There is this lively little part of me at my core that I was
beginning to mourn having lost in the midst of school, but
surprise! It's waking up! The first time I can remember discovering
this glowing gold piece of my heart was when I lived in Wyoming,
and it brightened significantly when I lived in California.
Hunkering down to study, living in the suburbs, losing touch with
music and wild land slowly shuttered me, dimmed that glow, and
caused that spirited part of me to go dormant.
Sunset on a satisfying day in the clinic
I saw my first patients last week and the experience cracked my
heart open, in the best way. I also made the decision to drop a few
massage courses this trimester, including my clinic shift, which
has opened up more hours in my week and also lifted a large burden
from my shoulders. I'm taking only one massage class; it's perfect.
I get to focus on my priority of becoming a naturopathic
This feeling I'm welcoming home is hard to explain, but it feels
so much like me! I know I've mentioned before how my life here in
Chicagoland is significantly different from what I feel brings me
most alive. Maybe it's the realization that I have only one year
left, and that the wide world is waiting for me over there next
April. Mostly, I think it's the opportunity to practice actual
doctoring that's waking this sleeping glow.
For years I was intimidated to go to medical school. It took me
until I recognized I was ready to BE the doctor, rather than just
work for the doctor, to even take the steps to apply for school.
Now the end is in sight, and I have so much to learn! How am I ever
going to fit it all in to one year? I'm really excited and actually
totally floored to watch it happening. All of a sudden, there was a
patient in front of me, asking me for help, answering my questions,
asking me questions... And then there was another one! Another
patient sat in front of me, answering my questions, looking to me
(and my clinician) for answers. I guess I always knew this was
coming, but I have completely shocked myself by letting it actually
Lisa and me, and Wendy's FABULOUS lunch bag; it's how we
I guess this feeling that's reemerging, slowly simmering in my
core, is one of cautious confidence, of belonging, of good
trepidation and that delightful unknown. I'm treading lightly so as
to not snuff it out. Now that it's back, I'm going to do my
darndest to nurture it, which I think means being truest to myself.
I am wide-eyed and curious.
The topic for my blog post this week knocked and then walked
into the room while I was sitting in a peat bath, a regular weekly
thing I've been doing per my ND intern at the clinic. Jen is a 10th
tri intern in the ND clinic who was on hydro laundry duty on the
day of my appointment. At the end of last tri, before the holidays,
Jen and I got to talking and I learned that she has family not far
from the little Northern California town I moved from when I
decided to come to NUHS to study naturopathic medicine. Jen had
plans to travel there to visit over the break, and I thought she
should definitely take a day to shadow the naturopathic doc I
interned with and subsequently worked for during my last year
living in California. It was relatively quick and easy to put Jen
in touch by email with Dr. Ann, who graduated from SCNM and
practiced in Arizona before moving her family to Tahoe for the
mountain culture, outdoor environment and beauty.
On a lunch break from my work at Dr. Ann's office
When I first reached out to Dr. Ann in 2010, she responded
promptly to my request to shadow her. I told her I was deciding if
I wanted to go to school to become a naturopathic doctor and
thought I should see the thing in action first. Dr. Ann was super
welcoming and told me when I finally left after a year working for
her that if I ever had any peers who wanted to shadow her she would
be more than willing to have them.
Even though I hadn't been in touch with Dr. Ann since I mailed
her a Christmas card two years ago when I first moved to Illinois,
I was pretty sure she'd be receptive to my connecting her with Jen.
I also thought she would totally get it that medical school keeps
you so busy you don't have time to stay in touch like you wish you
could... after all, she went through the same process at SCNM!
