Have you ever spent a holiday away from your family? My first
Christmas without family involved working from 7-4 and coming home
to a house full of stinky boys, recently back from skiing, cooking
a bacon-wrapped turkey and imbibing generously of Pabst and
homebrew. I cringed and thought, "This is NOT what Christmas is
supposed to be like..." and then I grabbed a cheap beer and made
the best of it.
In reflecting on holidays past without my close family around,
I've got to say that this Thanksgiving was one of the best of all
of those over the years. I may not have been home, I may have been
without my cousins and aunties and uncles, not cooking alongside my
parents and setting the table with my brother this year, but I most
definitely was with family of a different kind.
Only missing a few, my ND family on
Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)
If you read my blog with any regularity you know about the
remarkable group of fellow ND student friends that I hold so dear.
These friends are my family here in Illinois, heck, they'll be my
family even when I'm long gone from here! JheriAnne and her husband
Shane hosted one of the most relaxing, calm, warm and wonderful
Thanksgiving dinners I think I've ever enjoyed. Twelve of us
gathered with our dinner contributions and dug into JheriAnne's
first turkey (oh yum!). Afterwards, we lounged around watching
football, trading stories, laughing, playing cards, and pouring
each other another glass of wine.
I've been through a lot with these friends over the past two
years of medical school in a way that's brought me closer to them
than almost any other friends I've ever made. For one, we're all a
little counter-culture; people who study naturopathic medicine
generally march to a different drum, and we tend to live and/or
think outside the box. It's remarkable how people with such
different personalities and backgrounds can have a common pulse
that beats naturopathy through our veins,*and as a result, allows
us to find comfort in each other despite any number of
Future NDs and great friends
Anayibe & Mia on Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)
In addition, we've all grown close in friendship at the same
time as our brains have matured and we've grappled with new ideas,
our minds stretching to accommodate buckets of new information. As
I see it, we were poised for great assimilation of material and so
stored the information about each of these friends at the same rate
and intensity as we memorized every detail of glycolysis and human
anatomy. Let me be entirely cliché, and also so extremely full of
heart, when I say that I am so, so, so thankful for the friends
I've made in the naturopathic program here at NUHS. I hope you all
had a very happy Thanksgiving, too, and a wonderful holiday
* It sort of pains me to write
that something pulses through our veins and neglect to mention our
arteries, but for the sake of literary flair I have pushed aside my
anatomy and physiology and left it be.
The first A, the first D, the first B when you thought it was
going to be an F. There are many milestones that all of us at NUHS
experience. They are the turning points that stick in our minds and
mostly serve to boost us when we occasion to remember them.
In the beginning -- my tri 1 lab group
There's the bittersweet end of pathology with Dr. Khan, and the
viscera final aka your last anatomy practical ever! The first
practical in the TAC shaking in your dress shoes and sweating
through both your nice shirt AND your doctor coat. Grading yourself
on that first practice spine and extremities practical and
realizing you failed only to pass it when it comes to the real deal
a week later. The first time you watch Dr. Lou take her shoes and
socks off and not miss a beat in delivering her lecture.
My group & me after our last ever anatomy practical (photo
The first time you've ever thought of J.Lo and a plumber in the
same context, and the first time your head jerks up because Dr.
McRae just SHOUTED in lecture. The moment when you realize that the
3-compartment model actually kind of makes sense (maybe). There's
the first splash or smear of cadaver fat on your lab coat, and the
first time you realize you're actually super hungry in the middle
of dissection lab. Experiencing your first adjustment and then the
first time you get a cavitation when giving someone else an
adjustment, yes! The first exam during which you notice your palms
are not sweaty and you're actually breathing just fine. The first
time you forget to return the markers to the library desk and you
have to pay a silly amount in fines (and decide to buy your own
My nametag milestone
There's the last time you have Dr. Ed for class, and the last
time you sit through one of Dr. Humphreys' neuro-heavy lectures.
The moment you realize that Dr. Richardson's stories just keep
getting better, so you vow to pay attention and you learn tons of
pharmacology in the process. And then you realize that Dr. Ed had
Dr. Christiansen as a professor, too. The day you receive your
official intern nametag to be worn at all times in the clinic. The
first time you tie a tourniquet and choose a vein in phlebotomy
lab, and the first time you see the red flash. The first draw you
mess up that either makes blood squirt, your patient cry out, or
leaves behind a little hematoma (whoops!)
