A world-renowned acupuncture program based out of the University of Alberta is being discontinued.

The medical acupuncture program has been offered through the U of A for almost 25 years but Dr. Steven Aung, the man who developed the program, says he recently got word the program is being discontinued – and says that’s a big mistake.

“I was very surprised,” Aung said. “We’ve become homeless. We have no home.”

For nearly 25 years, healthcare professionals from around the world have enrolled in the nine-month course offered through the University of Alberta.

“I would say not only in Canada, but also in the United States, as well as internationally, has been known as a model for training,” Aung said.

“It’s a very unique training program for post-graduate professional people.”

Pediatrician Manisha Witmans paid almost $10,000 to learn acupuncture from Aung – and says she's received valuable training that she’s already put to use on her patients.

“Once you learn the points and know how things work, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a needle necessarily, there are pressure points and for someone who is really sensitive you can actually feel the difference in energy just from applying pressure to the points,” she says.

But when Witmans writes her exam next weekend, the acupuncture program will no longer be offered at the U of A.

“I was a bit shocked and disappointed,” Witmans said.

“I think it’s an incredible program and it certainly has enriched my practice and the practice of all the other individuals who have taken the course.”

The program trains professionals such as chiropractors, physiotherapists and physicians.

Program not a good fit for faculty

It was originally housed within the Faculty of Extension and three years ago, it moved to the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Last year, the associate dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry spoke highly of the medical acupuncture program.

“Acupuncture and alternative medicine is now being viewed more and more as a medical modality,” Dr. Bill Dafoe had previously told CTV News.

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry sent CTV News a statement clarifying that the acupuncture program is not being discontinued over budget decisions.

“The program is not being discontinued as a result of a budget cut. The acupuncture course is not part of the mandatory curriculum in medical or dental school,” the statement reads.

“The faculty is focused on teaching the required courses at the highest standard to train doctors, dentists and dental hygienists. This ensures that quality patient care is provided by our students and graduates.”

Searching for a new home

Aung says he’s hopeful the program will be able to continue elsewhere.

“We’ll find a proper home for our little baby called the acupuncture program,” Aung said.

But Witmans says it’s a big loss.

“He’s a very talented man and he brings a lot to the table. I wouldn’t be surprised and I have heard that Harvard wants him and other universities want him, so if the University of Alberta doesn’t, it’s unfortunate and I think a great loss for the university and the people of Edmonton, and Canada even,” she said.

Meanwhile Aung says he’s looking for a new home for the program, and adds it could still stay at the university, but just end up under a different faculty such as the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

“Sometimes these things happen,” Aung said.

“It’s very hard to say but there should be a home for a good program.”

With files from Carmen Leibel