Archive for tag: faculty

Time for Graduation

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 NUHS

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, etc.

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 positive outcomes.


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 naturopathic practice.

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 to health.

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.

Thank You...

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 friendship!

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!

Busy Week

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 guy!

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. Kathy Kamin

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!

Thanksgiving Thanks

Rather than continue the Naturopathic Principles this week, since this is most likely my final Thanksgiving here, I want to share what I am thankful for both here at NUHS and in my life. Thank you all for indulging me this week.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Naturopathic Interns of the NUHS Whole Health Center - Lombard!

Just a few things that I am thankful for...

  • The privilege of attending naturopathic medical school at NUHS.
  • The basic sciences curriculum, which is rigorous and prepares us well.
  • Dr. Sue Darby and Dr. Robert Humphreys for being relentless in neuroanatomy.
  • Janse Pond, where I sat and studied many days.
  • Dr. Fraser Smith and Dr. James Winterstein for their dedication to rebuilding and accrediting our school in record time!
  • Again, Dr. Fraser Smith, for being willing to listen to student concerns regarding the program and its future.
  • Our clinicians at the NUHS Whole Health Center, who listen to our treatment plans and ideas and give us the leeway (with a safety net) to help our patients to the best of our ability!
  • Tony, Mark, Tom, Tom, Tony, Tony, Frank, Shelby and Marilyn! You make EVERY day a joy on this campus!
  • Bob, Mary Ann, Mark and Sharon of Financial Aid! Your help with planning and budgeting is priceless...what a pun!
  • The entire faculty and staff at NUHS, especially Marie Olbrysh and the Communications staff for allowing this forum for students to openly share their experiences at NUHS.

In my life...

  • That both of my parents are still with us and 'on the mend'!
  • My three sisters back home who are sharing care duties for my folks!
  • My family and friends of many years.
  • Lauren, whom I wouldn't have met without being at NUHS. You make me happy, dear!
  • Those who have helped with life lessons that have put me exactly where I am today!
  • Self-sustainable skills and traits learned from my parents while growing up.

That just about does it this week!  Hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving and are with the ones you love!  I'll continue next week with the Naturopathic Principles.

Naturopathic Medical Philosophy

2013-11-20_edwardsHi, everyone!

This week I'll start a series on naturopathic medical philosophy.

Here at NUHS we are fortunate to have Dr. Louise Edwards as the cornerstone instructor for the philosophical portion of our medical education. Dr. Edwards has developed a strong curriculum that incorporates all of the ideas I will be discussing over the next few weeks. With her permission, her words will appear verbatim in this blog where the circumstances are most prudent to do so. This week, I'll begin with the basics, the Naturopathic Model and our primary goal as naturopathic doctors.

The Basics 

Naturopathy is treating suffering (pathos) according to the laws of nature, using natural means.

We, as students and interns, are trained to use the most natural, least invasive methods that are within our scope of practice to help our patients return to a state of health. If higher force interventions are necessary to help our patients heal, then we will refer to a specialist for co-management, just as any other primary care provider would do.

The Naturopathic Model

  1. Health is a constant and natural state of being.
  2. Ill health is an adaptive response to disturbances in the organism.
  3. The universe is ordered and intelligent. Healing is a process that is ordered and predictable.
  4. Removal of disturbing factors (correcting the disturbances in the Determinants of Health) will create the basis for a return to normal health.
  5. Intervention should involve the least force necessary to stimulate the self-healing mechanisms.

Through recognizing and working within the Naturopathic Model, we are able to determine the root cause or "center of gravity" of a patient's divergence from a state of health. With an understanding of the root cause, we can then implement the naturopathic therapeutic order, which I will discuss in coming weeks.

Re-Establish the Basis for Health

Finally, our primary goal as naturopathic doctors is to "re-establish the basis for health." 

We accomplish this through correcting the disturbing factors impacting a patient's healthy state of being.  The patient's disturbing factors can also be described as their "Determinants of Health." Next week, I'll discuss these determinants and how they impact a patient's health, over the short and long term.

Intern Skills - Botanical Medicine

Hi, everyone!

The autumn finally settled in here in Illinois this past week with crisp mornings and warm days. The trees have shifted in color just a bit on their topmost branches and I expect that we will see the full blossoming of autumn in the next two or three weeks.

This week I'll talk a bit about botanical medicine and our skillset that is developed both in our botanical medicine courses as well as in clinical practice. Botanicals are powerful tools in the naturopathic doctor's toolbox; proper instruction, use and avoidance are necessary to effectively help others with this form of our eclectic approach to medicine.

LaKisha Brandon (9th Tri), Darius Lembert (10th Tri), and Joclyn Davis (9th Tri)
formulating and dispensing a custom tincture from our clinic dispensary.

My definition of botanical medicine is using plants and their constituent chemicals to help others heal. To that end we have a series of four botanical medicine courses before and during our clinical rotations here at NUHS to prepare us as new practitioners out in practice.

  • Botanical Medicine I
  • Botanical Medicine II
  • Botanical Medicine III - Advanced Botanical Prescribing
  • Botanical Medicine IV - Advanced Materia Medica

Dr. Lorinda Sorensen and Dr. Fraser Smith (Dean of Naturopathic Medicine) guide our ND students skillfully through this course sequence in a way that prepares our future docs with a wealth of information. We study the habitat, harvesting methods, parts of the plants that are used, and proper preparation from harvest to medicine. We are taught interactions (both beneficial and dangerous) with pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, we learn the proper times to use and avoid any botanical medicine, as well as the proper dosage method, amount and timing.

When in clinic, we custom prepare our own tinctures based upon the needs of the patient. We utilize the variety of professionally prepared, medicinal grade botanical preparations at our disposal in the clinic dispensary. We combine our botanical medicines with other therapies that can help our patients on the path to a return to their basis of health. This could be a quick turnaround or could take some time depending upon the pathology and methodologies utilized in the treatment plan. Through learning botanical medicine at NUHS, I feel that we are well prepared to enter our practices with a solid botanical skillset.