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Laura Ichajapanich, alumna, M.CMAc Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture

Having taught Tai Chi and Qigong for over 10 years, Laura wanted to expand the services she could offer to her clients and so she applied to LSBU

Learning to practice acupuncture felt like a natural progression for Laura, who has been interested in various aspects of traditional Chinese medicine for many years.

Confucius Institute

The course appealed to Laura because it allowed her to gain a Master's qualification, as opposed to the BSc in Acupuncture offered by many universities. The course also gives students the chance to work and study in China for up to six months and they can take Chinese language alongside practical modules through the Confucius Institute. This institute promotes Chinese culture and language within the university, and thanks to its partnerships students benefit from being taught by visiting Chinese doctors, meaning the course offers a mixture of Western and Eastern approaches to acupuncture.

The course really prepares you for practice in this country, but it also provides you with a great insight into how acupuncture is practiced in China thanks to the placement abroad and the relationship with the Confucius Institute.

Laura Ichajapanich

Gradual approach

Students on the course are able to develop their practical acupuncture skills under supervision in the clinic attached to the Confucius Institute, where members of the public can come and receive treatment.

The course has a gradual approach in teaching students the practice of acupuncture; first Laura and her classmates observed teachers practice, then observed their peers in the year ahead before building up their own practical skills under close supervision.

"It was a little daunting," says Laura of her first experience treating a patient, "but we were guided along the way and developed our knowledge through discussion of diagnoses, treatment principles and point prescriptions. The staff were always approachable and the level of the teaching was very good."

Trip to China

During her trip to China Laura was placed in a busy traditional hospital, where one doctor could see up to 200 patients a day. Doctors in China use acupuncture to treat stroke victims and neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease.

"In China they learn very differently," she says. "We shadowed a doctor who would see patients who came for treatment every day which is very different to how acupuncture is practiced in the UK. My Chinese was good enough to understand medical terms and to get by, and luckily we often had Chinese students with us who were able to translate too."

Professional practice

After graduation Laura began work in at Belsize Health in North London on a self-employed basis, as is the norm in the profession. She's developed a website that allows her to attract more customers. "The setting up a business module of the course was really useful. It showed the value of using tools like a website and I also developed a five year business plan, which I'm doing my best to stick to - I'm definitely on the right trajectory!"

Laura has recently starting practicing in a second clinic, Breathe London in Waterloo, as well as continuing to teach Tai Chi. She's also working for Cancerkin, a charity in North and East London that offers complementary health treatment to the sufferers of breast cancer. It's fair to say that Laura is finding acupuncture a rewarding career choice; "I love the contact with people and that fact that I'm able to use my knowledge of Chinese medicine to improve wellbeing," she explains. "Even if it's not always possible to 'cure' patients, acupuncture, Tuina and Tai Chi or Qigong can provide them with a better quality of life."

Visit Laura's website for more information on her practice and traditional Chinese medicine.