After completing their undergraduate degrees in clinical medicine at Changsha Medical University’s Faculty of International Education, they will both enroll in graduate studies at Central South University this autumn.
At the undergraduate level, the faculty offers courses in traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture and moxibustion, massage and other Chinese medicine courses specifically designed for international students. For their final internship, Kayitare and Uwitonze spent a year at the Fourth Hospital in Changsha, where they rotated through 13 departments.
The course and internship introduced them to a whole new field of medicine. Kayitare recalls a 45-year-old patient with kidney stone, who underwent acupuncture treatment because he didn’t want to undergo surgery. After only three times of treatments, his pain eased considerably and, as the stones were relatively small, the hospital just advised him to drink more water and exercise before sending him home.
"I’ve seen many patients achieve effective relief from their illnesses by adopting traditional Chinese medicine or a combination of Chinese and Western medicine. This led me to take a close interest in it," Kayitare said, adding that he intends to return to Rwanda and open a Chinese acupuncture clinic after completing his graduate studies.
Aspiring to become a surgeon since childhood, Uwitonze has witnessed the complementary nature of traditional Chinese and Western medicine.
Uwitonze remembered that a diabetic patient, who was in a serious condition, received a joint consultation by an endocrinologist and a traditional Chinese doctor. The doctors suggested taking Western medicine as a complement to traditional Chinese medicine. With several treatments and careful observation, the patient’s blood sugar levels were well controlled and the discomfort was greatly alleviated.
In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine has brought more "Chinese solutions" and "Chinese contributions" to medical care in Africa and around the world.
In 2020, the largest acupuncture center in Southern Africa was established in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare with the help of China’s Hunan province. In 2022, the first series of training courses for Zimbabwean acupuncture talent was organized, and Chinese patent medicines entered Zimbabwe.
Many African students, at the same time, came to China to study traditional Chinese medicine, and have chosen to return to their home countries to work in the medical sector.
After nine-year study at Guangxi Medical University in southwest China, Gopaul Roodrajeetsing returned home and became a neurosurgeon at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius. In 2018, he established the clinic "l’Acu care pain & rehab center" in the central city of Ebene, and offers Chinese medical treatment to patients while disseminating the concept of Chinese medical treatment.
According to Roodrajeetsing, a combination of Chinese and Western medicine leads to better therapeutic results. "Western medicine treats the symptoms, while Chinese medicine treats the root cause. Western medicine can eliminate the disease quickly, but after eliminating the obvious symptoms, Chinese medicine plays an important role in helping the patient return to normal life as quickly as possible and improve their quality of life."
In recent years, as traditional Chinese medicine has become increasingly recognized by the African public, cupping, massage and acupuncture have become popular among Africans.
"Chinese medicine and Western medicine are not opposites, they complete each other. To be a good doctor, you need to know both Western and traditional Chinese medicine, and learn how to combine them to serve patients better," said Uwitonze.