Well, finals are finished (see the rainbow after the storm), my
brain is pretty tired and my body feels like it needs a bit of a
The sharing of the past four months has been fun. I wasn't quite
sure that I was ready or even wanted to open up my studies,
thoughts, challenges, successes--essentially my academic life for
all to see--yet at the end of the trimester the first thought that
comes to mind is one of gratitude.
The theme this trimester has been tending one's garden. Through
the process of blogging I have found many areas I thought were
tended, yet only to discover many weeds that need to be "rooted
out" so that my garden, life, classes, health, whatever needs
attention, may thrive.
This past trimester was perhaps the busiest with the heaviest
class load that I have attempted to this point in my studies. I had
a hard time getting into the groove for the first four or five
weeks, and the results showed in my grades on my midterms. So, for
the second half of the trimester, I needed to redouble my efforts,
find a more productive study strategy, and at the same time
continue prepping for boards (another story for another time),
which fell on Week 14 (week before finals) of the trimester.
Joe and Christine studying for their Homeopathy III
Sometimes the calendar just turns out this way, so no use
overstressing, complaining or procrastinating; just set a schedule
and stick to it. Combine that with recognizing one's limits,
pushing them a bit, knowing when to stop to recharge, and
relentlessly do one's best. Sometimes the best is not an 'A' on a
test when one has 5 finals in three days. Other times, the best is
straight As; the situation varies. At this point in study,
sometimes a 'C' on the last final of the last day of finals week is
the best, happiest grade one receives!
I'm not saying that straight Cs are something to set as an
achievement goal. I believe that the difficulty of carrying a full
load at NUHS is such that even the best students, on what might be
their best effort at the end of a trimester on their last final
exam may only have enough 'mental gas' to garner a C. This is the
reality for most of us here. I believe this process--the mental
marathon of medical school--takes its toll. I believe that part of
the medical school process is to prove to those who are high
achievers, expect perfection and for the better part of their lives
have achieved perfection in academic pursuits, that failure will
happen. Better to learn to deal with some minor setbacks while in
school than to graduate as a Doctor, step into the role of Healer
with other human beings' lives in one's hand, and not be able to
deal with a difficult pathology that may require some time, problem
solving and flexible thinking to solve.
One must have the attribute of "dogged determination" to pursue
medicine along with passion for improving the health of others. At
the same time, caring for one's self, knowing one's own limits and
how to expand those limits mentally, physically and emotionally is
key to understanding the effort needed to complete this course of
study--this journey that only takes us students to the edge of the
true school, the real world with real patients with real and
debilitating sicknesses. This is where we will truly learn, and
that learning will never cease until our final heartbeat.
Alrighty! I think I'm off my soapbox now! I extend
congratulations to our August 2012 naturopathic and chiropractic
graduates! May your journey of learning, healing and growing never
end! I'm ready for a relaxing couple of weeks of catching up on
reading some history books, prepping materials for the opening and
closing ceremonies for the Naturopathic Student Gathering coming up in
November 2012 at NUHS and even a cleanse after a steady diet
of caffeine and carbs for the past three weeks!
I will be entering clinic as an observer next trimester so I'm
super excited about this opportunity! This is the essence of
naturopathic medical school, sitting with the patient, learning
about their history, ailment and attempts to remedy it. My plan is
to introduce you to some of my classmates who are interns in clinic
and their motivations for becoming a doctor, share some more of my
experience along with successes and failures, and have a bit of fun
along the way!
I'm thankful that you chose to accept my offer of sharing a bit
of my journey and hope you will continue along with me as I finish
up the last year and a half of my studies! This trimester, during a
very challenging time about halfway through, a quote came back to
me from Dr. Seuss. It helped me to get back on track. I'm thankful
for Dr. Seuss and my folks for teaching me read with Dr. Seuss
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You
can steer yourself anywhere you choose."
See you in a couple of weeks!
Well, last week's midterms are done and I survived, if you call
living on about 5 hours sleep per night and coffee throughout the
day as "survival"! :) That was just about the toughest week of
exams I can remember! Not so much because of multiple exams in one
day or that any one subject was the 'killer' class. These exams
just seemed to march relentlessly in order (think White Stripes'
Seven Nation Army music video). Sample thoughts for the
week…Monday, exam…whew! Wait, I have another on Tuesday, better
study; time for coffee. Tuesday, exam again…whew! Crud! Another one
tomorrow! What?!?! I forgot about writing that summary for the
Practice Management Project; that's due when? Oh! Great! How about
another cup o' Joe? Until Friday…what? Who are you? Oh! You're my
Endocrinology professor…and we have an exam right now? Awesome!
:)…and the slow knock at the door just keeps tapping, tapping,
tapping…close with the Twilight Zone theme.
While my description of the exams last week is a bit dramatic,
suffice to say that after days on end of little sleep, little
exercise and lots of study, a naturopathic medical student's
'Determinants of Health' are a little out of whack! I suppose
I should give a bit of info on the determinants of health.