And then there are the things I haven't experienced yet but that
I anticipate -- the first patient in clinic, the last patient in
clinic. The first colonics patient, the first real live
constitutional hydrotherapy you administer in clinic. And before
you get to the clinic, there's the first real live gyn exam and
digital rectal exam on a sym patient. Then, there's the first
actual real patient presenting for a gyn exam, or the patient who
refuses to receive a treatment you really think would help. The
first time a patient cries in the exam room. There will be the
patient who must be told the less-than-favorable results of a blood
test; the patient that keeps you up at night wondering if you said
the wrong thing, or the right thing. There will be the patient who
isn't responding to treatment, and the patient who comes in singing
Officially registered for boards
And then there is this week's milestone; registering for the
NPLEX Part 1 Biomedical Science Examination. I've long been
thinking about February's exam, but registering today made it REAL.
Honestly, it's almost too bad I couldn't have registered several
months ago, as it would've brought that realness to life at the
time when I should have started taking my preparation more
seriously. Oh, and there's another recent milestone; watching that
first video in the board review series and having your eyebrows
permanently raised in anguish as you painstakingly extract basic
biochemistry from the recesses of your brain. You must take several
deep breaths to calm those nerves you thought you were done with
after that exam when you noticed your palms weren't sweaty and your
breathing was even.
I have A LOT of information to retrieve from the depths and
bring back to the forefront of my memory by the first week in
February. I'm totally anxious about it, and every time I sit down
to study, I have to fight the urge to ditch it and do something
else that doesn't make me feel quite so bad about myself. Lately,
I've been reflecting on how far I've come in order to remember that
all the basic science information is there; I DO own it. Writing
this post has helped me continue that affirmation process, and I
hope it's maybe done the same for you in some way... or maybe it
made you smile or laugh, or perhaps it made you curious about what
lies in store.
I was a little too busy writing about hydrotherapy last week to
comment on the election we just had. I hope that those of you who
can vote, did so!
I heard that only 1/3 of eligible Americans voted. I understand
that political showmanship isn't cool and that the attack ads we
hear and see are sickening, but I'm still not quite convinced that
the proper response to this political climate is to abstain from
I am not politically inclined, I haven't studied the subject,
and I don't know enough about the people I vote for. I do listen to
public radio news a lot, and I read news headlines, but I do not
own a TV, so my information-gathering tactics may differ from most.
I find it strange that 2/3 of the people from a country that fights
fiercely to initiate democracy in other places around the world,
would not show up to the polls. I am especially puzzled because
these mid-term elections for local government seem to be the truer
way to impact our greater (seemingly untouchable) national
government. OK, that's all I'll get into on this last election, but
I mention it because it's relevant to our naturopathic profession
to be somewhat politically active and versed in how local
Map from http://www.naturopathic.org
(click to see larger version)
It's no secret that naturopathic medicine is not licensed in
Illinois, or in the majority of the United States. Currently, 17
states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands license
or regulate naturopathic medicine. Our under-the-radar practice
of healing impacts our education because we have to tread lightly
when advertising our work at the NUHS clinic. Yes, we are trained
to diagnose and treat disease, but we are not allowed to officially
exercise this training as naturopaths here in Illinois. Our
training encompasses many things that we are not yet licensed to do
in many states, but we learn these things so that we are prepared
to safely and effectively treat patients when the time comes that
our scope of practice does include these skills. I have confidence
do many others) that this time will come; our national state of
health is ripe for our medicine.
As far as I understand, clinicians who oversee our ND clinic
here at NUHS are also licensed chiropractors, and we practice under
their license while we work to gain licensure here in Illinois. For
those of you looking to attend NUHS to study naturopathic medicine,
please do not let licensure get in the way of your decision-making.
I personally chose NUHS because of the realistic environment it
would provide for practicing my medicine. I do not know where I
will land and I want to feel prepared to offer my services to my
community, no matter the political state of naturopathic medicine
in that place.
If you're curious about the process and progress toward
licensure in Illinois, I encourage you to explore the Illinois Association
of Naturopathic Physicians website. Also, contact your local
legislator and share with them your passion that naturopathic
medicine be a licensed profession. Legislators care about what
their constituents care about. They want to hear from the people
they represent. Your senator wants to represent your opinion and
address your concerns more so than they want to hear from a group
of naturopathic doctors about how much our medicine is needed by
you, the people they represent.
If you are a student at NUHS, you should be a student
member of ILANP. The cost is minimal and makes a big impact.
When the ILANP lobbies for licensure, greater numbers help their
cause, and their work in lobbying for licensure directly affects us
as students. If you plan to return to another state after
graduation, I highly suggest you join that state's naturopathic
association, too. And, of course we should all join and support our American Association of
Naturopathic Physicians. Again, greater numbers show
involvement and promise when these associations work for our future
practices and safe access to our medicine for our future patients.
Plus, there are perks with every membership! (I get a free access
to diverse naturopathic resources through my AANP membership, and I
received a welcome discount to the
ILANP conference this year!