A vista from the drive from Nevada to the north end of Lake
So last week when Jen slipped into the hydro room to put away
some towels, I stopped her and had her regale me with stories of
her visit to Tahoe and her day spent with Dr. Ann. I learned that
my mentor's practice is growing and that one of the women who
worked the front desk with me is still there, translating Spanish
for Dr. Ann and helping to connect her with the robust local
The most heart-warming thing Jen told me is that as she watched
Dr. Ann do her work, she realized that the vision she has for her
own future practice after graduation is a realistic one. There was
Dr. Ann, working with her patients in a small, cozy, downtown
office, charting while they told their story from the easy chair on
the other side of the desk. Jen told me that she hadn't actually
seen a real live naturopathic doctor at work yet, and that the
experience was reaffirming and totally awesome. I have to say that
thanks to Dr. Ann, I, too, know that feeling.
Beautiful Tahoe views made studying for Organic Chem (a prereq
for coming to NUHS) easier!
If you are just looking into starting naturopathic medical
school, I highly suggest you seek out a practicing ND in your area
and ask if you can shadow them for a day or even just for a few
hours. It will give you a picture of what you can expect, and will
help you to keep that vision in mind when you are wallowing in the
recesses of the library, trying to memorize things that seem so far
removed from actual patient care. If you are a current student and
have not yet had the opportunity to shadow a real live working ND,
you should find one too! As far as I can tell, in our clinic we
have our clinicians who oversee our work, but it doesn't seem quite
the same as watching an ND go about the day in their own private
One of the best ways to find a licensed ND in your area who
trained at one of the accredited schools is to visit www.naturopathic.org and click on the link at
the top that reads, "Find a Doctor." Or, ask around! You never know
which of your professors or peers knows someone willing and able to
take you on for a day. If you are not in a position to shadow an
ND, or are not reading this blog post because you want to be one,
becoming a patient is probably the very best way you can learn
about naturopathic medicine.
I think Week 6 is a good time to get into the meat of what I've
actually been up to so far in Tri 6. The best part about this
trimester is that I spend relatively little time sitting in
lecture, and most of my time applying and building upon what I
already know through discussions and hands-on learning.
Physical and Laboratory Diagnosis (aka Phys Dx in student speak)
is a beast of a class, with 6 hours per week of lecture and three
more hours per week in lab. Our first practical comes this week,
and I have been practicing several exams including taking vitals,
as well as the head and neck, pulmonary, cardiovascular,
neurological, eye, ear/nose/throat, and abdominal exams. Besides
demonstrating that we can actually execute said exams, we will be
tested on our ability to translate an objective finding into a
diagnosis (for example, dullness on percussion of the lungs in the
right upper lobe suggests consolidation and therefore pneumonia in
Friday Manual Therapies class celebrations! Tony's birthday
called for learning, pizza, and cupcakes.
Two other classes require me to sit in lecture. The first is
Imagining Diagnosis, in which we just finished learning about how
to recognize arthritides, like rheumatoid arthritis, on X-ray. The
other is Ethical Practice Management, a class that discusses things
like how to use twitter for marketing, and why networking is vital
All my other courses are significantly more hands-on and
interactive, the reason that this trimester is my favorite one so
far. In Homeopathy 3, we sit in class, yes, but we learn remedies
and have discussions about how to take a case, analyze a case, and
subsequently find the correct remedy for a patient. In Applied
Clinical Theory, we discuss paper cases each week and learn about
how to make a diagnosis based on a history and results of a
physical exam. Next, we discuss how to treat these patients by
working through our therapeutic order and addressing each
determinant that is out of balance.
These classes are directly allowing us to apply what we know and
understand about pathology, physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, etc.
(material from our first phase classes) to a theoretical patient.
It is so satisfying to prepare for a class discussion and find out
the next day that your diagnosis was correct and that some of the
therapies you've chosen are the same ones your professor would
These classes are helping me to move beyond simply identifying
what is wrong with the body, to actually creating a treatment plan
to solve the problem. I have two more hands-on labs that fill my
week, one is phlebotomy lab where we've been learning to draw blood
and take urine samples. The other is a class called Advanced Manual
Therapies, which has proven to be a great review of evaluation
techniques we learned in our E&M classes, and allows us to put
it all together. For example, last week we learned the "upper
extremity evaluation dance," which will help us to determine where
a patient's source of pain or malfunction resides if they present
with a problem in their arm or shoulder. We also learn how to use
alternative techniques like pelvic blocking and activator to treat
stubborn or sensitive patients.
