I am sitting at my kitchen table, bright yellow and orange
leaves glowing outside my window in the mid-morning light, and I am
breathing deeply. I am taking deep, calming breaths because I just
let myself read one of those blogs about how naturopathic medicine
is not real.
Out for a walk on a gorgeous fall day
We had this conversation in our practice management class last
Thursday: "What do you say if someone asks you why you didn't
become a real doctor?" There is an unpleasant person living in
Europe for whom naturopathic medicine did not stick. This person
writes a caustic blog about perceived failures of our medicine.
It's unfortunate, but as my ND student friend Wendy has said, if
one person can make a little wave like this person has, imagine
what all the rest of us can do.
There are smart people, and there are good writers, and they are
not always one and the same. There are people who respond to the
incendiary writings of Internet "trolls" and there are the sound,
solid naturopathy supporters out there who ignore those "trolls"
and continue doing what they do because it works, not because they
are out to prove someone wrong.
I encourage all of my fellow students and fellow supporters of
naturopathic medicine not to shout your support in an angry way. I
implore you to stay away from those naysayers because by responding
to them, we give them the Internet traffic (which Google loves to
highlight), and the attention they do not deserve.
So, naturopathic doctors, doctors-to-be, supporters, and
patients of the world -- please, please, please -- let us stop
acknowledging the writings and cries of people who do not
understand the power of natural medicine to heal! Let us see what
they write, and remember to support our profession in the avenues
through which they seek to bring us down. If it is more residency
opportunities they think we need, then let us remember that,
process it in our own capacity, and apply those conclusions on our
There will always, always, always be those people whose opinions
differ from ours. When it comes to our profession, which is, in the
end, simply about helping people to feel better, let us remember
that. Physician-heal-thyself means we make sure we do things to
make ourselves feel better so that we may better serve our
patients. We are served well when we put our energy into the things
that we want to perpetuate.
Dwell on the GOOD stuff. DO NOT dwell on the bad stuff. Energy
is a real thing and it follows intention. So let us place our
intention on growing our profession, not on perpetually defending
it. If you take no shots, you score no goals. If we spend all our
time defending, we make no advances on the scoreboard! Let's direct
our thoughts at success, let's rally around the positive stuff, and
give that negative darkness a wide, wide berth.
I opened my emails this morning to read one from the AANMC, or
the Association of
Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. The entire second
half of the newsletter was about NUHS! This is so exciting! The
blurb talked about all the club opportunities on campus including
the NMSA (Naturopathic Medical Student Association), Nu Delta Sigma
(the naturopathic fraternity/study group), Healer's Circle,
Homeopathy Club, and the botanical garden. It even mentioned our
own Dr. Sorensen, who won a photo contest by the American Botanical
Council with a photo of our Althea Officinalis (Marshmallow) from
the garden here on campus!
When I started at NUHS 3 years ago, my group of 15 or so
incoming ND students was one of the biggest yet. Now, I hear we
have incoming classes of around 40 students, making NDs-to-be
nearly half of the population (or more!) of our first phase
classrooms. I am proud of that and I know many of my peers are
I can see the growth of our program in the clinic this
trimester; we have 17 8thtrimester interns, which is equal to the
number of the 9thand 10thtri interns combined! On Mondays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays, when the 8th tri interns join us, we
double in number and the available clinic space and hydrotherapy
facilities are absolutely bursting at the seams! Our clinicians are
wickedly busy helping all of us, so much so that we got a new
clinician this trimester named Dr. Tursha Hamilton! She comes to us
from the heat of Arizona, by way of Louisiana, and we all intend to
hug the warmth back into her all winter long (at her
Our new clinician Dr. Hamilton and me
So what does this growth mean for our program here at NUHS?
First of all, I suspect it means an increase in the resources
available to us as the sheer volume of students in our program
outgrows the current space and resources allotted us. Many of us
are realizing the need for more space in the clinic, especially for
hydrotherapy. We also hope for more resources in the form of
materials to learn hands-on aspects of our medicine like minor
surgery and lab evaluation.
I know that one of the obstacles our profession faces here at
NUHS, and in Illinois in general, is the state's current status as
a pre-licensed state. We have a team of docs and advisors working
hard to get our medicine licensed here and once that happens, I
imagine our program will totally explode! We currently work under
the chiropractic scope of practice (as I've mentioned before), and
while it is a pretty good scope in Illinois, there are still things
that are included in a naturopathic scope of practice in other
states that we cannot legally practice here in Illinois... yet!
