Archive for tag: nature

Thank You!!! and Good Bye for Now

I'm writing this post from my last day in my little office at the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic as I prepare to take a few days off for hot springs-hopping, fishing, general unplanned adventuring, and visiting with friends here in Montana before I drive back to Illinois for graduation. Whoa, Graduation! Huge congratulations to my Tri 10 buddies -- we did it! Most importantly though, I would be remiss not to thank all the incredible people who've encouraged me on this path to becoming an ND.

In my happy place, out for a drive into the foothills on National Forest land.

Thanks of course to all my professors from first tri on up, for filling my brain to the brim, and to my clinicians AND my patients for your patience with my wild, learning mind. Thank you SO MUCH to my family for cheering me on and supporting me unconditionally in my currently alternative career choice (Not for long! Our medicine is bound for greatness!). Thanks to my friends and peers at school who shared in this whole experience (whew!), and to my partner Hanzi for hangin' in there while I cried in a heap in his lap in the midst of midterms and was quite frankly too exhausted to help cook dinner most every night for the past 3.5 years. Thanks is especially due to Hanzi for taking my mind out of medicine whenever he could, to engage me in conversation about the rest of life and the world; I cannot express how much that saved my sanity and kept my heart whole. 

2016-04-14_houseHanzi checks out this spectacular historic home for sale in Virginia City, MT -- a town of all dirt roads.

Thanks also to my friends, near and far, who've kept tabs on me by reading this blog, and who I assume will forgive my absence in your lives as medical school has ravaged my free time these past several years. I cannot promise I'll come roaring back on the scene, but I'm ready to engage you all with more effort. Thanks and boundless love to Arthur for reminding me that I'm kicking butt at school each time I talk to him -- your path will illuminate, brother -- I promise. Thank you to my most special ND friends, the original Team Shakira, for experiencing with me the realness of bodies in those first few months of medical school, in the anatomy lab. That was a truly unforgettable chapter, and those are the people I am sure I was meant to meet, a large part of why I was called to attend NUHS.

Thanks is also due to the administration at NUHS for finally helping me leave campus for life under the wide Montana sky, where I've learned invaluable lessons about naturopathic doctoring in a licensed state. Thank you to Marie Olbrysh, the wonderful blog coordinator who emailed me nearly every week to remind me to send in my posts, and who made me feel like my writing was worth the read!

We lived out of our truck for a few days, here, a stop for a soak at Chico Hot Springs.

Thank you, of course, to all the doctors here in Montana at YNC who've elevated my understanding of naturopathic doctoring. Dr. Beeson, Julius, and Dr. Holl, I can hardly tell you how grateful I am for your friendship and for making Montana truly feel like home.

Thanks to all of you out there (there are more of you than you may think) who've told me after reading a post or two that I must write a book some day. I'm going to do my darnedest to follow your advice and make that happen! In the meantime, you can follow my thoughts and ruminations on naturopathy, and can watch my life as a doctor unfold over at -- that's me, just about! My website should be up and running within a week or two, thanks for your patience!

I suppose the final thing to leave my readers with is that naturopathic medical school is totally, absolutely, the bee's knees. If you've ever thought this might be the path for you, please attend a visit day, explore campus, and ask questions. It is an incredibly challenging and incomparably rewarding experience. The people you will meet are unique, the professors are dedicated, and the medicine absolutely works. It's a long road to becoming a doctor, but it's been the most true and gratifying work I've done so far in my relatively short life.

Our camping spot outside Ennis, MT.

Thank you, readers, for following along with me over these past few years! I am sure my successor will continue to tell you good stories from the ND student world -- please enjoy them! And, if you'd like to continue reading my own stories, you'll know where to find them. Lastly, if you need to find me in person, I'll be somewhere out in the American West, Montana for now, stimulating the Vis with everything I've got!

A Change in Adventure

Life's adventures are changing. While in medical school, I knew that my adventure was to make it through all those exams and cram all that information in my brain. Now that I'm on the tail end of school, beginning life as a doctor is the new adventure. But, at one point I thought once school was over I'd be right back to more typical adventures -- trips in the outdoors, flights to distant places for travel on the cheap, festivals and camping, and any number of parties that filled my life before medical school. Now, I'm realizing that the adventures I'm going to have over these next many years may seem tamer, but they are no less life changing.

A gorgeous sunny day out skiing before the resorts close for the season.

Hanzi and I pinky swore we'd have an adventure once we finished grad and med school. He reminded me of this the other day; not that I think I needed much reminding -- I'm all for it!

My recent big decisions involving the unknown are in sharing the responsibility of another's well-being, in addition to deciding which place to move to next. I've always said I like to operate outside of my comfort zone, and thank goodness that's the case, because doctoring means doing that every day, especially at this point. I'm learning that there can be just as much puzzlement and curiosity involved in doctoring as there is in setting off on a trail into the mountains I've never hiked before. It's a different kind of thing, of course, but it's just as engaging. 

Contemplating the Beartooth Mountains during a break in my ski day.

