Tursunjan's story is a telling example of how culture—and medicine—transcend borders.
As a young boy growing up in Shihezi, a city in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China, he was the only Uygur student in his class in high school, coming from the ethnic minority that mainly resides in Xinjiang. Although there were many brilliant students who did well in other subjects, he outperformed everyone when it came to English, which probably built the foundation of his career overseas.
Later he enrolled in Xinjiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which subsequently became the Xinjiang Medical University. It equipped him with solid TCM knowledge and skills. This time, he was no longer the only student from a minority group. Instead, he met students from various ethnic groups such as Mongol and Kazak. His class had been developed specifically for ethnic minorities who enjoyed a preferential policy when they were graded.
He met Adine, his future wife, in college and they got married the year they graduated and headed for Beijing, where he worked in a foreign-funded company. There he met foreign colleagues and decided to go abroad. The couple, together with their 2-year-old daughter, applied for skilled immigration to Canada.
While in Canada, they found life in a foreign country was no bed of roses. Despite his English skills, Tursunjan had to struggle with the language and the only job he could find was as a car washer, while Adine became a laundry worker.
After the day's work, Tursunjan had to sprint over 800 meters in five minutes to catch the bus to his language class. If he missed that bus, he would be late for class. When the class finished at 9 p.m., he would trudge back home wearily only to pore over his lessons for two more hours before going to sleep. Life was an endless cycle of work and class and hardship.
A few years later, they learned about local TCM clinics and went to work for one run by someone from Hong Kong. Cantonese is the predominant language in Hong Kong and Tursunjan picked up Cantonese as well. Two years later, the couple opened their own TCM clinic.
Business was slow during the first years as they faced fierce competition from other Chinese TCM practitioners. Tursunjan finally hit upon a solution. He relocated the clinic to where Canadians predominantly lived so that there were fewer competitors.
Also, he changed the way of introducing TCM. Instead of explaining it with the traditional Chinese yin/yang theory, which revolves around the balance in the elements thought to constitute the human body, he adopted Western anatomy principles to explain how acupuncture and massage work.
Tursunjan’s story in I Am From China (COURTESY PHOTO)
His specialty became treating cervical spondylosis and lumbar spondylosis as Western medicines are not always very effective in treating these problems. Gradually, his reputation grew and with it, his business.
Tursunjan says he was born eager to excel. In China, as a Uygur student who had his own language, he wanted to master Mandarin, while in a foreign country, he wants to be proficient in the local language. His English fluency has maximized his advantage throughout his career.
While treating his Canadian patients, Tursunjan explains Chinese culture. At the same time, he also learns theirs.
According to him, nearly one third of the TCM doctors in Canada are Canadians. They studied TCM either in Canada or in China. In addition, there are private TCM institutes and TCM management departments.
His aspiration is to expand his clinic within two years and recruit students to convey the TCM culture to more Canadians.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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