Remember that sprained ankle I mentioned in my last post? I
finally went to the clinic for treatment and was reminded of how
lucky we are as students to have free care available to us! I
received some cold laser as part of treatment for my swollen ankle
and left with a BCQ (Boswelia, Bromelain, Curcumin, Quercetin)
supplement to decrease inflammation (half price for students!).
Cold laser therapy
If you're not an established patient of a student intern, I
highly suggest you spend the time for the initial intake and reap
the benefits! If you're stressed and over-worked, there are
hydrotherapy treatments waiting for you! If your neck and shoulders
are in knots from sitting and studying all day, there are soft
tissue treatments and gentle adjustments in your future. If your
skin is misbehaving or you haven't pooped in three days (or the
opposite... I mean let's be honest, stress wreaks all kinds of
havoc on our systems)... there is realistic dietary advice and
vis-stimulating/supporting treatments (like acupuncture or more
hydrotherapy) waiting for you at the clinic.
These are just the everyday med student woes that can be
attended to by our fellow student interns and future colleagues.
Don't forget they can also help address the bigger things. Perhaps
you arrived at NUHS to study naturopathic medicine (or chiropractic
or acupuncture or massage) because you or another family member is
wiser for experiencing a challenging health condition. Even the
conditions that require pharmaceuticals and other higher force
interventions can benefit from the complementary, supportive care
offered at the clinic.
Do you have family, friends or acquaintances that could benefit
from the services offered at the clinic? Refer them, please! In
fact, just last night our server asked for our advice to help with
his broken ribs. Since we're not licensed doctors and cannot give
medical advice, we referred him to our clinic. We also brainstormed
some homeopathic remedies anyone can find at their local health
food store that are indicated for stabbing pain and broken
An appointment at the clinic might take up your time, but I
encourage everyone to support our peers and future colleagues. If
you're not an intern yet, you will be soon and we'll all be
thankful for more patients to learn from as we hone our skills and
prepare for life after graduation.
So, what are the highlights from my week other than remembering
the beauty of free care and the fact that those cold laser
protective glasses really tied my outfit together? I practiced back
massage in my Tuesday night class, purchased some materials for my
massage table (fleece covers, a bolster, etc.), observed a few
intriguing patients in clinic, and continually wished my DC peers
good luck on their board exam (Congrats guys! You did it!) I also
fell deeply in love with hydrotherapy and totally forgive the
scheduling goddess for giving me class from 3-5 on Friday
afternoons. We practiced dry sheet wraps and salt scrubs;
techniques that elicited a feeling of true healing that I can see
using often in practice and assigning as homework for my
Painting with friends
Lastly, my best girlfriends and I celebrated our girl Mia, a new
bride who got married in India over this past break! We indulged in
a night out that included wine and painting and inappropriate jokes
and howling laughter. I am so thankful for these friends! They make
me laugh, they make me think, and they inspire me to embrace my
creative side in the midst of the brain workout we all endure on a
And we're back! August break was absolutely fabulous! For me, at
least...I know that many of my DC student friends were busy
studying for their board exams coming up at the end of this
week.... Good luck to you all!
But I went exploring. To celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday, we
ventured into the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a 4-day,
3-night hut trip. Staying in the AMC
Huts is a total treat; they cook breakfast and dinner for you,
and you sleep in a real bed! (Albeit, in a bunkroom with
approximately 11 other people....) It makes backpacking with your
family a whole lot easier when you only have to carry your lunch
and there's no worry about tents and stoves.
Unfortunately for me, I sprained my ankle early in the trip, but
we taped it up and I continued on for another 14 miles over the
next few days. I am quite thankful that I can go to the clinic here
on campus to have a student intern help nurse my ankle back to
health! It needs it.
All 6 of us (Mom, Dad, my brother Arthur, my Uncle Nate,
Hanzi, and Me) on the summit of Mount Madison! Day 1 of 4.
After a few breathtaking bluebird days in the New Hampshire
mountains, I continued on my high altitude journey to visit with
some of my best college girlfriends in the Adirondacks in New York.