Naturopathic medicine considers the determinants of health the
'basis' for a healthy human being. Our medicine focuses on
returning people to that 'basis' for health by first regaining
balance amongst the Determinants of Health. These determinants
The determinants can also be anything a person is 'born with'
vs. 'environmental' exposures throughout life. The focus can be as
broad or narrow as the naturopathic practitioner deems necessary
for each unique case and each unique human being. Other key
determinants are genetic, mental/emotional state, education level,
work environment, history of illness, access to health care, etc.
The list can go on and on. While learning to become a naturopathic
doctor, we keep the determinants basic and simple. With each of
these basic six categories, a person can be led toward or away from
a 'Basis for Health' and a healthy person is our ultimate goal!
When we are in practice, we will listen to each patient, take a
thorough case study and find the unique combination of determinants
to help that person become as healthy as possible.
While medical school has never claimed to be the best thing for
a student's 'basis for health', we take measures sometimes in
attempt to balance our determinants and keep our basis somewhat
stable, even during midterms and finals. My effort to balance' is
to print study notes and walk at a nature preserve near NUHS called
Hidden Lake Preserve. Taking my 'study walks' helps to maintain a
bit of exercise, Vitamin R and fresh air while prepping for exams.
I've even done this in freezing temps during the winter!
The preserve has two small lakes, one wooded and the other on
open prairie with a small network of paths winding around the
lakes. While walking and studying, I have found and returned baby
snapping turtles who had lost their way from the water, with
blessings to be the 'scourge of the pond for decades to come.'
Chipmunks have also stepped up on a stump right beside me as I sat
and studied. I don't know how these animals keep finding me; I just
enjoy their company quietly (entirely out of character if you know
me) and we each go on our way. That is, unless a baby snapper about
the size of a silver dollar traipses away from their aquatic home,
then I'll usher them back to the water. I have included a pic this
week from the footbridge during my walk last Wednesday. This is
such a beautiful place, I don't mind sharing as long as you don't
tell too many folks!
This week I'm thankful that the 'slow tap, tap, tapping' at the
door signaling another midterm is only heralding the arrival of two
exams this coming week--an imaging (X-ray) midterm as well as a
'Head to Toe' unsupervised complete physical on a live patient in
less than one hour. The physical is filmed and graded based on
'proper sequence' of exams as well as proper procedure, patient
instruction and explanation of findings. Come to think of it, I
think that tapping is getting…just a little…bit…LOUDER!
See you next week…if I make it! :)
Let the exams begin! We finished up this week with the
first of the many exams, quizzes, midterms and lab practicals that
6th Trimester is known for providing (if that is
the proper term). The first quiz was centered on the endocrine
system, its involved structures and their interaction. What a doozy
to kick off the trimester!
The classes aren't all work and no fun however! In our 'Special
Topics in Botanical Medicine' class this week, we had the
opportunity to make tinctures for the first time! A little about
tinctures first. Tinctures can be made from the fresh or dried
medicinal parts of plants. These parts could be the leaf, flower,
stem or root of a plant, or all of the above, depending on the
plant. Next, these medicinal parts are 'soaked' in a solution of
alcohol, glycerine or vinegar, depending on the type of plant and
the 'plant constituent' or chemical part of the plant that we want
to use in the tincture.
The tinctures are made in ratios such as 1:2 or 1:4 or higher.
The first number is the amount of plant material, typically in
grams. The second number is the amount of 'vehicle' or alcohol,
glycerine or vinegar in milliliters. So, if you have 10 grams
of plant material being soaked in 20 milliliters of alcohol, you
would have a 1:2 ratio tincture! The units of measure don't really
matter as long as you stay consistent with your ratios if you make
a tincture and like the outcome. Simple really!
Some of the tinctures our class made this past week.
I made a Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) tincture in a 1:18
ratio as a fragrance for a future cleaning solution. I also made a
Bilberry Leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus) tincture in a 1:4 ratio as an
experiment for future tinctures. Bilberry Leaf is reported to have
anti-aging properties through improved circulation in the small
blood vessels near the hands, feet and farthest reaches of the
circulatory system from the heart. With an aging patient
population, research continuing and the possibility of a potent
herbal medication, Bilberry shows some promise!
Herbal medicine is just one of the strong tools at the
naturopathic physician's disposal. The chemical constituents in
many pharmaceutical medications are either the exact phytochemical
or a derived component of many botanicals (or plant medicines). The
great thing we are learning about the botanical medicines is that
while the patient gets the benefit of the botanical medication
(albeit at a much lower concentration than a corresponding
pharmaceutical medication), the botanical medication typically has
other components that reduce or eliminate any side effects of
taking the botanical medication. While not true all the time, this
is typically the case with botanical medications. As with any
medication, any physician needs to take the precaution of
understanding how the botanical medicine interacts with any other
medications the patient may be taking, whether botanical or
This week, I am grateful for botanical medications that Nature
has provided for us. I personally have utilized a botanical
remedy a number of times in various circumstances from a poultice
for a pretty big scrape to helping ward off a nasty ear
infection. Thanks to those who have come before us and paved
the way learning, gaining knowledge and sharing over countless
generations for all that Nature provides for our health.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
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