HWB spoke with James Christian, Dean of the School of Phytotherapy.
Pacific Rim College was created in 2006. They had the idea of becoming a world leader in integrative education - at the time, most alternative health programs were single program focused; herbalism or chinese medicine or acupuncture - "or," not "and." One idea they had was that people don't always know exactly what area of alternative health or sustainable communities they want to work in, and with Pacific Rim, students can start exploring courses, enroll in multiple programs or in complementary programs, and all credits apply towards the final degree, no penalties or starting anew.
Pacific Rim also saw the need for an intensive program that includes clinical training, in-depth knowledge and internal regulatory guidelines to maintain high standards. They have a 3 year minimum training that works to develop community experience, clinical skills, and students that look beyond the degree to pursue collaboration, work as ambassadors for programs both locally and globally.
Pacific Rim offers many programs of study - from herbal medicine to holistic nutrition, from acupuncture to integrative health, even permaculture design and doula training. When asked what led them to such a diversity of programs, James mentioned that most people interested in herbal health are also interested in holistic nutrition, many in doula training want to know what herbs are safe, many interested in herbalism or Chinese medicine are also interested in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, and their program allows students to delve into multiple topics in-depth to broaden their experiences.
When asked about how they approach and manage the colonialism aspect of their students entering the first nation clinics, he said that is something that was very critical in approach to their school. They were first approached by first nation members who were also students of Pacific Rim College about working with the VNFC to host free clinics. From there they were invited by VNFC to work together, and are invited guests. Indigenous students attend Pacific Rim College, and the school works to listen and learn, and not step in the way of how the students combine their own traditions and plant knowledge with aspects of western herbalism. Pacific Rim also tackles the subject in their in house discussions of diversity, decolonization, and supporting VNFC as they work to reintroduce native plants back into their community.
Pacific Rim College also works to maintain contact after graduation. They want students to feel comfortable asking for feedback or if they have questions about a hard case. Pacific Rim also offer workshops that are available to current students, past students, and the public, so that they can have teachers from other schools of thought and experiences available to their community, to see different approaches of practice and knowledge.
For more information on Pacific Rim College, visit
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