In addition to spending time sunbathing and catching up on the
lakeshore, we visited the Sugarhouse Creamery, a dairy farm owned by some
other college friends who gave us a tour of the cheese-making
process! After our tour we bought up almost all the cheese in their
farm store to take home and share with our families. Yum!
Here's a photo of us in the cheese cave (underground!), and
another of the cows at milking time with barn cat Soup posing in
the foreground (In Memoriam: Soup disappeared a few days later; a
coyote had been afoot.)
After nearly two weeks of tromping all over New England visiting
with faraway family and friends, I came home to the Boston area.
There, I checked in on the progress of the construction at my
parents' new home and saw our old house for the first time since my
parents' move. It is now happily full of a family of six and I feel
good about that. I spent my last full day on the East Coast
drinking morning coffee and talking wedding plans with my oldest
childhood friend, followed by shadowing my Mom while she saw her
afternoon patients. It was the perfect way to ease back into
medical school mode after my vacation.
I arrived back in Chicago in time to organize my schedule and
have some school friends over to celebrate Labor Day. The first
week back at school was a short one, but whew, it was big. I have
started the massage program, which means I am on
campus two nights per week after my ND classes end for the day.
It's exhausting because I have to mentally prepare and pack both a
lunch AND a dinner, but it is also extremely rewarding because I
get to spend time learning with and from a different type of
Highlights from the first week include practicing phlebotomy on
bananas (before we "stab" each other this week!), and my first
clinic observation shift. I got to wear my white coat and see a
patient! It should be noted that when I say, "see" a patient, I
literally mean just that. As observers, we are not allowed to talk
to or give any input while in the room with the patient; we just
watch and absorb. No complaints here though. I learned so much by
observing everything that went into one blood draw appointment.
We watch as Dr. Aikenhead demonstrates proper technique in
Stab Lab, and one of my classmates brings his banana to
This first blog of my 6th trimester will serve as a reminder
that the time for adventures and spending time with friends and
family will come again.... Until then, it's back to the grind --
reading, writing, analyzing, thinking, puzzling, and occasionally
complaining about it all as we jump back into it for fall. Here
One morning when I was 18, I went out for a run in the
Adirondack woods and after I rounded a corner, I stopped dead on
the narrow trail and looked up to see a buck standing in my way. I
stood stock still for half a minute as we made eye contact. I think
I took one or two steps back, which made him hesitate and glance
over his shoulder, then stamp once. He was brownish grey with dark
brown eyes and a small-ish rack of antlers that made me think he
was fairly young. Another shift in my posture was all it took for
him to turn abruptly and bound off into the woods to my right.
(This was before smart phones, and there was no power plug within 2
miles of me to power it anyways, so I didn't catch a picture, but
the image stays remarkably clear in my mind.)
This experience was one of several encounters with wild things I
had over the summers I spent at Tanager Lodge, a summer camp in the Northern
Adirondack Park in upstate New York (the same place I traveled to
for that wedding mentioned in last week's post.) That wedding trip
has inspired this meditation on what Tanager fostered in me that
made me gravitate towards naturopathy more than any other school of
the healing arts.
Old Map of Tanager Lodge
Tanager is a self-proclaimed wilderness camp that engages
"campers and staff in a small, non-competitive community dedicated
to wilderness appreciation, life skills, and individual growth."
This is its 90th summer in operation.
A day in the life of a camper or staff member (I was both)
starts with waking to the sound of a flute (a real one, played from
atop a cliff...I'm not kidding), followed by a dip in the lake,
then breakfast on open porches, cleaning and prepping camp for the
day by bailing boats, peeling carrots, sweeping docks, cleaning our
tents, etc., and then choosing an activity for the morning.
