Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Winter has finally arrived! We got our first accumulating snowfall on campus of about six inches. It was a lot more than the one-two inch prediction! The snow was dense, moist, and perfect for making snowmen. Too bad I've been stuck inside studying! 

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December feels real now. The snow outside helps sets the mood, dedicated students and nervous energy fill the library, and holiday music and decorations are everywhere. 

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Students are counting down the days until winter break! Winter break is special because it's the longest break we get, about three and one-half weeks (depending on when your last final is) and almost everyone goes home for part or all of it.

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This is my final blog post for this trimester, but I will be back again blogging for you in mid-January. In the meantime, please email me at marysimon@student.nuhs.edu if you have questions about anything NUHS-related. I enjoy communicating with prospective students, and it also gives me ideas for future blog posts.

Be safe this holiday season, and have a happy new year!

Lima, Peru

Over Thanksgiving, my husband and I returned to his home country of Peru. We had a wonderful stay with his mom in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima, the capital of Peru.

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Reunited at last!

Peru has nearly all of the microclimates in the world -- desert, jungle, mountainous, subtropical, tropical, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed eating a wide variety of fresh fruit including papaya, pineapple, cherimoya, passionfruit, and mango. Peru is considered to be the gastronomic capital of the Americas, and we took full advantage of eating delicious seafood at a few restaurants.

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Grilled octopus

Since the first time I came to Peru five years ago, the organic movement has really picked up. Peru is one of the countries where GMOs are banned, and now it's common to also find certified organic products at markets. There were two organic markets close by where we purchased our fruits, vegetables, chicken, and goat cheese.

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Fresh fruits sold at market

I'm exploring the possibility of having a satellite practice in Peru once I graduate. Initial visits would be in-person when I visit 2-4 times per year, and when I'm in Chicago, I could continue to treat patients via Skype. The next time we go to Peru, I'm going to look into having my degree recognized there, and what the legal processes would be. Many people in Lima suffer from allergies because of the air pollution, and naturopathic medicine can definitely help address that problem!

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Watching the sunset

Now that I've returned from vacation, I came to the harsh realization that every school day through the rest of the trimester, I have an exam, quiz, practical, or assignment due! My first priority was to set up an organized calendar that I talked about in August so that I stay on top of everything and successfully complete the tri.

Campus Housing

I've been living on campus since starting the ND program nearly three years ago. Recently, my husband and I moved from a one-bedroom unit to a two-bedroom unit. It was quite a process, as this was the longest we had ever lived in one place, not to mention it being a crazy time with midterms! Here's a glimpse inside our empty unit.

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Campus housing has efficiencies, studios, one- and two-bedroom units. For two people, I'd suggest at least a one-bedroom unit. It was a snug fit for the two of us, but we made it work. The main reason we decided to transfer into a two-bedroom unit was to have extra space for when family members visit. 

The main things I love about living on campus are:

  • no commute
  • free internet
  • better price compared to off-campus housing
  • easy to run home if you forget something
  • you can cook and eat lunch during the day
  • studying at the library is convenient
  • the lease is per trimester instead of annually

Thinking back to before I started the program, my name was on the campus housing wait list for several months. I found out about a month (or a little less) prior to the start of the trimester that there was a unit for us. If you've been accepted into any program at NUHS and if there's the slightest possibility that you'd like to live on campus, contact Marilyn in the housing department sooner rather than later, because the wait list tends to be long.

Natural Support for Fracture Healing

I recently endured my first broken bone in a way that I least expected it! I was wearing slippers when I went to take a 5-pound frozen whole chicken out of the freezer. The plastic bag it was in ripped, and the chicken fell on my foot! Initially, I thought at least three toes were injured, but miraculously only one was. As an ND student, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and use all the natural healing methods that I've been learning about.

Within two minutes of the accident, I took my first dose of homeopathic Arnica (the go-to remedy for any bruising and trauma). I took a dose every 10 minutes for the first hour, elevated my foot, and put ice packs on it. The rest of the day I continued taking arnica every 15 minutes, and for another week, 2 doses daily. The bruising and swelling were minimal, and I didn't have to take any painkillers.

