This past week we were introduced to two of the more interesting
classes I have taken here at NUHS over the past three years. These
classes are Minor Surgical Techniques and Environmental
Minor Surgical Techniques is perhaps our best
example of medicine's greatest force of intervention, while also
following one of the Naturopathic principles of "do no harm." The
task of bringing injured tissues together (so that they can heal
more completely without complication) while piercing that tissue
with a needle and suturing material (some tissue damage in order to
help the whole person heal) can help prevent local infection
building and possibly invading the circulatory system, where it can
infect the person's entire body.
While many of us will never use the procedures taught in minor
surgery, some of our licensed states require that the naturopathic
physicians in that state be able to perform all procedures that a
primary care doctor would perform in their normal duties.
Environmental Medicine is a review of the
"total load" of today's environment upon the human body. We look at
all sources of toxins from our food supply, items of everyday
living, air, water and electronic sources. We measure the impact of
these sources upon the human body, both in the short term as well
as over a lifetime. We research ways of detoxifying the human body
from these influences and ways of helping the human body, mind and
spirit recover from an overload of toxins.
These classes roll up many of the concepts we learned in the
basic sciences portion of our curriculum from anatomy, inflammatory
process, tissue injury and healing, our bodies' built-in filtration
systems and just about every process we learned. Now, as I have
said before, the concepts are being applied on a daily basis, both
in our classes as well as when we see our patients at the Student
Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, I'm taking the bully
pulpit of this blog to honor two of the veterans who have given
their lives for our country, our freedoms, our people--not just for
their generation, yet for those who follow, both born here and who
immigrate here for a better life. These men are my uncles: U.S.
Army Private First Class Edward Ammons, who was killed in action in
1945 on Luzon Island in the Philippines during the waning months of
World War II after having fought much of the Pacific Campaign; and
U.S. Army Private First Class Otto Ammons, who was killed in action
in early 1952 near the 38th Parallel during the
Korean War. Our family has never forgotten them and I will do my
best to ensure that none of our veterans who have given their lives
willingly for our country and innate liberties, regardless of the
war, action or operation are forgotten.
Sometimes I feel like I live, eat, breathe, and sleep medical
school and NUHS. Somehow, that doesn't leave balance for any
personal time, unless one makes it so. I'm a firm believer in
Vitamin R (rest, relaxation and rejuvenation...thanks Dr. Louise
Edwards) and decided after the engorged schedule of this trimester
and a slight lull just before finals, I would take a little time
out and have an inexpensive break on a Friday night.
So, this week I will write about a trip to Chicago's Loop, or
the section of downtown Chicago encircled by an elevated railway,
or the El.
Friday's classes ended and I was on the train with a good friend
riding to downtown Chicago! I decided it was time to visit the
Christkindlmarket (funny spelling, it's German) held annually on
the Honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza (who gets the reference
here?). The market is set up as a traditional German and Eastern
European winter market with music, food halls, ornaments, trinkets,
and even Santa Claus (the European Claus who will actually bring
you coal if you are naughty instead of just an idle threat). The
plaza is filled with people of all ages and you pretty much stand
"elbow to elbow" as you wait in line for the food, to check the
vendors, or scrounge in to hear the band a bit better. I'm not
normally a crowd kinda guy yet this has been one of my favorite
experiences here in Chicago and I go check out the market every
After a couple of hours of music, Glühwein (heated spiced wine)
and the crowds, we were ready for a break, so we took a stroll
around Chicago's Loop to take in a bit of the atmosphere. After
some leisurely walking, I ended up at Monk's Pub and the place
seemed to be full of the "after 5 Friday crowd", but a great vibe
overall! We grabbed a quick bite and a drink, and then took a walk
back to the train station for the ride back to Lombard (a quick 40
minutes or so).
The trip was a wonderful time and having a good friend to share
the experience with was icing on the cake (in moderation, of
course)! The trip was so good, in fact, that I forgot to take a pic
of me at the market or with the German accordion players (which I
fully intended to do). So, you get a quick pic of me while writing
my blog this week. Notice the disheveled hair and forced smile
indicative of a 3rd year ND student nearing the
end of 7th Trimester.
I hope you enjoyed my narrative this week. Not much to say about
school, just a little trip into the city to "catch my breath"
before finals weeks. I'm thankful (yet again) for good friends who
can keep me laughing on a train ride during rush hour and multiple
times getting lost in the Chicago Loop and their understanding when
I said, "If we run into the El, then we know to turn around and go
back to the center."
