Feature: China-trained doctor dreams of modernizing Zimbabwe's traditional medicine
Karen Gurure, a China-trained medical doctor, never imagined that one day she would be Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner.
After carefully considering which university and major to choose, Gurure was very fortunate to be offered a place to study a Bachelor's Degree in Medicine and Surgery with TCM at Jiangxi University of Chinese Medicine in China.
The young doctor is currently interning under the guidance of Sun Shuang, a TCM doctor at the Zimbabwe-China Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Center at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.
The center, which was established with technical support from the Chinese medical team, provides a wider choice to patients seeking alternative health services at the hospital free of charge.
Before moving to China, the thought of venturing into TCM never visited Gurure's mind.
"I didn't expect to just venture into TCM, I wanted to maybe probably go into medicine and specialize in pediatrics, but I saw TCM as a way for me and I also had a passion for herbal plants, of which TCM we treat with herbal solutions," she told Xinhua in an interview.
Gurure is now the first Zimbabwean doctor to work at the TCM center. The center is yet to recruit and train local health workers.
Unlike many Zimbabwean students who chose to remain overseas after finishing their studies, in 2019 Gurure decided to come back home to put to use what she learned in China.
"I didn't want to stay in China, I wanted to go back to my country and give back what I have learned in China to my country," said Gurure.
While being attached at a hospital during her studies in China, Gurure witnesses first-hand how traditional knowledge in treating diseases was transforming lives.
"When I was in China, I saw how China incorporated Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine in their hospitals and it was quite impressive because I could see patients getting well with both treatments. So it has driven me to take what I learned in China and bring it back home for us to also modernize our own traditional medicine," she said.
The major strength of using traditional knowledge in treating diseases is that there are fewer side effects, Gurure said.
"The advantage of using traditional knowledge is because it has been passed on from our great-great-grandparents to our parents and also to us, and it has proven to be working, and also our traditional medicine, it's in our hearts, it's who we are," she said.
The doctor reiterated that there is room to incorporate traditional knowledge systems within Zimbabwe's primary health care system, adding that collaborative effort between the two will contribute to the transformation of the local healthcare system.
In China, Gurure said, it's common practice for TCM and Western medicine to be practiced side by side, adding that medical practitioners know how and when the two can be integrated for optimum results.
The use of traditional herbal remedies has been in use long before the advent of western conventional medicine in Zimbabwe.
In many parts of the country, particularly rural areas, medicinal plants are the most easily accessible and affordable health resource.
Traditional medicine is also recognized as a formal part of the country's healthcare system and is regulated by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.
While traditional medicine has a proven track record, Gurure said due to lack of comprehensive research, traditional remedies still remain a largely untapped health resource.
She said the main challenge of using traditional knowledge system in Zimbabwe is that there is inadequate research and proper documentation of their use, a gap that she hopes to plug using the knowledge she gained from China.
"China has developed a lot of TCM universities, TCM hospitals. In Zimbabwe, we should also have traditional medicine hospitals," she said.
Apart from treating diseases, the proper documentation of traditional knowledge will help preserve Zimbabwe's rich traditions and knowledge that has sustained ancient civilizations for centuries, said Gurure.
As an adventurous young woman, Gurure has made it her mandate to promote and preserve Zimbabwe's untapped traditional knowledge.
"I plan to be certified as TCM practitioner, and once I am done, I plan to open my own TCM clinic incorporated with my own Zimbabwean traditional medicine clinic," said Gurure.
While some people are reluctant to revert to traditional ways of treating diseases, Gurure said the good news is that traditional and Western medicine can be used side-by-side for better results. Enditem