Archive for tag: classes

Time for Graduation

In just a few days, after more than four years, I will walk across the stage, accept the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree and begin the next stage of my journey. This week I thought I might write a long retrospective on my time here, or perhaps list a lot of names of friends, colleagues and mentors. Instead, in the spirit of what this blog for the naturopathic program is supposed to convey, I will write a bit more about the program as I sign off and hand the torch to the next blogger.

Being a Naturopathic Student at NUHS

As with any institution, relationship, job or task, the naturopathic program here at NUHS has attributes where it excels as well as challenges. In many cases, those challenges help the program to rise in other areas. One prime example is that we attend a traditional chiropractic university. This means we may not immediately be perceived as a bastion of naturopathic medicine and we get a lot of physical medicine in our classes. I used to complain about this as much as any other naturopathic student. We are becoming primary care and internal medicine docs, so why would we need all this adjusting, physical therapy, soft tissue work, etc.

After more than a year in the clinic, I am happy that we were trained so heavily in physical medicine. Many of my patients benefited from some type of soft tissue work, physical therapy or modality. I attribute the combined use of all tools in my naturopathic toolbox to helping many of my patients achieve positive outcomes.

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Whether physical medicine will remain a part of National University's naturopathic program remains to be seen. As our scope is defined and made into law in Illinois in the coming years, combined with the maturation, refinement and focus of our particular school's curriculum, we may emerge as a naturopathic program focused on the original vision and philosophy of naturopathic medicine as the old naturopathic doctors saw it. I am certain our program will combine that wealth of traditional medicine with the advantage of evidence-based medicine to support the clinical observations of nearly 150 years of North American naturopathic practice.

Many who email me ask what to expect here at NUHS. I say expect what you see in any organization. Those who are highly motivated to learn everything they can, those who are trying very hard and struggling, those who will skate by until they enter clinic and slam head first into a brick wall, flounder, then either learn to perform or wash out. Students who enter here will be amazed, inspired, challenged, dejected, angered, overjoyed and feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. You will be challenged by those in the allopathic community on how your medicine can work alongside their medicine (or even work). You will be ignored by family and friends who see you as their child, sibling, friend, and anything but an aspiring doctor. You will feel overwhelmed at times knowing that you are in a program every bit as (and more) challenging than allopathic medical school with as much or more cost involved, and all the while able to practice currently with a recognized scope in less than half of the United States of America.

At the same time, you are learning a type of medicine that truly follows the naturopathic principle of Primum Non Nocere or "First, do no harm." We learn to take the totality of the patient - mind, body and soul - into account. We get to the root cause of the illness and work with our patients (and other providers) to help them return to their basis for health. We learn that healthy means different things to different people and that the basis for health is a moving target as human beings encounter different circumstances, health challenges and ages throughout a lifetime. Whether this is primary lesson learned by others while here, this view that none of us "fit into a defined parameter" is the view I will carry forward in my future practice. Each patient is unique, with a unique set of symptoms, life experiences and exposures that define that unique individual and their resulting unique path back to health.

I purposely have not been using much medical terminology as I have written this blog as, quite frankly, I feel that gets boring for those who want to know what this medicine and school are all about. When you attend NUHS, you will get your fill of CBCs, CMPs, URTIs, ARDS, ECGs, TVUS, MTHFRs and HSCRPs. These terms have their place in the classroom, not in a blog discussing life in a medical school unless as a passing reference. My hope has been that I have given a glimpse into the life of a naturopathic medical student transitioning from basic didactics to clinical sciences and finally through internship and graduation.

Thank You...

Finally, since I have shared my life for the past two years, I'll be a bit selfish and will thank some folks who have made strong, positive influences on my life.

My parents Rosco and Bobbie Joe Ammons - two people who have 8th grade educations and taught me to read before kindergarten and instilled the strong value of always educating oneself regardless of career choice. More so, for teaching me honesty, giving others credit for success and accepting failure as a motivator to persevere. I love you both!

My sisters Kristie, Karen and Kathy - for being the glue holding the family together back home as I continue my wandering through life and the eastern half of the North American continent.

My great friend Richard - who has shared his loyalty through both good and terrible times. You are a symbol of the power of true friendship!

My former wife Sara - Thank you for a shared journey of learning, growing and opening my eyes to living a healthier life, in many ways. You are the catalyst for this endeavor.

