS had introduced scholarships and overseas internship opportunities and encouraged CMAA members to take up opportunities to improve, so that they would be better positioned to lead the industry in the future.
SMS and Mrs Yu-Foo affirmed their support for CMAA and urged CMAA to play a more active role in bringing up the standards and shaping the future of the industry.
We are thankful for the support from MOH and TCMP Board. Let’s envision the end goal as we forge ahead and make progress as one CMAA. With our collective strengths, we can work together to raise the standards of the industry.
Your views are important to us. We hope to have regular feedback from you as we chart the way forward together.
Comment below, or contact us to share your views.
Download the PDF version here: Updates-on-Dialogue-Session-with-SMS-Dr-Amy-Khor-on-15-August-2018.pdf (337 downloads)