Don't let this post get you down. We get an absolutely kick-ass
education here at NUHS. We learn our basic sciences super well, and
we learn our clinical sciences thoroughly. We learn the truth of
nature cure in the purest way; we simply do not have the option to
use pharmaceutical drugs or higher force interventions like IV
therapy. While these therapies absolutely have their place, we
learn here at NUHS about the remarkable effectiveness of addressing
the basic determinants without getting caught up in the temptation
to depart from that philosophy.
Every day we use hydrotherapy, we use botanicals, we use whole
foods, we use nutritional supplementation, and we use physical
medicine. We use complex laboratory evaluation of blood, stool,
urine, and saliva, and based on the information gleaned from such
tests, we treat with nature's medicines -- plants, water,
homeopathy, nutrients, whole food, sunlight, and sleep. And with
these tools we see successes in healing every day!
Happy Belated Naturopathic Medicine Week! Last week was our
nationally recognized time to celebrate and promote our medicine
and in the spirit of that I will try to answer that question we are
all constantly asked, "What IS Naturopathic Medicine?"
Here's my little elevator speech: I am a student of naturopathic
medicine. As naturopathic doctors, we are trained in primary care
and specialize in natural and least-invasive therapies. We are
trained to diagnose and treat disease and we work to address the
cause of disease, rather than just treat the symptoms. We aim to
engage our patients in their own healthcare.
If I have a captive or particularly interested audience, I'll go
on to explain that we train in an outpatient clinic, rather than in
a hospital, but because we train specifically as primary care
doctors this environment is most appropriate. We do not rotate
through specialties as conventional MDs do; rather, we take those
specialties as classroom courses while we are in our internship,
seeing patients in our outpatient clinic. Our year-long training in
an out-patient setting prepares us well for practice because we are
providing direct primary care (with the supervision of our licensed
clinicians) on a regular basis to an established group of
When we graduate, residencies are optional and competitive. Part
of the reason our residencies are optional is that our profession
has to privately fund these opportunities. Did you know that
conventional MD residencies are funded by Medicare? At this time,
naturopathic doctors are not recognized by Medicare, and thus our
residencies must be privately funded. So, there are the basics.
Now, if I have an especially engaged audience I may launch into
explaining our Therapeutic Order, or how a naturopathic doctor
orders their thinking when it comes to a patient case.
Whew! Thanks for sticking with me this far! There is no way I
could explain everything about a naturopathic doctor's thought
process in one (long!) blog post. Readers should know that our
training includes pathology, and so when I write about treating the
engaged organs and systems, that is informed by our understanding
of pathology and diagnosis of disease. I could go on and on! But
for now, any questions?
Over the weekend, I got to speak with one of my dearest friends
for the first time in two years. She has been living in South Korea
with her husband where they both work as teachers. Sara and I met
when we studied abroad in Australia 8 years ago. In the years since
then, I've been the lucky recipient of many visits from Sara and
her husband wherever I've lived, all over the country. I have
totally reaped the benefits of their summer vacations as teachers.
This time, they are in the U.S. for a few weeks seeing family and I
am so excited to pay them a visit in Michigan next weekend! It's my
turn to make the trip to visit them.
When Sara came to visit in me in Truckee/Tahoe.
One of the most important reasons I moved out west from New
England after college (where I subsequently decided on naturopathic
medicine as a career), was based on my experience of studying
abroad in Australia with Sara. While studying on the other side of
the globe, I met so many Americans who hailed from all the very
different parts of the United States. I realized that I, an East
Coast girl, was so different from those girls from the Midwest, or
those girls from Southern California. We all came from very
different American backgrounds, and yet these Australians, as well
as all the other foreigners we met while out exploring, grouped me
in with all the others. I was just another American girl to
Adventuring in Australia -- getting inspired to explore my own
On account of this, I decided I had better go figure out what
the rest of my country was like before I went travelling abroad
again. While we all had some American patriotism and our language
in common, I felt so different from so many of my countrywomen. I
wanted to know what assumptions people might be making about me
based on some other Americans they'd met who, as far as I could
tell, were nearly as different from me as the Australian girls
were, or the Germans.
Now that I can see the light at the end of the medical school
tunnel, I am starting to think about where to explore next. I think
I have a pretty good handle on what an "American girl" is, based on
my experiences living around the country, so perhaps it's time to
head into foreign lands!
Between binge-watching Anthony Bourdain episodes, perusing
photographs of far away places on BuzzFeed, and reminiscing about
our travels of the past, Hanzi and I have caught the travel bug. We
regularly toss around the idea of living and working in another
country, and have even set some lofty goals of learning a foreign
language before we graduate with our respective master's and
doctorate degrees (we haven't made any headway on this, yet). Even
if we don't make it out of the country, we are ready to explore
another region... perhaps Alaska, or Montana, or Maine...