Ignacio and Christina - Thank you for being incredible mentors, both philosophical as well as practical. Your patience is extraordinary and your ability to put things into perspective on both a micro and macro level is a gift I cherish!

NUHS' Chief Naturopathic Clinician, Dr. Julia Liebich - Thank you for leading by example, keeping the clinic a positive, cheerful learning environment during a time of transition in our lives. You always ensure that we have our patients' best interests and health as the focus of our care and procedures!

Finally, my very significant other, Lauren. Thank you for teaching me that who we want in our life is not necessarily the person we expect and that each day in a relationship can be more joyful, playful and rewarding than before! You make me smile and I'm grateful for the time we have together!

With that, I begin my particular path forward. I plan to continue a blog as I set up and build momentum in my practice after school. I'm sure you will be able to "google" me if you are interested in continuing to read my ramblings. I wish you the best on your own journey, whether it includes NUHS or not. You know the correct path for yourself! May your journey be safe, fulfilled and successful in whatever you choose and may it bring goodness and healing to the world in its own way!

My Final Trimester

Hi, everyone! Welcome back for my final trimester! 

I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season and you were able to be with the ones you love! This has been quite the four and a half year journey at NUHS. It began with my prerequisite classes in Fall 2009, through the basic science curriculum of the naturopathic program, the clinical course portion of my education, and now culminates with the Internship for the past year.

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A sunrise view of downtown Chicago from the window of the Salvation Army Clinic (beautiful!)

My winter break consisted of time at the main clinic at the NUHS Whole Health Center in Lombard as well as time at the Salvation Army clinic in downtown Chicago, along with my part-time job. Great for getting patient visits, patient hours and income, yet not much break time.

I also had to finish my final Grand Rounds presentation as a naturopathic intern at NUHS over the break as I was the first to present this trimester (sometimes having a name starting with 'A' has its drawbacks). :) My topic was about a suitable treatment for Lyme disease when prescription antibiotics have failed to eradicate the disease. It is titled "Can Dipsacus sylvestris (Teasel Root) administration with concurrent biofilm reduction diminish the presence of chronic Borrelia burgdorferi?"

2014-01-16_timIn this presentation, I examined Lyme disease distribution globally, its associated stages and symptoms, treatment with antibiotics, and antibiotic efficacy based upon in vivo studies. Next, I compared researched methods of biofilm reduction along with a look at Teasel's effectiveness versus Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme). Finally, I outlined a treatment plan for a chronic Lyme patient along with body systems support. This protocol is quite promising for reducing the presence of Lyme, yet the topic was very hard to keep focused, as Lyme is such a complicated and fascinating disease to understand, formulate a plan of attack, and treat.

Well, enough about Lyme and the clinics. I promised to talk about naturopathic philosophy this trimester and I will follow through on that promise. Beginning next week, I will talk of the basic tenets that we follow in our philosophy at NUHS, a solid foundation that sets NUHS apart from the other ND schools. I may just look back a bit at my time here throughout the trimester as well.

Until next week, stay warm and talk to you soon!

Intern Skills - Supplementation

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!

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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 human beings.

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 include...

  • Dehydration
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Anemia
  • Endocrine (hormonal) imbalances
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Pre- and peri-natal care
  • Weight management
  • Geriatric care

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 sublingually.

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!

Intern Skills - Botanical Medicine

Hi, everyone!

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.

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LaKisha Brandon (9th Tri), Darius Lembert (10th Tri), and Joclyn Davis (9th Tri)
formulating and dispensing a custom tincture from our clinic dispensary.

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.

  • Botanical Medicine I
  • Botanical Medicine II
  • Botanical Medicine III - Advanced Botanical Prescribing
  • Botanical Medicine IV - Advanced Materia Medica

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.

Another Trimester in the Books

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.

  1. Pay attention in the early manual adjusting classes here at NUHS.
  2. Keep your notes and procedures from the early manual adjusting classes.
  3. Work with a chiropractic student when studying for adjusting practicals (and offer to study with the chiros for Botanical Medicine classes, where ND students are more engaged).
  4. Mostly, in your early career here at NUHS, remind yourself to be prepared for ANY patient that walks through the door. You may not know the specifics, yet you can get a good foothold on the complaint and be prepared to take it on if you apply a "big picture" view, even when the classes are information specific.

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."

2013-08-19_tim _president

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.