Archive for tag: classes

How to Look Fabulous as a Clinic Patient and Other Related Thoughts

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!).

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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 bones.

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 patients.

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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 regular basis.

Mountain Time

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.

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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!

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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 healer.

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.

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We watch as Dr. Aikenhead demonstrates proper technique in Stab Lab, and one of my classmates brings his banana to life!

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 goes!

Leaves, Berries, Flowers and Bark

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.

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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!)

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Looking south from Indian Point (a photo I took at Tanager years ago)

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 Medicine.

  1. Be clean; both yourself and the place you live in.
  2. Be strong. Understand and respect your body.
  3. Protect all harmless wild life. Conserve the woods and flowers.
  4. Hold your word of honor sacred.
  5. Play fair for fair play is truth and foul play is treachery.
  6. Be reverent. Worship the Great Spirit and respect all worship of it by others. For none have all the truth and all who worship reverently have claims on our respect.
  7. Be brave. Courage is the noblest of all gifts.
  8. Be silent while your elders are speaking and otherwise show them deference.
  9. Obey. Obedience is the first duty of the Woodcrafter.
  10. Be Kind. Do at least one act of unbargained service each day.
  11. Be helpful. Do your share of the work.
  12. Be joyful. Seek the joy of being alive, for every reasonable gladness that you can give or get is a treasure that cannot be destroyed.

 

Maybe This Will Touch Your Heart Today

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!

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Source: www.ieet.org

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 all.

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 living thing.

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 today?"

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.

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Hard to believe, but I did study at the beach. Here's the evidence!
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 people.

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 groan about....

On Finding Your Favorite Tools

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 me.

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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.

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Cranial Sacral Massage elective class with our professors,
Dr. 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 by Katherine Du Tiel
"Inside/Outside: Muscle/Hand" San Francisco, 1994. Photograph.
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 Therapy coursework.

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!