My favorite activity was making herbal teas. We would hike out a
mile or so into the woods on a rainy day and carefully harvest all
kinds of edible leaves, berries, flowers and bark. Once back in
main camp, we steeped them in varying combinations. After a while,
we tasted all the different teas we'd made and they helped to warm
us after a morning of tromping around in the rain. The steeping of
teas is pretty darn naturopathic; there's even an elective class
here at National called Special Topics in Botanical Medicine in
which we learn to make medicinal herbal teas (and many other things
like salves, tinctures, and elderflower fritters!)
Looking south from Indian Point (a photo I took at Tanager
If you are just beginning to explore naturopathic medicine,
please do not feel that you need to come with a past full of jaunts
in the woods and time spent identifying plants. I have many
exceptional peers here at NUHS who came right out of the heart of
cities like New York and Detroit. Not every naturopathic student
loves to get their hands dirty in the garden or yearns for a hike
in the woods like I do, but I am pretty sure we all have a deep
respect for the natural world.
The Tanager Lodge community I grew up with strives to live by 12
Woodcraft Laws that will likely resonate with naturopathic students
in some way. These laws generally parallel the community, spiritual
and ethical aspects of our
Determinants of Health (listen to Dr. Louise Edwards speak on
the topic). I'll leave you with the list and hope that you have
learned a little more about what draws me to study Naturopathic
OK readers, I did it! I decided. My parents were a reliable
sounding board in a conversation last week and while I trust my own
intuition and will follow it even in the face of resistance, being
reassured with parental support really sealed the deal. I plan to
start the massage program in September!
Trusting intuition is something we address in class from the
very first trimester. Mostly, we have these discussions in our
naturopathic theory classes, although this week in Homeopathy 1 we
started a topic on How To Take the Case, which is inseparable from
learning about becoming a true healer. "Taking the case" means
listening to our patients without any preconceptions; it means
forgetting ourselves, and dissolving the boundary between the self
and the world so as to note every important detail.
In discussing both homeopathic and naturopathic theory, our
professors have talked about mirror neurons, a term that defines how empathy
is evidenced in brain scans; the listener's brain lights up in
exactly the same places as the storyteller's brain does. Our goal
as doctors is to use our mirror neurons.
One of my peers asked about how, on the one hand, we dissolve
the boundary between ourselves and our patients' stories of
suffering, and on the other, maintain our own sanity and refrain
from shouldering the burdens of every sick patient that walks
through our doors.
It is a good question. How many mirror neurons can we afford to
use? Turns out, the answer is different for every doc. Of course we
knew that, everyone (every case, every patient) is different, after
One professor told us that he sits behind a desk, with the
patient opposite him; this provides a physical boundary to remind
him. Another professor spoke on how her spirituality and the
healing cannot be separated. Her spiritual practice involves
dissolving boundaries and finding compassion for every single
During several of these class discussions our professors have
sited an author named Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a doctor known for
her work teaching other physicians how to heal from the heart. On
her blog, Remembering Your Power to Heal, Remen writes of
physicians: "Our habitual way of seeing things and even our
expertise can blind us to the meaning of even the simplest of our
daily interactions and relationships." This tendency towards
blindness is an obstacle to cultivating the healer in us, and comes
at least in part, from our training. One of Dr. Remen's tools for
learning to see through "new" eyes is to keep a "heart journal" in
which you answer three questions each day.
The Heart Journal
The first question is: "What surprised me today?"
The size of the nose ring on the
girl sitting next to us at the beach; it was huge but I figured she
probably loves it that way!
The second question is: "What moved me or touched my heart
On our way to the beach, Hanzi was
looking out the window and said, "That was cute!" I asked what, and
he told me that a little girl was leading her grandmother in an
investigation of something smooshed on the sidewalk.
And the third question is "What inspired me today?"
The camaraderie of the group of "Bears"
gathered at the beach, all bobbing together with their big bellies
in the chilly Lake Michigan water.
If this exercise is something Remen thinks we should do as
professional physicians, why not start practicing it now? In
addition to practicing things like taking blood pressure,
evaluating cervical range of motion, or taking a history from a
SIM-patient, we should probably be cultivating the healer through
exercises like this.