I may not fancy supporting the current caustic political
environment, but as an ND student, I understand that local politics
are wholly relevant to my future. If I don't keep informed, I run
the risk of envisioning for myself an unrealistic future. "OK, OK,
now," some of you are saying, "but what IS reality, really? Isn't
it what WE make it to be?" I'm not getting philosophical here. I'm
being present and encouraging my peers to do the same. Let's show
our support for our profession and those who are working (some
unpaid!) to elevate our medicine and make it known, safely
accessible, and properly understood.
A few weeks ago I introduced the topic of hydrotherapy in this
post. To learn about the basics and some of the history on
modern naturopathic constitutional hydrotherapy, please refer to my
last post. Once you're caught up, let's continue! How and why do
naturopathic doctors use water as a therapy?
Water is known as the universal solvent, and it stores and
transmits heat better than any other substance, by weight. The
physiological effects of water on the body fall into three
categories: thermal, mechanical and chemical. Thermal application
involves changing the temperature of the body based on using water
that is either hotter or colder than our normal body temperature.
The mechanical effect of water on the body involves physical impact
on the body in the form of frictions, immersions, whirlpools,
showers, sprays, etc. Water's chemical effect on the body involves
ingesting water and receiving water internally by irrigation (such
as colonics.) The category we use most frequently in naturopathic
practice to elicit physiological change is the thermal application
The temperature ranges used in hydrotherapy are in relation to
the body temperature of the patient (healthy body temp is around
98.6º F). When we use cold applications (32-65º F depending on
intensity of treatment and/or patient tolerance), we are depressing
function via vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which
slows blood flow. Decreased blood flow means that fewer immune
cells are activated in local tissues and metabolic activity
decreases, leading to a decrease in sensation (cold nerves do not
transmit signals as readily) and a slower motor response of muscles
due to slight contraction (tightening.) In this way, we can control
inflammation, a technique that is used to treat pain as well as
ligament sprains and muscle strains. These are injuries that cause
the body to react with excess inflammation.
It is important to note that our body creates inflammation for a
reason; increasing blood to an injured area brings more immune
cells and repair ingredients to the area. We always want some
degree of inflammation present if we want the body to heal, but our
body can respond in excess and we may want to control it for our
comfort and to elicit the smoothest healing process.
If we apply cold therapies in a general fashion (such as a cold
sheet wrap or soak), we cause blood to move to the core as the
whole body cools. We rarely use such applications, but might apply
this in treating an exceedingly high fever to bring down the body
If we apply cold for a short amount of time, we can elicit a
"reaction" effect, which causes a reflexive increase in blood flow
and heat production in the area when the cold is removed. This
makes the patient to feel greater "vigor and well-being." We use
this application of cold more often in practice.
Alternately, hot water applications elicit responses from the
body as it tries to clear the heat. This includes vasodilation
(opening up of blood vessels), increased blood pressure and
respiratory rate, and increased local metabolic activity. It also
causes immune cells to become more active, muscles to relax, and
sweating to occur. The reflexive response of removing a short use
hot application causes the body to relax.
Hot application used alone can also be cleansing and
detoxifying, but care is always taken to monitor the patient and
make sure they do not over-heat. An example of this is the peat
bath I experienced in hydrotherapy lab last week, pictured below! I
sat in this bath of about 106º F for 20 minutes and gotreallyhot.
Afterwards, I was given water and wrapped in a dry sheet to
continue to sweat as I slowly cooled after the treatment. The
experience was extremely detoxifying, intense, and relaxing. While
I had a headache later that night following treatment, I felt
fabulous the next day!
Sweating and smiling in a peat
When used in therapeutic application (not for too long or for
too short and in appropriate alternations - this is why we require
a course in this therapy!), cold is stimulating, invigorating and
tonifying, while hot is relaxing and sedative. Naturopathic
hydrotherapy often uses hot therapy in combination with cold
therapy. We can use alternating hot and cold treatments (contrast)
to increase or decrease blood flow to an area to promote healing. I
practiced administering a contrast bath recently in class for my
classmate Brad, whose feet had been hurting from long-distance
running. Affecting blood flow is one of the major goals of
hydrotherapy. The purpose of directing or moving blood flow is to
increase oxygenation, deliver nutrients and immune factors, and
clear toxins from tissues. This process is best elicited when
combined with proper nutrition and detoxification, two important
components of naturopathic practice.
Brad receiving a hot and cold
contrast bath treatment
A naturopath always monitors the temperature, pulse and
respiration rates of the patient before, during and after treatment
to ensure that we are eliciting the proper effects, and that the
patient is safe. Additionally, we always consider the age, severity
of illness/vitality, emotional state, and circulatory condition of
the patient. A patient with heart failure is not a good candidate
for a therapy that heavily influences blood flow. Young patients or
very old patients require special consideration, for example,
decreasing the variation range between cold and hot applications so
as to make for gentler treatments.