With that, I plan to take a nice break over the holidays, spend
some time with family, catch up on my personal reading list, maybe
do some hiking in the Pisgah National Forest back home, and catch
up with friends. When I return to school after the holiday break, I
will be entering Student Clinic as an Intern, advancing beyond
"Observer" status. This means that I will have real patients for
the first time! I'll be sure to share the experience along the
I hope each of you has a safe and fulfilled holiday season.
Personally from me, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Until next January, get plenty of Vitamin R and we will catch
Just a quick note this week to wish all of you a very Happy
Thanksgiving! I'll share a bit of what I am thankful for this
I am thankful for my family. My parents, each with no more than
an eighth grade education, ensured that I was reading before I
entered kindergarten and I'll always have fond memories of sitting
with Mom or Dad reading Little Golden Books. Both instilled a
lifelong love of reading and my library is backlogged with books to
read after my fill of medical school books over the past three
years. I am thankful for my three sisters who put up with my antics
as we grew up and moved away from home. I am thankful for all of my
nieces and nephews, who carry on the family name and tradition of
gathering on Thanksgiving at my folks' home. That's a lot of people
in a 900-square-foot home, but the love expands the walls
immeasurably when everyone is present!
The Gathering Banquet Table: (L-R) Tim, Danielle, Jenna, and
I am thankful for each of my classmates. I have said that before
and I reiterate again today. The group of classmates I have are
individually wonderfully people. They are some of the finest, most
cooperative over-achievers one could meet. Regardless of the
challenge, this group comes together for each other, charitable
causes and communication. I am proud to be a part of the class of
December 2013 and have made life-long friendships during my times
I am thankful for my friends back home. We have been through
"thick and thin" together. Births, deaths, layoffs, downsizing,
promotions, marriage and divorce; each of my little group back home
is ever present to lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder or a back when
work needs to be done. These are the folks who didn't say I was
crazy for leaving a good job to become a naturopathic doc at 40
years old. These are the folks who ask every four months, "Are you
coming home Ammons?" Friends who want to catch up and are eager to
keep in touch are truly a thing to be thankful for.
I hope you are with the ones you care about this holiday. That
you have experienced a year of abundance in health, love and
happiness and that your dreams, plans and experiences have
contributed to your betterment and the betterment of all!
See you next week!
What a week of ups and downs! I went from feeling fairly
confident about the results of the Advanced Lab
Diagnostics/Endocrinology midterm results to shock when I looked at
the results. Holy Cow! I've never studied so hard and felt
confident about a subject only to earn a score that was cause for a
bit of self-disappointment! Looking at my answers, I thought, "How
in the world could I answer that way?!?!"
Upon reviewing the exam with the class, our professor made the
point of stating this was a tough exam by design and endocrinology
is one of the toughest topics for both students and practicing
doctors. There are so many influences on the human
body--environmental and emotional stressors, sleep, diet, and
exercise--all of which can, over time, take a toll. The exam was
geared, both in the question portion, as well as the two cases, to
generate thought and come up with the single best answer. The cases
were quite general in nature with no specific complaint other than
fatigue or inability to sleep. We were required to look at the
small factors in each instance to help with the tests we would
order, our diagnosis and treatment plan, based upon the Therapeutic
Order of Naturopathic Medicine. Ultimately, our professor gave us
the advice that sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we
do when we "ace" an exam. Did I mention that humility is a trait
that is well utilized in medical school? Lesson learned; that was a
hard "pill" to swallow though! (pun intended, hehe).
Well, immediately after I left Endo Class, I had my first
"head-to-toe" physical examination of a patient as a lab practical.
This practical examination was held in the teaching area of our
clinic. Here's the setup: Eight medical students in eight separate
examination rooms with a patient for each student and 45 minutes to
complete the exam. No professors are in the room as the physical
exam is monitored remotely via camera. We performed a head-to-toe
physical intake in a predetermined order on our patient as a
culmination of each of the regional examinations we learned to Week
8 of the trimester as well as those learned in previous classes.
This was a "show me what you know" sort of practical, followed by a
quick write-up of a randomly chosen (by the professor, of course)
portion of the exam you performed, along with any
During the exam, we could go back and complete any exams that we
might have forgotten or re-perform exams that we knew we could have
done better, as long as we were within our 45-minute window. While
some points could be deducted, the process was as much for learning
the entire procedure as well as for grading. This is the nice part
of the clinical studies portion of our curriculum. We are still
graded meticulously, and we continue to be taught even during our
lab practicals. So, back to the practical. The teaching portion of
the clinic was still pretty warm from a power loss (and subsequent
loss of air conditioning) during perhaps the hottest days
Chicagoland has seen in years! Some are saying we are in a heat
wave, but again, I'm from the South and this is normal weather for
me. I'm in a shirt and tie with a patient in a gown for a physical.
