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!
Well everyone, I sit here writing the blog this week
unofficially finished with all classes, patient visits, competency
requirements, file audits and procedures, with the exception of
finishing my clinic hours over the coming week.
These are the minimum requirements as they stand for me as I
graduate on April 17th. In many cases, all of the interns have
accomplished far more than the minimum for many of these
requirements. These requirements evolve as the clinic grows and
matures, so if you are starting now, you should see an expanded
skillset in future trimesters!
Speaking of requirements, since I have finished mine I'm helping
out the interns currently working on the hydrotherapy shift,
assisting the 8th trimester interns with their patients, updating
paperwork and mentoring those following me in clinic. I have shared
a pic of one of the hydro rooms with the Hubbard tank (as a peat
bath fills) and the Russian steam cabinet. In other words, plenty
of work is always available in the NUHS naturopathic clinic.
Patients are filling the waiting room as they discover our clinic
and all it has to offer!
Well, next week will be my final blog as a naturopathic student
and intern here at NUHS. I'll do my best to capture the feeling,
emotions and challenges ahead with my entry next week.
I admit that I'm starting to reminisce already about my time
here at NUHS. Here are just a few of my thoughts this week as
things start to wind down and rev up for the next part of this
As each of the 10th trimester Interns complete their patient
numbers and competencies, transition their patients to the Interns
advancing from observation to the main clinic, and prepare for the
next step beyond graduation (whether joining or opening a practice,
continuing with another license or starting a family), I believe
each one has taken the first step on a journey of helping others
with minimally invasive therapies to become healthier.
Spring 2014 will see 11 new doctors of naturopathic medicine
graduate from NUHS. These doctors will be prepared to help those
with chronic illness determine the underlying cause of their
disease, and where possible with the therapies that we are taught
to utilize and our rigorous training on the human body and its
functions, work together as teammates to return our patients to
their basis for health.
This is a bittersweet time for many of us. Those of us who have
developed close friendships over the past 4-5 years and fostered a
sense of teamwork, cooperation, learning, teaching and
accomplishment will be stepping out on our own. We will be making
our way in the world as healer, educator, family, friend and human
being. While we will be making our singular way, we know that we
will have the support of our colleagues, loved ones and our
Ultimately, the support of our patients is the driving force
that allows us (motivates us) to take the next leap as we begin our
journey in a profession with a scope that currently exists in only
18 states and territories along with the District of Columbia in
the United States. This is both an exciting and scary time for
many, especially the younger new docs who are stepping out into the
working world for the first time. I continue to encourage my
colleagues with the notion that they are very well educated, well
trained new naturopathic doctors who are going to make a positive,
healing impact upon their patients' lives. As long as that is their
motivation and they manage their practice wisely, they will be
rewarded with a full practice as word of their expertise
Until next week, most likely with a bit more reminiscing, enjoy
the spring season and renewal of the sun's warmth!
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!
This past week was spent finishing and polishing my presentation
for Grand Rounds titled "Safely managing prehypertension and stage
1 hypertension with botanicals." This is a subject that is close to
my heart if you will since hypertension and strokes are a common
occurrence on my father's side of the family.
Hypertension has been called the "silent killer" as a patient
may not notice any symptoms until a significant medical event such
as a stroke or heart attack occurs. A skilled, thorough doctor
performing a routine general physical exam can sometimes uncover
masked symptoms, which a patient may not even be cognizant about. A
well-performed physical exam can help prevent illness or even
prevent an early death.
At NUHS, we are trained on basic physical exam skills beginning
in our second of 10 trimesters. We are taught to fully examine the
patient through observation, listening, touch, and measurement. As
we progress through the curriculum, we build upon our basic
skillset and learn to interpret what we discover. This
interpretation is honed under the guidance of our clinicians in the
Whole Health Center and satellite offices.
A quick rundown of some of our exam procedures includes:
This seems like a lot to do in one visit, especially if the
patient is in a hurry. We have the physical exam presented so
often, that by the time we are in clinic, we can perform this exam
in 30 minutes or less! This gives plenty of time for the remainder
of the patient visit and conversation. The general physical exam is
intended as a screening tool to determine if more focused
examinations are required for the patient. The physical exam
skillset we learn at NUHS helps us to target key systems with
quick, accurate examinations. When in practice as primary care
doctors, we will rely on this skillset each day with our future
patients. These skills will help us save lives.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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