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!
When my old Nissan Xterra passed 200,000 miles this week, I was
reminded of the reliability, longevity and commitment to completing
a naturopathic medical degree.
How appropriate that this weekend saw the passing of our
school's presidency from Dr. James Winterstein to
Dr. Joseph Stiefel. Dr. Winterstein's leadership of NUHS for
past 27 years has seen his overseeing of the expansion of
National from a college to a university with multiple professional,
graduate and undergraduate programs both in Illinois and Florida.
The most notable to me was the reintroduction of the naturopathic
program to National's campus in 2006.
Dr. Winterstein led the effort to bring naturopathic medicine
back to NUHS after a more than 50-year hiatus. He met resistance
and persevered, with reliable commitment to the cause of
naturopathic primary care being taught at our university. Dr.
Winterstein's philosophy as a chiropractic physician is that
chiropractors are primary care physicians and are responsible for
screening each patient who visits a practice. He took that noble
rule of thumb and expanded it to include the naturopathic
program on our campus.
Dr. Winterstein had to be patient, persistent and committed to
obtain his goal of returning the naturopathic medical degree to our
campus. He had to recruit knowledgeable, dedicated leaders and
educators to work at an upstart program in the Midwest, about as
far away ideologically and culturally as one can get from the
existing naturopathic schools in the far western states at the
time. Yet, he brought in Dr. Fraser Smith and Dr. Louise
Edwards to build a naturopathic program with a sound basis in
naturopathic philosophy. He lent a guiding hand and mentored our
leaders to accreditation within seven years of inception of the
program and has left a thriving naturopathic college on the campus
of National University of Health Sciences!
I'm certain Dr. Stiefel will continue the excellence exhibited
by Dr. Winterstein and his "200,000-mile" effort in bringing back a
vibrant naturopathic medical school, which is improving with each
trimester! Thanks to you, Dr. Winterstein, for your leadership and
may you have a long, healthy and joyful tenure as President
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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