This past weekend, Lauren and I went on a pumpkin search at a
local farm here in Illinois. After a nice (yet not so healthy)
snack of freshly made apple cider donuts and local fresh apple
cider, we embarked on our journey through the corn maze to the
secret pumpkin patch where we continued our hunt for the perfect
pumpkin! As the day progressed and the sun shined in all its glory,
we realized we needed some water, so we paused the great pumpkin
hunt to stock up and refill with some high quality H20!
Who knew that we would need to rehydrate on a little pumpkin
search!? I guess that keeping hydrated is key to finding a great
pumpkin. So, after filling up on water, we continued on our quest
only to find pumpkin fudge instead! I guess supplementing with
water doesn't help with finding the perfect pumpkin, but pumpkin
fudge (in moderation) is a nice treat!
This leads me to supplementation, another skill that is built
and added to our doctor's toolkit here at NUHS. According to the
Oxford dictionary, in general terms, to supplement is to enhance or
complete something where a deficiency exists. In naturopathic
terms, administering supplements acts in the very same way for
Supplementation can include a simple saline solution, water or
electrolytes for someone who is dehydrated (on a pumpkin hunt),
vitamins, amino acids or a combination of any of the building
blocks, enzymes, cofactors...well, you get the idea...for any
deficiency in a human being.
Just a few of the conditions that we treat with supplementation
Our supplementation training begins very early in our
biochemistry classes with Dr. McRae, through our clinical
experience training with simulated patients and practice cases
until we reach the naturopathic clinic as interns. We learn the
various methods of administering a supplement to achieve the
greatest efficacy from the dose, whether orally, topically, or
Through the appropriate use of supplementation, we can help our
patients correct imbalances while incorporating and restoring the
basic determinants for healthy living. Ideally, once our patients
are returned to a basis for health, we will no longer need to
supplement as their diet, lifestyle and habits can help them
maintain a healthy state of living. For those who need
supplementation, a properly trained naturopathic intern and doctor
can provide the proper supplementation at the proper dose to help
our patients be their healthiest!
The autumn finally settled in here in Illinois this past week
with crisp mornings and warm days. The trees have shifted in color
just a bit on their topmost branches and I expect that we will see
the full blossoming of autumn in the next two or three weeks.
This week I'll talk a bit about botanical medicine and our
skillset that is developed both in our botanical medicine courses
as well as in clinical practice. Botanicals are powerful tools in
the naturopathic doctor's toolbox; proper instruction, use and
avoidance are necessary to effectively help others with this form
of our eclectic approach to medicine.
LaKisha Brandon (9th Tri), Darius Lembert (10th Tri), and
Joclyn Davis (9th Tri)
formulating and dispensing a custom tincture from our clinic
My definition of botanical medicine is using plants and their
constituent chemicals to help others heal. To that end we have a
series of four botanical medicine courses before and during our
clinical rotations here at NUHS to prepare us as new practitioners
out in practice.
Dr. Lorinda Sorensen and Dr. Fraser Smith (Dean of Naturopathic
Medicine) guide our ND students skillfully through this course
sequence in a way that prepares our future docs with a wealth of
information. We study the habitat, harvesting methods, parts of the
plants that are used, and proper preparation from harvest to
medicine. We are taught interactions (both beneficial and
dangerous) with pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, we learn the proper
times to use and avoid any botanical medicine, as well as the
proper dosage method, amount and timing.
When in clinic, we custom prepare our own tinctures based upon
the needs of the patient. We utilize the variety of professionally
prepared, medicinal grade botanical preparations at our disposal in
the clinic dispensary. We combine our botanical medicines with
other therapies that can help our patients on the path to a return
to their basis of health. This could be a quick turnaround or could
take some time depending upon the pathology and methodologies
utilized in the treatment plan. Through learning botanical medicine
at NUHS, I feel that we are well prepared to enter our practices
with a solid botanical skillset.