On day 2, I spoke with one of my professors who suggested I do hydrotherapy on it. For 4 days, I was persistent with my immersion hydrotherapy treatments doing them three times daily (3 minutes hot water, 1-minute ice cold, for three cycles). I ended the treatments by massaging the toe with comfrey cream to help with the lymphatic return and bruising respectively. The discoloration peaked on day 3, and completely subsided by day 5.

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On day 7, I was still limping and I told my chiropractic intern at the clinic what had happened and she suggested we take an X-ray. All students at NUHS, no matter what program they're in, are able to receive free chiropractic, naturopathic, and acupuncture care at the Whole Health Center. Sure enough, the X-ray showed a fracture just under the nail bed. Everyone involved in my care was surprised that my nail didn't fall off. Although there's no way to prove it, I bet it's because of all the natural treatments I was doing!

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Upon learning of the fracture, I started taking homeopathic comfrey, known as Symphytum, which is the key remedy for bone repair. I haven't had a follow-up X-ray yet, but I'm able to walk normally without pain. Additionally, I was drinking a cup of traditional bone broth, which is full of collagen, glycine, proline, and minerals necessary for bone repair. Three times weekly for two weeks, I received cold laser therapy to enhance fracture repair.

Although slightly embarrassing, I couldn't keep this story to myself because natural medicine is powerful and never ceases to amaze!

Student Debt - Will I Ever Be Able to Repay My Loans

Recently I've received a few emails from prospective students asking about finances and loans. Marc Yambao, the director of Financial Aid, shared with me that 89% of students borrow some form of a federal loan and that the average and median debt respectively from the most recent graduating ND class was $160,804 and $174,097.

I honestly feel like one of the best steps a student can take is to invest in learning opportunities and seminars about business/marketing when they are in school. A few business and marketing classes are included in the curriculum and they provide a structured opportunity to get a head start on making a business plan. Having a plan, knowing what you're worth, and not being afraid to charge that number is essential in my opinion. Working through any unhealthy relationships with money while you're in school will remove a barrier for when you're in practice. I attended this free seminar to help me with that aspect.

It's really important for students to understand their financial situation in order to have a solid plan for repayment. It's best to borrow the least amount that you need rather than taking all the loans that are offered to you. I want to walk you through a hypothetical scenario about a single person (not married and without children) graduating with debt and how repayment would work using a student loan calculator.

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Crunching the Numbers

Let's say you end up borrowing more than average, $200,000, at an interest rate of 6.5%.

To pay back the loan in 10 years, your monthly payment would be just under $2,300/month. 

For the sake of the numbers game, let's say living expenses (insurance, saving for retirement, car, housing, food, spending money, etc.) will be $3,200/month once you're in practice, so you need to bring in a net of $5,500/month. 

Considering malpractice insurance, business rent, marking costs, taxes, and overhead fees, double that number just to be safe...so, you need a gross income of $11,000/month. 

Multiplying that number by 12 months makes an annual gross income of $132,000.

There are 52 weeks in a year, but assuming you'd like to have 6 weeks off for holidays, vacations, and sick days, plan on working only 46 weeks/year.

$132,000 divided by 46 equals about $2,870/week of net income.

From what I've researched, the going rate for a naturopathic physician in many areas is $125/hour. Dividing $2,750 by $125 equals 23 billable hours of patient care per week. This may be considered as nearly full-time when adding in time spent researching cases, marketing, and clerical work, during which you aren't getting paid.

To reiterate, this is a hypothetical scenario and all factors are variable. If you work while you're in school or if you're married and/or have children, your loan amount may be more or less. Interest rates constantly change (they've been between 6-7% for the last three years). The cost of living varies depending on where you go. The lifestyle you want to live will impact your monthly expenses.

There are also different repayment options available such as stretching out the repayment length, using an income-based repayment plan, starting with slow payments and increasing them as time goes on, and more. Therefore, I encourage you to play with the numbers based on your individual situation, and reach out to the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions.

As our hypothetical scenario shows, paying back your student loans on a standard 10-year repayment plan is possible.