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!
This week is quite the busy week! Between finishing the
move from my old apartment to the new place on campus for my final
trimester, work, and seeing patients in clinic, I have been a busy
This week I'm introducing two of our new clinicians in the
Naturopathic Clinic here at NUHS.
(L-R) Dr. Melissa Dybala, Intern Tim Ammons (myself), and Dr.
Dr. Kathy Kaminis a naturopathic medicine graduate of Bastyr
University. She recently sold a successful practice in Arizona that
she owned for over 20 years to return to Illinois. Dr. Kamin has
had much success with weight loss therapies, chronic illness, and
as a general practitioner while in Arizona. Dr. Kamin brings a
wealth of clinical, business and practice experience to our clinic
and program. Her clinical pearls and vignettes on how to set up,
start, run, and build a successful practice are invaluable. She
will help many of us who will be stepping out on our own in the
coming months and years.
Dr. Melissa Dybalais both a naturopathic and chiropractic
medicine graduate of NUHS. Dr. Dybala has been a member of a
successful practice in Chicagoland for the past several years. She
brings the physical medicine aspect of naturopathic care to her
guidance of our interns. Combining physical medicine with the
naturopathic philosophy to return our patients to a basis for
health is one of Dr. Dybala's guiding principles. Combining this
treatment modality with her vast knowledge of botanical treatment
protocols is an advantage that our interns enjoy here at NUHS.
We are lucky to have both of these excellent clinicians join the
faculty as our mentors, guides and leaders on the naturopathic side
of the NUHS Whole Health Center. Each day is a joy to learn, grow
and thrive under their tutelage.
Until next week, stay warm and keep plenty of vitamin D3 on hand
until winter is over!
Rather than continue the Naturopathic Principles this week,
since this is most likely my final Thanksgiving here, I want to
share what I am thankful for both here at NUHS and in my life.
Thank you all for indulging me this week.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Naturopathic Interns of the NUHS
Whole Health Center - Lombard!
Just a few things that I am thankful for...
In my life...
That just about does it this week! Hope each of you has a
wonderful Thanksgiving and are with the ones you love! I'll
continue next week with the Naturopathic Principles.
This week I'll start a series on naturopathic medical
Here at NUHS we are fortunate to have Dr. Louise
Edwards as the cornerstone instructor for the philosophical
portion of our medical education. Dr. Edwards has developed a
strong curriculum that incorporates all of the ideas I will be
discussing over the next few weeks. With her permission, her words
will appear verbatim in this blog where the circumstances are most
prudent to do so. This week, I'll begin with the basics, the
Naturopathic Model and our primary goal as naturopathic
Naturopathy is treating suffering (pathos) according to the laws
of nature, using natural means.
We, as students and interns, are trained to use the most
natural, least invasive methods that are within our scope of
practice to help our patients return to a state of health. If
higher force interventions are necessary to help our patients heal,
then we will refer to a specialist for co-management, just as any
other primary care provider would do.
The Naturopathic Model
Through recognizing and working within the Naturopathic Model,
we are able to determine the root cause or "center of gravity" of a
patient's divergence from a state of health. With an understanding
of the root cause, we can then implement the naturopathic
therapeutic order, which I will discuss in coming weeks.
Re-Establish the Basis for Health
Finally, our primary goal as naturopathic doctors is to
"re-establish the basis for health."
We accomplish this through correcting the disturbing factors
impacting a patient's healthy state of being. The patient's
disturbing factors can also be described as their "Determinants of
Health." Next week, I'll discuss these determinants and how they
impact a patient's health, over the short and long term.
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.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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