This week, I will discuss a few financial considerations of attending naturopathic medical school, regardless of which university you choose to attend. This is a direct look at the money side of attending school. It will be a bit more direct writing style. Please let me know your thoughts on this subject or if I can cover more topics in this style in the blog.

First consideration: Be certain of your reasons for becoming a naturopathic doctor. 

As nurturing and inclusive as our medicine is with regard to the health of body, mind and spirit, or the whole person; we are not a medicine of "woo-woo" or one devoid of a solid scientific foundation. Be certain that you are prepared to invest up to $200,000 for a rigorous science-based education for four years.  

Our professors train us to connect with our patients on more than a clinical, lab value basis. Indeed, the best way to help our patients is to get a full understanding of their health history, family history, lifestyle and motivations. Yet, at the culmination of each patient encounter we are healers who need to understand how the human body works from the mitochondrial level up to the emotional state of our patients and how they express themselves to us during the encounter. As a naturopathic medical student, each of us is expected to know the science behind the body, mind, and spirit connection. This is a hard and rewarding experience. 

So, be prepared for challenging, rewarding and frustrating times as you work through the basic sciences on your path to the clinical training later in your education that entwines all the principles of naturopathic philosophy combined with the hard science of the human machine. 


Second Consideration: Understand the long-term implications of a medical school loan. 

Most students that I know are paying for their naturopathic medical education with the help of federal student loans. Most of us will have significant loan balances at the end of our time here at NUHS. Many students will have balances close to or exceeding $200,000. 

Before deciding to attend naturopathic medical school, especially as a non-traditional older student, I needed to weigh the cost of attending school with the timeframe to repay the loans. That timeframe is typically between 10 years and 30 years. By the time I graduate, I will be 45 years old. I took into account that I can practice as a doctor as long as I am competent and able to perform my duties as long as patients trust my standard of care. If I take the full 30 years to repay my loan, I will be 75 years old when my loans are repaid. Many who read this blog are in their mid-20's and most likely already have some student loans from their undergraduate education. This will be a significant debt that will be a driver for a future practice or employment with a medical group. This is a reality.

With regard to my experience and decision, I knew that upon starting medical school I was building a financial debt that would take a good portion of the remainder of my life to repay. I have decided to approach the cost of my medical education as an investment that will provide return in the success of my future practice. This is a business expense that is the foundation of my future practice much as the cost of a building and shelves is the basis for a local convenience store opening in a neighborhood. I am required now to keep this foundation solid by learning and building upon the knowledge, experience, successes, and failures to help my future patients and their families be as healthy as possible within my scope of practice; or refer them to the appropriate specialist for more specific care.

I have written a bit more directly this week than I normally do, yet I feel that each person who decides to become a naturopathic doctor needs to take a hard, honest look at the financial implications of choosing our field of medicine as an occupation (or lifestyle). I hope in some way, if you are deciding on attending naturopathic medical school that you examine your true motivations, reasons and financial impact of becoming a naturopathic doctor. I will continue these topics as well as my typical ramblings as I finish up school here at NUHS.

For the record, once I decided to become a naturopathic doctor and earn my degree here at NUHS, I haven't looked back. I took a full inventory of my motivations: desire to help others, ability to earn a decent living while repaying the loans, and self-fulfillment of choosing this field as an occupation. After this solid review and understanding the expectation that the general public has for doctors, especially naturopathic doctors, who are held to high personal standard; I was willing to make the sacrifices, take the risks, and challenges. I accepted that I would experience success, failure, joy, and disappointment during this time and I have had my share of each. I wouldn't trade a moment since the summer of 2009 when I made my decision nor would I trade any of the moments I am yet to experience regardless of outcome.

Talk to you all next week!