Fellow students monitoring blood
pressure during treatment
One important aspect to practicing hydrotherapy is to never cool
a chilled patient. In any situation, a patient should never get
chilled, and following treatment the patient should not get too
hot, too cold, or exercise vigorously, as the treatment may not
have its full effect.
Not only is hydrotherapy effective and relatively cheap to
administer, but also water is non-toxic, so we can use this therapy
on very sensitive patients. There are many other ways to use water
therapeutically and I cannot do every method justice here! One
major application I left out is the use of neutral temperatures
such as dry sheets wraps and neutral baths. Know that there is a
lot more to explore and to study when you take the class offered
here at NUHS! I hope this post helps to clarify hydrotherapy, and
gives my fellow students some words to use in explaining this
modality to their curious friends and family.
Sources: Pizzorno and Murray. Textbook of Natural
Medicine. 4th edition. and Conner K. Hydrotherapy Lecture
Happy belated Halloween! I think once Halloween has come and
gone, fall has really shown itself and we're officially getting
closer to winter. Winter's impending presence is evident around
here; it has been in the 30s at night. Brrrr! We even had our first
snow last week!
First snow! Early morning on campus
before classes began on Halloween day.
To celebrate Halloween this year, Hanzi and I went out to
support the arts in Chicago. We saw a creepy opera put on by the Third Eye Theatre
Ensemble called "The Medium." The show is about a woman named
Madame Flora who scams customers by putting on fake séances with
the help of her daughter and a "deaf and dumb" boy she has taken
under her wing. When Madame Flora feels icy cold hands grab her
around the neck at one of her séances, she gets terribly scared,
admits her dishonesty and tries to give the people their money
back. But the couple and the mother who have been coming to her
séances to speak with their deceased children are convinced that
Madame Flora has truly helped them to connect with their lost loved
ones, and they fight her on her claims. Her customers say they know
the voice and the laugh of their dead children and she must
continue to help them connect with their dead!
The story is lots of fun and this particular show was put on in
a black box theater, with two rows of seats along two of the walls.
It was incredibly cool to feel that we were participants in the
events taking place in Madame Flora's parlor.
I left this little rhyme outside
our door incase we had any trick-or-treaters come by while we were
It is really very easy to forget our creative side when we are
so busy with school, but taking the time to either make art or
appreciate it brings me so much more alive! This is something I
speak with my other student friends about often; when we're really
dragging we encourage each other to go create something or find
something artistic to enjoy. The experience of using the other half
of our brains seems to really help put everything back in
On the set of "The Medium"
(Photo credit: hanzi d. - www.hanzid.com)
After the Halloween show, as Hanzi and I hustled through the
freezing rain back to our car, we had to make a stop at a bookstore
called Myopic Books. It was 10:15 p.m. and the glowing
red 'OPEN' sign in the window was intriguing. The place was packed
with books from floor to ceiling, some narrow shelves constructed
from raw 2x4s made for several narrow halls and fantastic browsing.
The whole place was 3 stories, and packed with used books! I
bee-lined to the third floor and parked myself in front of the
alternative health section. Our spur-of-the-moment stop at this
shop was totally worth it; I found a copy of "Women's Encyclopedia
of Natural Health" by Tori Hudson, ND, know as THE women's health
doc in naturopathic circles. And it cost me less than 10 bucks!
There were signs inside the store asking us to not take
photographs, so I had Hanzi snap this shot of me outside on our way
out. The blustery, seriously chilly night combined with the red
light in the window made for an appropriately spooky setting!
My fab bookstore find! On Halloween
night at Myopic Books in Wicker Park.
(Photo credit: hanzi d. - www.hanzid.com)
After our artsy and interesting Halloween night, I am inspired
to seek out artistic endeavors in the midst of my studying. Maybe
I'll doodle when I'm losing focus in class, or maybe I'll take more
creative pictures on my short walks between buildings on campus. I
do really love to patronize the arts; this is perhaps the best use
of my time (and money), as I don't really trust myself to find time
to follow through on my own creative projects in the midst of med
school. Now that I think about it, I have been getting more
exposure to the arts... Just last week Hanzi and I went to a show
at Cole's Bar in Logan Square where several hard-rocking local
Chicago punk bands covered other awesome bands like Led Zeppelin
(my absolute favorite!), Bikini Kill, and LCD Soundsystem. It was
such a treat to lose myself in the music, all the while surrounded
by people who sought out this show to do the same exact thing.
If I can't enjoy and create art on a regular basis right now
because I am too busy studying medicine, I can at the very least
let the little exposure that I do get to the arts fuel my studying.
I'm writing this on Sunday, and am feeling totally ready to sit
down and dig in to my Phys Dx lectures in preparation for this
week's exam. I realize that I've had a good fill of art lately, and
it would serve me well to remember, over the next year or so of
school, how it truly helps to balance my brain.
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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