Of course, I also have to think about actual employment after
graduation, and for the record, I am equally excited to work as a
doctor as I am to see new places. If you're like me and think you
might want to explore, either now or later on, keep these resources
in mind. There are several networks for naturopathic doctors around
the world. Several of my friends at NUHS have traveled to work with
Naturopaths Without Borders during their breaks between
trimesters. My peers have returned with totally awesome stories of
hands-on experience treating patients, living in rural areas,
assisting in the delivery of babies by flashlight, and connecting
with local people whose worlds are so very different from ours.
In addition to delivering care to the underserved abroad,
naturopathic medicine is going global with the recent creation of
Naturopathic Federation in 2014. This organization connects
naturopathic doctors in 40 countries around the world, and
endeavors to connect our work with that of the World Health
Organization. We might be a small population here in the United
States, but we are also out there, all over the world, sharing and
advancing our medicine!
I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. When I lived in the
West, I realized that a big sky makes me feel that anything is
possible and that I can never understand it all. I adore this
feeling. I desire to be outside of my comfort zone as often as
possible; so much so that at times I've had to give up and retreat
to calmer waters.
I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. Sunrise on my
morning commute last week.
On a long weekend during my first year at NUHS, before the
program had a chance to wear me thin, my partner and I set out on a
camping and fishing trip to Wisconsin's driftless region. We
meandered through farmland and found our camping spot as the clouds
were gathering, no big deal. We'd once tried to camp at Vedauwoo
near Laramie, Wyoming, in late October with a wicked, biting wind
that threatened both to snow and to overturn our tent. When we
realized they'd shut off the water and closed up all facilities for
the season, we gave up.
My partner Hanzi tying flies at our kitchen table over the
weekend, caused this story to surface.
On this particular trip in Wisconsin, we made dinner over our
camp stove as the rain picked up. We ate our rice and beans on the
tailgate to stay dry. As the downpour intensified, we climbed into
our tent earlier than expected and snuggled into the center, trying
not to touch the wet walls.
At 1 a.m., the 5th drop of water landed on my face and I
realized my sleeping bag was totally soaked; our tent was no longer
waterproof and the Midwestern thunderstorm was still raging. Soaked
and sleepy, we sloppily disassembled our tent and crammed all the
sopping wet sleeping stuff into the trunk and slunk out of the
campsite, our tails between our legs.
The fishing the next day was terrible. The streams ran high
with mud. You can see our soaking wet camping gear piled in
We drove a wide-open rural highway with lightning cracking all
around us in the longest, loudest and most spectacular streaks I've
ever seen. This was some thunderstorm! If you've never experienced
one, do come study naturopathic medicine at National. If you've not
chosen our school for the strong philosophy and awesome
collaborative learning environment, then do at least choose it for
After a drive through the downpour and lightning, we checked
into the only room left at the nearest hotel, a suite with a hot
tub in the corner and the fluffiest king size bed ever (save for
that one that enveloped me during that bout of food-poisoning I got
in Banff, Canada after eating scrambled eggs at the airport. Don't
ever eat scrambled eggs at the airport.)
When you're in medical school, you pretty much can't do these
adventurous, uncalculated things. They squash that tendency to toss
logical thinking to the wind (like setting up camp in the midst of
a deluge) in the process of teaching us to be responsible doctors.
I don't mean my professors tell me to stay out of the rain. I mean
that medical school in general takes you away from the fun stuff by
sucking you dry of energy and sitting you down for some serious
business. It's all worth it though, I promise.
I may not be able to adventure, but I guess my education does
cause me to constantly move beyond my comfort zone. Each new class
I take demands that I commit to memory information I've never known
before. When I see a sim patient, I have no idea what to expect and
have to dive in ready to grapple with whatever story they tell me.
This is undoubtedly like the real world of doctoring and so I rest
assured; I totally AM in the right place.... If doctoring is a
process of continually stepping out of your comfort zone while
seeking the patterns that help you find your way to healing a
patient, then I think I'm on to something.
Really though, I already knew I was in the right place before
writing this rambling essay on thunderstorms and airport eggs and
squished adventures. I came to naturopathic medicine because I
thrive on the different stuff. Our medicine is not well known but
it is intelligent. Our medicine is not entirely understood in
reductionist terms, but it works from a place of truth. Camping in
the rain is not a comfortable choice, but it does make for a good
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