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Professor Simon Redfern, Dean, College of Science, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)


Professor Kanaga Sabapathy, Chair, School of Biological Sciences, NTU


Associate Professor Linda Zhong, Director, Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine, NTU


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen


             I am happy to join you today to launch the new Chinese Medicine degree programme. My warmest congratulations to NTU and the School of Biological Sciences for achieving this milestone.


Towards Better Education and Training in TCM


3.             In Singapore, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been recognised for its complementary role in our healthcare system for many years, and is widely used in the community. From the late 1990s, as more evidence on its effectiveness emerged, our public hospitals started offering TCM acupuncture alongside mainstream Western medicine treatment for their patients. Being part of mainstream medical treatment in public hospitals, TCM acupuncture can be subsidised and can be eligible for MediSave use.


4.             I believe the role of TCM in the Singapore healthcare system will continue to evolve. TCM’s strengths lie in taking a holistic approach in improving wellness and preventing diseases of the patients. As Singapore’s population ages, and as more people have to grapple with chronic diseases, TCM can potentially play an enhanced role.


5.             To prepare for this possibility, there are a few things the TCM practitioner community has to do, such as  more clinical research, a strengthened self-regulatory regime for TCM practitioners which they are working on, and improved education and training to develop competent TCM practitioners for our local market. This would include a comprehensive and structured undergraduate training programme in Chinese Medicine, as a foundation of good clinical practice, and is the main issue I would like to talk about today.


New Degree Programme


6.             In 2005, NTU collaborated with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) to establish a TCM degree programme. It was deliberately designed as a five-year double degree programme in Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine to broaden the career options for graduates. This was also the first TCM programme to be offered by a public university in Singapore.


7.             The partnership with BUCM was a fruitful one. More than 430 students have since graduated from the programme, with an average of 30 students a year in recent years. The graduates received the Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences from NTU and Bachelor of Chinese Medicine from BUCM.


8.             Although designed as a double degree programme, the career preferences of graduates was clear. More than 80% of you went on to obtain your licence as registered TCM practitioners. Years after graduation, the majority continues to be working in TCM or TCM-related sectors.


9.             Although a fairly niche programme, there is sufficient interest from students who want to learn about Chinese medicine to sustain the degree programme. This is especially given the positive outlook of the sector, and the strong demand for TCM from our local population.


10.          Therefore, the Ministry of Education, MOH and NTU decided to review the current TCM degree. We concluded that the time is ripe for NTU to offer and establish its own degree programme, one that is better suited for Singapore’s healthcare needs. This will be a new four-year Chinese Medicine degree programme. It will no longer be a double degree, so that we attract graduates with a strong interest in, and are committed to, joining the TCM sector.


11.          The programme is developed with Singapore’s needs in mind. For example, because graduates now possess a BUCM degree in Chinese medicine, they need to fulfil over 400 hours of local internship to acclimatise and familiarise with local TCM practice. After the familiarisation you will take the local registration examination to qualify for practice in Singapore. With this new degree programme, all these requirements will be integrated into the new undergraduate curriculum. This will be the first Chinese Medicine degree programme to be conferred locally in Singapore.


12.          NTU has learnt much from BUCM all these years and is grateful for its assistance and support. As NTU progresses to stand on its own two feet to offer the degree in Chinese medicine, it will continue to partner BUCM. in activities such as student exchange, joint research and faculty exchanges. I will  strongly encourage to keep up the partnership with the BUCM which we have learned so much from. Next week I will be visiting Beijing, and I hope to be able to meet representatives from BUCM and discuss these matters.


13.          NTU has given much attention in designing the new curriculum for this degree programme. It will include modules in physiology, pharmacology and anatomy, deploy technology-enhanced learning tools such as augmented and virtual reality, and apply team-based learning pedagogy with classroom and hands-on clinical training.


14.          This new programme will see its first batch of students enrolling next year. I am confident that it will build a strong foundation for TCM education in Singapore and pave the way for continuing education courses to be developed – not just for practising TCM practitioners, but also for doctors trained in Western medicine. It will also encourage more to pursue research in TCM, with a stronger focus on measuring health outcomes for patients, and boosting evidence-based Chinese medicine research capabilities in Singapore.


TCM Clinical Training Programme


15.          Today, we are also announcing a new TCM Clinical Training Programme (CTP).


16.          Over the years, we have developed a fairly comprehensive framework to strengthen the practice of TCM, including issuing clinical practice advisories, building professionalism and supporting skills development. In that process, we engaged many TCM practitioners and learnt about their concerns and challenges.


17.          One key concern is that new TCM practitioners often lack confidence at the early stage of their career, when they have to transit into independent clinical practice. Unlike western doctors, there is no structured system of housemanship or residency.


18.          To address this gap, MOH will roll out the TCM CTP from January 2024, for newly registered TCM practitioners who have passed their  licencing examinations in 2023. This is a full-time one-year structured clinical training programme, similar to the post-graduate Year One (PGY1) housemanship for medical students. The training and assessment framework has been adapted from the medical PGY1 programme, but modified to suit the TCM practice context.


19.          Selected TCM practitioners will go through clinical rotations at four participating TCM institutions, each lasting three months. These are the NTU Chinese Medicine Clinic, Public Free Clinic Society, Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution and Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution. During these rotations, the trainees will learn from several mentors, who will all have gone through training conducted by MOH to prepare them for their mentorship role.


20.          During this period, trainees will receive a monthly training stipend. We hope that through the CTP, these new TCM practitioners will be able to strengthen their clinical capabilities and confidence to ready themselves for independent practice.




21.          I would like to thank NTU for your efforts in developing this new degree programme. I hope NTU will leverage your strengths in areas such as artificial intelligence, biomedical sciences and engineering to support the development of TCM, and establish Singapore as one of the centres of excellence in the world for evidence-based TCM practices.


22.          I would also like to thank the TCM community and institutions for working on the CTP and also the mentorship programme. These are very positive steps forward to make TCM an integral part of the Singapore healthcare-eco system. Thank you.

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