I'm trying to keep my cool, but remember, I just came out of some
disappointing news on a previous exam; I'm now setting up and
performing the absolute first 'scrutinized' physical exam of my
medical career and starting to sweat buckets. What did I do?
Stuffed my pockets full of tissues, offered some to the patient to
keep him comfy, and in between different steps of the exam, I
completed the "time honored forehead swipe" that one sees performed
by docs on just about every TV show from the early days of the tube
until Grey's Anatomy! The patient ended up being very happy; I was
OK, though a bit dehydrated after completing the physical exam; and
I think the professors were OK with my performance. A nice boost
after a bit of a dip just a few minutes before.
I suppose this is the "take away lesson" this week. Don't get
too dejected if an exam doesn't go perfectly; stay steady and be
prepared for the next exam. Despite all the preparation, study,
memorizing, theorizing, and compartmentalizing, one can have a bad
moment, hour or day. Those tough moments are only in that
particular window of time. As I sat here by Janse pond writing this
entry, I was fortunate enough to have three friends sit and chat
with me on a beautiful afternoon. This was a good time. I'm
thankful for both and hopefully learn from each moment, whether
good or bad.
Knee High by the 4th of July!
Regarding the 4th of July (Independence Day),
I'm thankful for the founding fathers' courage to draft and sign
the Declaration of Independence. That first step provided the
foundation for our great nation and the optimism that I believe
still exists enough for people to continue to desire to immigrate
to the U.S., plant their roots, and live out their destiny as they
Now, for the "knee high" reference. Around here in Illinois, the
saying goes for corn, "knee high by the 4th of July."
Check the picture! July 6th and our corn is well
over 6 feet tall! Can you find me? Now granted, this is a variety
of heirloom corn called Southern Gentleman, appropriate, that is
best suited to the hot, humid weather of the southern United
States. I'm not sure if my roomie and I have green thumbs or we
have simply been fortunate (and lucky) enough that we planted this
corn during the hottest summer on record in Northern Illinois! I am
grateful that nature has smiled upon our garden though. See if you
can find me in the photo!
Today I reflect on my father and his positive impact upon my
life. My father is a man of few words; he lives by example. He has
always worked hard and continues to work in his early 80s in
addition to his gardening and work around the house.
Me as a toddler with my dad.
When the four of us (my three sisters and I) were growing up,
our dad was often working overtime at a furniture factory, where he
was a quality inspector. After working all day at the factory, we
would work well after dark with our crops for extra money to have a
nice Christmas holiday. Dad would allow us kids to play sports in
school or pursue other activities, other than that, we were to work
with him in the field. I think now that the "work unless you
participate in the community" rule was a way for us to become
involved, learn success as well as failure, and realize the
necessity of getting along with others.
When I was growing up as a youngster, I always felt safe with
Dad in the house. Some of my earliest memories are sitting on his
lap learning to read "Little Golden Books" well before entering
kindergarten. The amazing thing is that a man with an
8th grade education (as well as my Mom) saw the
immense value of learning to read…early. I remember Dad teaching me
about raising chickens, tending a garden, fixing up our old cars as
a teenager (not so much there, I was too stubborn to listen unless
I needed his help). Finally, the project that I will cherish for
the remainder of my life--the weekend that we built a bookcase
together in my late 20s.
The bookcase as it stands in my apartment now, full of medical
books and doo-dads!
I didn't realize the importance of that project at the time. I
never liked woodworking much and Dad and I weren't exactly close at
that point in our lives. No animosity, we are just both
strong-willed and somewhat stubborn men and each had our idea of
how to live as an adult. We spent the entire weekend working
cooperatively on the bookcase from only a hand-drawn sketch. No
griping, arguing over measurements, or creative disagreements--just
a vision and the beauty of the finished project--both the bookcase
project and our relationship as adults. I've never told Dad how
much that project meant, I reckon I will someday.
Dad's (and again Mom's) insistence that we kids learn to read
when we were just "young'uns" has stayed with my sisters and me.
For myself, I think the fun of reading with my Dad translated into
a passion for the written word and a thirst for learning that has
me here, at NUHS on my third career! Believe me, we get our share
of reading here!
Dad in his garden last year.
Now, as an older student at NUHS, I try to share the lessons
that my dad taught me, through example, by living as an expression
of his work ethic, sharing, patience, understanding, and guidance
where I can with my colleagues and friends. His lesson of
'leveling' the highs of success and lows of failure has been
perhaps the most applicable lesson while here in med
I am grateful for my father, his work ethic and insistence that
his children learn in areas he never did. I am grateful for my
father's appreciation of all human beings, creatures and kindness
toward others. I am grateful every day that I am the son of Roscoe
Ammons of Mars Hill, North Carolina.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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