Acupuncture in Medical Education at Universidade Federal Fluminense: Challenges and Perspectives

Denise Muzzi de Oliveira Safe Lia Melero dos Anjos Marília Troyano de Castro Mendes Maria Inês Nogueira Marilene Cabral do Nascimento About the authors


The teaching of acupuncture has gradually been introduced into medical courses in Brazil and worldwide. At Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, the newly reformulated medical course curriculum, introduced in 1994, included the offer of an optative discipline in Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture to start the following year, and also the creation, in 1997, of a specialization course in Acupuncture for qualified medical doctors. In this article, we present a study that aims to identify major challenges and perspectives in Chinese Medicine teaching for undergraduate and graduate students at the UFF medical school, emphasizing the paradigmatic polarization between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Neurophysiological Acupuncture. We performed a qualitative, ethnographic study involving document analysis, observation of classroom scenarios, and semi-structured interviews with the teacher and students of the selected discipline and course. In order to ensure triangulation of information, we also used the focus group technique, with former undergraduate students. The data treatment and interpretation of this study were anchored in the epistemological discussion of Thomas Kuhn – the concept of paradigms and the incommensurability of scientific theories. The results of this study show that despite the significant paradigmatic differences, medical students and doctors demonstrate interest in and receptivity towards the integrative approach of health-disease processes offered by traditional TCM. The following positive aspects were highlighted: the valorization of dimensions of human sickness hitherto neglected by biomedicine, the building of an integral perspective on the subject, and the good results obtained with acupuncture. The graduate students noted the need to increase integration between theory and practice, and criticized the reductionism in TCM teaching, with the excessive simplification of complex subjects. Two conclusions can be drawn from this study. A double learning pattern was observed: the interest among undergraduate and graduate students in Traditional Chinese Medicine paradigm, due to its specificities and multiple therapeutic approaches and, at the same time, a search for comparisons with the biomedical model. The complementarity between the paradigms of Traditional Chinese Medicine and neurosciences was the most important characteristic of the introduction of teaching on acupuncture at UFF.

Acupuncture; Traditional Chinese Medicine; Undergraduate Medical Education; Graduate Medical Education

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