Crazy lookin', right? Lisa and Jack practice
My very favorite course this trimester is Hydrotherapy. If
you've been reading my blog the past few weeks, you'll know that I
adore this class. Last week, we practiced constitutional
hydrotherapy, a vis-stimulating treatment that involves alternating
hot and cold towels and applying electrical stim. Two weeks ago we
experimented with Neti pots, as well as steam baths and
naso-sympatico treatment for sinusitis.
Neti Pot time! Pouring water into my nose.
Lastly, I get to spend four hours a week in the clinic, which
you have also read about already if you've been following my posts.
Observing allows us to focus on understanding how the clinic
operates and to practice writing SOAP notes without the stress of
actually having to treat patients or think really hard about the
cases. I am so thankful that I get to watch and think and learn
from my peers; many of the interns I shadow offer useful tips,
teach me the finer points of writing a SOAP note, listen to my
suggestions, and answer my questions about their patients.
Oh! How could I forget to mention my massage courses! I love the
physically exhausting challenge of giving massage in my
Fundamentals of Massage class every Tuesday night, and my class on
Ethics and Practice Management is helping me to visualize how I
will apply this skill in my practice of the future. Despite how
satisfied I am with this trimester, I admit that I am already
looking ahead to what comes next! I can't believe I am already
halfway through medical school; time if flying. On that note, I
better get to work preparing for my Phys Dx practical! Wish me
An ND student friend of mine joined me for lunch on a bench
outside on Friday and told me about how her friend who had come to
visit. They went to a bookstore, they hung out, and to quote her
she, "felt human again!" I'll admit, it's kind of the last thing
you want to hear as a prospective student (for those of you reading
this), but it's also true.
Med school has this paradoxical way of making you feel on the
one hand like the most human human around, with everything that
could possibly go wrong with a body probably having gone wrong with
yours, and on the other hand, it makes you feel like a strange
creature when it comes to "real life." As a student of medicine you
will spend a lot of time in your own head, and a lot of time in the
company of other med students talking about the trials and
tribulations of learning medicine. I presume there's nothing quite
I went out on Friday night to meet my boyfriend Hanzi downtown
after his class and we went for a drink with his classmates. I was
that girl who didn't order a drink at the second bar and
then cut out early on account of having exams coming up this week.
That's no lie by the way, week 5 has arrived, along with the first
exams of the tri! So, my friend's lunchtime comment and my own
experience of having my social life ruled by my books made me
When we interact with people outside of medical school, we get a
valuable perspective on what we've actually been up to. Whether
it's your parents, your best friend, your significant other, or
your neighbors, having those conversations that don't require you
to probe the depths for that piece of medical knowledge are wholly
healing in themselves! We take our minds elsewhere. Also, these
humans from outside the medical school world will often offer words
of encouragement or awe or appreciation for what we're doing, even
if they don't say so outright.
Indiana vs. Northwestern field hockey game -- set up for a
Over the weekend, I got to revel in the world outside of medical
school. I went to see one of my very best childhood friends doing
one of the things she does best -- coaching the Big 10 Hoosier
field hockey team in their game against Northwestern here in
Chicago. The experience took me out of my current world; it took me
back. For a few years in college, I played Division 3 field hockey.
My last year on the team, I spent most games perched at the top of
the stands filming so we could study our game play later on. I
eventually quit the sport due to injuries that kept me off the
field and just wouldn't heal. This past Sunday at Northwestern, I
climbed to my place at the top of the stands so that I could see
the whole field. I was totally engrossed in the game, and loved
getting a taste of the conviviality and competition of college
sports. This was an environment that, at one point, played a very
important role in my life.