I'm learning to define adventure not only as time spent without showering, cooking over a camp stove, sleeping in a tent, or clinging to a mountainside, but also as time spent puzzling through another person's story to connect the dots and bring about better health. It's certainly not every person who identifies with adventures in the outdoors, but I'm sure every new doctor's understanding of their place in a community changes as they begin to take on their professional role. It's a conversation I've had recently with one of the residents here at YNC -- the balance between holding your professional values close, and finding ways to connect with the people in your community. It's part of growing up, and especially, growing into a confident doctor.

Drove northwest to Helena through spectacular scenery for a residency interview last week.

Part of my everyday adventure is making other people feel well enough that they are capable of having their own daily adventures. And what greater reward? Because hiking mountains and skiing slopes only translates into doing something for others when I am getting outside to maintain or rejuvenate my own heart. If I were to spend all my days gallivanting around the hills and the globe, feeling cold snow on my face, or rough rock under my fingertips, I would be missing an essential part of adventure, of life, which is to do something for someone other than myself. Even better if I can do things for many someones beside myself! I know I'm meant to serve people as a naturopath, and to serve them best I've got to keep adventure alive in both my body and my brain.

So I guess this post is about realizing the aspects of our personality that we need to keep alive while in the midst of changing ourselves and our presentation to match that of a doctor. There's a lot of responsibility involved in fostering the connections we make as doctors. Learning to balance personal life with professional strengths and ethics seems like it might be just as central to developing as a doctor as is learning to diagnose disease.

On Montanans and Thriving Outside

Thanks to new friends here in Billings, I spent most of the day this past Saturday climbing again, outside in the sun. It got so warm and wondrous that I had to hide away in the shade to keep from getting sunburned! In March! After hours of belaying and getting up on a few routes myself, I sat and watched the sun begin to set from our perch up on the rims north of town. I'd been outside on those rocks since noon, and was wishing I'd brought a picnic dinner so I could stay up there until the daylight left. All this time outdoors is absolutely bringing me alive. In one of my residency interviews, the doctor asked me how I refresh, how I ground myself, or how I rejuvenate. It took no thought at all to answer that I do this by spending time outdoors.

At the end of a brilliantly sunny day out climbing.

On Sunday I didn't manage to do anything serious like file my taxes or study for boards, but I did spend an hour or so running along the rims, drinking up the sky and clouds. After my run I headed to a backyard goodbye celebration for Dr. La Deana Jeane, one of the associate NDs at YNC who is leaving to do some doctoring that doesn't require her to sit at a desk all day. We ate delicious food (NDs have a way of providing the most spectacular spreads at their get-togethers), and sat around the fire playing games and music until it was dark and chilly. By the time we left, we all wore that wonderful smoky fire smell heavy on our clothes and in our hair.

Backtracking to Friday, I found myself again at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company dancing to Jalan Crossland's lively guitar-picking and foot-stomping. I followed for a few spins on the crowded dance floor, and was asked if I was a Something. People who've been in this part of the West for decades know each other by their family names. I, apparently, look like one of the Something girls (I can't remember the family name). I've been asked 3 times if I'm part of this native Montana family, and each time I say, "No," I kind of wish I could say, "Yes." I've heard it's hard to get in with these folks if your family hasn't been ranching in Montana or Wyoming since the Homestead Act. It seems that there's something about a doctor though, and a naturopath especially, that I think might cracks this insular world.

Entering the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic.

I've met several of the members of these old Western families at the clinic. Through our interactions, I've learned that they do not want to operate within the system, and that they've used natural medicine on their animals forever. This combination brings them to Naturopathy, because in Montana, our medicine still operates outside of the conventional healthcare system. Also, NDs and ranchers have a shared understanding of how the natural world affects both our individual and community health. 

I love the stories that come from the ranchers that visit the clinic. One woman illustrated the level of her fatigue by exclaiming, "I used to go out and lamb three hun'red head a' ewes, and now I can barely stand to lamb a hun'red!" Another rancher claims he can't make it in that week because it's calving season and they're just too damn busy for him to see the doctor about this virus. Another young rancher, when asked about her daily exercise tells us that she runs on the treadmill at least once a day, but really she's outside lifting and hauling, feeding cows and hefting her little boys around the ranch all day. She supposes that she gets plenty of exercise just by living her life, and she's absolutely right.

In the hallway at YNC.

I'll be perfectly honest here, a few weeks away from providing patient care myself, and I notice I'm losing some of the details of medicine because they sink into the depths of my brain as I fill it with organizing residency interviews, observing people, and spending time outdoors. One of the residents here at YNC confirmed for me that this is natural; she feels she lost some of that more immediate knowledge as soon as she finished school and played the waiting game on starting her job at YNC. She reassured me it'll just take spending some time with the material to get it back to the front of my brain. 

After this recent revelation, I know I'll need to make the effort to spend more time with my books again. I also know that I have more energy and I feel lighter every day since spending time outside on a regular basis. So, I guess it's OK that I've taken a break from the intensity of studies. For the first time since I started the ND program at NUHS, I feel a desperate need to move my body and burn up energy at the end of the day. This feeling solidifies the fact that I thrive in a place with accessible nature and sky. One more month for me here in Billings before I head back to Illinois for graduation... let's see how much time I can spend outside under this big sky!

