Archive for tag: friends

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!

Clinic Routine

Time to settle into the weekly routine again, albeit things are a bit different this trimester. With class and clinic rotations 5 days each week, along with work on the side during some mornings and each weekend, time is a precious commodity.

This is what a typical clinic schedule looks like for a 9th/10th trimester ND Intern.

Monday 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday Noon (Grand Rounds); 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. (Clinic)
Thursday 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Friday 7:00 a.m. - Noon

During clinic, we sit down for "preview" each day to discuss upcoming patient cases and strategies for best helping our patients in a roundtable discussion. This is a "safe zone" to bounce ideas, debate the best strategy amongst peers and under the guidance of our clinicians. The idea is to share knowledge through discussion in a practical manner without judgment. This approach allows us to discuss all treatment modalities, their benefits, drawbacks and limitations, then move forward with the best overall treatment for our patients.

After preview, we see our patients, chart, research, develop and bring our suggested treatment plans to our clinicians, who vet the plans and approve or amend as required for the benefit of our patients. We must complete all of these tasks during our shifts as HIPPA regulations dictate that no patient records leave the premises. We learn quickly to be accurate, concise and have all work completed by the end of the day out of necessity.

Even though this seems like a lot of work, clinic is a fun, nurturing environment that I look forward to every day. The smiles on patients' faces when they begin to feel better, heal and share is priceless! The patience, knowledge, skill and care that our clinicians share with each intern on a daily basis set an excellent example for all of us as future doctors.

Me with Carrie (left) and Juanita (right), both 6th trimester ND students

The photo I'm sharing this week is of two friends and me. I was printing something at the library the other day and ran into them after having not seen either for about two months! This made me realize that I was separated from the rest of campus now that I'm in clinic and needed to visit my old friends still in their clinical courses. Challenge accepted...

The Present

This week I'm just sharing a few words to reminisce and look forward to the next chapter in my life and career as a doctor. As the weather has been very mild for this time of year in Illinois, along with a good amount of rain, I have had the opportunity for many long, brisk walks and bike rides with my "significant other."

As we sat down under the willows to study this past weekend (she prepping for Botanical Medicine and Homeopathy classes while I was finishing up research for a patient in clinic), I started thinking about my time under these willows studying for the same classes she was now learning. I thought about our first conversation together a year ago, as she was taking a bike ride, stopped to chit-chat over books, and ended up staying for two hours under these willows--not very productive for study, yet the most fulfilling for getting to know a wonderful woman!


I thought about the friendships forged, the laughter, stress, and some tears shed under these very trees. I thought about the planning process for the Naturopathic Student Gathering. The spot underneath these two giant willows was the birthplace of the Talking Stick of the Naturopathic Student Gathering. These willows gave shade and solace during that time; they shared the concept of the willow and even gave of themselves for the opening ceremony and its trappings, after some fierce storms came through town last summer. 

During our small adventures around and about DuPage County, just outside of Chicago, where NUHS is located, we would talk about our times here at school and plans for the future. Where will she practice; where will I practice? What about our specialties, communities, how much of our training we will need to brush-up on, modify, or grow to meet the needs of the town or towns we settle within. We talk about licensure, legislative efforts and growing our profession on a national scale, and the responsibilities that come with being a part of the growth of naturopathic medicine. We talk about educating the public in a sensible, concise manner on exactly what naturopathic medicine is and what we can accomplish for our fellow human beings' health.

Finally, as I was sitting under the tree, thinking about my life before naturopathic medicine, the journey here at NUHS and the career that lies ahead, our Mama Swan and her three new cygnets stopped by the table under the willows. They were reminders that each passing year brings new rewards, new challenges, new people in our lives, and hope for the future. Each new year brings hope for health, hope for success, hope for joy and fulfillment; hope for the ability to provide for others and ourselves. My sweetheart looked over, asked my thoughts and why I was smiling. I took in all the symbols of past, present and future around me, the willows over me, the Mama Swan and her little ones behind me, my lady next to me, the patient research in front of me, the wind whipping the willow branches, and mixing all together, I replied, "Just enjoying the present, babe."


Hi Everyone!

Just a quick note this week to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I'll share a bit of what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for my family. My parents, each with no more than an eighth grade education, ensured that I was reading before I entered kindergarten and I'll always have fond memories of sitting with Mom or Dad reading Little Golden Books. Both instilled a lifelong love of reading and my library is backlogged with books to read after my fill of medical school books over the past three years. I am thankful for my three sisters who put up with my antics as we grew up and moved away from home. I am thankful for all of my nieces and nephews, who carry on the family name and tradition of gathering on Thanksgiving at my folks' home. That's a lot of people in a 900-square-foot home, but the love expands the walls immeasurably when everyone is present!

The Gathering Banquet Table: (L-R) Tim, Danielle, Jenna, and Fatemeh

I am thankful for each of my classmates. I have said that before and I reiterate again today. The group of classmates I have are individually wonderfully people. They are some of the finest, most cooperative over-achievers one could meet. Regardless of the challenge, this group comes together for each other, charitable causes and communication. I am proud to be a part of the class of December 2013 and have made life-long friendships during my times at NUHS.

I am thankful for my friends back home. We have been through "thick and thin" together. Births, deaths, layoffs, downsizing, promotions, marriage and divorce; each of my little group back home is ever present to lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder or a back when work needs to be done. These are the folks who didn't say I was crazy for leaving a good job to become a naturopathic doc at 40 years old. These are the folks who ask every four months, "Are you coming home Ammons?" Friends who want to catch up and are eager to keep in touch are truly a thing to be thankful for.

I hope you are with the ones you care about this holiday. That you have experienced a year of abundance in health, love and happiness and that your dreams, plans and experiences have contributed to your betterment and the betterment of all!

See you next week!