Coach Kate and me -- a gorgeous day on Lake Michigan
Watching the game was a blast (it made me use my brain in a
totally different way than learning medicine does), but catching up
with Kate, sitting on the lakeshore while she waited for her team
to shower, was the highlight. We talked about our families. We
reminisced. We don't see much of each other these days, but when we
do it's like no time has passed.
This experience drove home the message to remember what makes me
who I am, that I should not forget to peek back at the path I took
to get here. The conversations we have with our non-med student
people are capable of reminding us of all the other things we do
besides study medicine. And actually, it helps me to recognize how
many of my life experiences have pinballed me toward medical school
and my specific areas of interest.
For example, why am I so intrigued by physical medicine? This is
no doubt, because of my experience essentially studying the way my
own body moves and how it endures training and sport. Playing
college field hockey definitely forced me to do this, and my
excursion to watch Kate's game this weekend reminded me of
Shadowing ND intern Alaina in clinic
And now, I get to connect my ruminations with the highlights of
my week! I got to observe a physical medicine patient with back
pain in the clinic, and it was TOTALLY AWESOME. To clarify, it
wasn't the patient's pain I found so awesome, but the fact that I
got to watch naturopathic medicine in action, working on issues
with ties to my days as a college athlete, with ties to the path
that brought me here.
Whoa, here we are! It's already my last post for the trimester,
a sure sign we have only a handful of days left until we're done!
Week 14 signals the beginning of exams with all the lab practicals
taking place this week. My E&M Extremities practical on Monday
has required me to learn and understand about 60 different types of
orthopedic tests and 44 different types of
mobilizations/manipulations/adjustments. Let's just say this is
prime evidence of how medical school is like drinking from a fire
This trimester has been a significant one for me. I started the
Clinical Sciences portion of my degree, made a decision on when to
take boards, followed my intuition and decided to do a dual degree
in massage, and learned so much from my sim-patients about what the
real experience will be like. It was also the first trimester that
I haven't had any classes with any of my best buddies with whom I
started the program. This is a blessing and a curse because I miss
their company terribly, but I have also made new friends who I
value just as much. During this tri, I traveled to see some of my
favorite people make the promise to spend their lives together, my
best and oldest friend got engaged (I never told you this, ah!), I
wrote a blog post here that elicited tears from an exceptional
friend (the first time my written words have ever inspired such
emotion), and my parents sold my childhood home. All this, and it
still feels that these summer months have absolutely flown by!
If you're not here at NUHS yet, you'll soon learn the value of
our brief breaks between the trimesters. This time I will head
east, and go on a 4-day backpacking/hut trip adventure in the White
Mountains of New Hampshire with my family and Hanzi to celebrate my
Dad's 60th birthday (wish us happy trails, we might need it!).
After that, I plan to visit with some of my best college
girlfriends; one of them just bought a house -- OMG -- grown-up
things! Hopefully, I'll find a day to shadow my Mom at her
Integrative Dermatology practice, and will crack my Boards study
guide at some point (we'll see about that last one). I hope the
rest of my peers also have something fun, and especially something
relaxing, planned for break!
But before we can totally engage with our time off, we have to
give that last major push through finals. WE CAN DO IT! Remember,
it's OK for life to be totally, completely unbeautiful
right now. Also, the world is a whole lot bigger than NUHS
Throughout my post is a series of photos I took around campus on
the Friday before Week 14. I asked students to show me how the
impending last 2 weeks of the tri makes them feel; this is what I
saw. General consensus says we're all a little crazed, a little
worn out, and a little hungry for the sweet stuff...so don't worry,
here's the evidence that if this is how you feel, you're not
Lastly, a little blessing for us all; may our professors ask us
the questions to which we have all the answers! Good luck,
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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