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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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?"
In 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
Until next week, stay warm and talk to you soon!
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.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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