Music, Art, Hiking, and a Whole Lot of Medicine

It's the end of my first week at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic (YNC). I cannot believe it was only a week ago that I was driving through North Dakota en route to Billings - that feels like it was a month ago!

I'm renting a small basement apartment in Dr. Margaret Beeson's house, so this weekend she came down the stairs and invited me to join her and her son Julius at a live show by a local band one night, and for the Artwalk, an event that happens 5 times a year in Billings, the other evening. I followed these two around downtown, stopping in to galleries and watching them greet their people, appreciate local artists, hand out free Bernie stickers, and pass out flyers in support of the local co-op here.


The band Satsang, playing to a full house at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.

At the show, I danced to some groovy reggae-inspired roots music and watched the people of Billings love on this local band (check them out here: I hope I grow into the kind of healer and community member who knows someone everywhere I go and laughs as much with her people as Dr. B does.

As for medical things I've learned this week -- oh, my god -- where do I begin? Like I said in my last post, there's no comparison to learning by watching a doctor work. At YNC, there are 3 associate docs besides Dr. B, and 4 residents. There's also a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and a massage therapist. There are 2 front desk ladies and about 4 or 5 other employees working in medical records, dispensary, and other management positions. It's a busy place! 

All of the doctors are willing to engage my questions and teach. In this way, I get to understand a little bit about how each one thinks and works differently from the next. I've watched some prolo and PRP injection therapies, listened to a patient's story while he received a vitamin C IV as supportive treatment for cancer, and watched Dr. B doctor and refer a 70-something patient in need of back surgery.

I've learned from one of the associate docs about the difficult experience of having to tell her patients she is leaving the practice to do some volunteer work and ponder her next move. Her advice to me was "If you know where you want to live, go there and start your practice. It is so hard to leave your patients!"

Sheltering from the wind, taking in the view (this does not do it justice!)

Speaking of knowing where you want to go, now that I'm in the West, I am have a hard time picturing myself anywhere else. It feels really, really good to be here, under this big sky, with ranchers at the table next to me in the restaurant, and patients driving 3 hours from their very rural home to see the naturopathic doctor. It is very different from the big city, and that weight of millions of people has lifted from my shoulders; it feels much more like home.

In other news, I'm starting to hear from residencies and am hoping the communications continue through this next week. I'll try to keep you posted on progress with this, but at the same time not get my hopes up. I'm trying my best to relax into the process and trust that I'll end up wherever is best.

Strolling the ridge after scrambling up a cold north-facing trail

To take my mind off things, I went out for a little hike at Phipps Park to the west of town. It was brilliantly sunny, the view was expansive, and I found a cave to sit in for a few moments, out of the wind.

Lastly, I can't end this post without mentioning that many of my ND student buddies took boards last week. Congratulations to all of you on making it through that hugely exhausting experience! May the answers you didn't know be the same ones nobody else knew, either!

A Surprise Day Off Spent with Plants

This past week we had a surprise day off! Though not under the best circumstances (a power outage at the clinic that lasted all day), we did take advantage of the free time. We went to the Morton Arboretum! Yes, we'll have to make up those hours "lost" among the plants rather than in patient care, but that dose of nature did so much good for me that I'm totally OK with an extra Friday shift sometime soon.

photo of friends at arboretum
Group Hug! (Thanks to Joe for the picture!)

Kaila, Lisa, Joe, Brad, Blaine, and I carpooled to the Arboretum once we found out we were free for the day. Mallory met us there a little while later. We wandered the gardens, explored the old buildings, ate lunch at the café, and sat for almost an hour in the library reading old botanical medicine books! This was the nerdiest and possibly the best part of the day. 

I also loved wandering the paths, reading off scientific names of plants and recalling their medicinal uses. There were many plants whose names I know but whose medicinal actions I cannot remember. We vowed to return soon with our bot med notes and do some real review with the actual plants in front of us.

Strolling at the Arboretum

I've been meaning to visit the Morton Arboretum since I learned about it when I started here at NUHS 3 years ago. If you can find a friend who is a member, it is cheaper to visit for the day. If you can't find a member to tag along with, I suggest paying the $14 (or on Wednesdays it's only $9!) to explore that beautiful place; it's totally worth it. The arboretum is a haven for nature-loving folks in this very suburban area. If you go once you've taken a few bot med classes, you can study while you're there! I promise, it's rewarding to see the plants in person and make that mental connection by touching, smelling and observing medicine as it exists out in nature. 

Reading old botanical medicine books.

Apologies to our patients that we did not get to see that day! Lucky for you though, we are now more clear-minded thanks to a day spent in the natural world. Not seeing patients yet? I still suggest getting outside to clear your mind after these recent midterms! Oh yeah, everyone else is taking midterms these days, while I'm over here in 9th tri giving presentations and taking online, open-note quizzes instead. ~Happy Sigh~