This morning, I sit at my spot by Lake Janse and watch my
classmates walk into their last few exams as I do a small
walkthrough of my last final for the trimester, Minor Surgery.
I think of all the preparation, stress, notes, charts, diagrams,
decision trees, memorizing, practicals, dissecting, adjusting
lab...ahhh! Adjusting?!?! I'm going to be a ND, why in the
world do I need to know how to adjust somebody?!?! This was
something I heard, and even said, early in my education here at
NUHS, a historically chiropractic school.
Well, as things turned out, adjusting was highly important for
me to remember in my first trimester as an intern. Three of my
patients required manual adjustments along with physiotherapeutic
treatments (ultrasound, etc.) and soft tissue (i.e. muscle, tendon,
etc.) manipulation. As a result, I was forced both to remember and
to go back to dig through old notes on modalities I thought I would
rarely, if ever, use in my practice.
The extensive therapy that these patients each needed to return
them to a basis for health included physical medicine, part of the
naturopathic therapeutic order, as well as some supplements and
analgesics specific to their needs.
My patients, through their needs, visits and therapies, helped
me to complete my physical medicine and manipulation requirements
for graduation in my first trimester in clinic! These are
modalities that are typically completed much later in the
naturopathic internship. My physical medicine patients this
trimester have taught me a number of invaluable lessons.
My experience with the physical medicine aspect of our training
here has given me a bit to think about over this coming break and
in the coming months. I am now considering, considering mind you,
pursuing a chiropractic degree upon completing my naturopathic
training here at NUHS. I feel that having both degrees will give me
a more complete tool kit to offer patients as a Natural Medicine
Primary Care Provider. Of course, time and financial resources are
considerations in that "consideration."
Finally, I feel it's important to mention that this past week
was President Joseph Stiefel's first graduation ceremony at NUHS. I
enjoy sharing a "Good Morning" and short conversation with Dr.
Stiefel as we pass on his walk from his home to his office each
morning. In the photo, each of us is getting a "dry run" on the
graduation portrait--his for about 200 graduate photos at the
ceremony and mine for roughly 8 months from now. I enjoyed seeing
him speak to our graduates and their families and am proud to have
Dr. Stiefel as our new President. (Small trivia fact: Dr. Stiefel's
wife, Dr. Holly Furlong, was the very first blogger for NUHS.)
So, with only two trimesters to go (or possibly more if I return
for the chiropractic doctorate), I am looking back at what I have
learned, what I need to brush up on and explore new skills for my
future practice. This is what I will think about when traipsing
over the mountain trails back home over the next two weeks. Until
then, may the rest of your summer be relaxing, fulfilling, and help
you make the decisions you need to guide your future in the proper
direction for you.
This week, I'll give a bit of information on the upgrades
happening here on the Illinois campus of NUHS. We have a new
anatomy lab under construction that will be ready this fall! I have
included before and after photos (thanks to Tom Rohner, director of
One of the unique features of the Basic Sciences program at
NUHS, in my opinion, is that each student spends an entire calendar
year with the cadavers in the anatomy lab. In these courses,
students learn the human body first-hand with cadavers from humans
who have passed on, yet desire their remains be used for learning
and helping others going forward.
Each cadaver in the anatomy lab has a team of not more than six
students who are responsible for the dissection, care and
preparation of their cadaver for any lab practicals, learning
exercises, etc. Each student is expected to learn proper dissection
techniques, work as a team member, and help their fellow classmates
with maintenance and cleanup.