Hard to believe, but I did study at the beach. Here's the
Want to find a Chicago beach to visit? It's easy: CPDBeaches.com.
The skill set of a healer includes knowing how to find the
beauty in the midst of the suffering we are exposed to daily for
the duration of our professional lives. So, to my fellow students,
don't write in a journal every day if the time commitment freaks
you out, but at the very least, have these conversations with each
other. Try to talk about the heart-full things, rather than the
test you're dreading or the professor you can't stand. Look for the
things that inspire you, the things that touch your heart, and the
things that surprise you. Forgetting to cultivate our eye for these
things will, I suspect, prove a grave mistake whose consequences we
will learn when we go out into the real world and try to heal
So, I encourage you to notice the things that make you smile
more than the things that make you groan. You may even find less to
I'm deciding whether or not to study Massage Therapy while I'm here at
National in addition to getting my ND. Many of my peers get dual
degrees, whether it be ND/DC or ND/AOM because the modalities and
philosophies run in parallel and allow us to expand our scope to
meet our interests and passions, especially in unlicensed states.
Part of the adventure of studying naturopathic medicine is learning
what aspects of our vast toolbox suit you best, and then exploring
ways to pursue those interests.
I struggled for a few weeks last fall with whether or not to
enroll in the AOM program, because Chinese medicine
is so wise and its application is so broad and increasingly
accepted by mainstream medicine. It serves as an excellent adjunct
to naturopathic medicine. Many of our professors use it. Ultimately
though, I realized I do not absolutely, definitely, no question,
want to be a master of Chinese medicine in the kind of way I know I want to be a
naturopathic doctor. And, I am not willing to invest all the
time and money in something that doesn't feel quite right for
In E&M Extremities class, Meg demonstrates a gait anomaly
as the rest of us analyze it.
Over the past few trimesters, I have gravitated towards physical
medicine in application with naturopathic medicine. I was totally
surprised when I enjoyed E&M
class and found that I was actually pretty good at adjusting. I
realized that I know my body and its relationship to weight-bearing
and careful maneuvering through my experience of being a
competitive athlete. It's been years since I gave up competitive
sports in college, but I still have that knack for acquiring muscle
memory and fluidity in movement, and it pays off in understanding
how the body should, or wants to, move.
Cranial Sacral Massage elective class with our
Patricia Coe and Dr. Heather Wisniewski
Also, having never taken any kinesiology classes, I figured I
was doomed when it came to grasping biomechanics. As it turns out,
knowing my body and its movements has made learning biomechanics
and adjusting a lot easier. Inspired by my propensity for
understanding and applying physical medicine, I asked for a
recommendation of who to talk to or what other avenues to explore
beyond the classroom. Dr. Pearson, one of the family practice
interns, directed me to Dr. Coe, massage program supervisor and
instructor (and totally awesome
ND/DC/MT/photographer/character/mentor). I signed up for her massage
elective class on Cranial Sacral technique and discovered this
awesome new dimension to add to my ND toolbox. By using what I
learned in Dr. Coe's class, I continue to study through experience
on my friends and fellow classmates. I am learning how to listen
with my hands, follow what I find, and make people feel better.
"Inside/Outside: Muscle/Hand" San Francisco, 1994.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Katherine Du
Tiel (b. 1961) [artist]
So, in an effort to distract myself from the stress of 3 exams
and 2 assignments due in the upcoming days, I've tracked down Dr.
Coe and picked her brain on my options for adding the Massage
I also reached out to a recent NUHS grad who tutored me through
Phase 1 and studied in the massage, chiropractic and naturopathic
programs during her time here at National. She offered some solid
advice. (Even after they're gone from campus, NUHS folks are still
accessible and willing to help you!) Now I have to make some
decisions. It's probably time to make a pros and cons list and a
phone call to Mom and Dad, who always offer pretty good advice.
Part of what makes naturopathic medicine so strong is this great
big toolbox we're given. It also presents a fun challenge to us
students: to discover our strengths and trust the process!
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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