Old anatomy lab prior to demolition
Our old lab was the original lab from early 1960s along with
period appropriate equipment and a small "theatre-like" area for
lecture. The tables, I believe, could have been display pieces in
the Smithsonian under the history of surgery and dissection
categories. The entire room had a distinct "mad scientist
steam-punk lab" feel to it with the old tile work, antiquated
diagrams, ancient specimen jars and tight areas. I enjoyed the old
lab though as the sense of history and number of excellent docs who
had learned in these facilities crossed my mind many
Lecture area of the old anatomy lab
On a side note, I remember one late summer/early fall evening
studying for a lab practical during a thunderstorm. Lightning
flashed, the thunder rolled, rattling the windows, and the power
went out! There was only a dim glow from the streetlights with the
silhouettes of the uncovered cadavers we were studying as
companions. Mind you, we were in the far corner of the darkest
section of the lab. One breath, two breaths, three breaths--then
the emergency lights kicked on! We all started laughing and
couldn't stop! Needless to say, study ended around that time. We
cleaned up, made sure all was secure, and trudged home through the
rain to our cottages in our small Transylvanian village (or so it
seemed on that night). :)
Well, those times are no more! Here's a bit about our new
Construction underway on the new anatomy lab
The new anatomy lab will be much more open, airy and
technologically advanced. I feel this is key as teaching
methods evolve from chalkboards to SMART boards, allowing students
to download saved lectures, diagrams and talks for review
I still wouldn't change my experience with the old lab. I made a
lot of friends, learned immense amounts of information that I never
thought I would retain from Dr. Kahn, Dr. Beck, Dr. Darby and Dr.
Joseph. I am forever grateful to the human beings who shared their
remains so that my colleagues and I could take knowledge forward
and help others to heal in the future.
This week I'll focus a bit on some of the techniques we are
learning in our remaining clinical science classes, which coincide
with our Internships.
One of our classes is "Minor Surgery" taught by Muhammad Ali
Khan, MD, who has extensive experience with surgical techniques
prior to his entering academia. Dr. Khan also teaches our basic
science pathology courses for all professional programs.
Within the therapeutic order of naturopathic medicine, minor
surgery is the most invasive and least used therapy in our
toolkits. Unless we are local doctors in a remote area, in a
licensed state with a scope of practice that includes minor
surgery, we typically would refer these procedures to a
The class covers minor surgery concepts and procedures from
start to finish. We begin the trimester with the types of minor
surgeries performed by primary care doctors along with proper
sterilization procedures for patient, personnel and operating
theatre. Once these concepts have been covered, we learn about each
of the instruments used in minor surgery, their proper handling,
and techniques unique to each instrument.
Dr. Khan demonstrates the proper technique for removing a
hangnail to the class.
No gloves or sterilization is needed as simulated limbs are
used. I'm behind the camera.
Now that we have the basics down, we learn basic suturing on
practice dummies in the lab. We learn how to perform interrupted,
continuous and vertical mattress sutures and the circumstances that
are appropriate for each of these types of sutures. The techniques
we learn include checks to ensure that infection is not trapped
beneath the suture and the patient is able to heal as quickly as
Once the suture is complete, we learn the typical healing times
for each type of suture and its location on the body, how to remove
the sutures and how to keep scarring to a minimum.
Suturing is a large part of the "Minor Surgery" class and we
spend about half of our time for the class in lab, practicing
sutures for various wounds. After Dr. Khan has given us a thorough
run-through himself, we each are given the opportunity to practice
our skills on dummies with multiple simulated injuries. Nothing can
replace repetitive practice and muscle memory to help develop a
strong skillset and confidence for future patients.
While not all states license naturopathic doctors for minor
surgery, this is a skill that is needed by all primary care
doctors, especially in remote locales where no emergency care
exists and the urgent care center is the local doctor's office.
Minor cuts, burns, hangnails, cysts, and countless other
superficial procedures can be handled by a properly trained primary
NUHS is taking into account the big picture of naturopathic care
by including appropriate training for naturopathic medical
providers regardless of the state in which we settle and start or
join a practice. We are fortunate as students to have a doctor on
staff with Dr. Khan's experience and expertise to give us the
basics on proper minor surgery techniques. I feel that his passion
for sharing his knowledge will help us provide better care for our
patients in the years to come!
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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