Archive for tag: nature

Looking Back

This week I'm just rambling, thinking about the trip back home to western North Carolina in about three weeks or so. As a child, I would sit on the edge of a huge field listening to the breeze blow through the poplars, oaks, beech, and evergreen trees on the old Jarvis farm--a gentle whisper undulating across the hollow announcing its arrival with a rustle of leaves high above.


I sit now thinking of the little springhouse where our neighbor, Odie would store her canned goods, smoked meats and fresh milk. This was a cool respite from the summer heat, a bit below ground, with water flowing constantly from an artesian well through the trough and storage bins made into the concrete floor. There it drained with a tiny constant splash out of the other side into the small stream that defined our neighborhood of houses on a little dirt road.

In the heat of the day, when tired from chasing frogs, salamanders or crayfish (crawdads), my buddy Kevin and I would duck into the spring house, cool off with a sip of water from the tin cup hanging on the wall, enjoy the shade and strategize our next "foray into the wild." We would marvel at the variety of color on the salamanders (I later found out that southern Appalachia is known for its many species of salamander), be cautious when catching and releasing the crayfish, and never were successful at anything more than spotting the frogs.  They were simply too quick and amphibious for us land-based mammals!

One summer day, we found what we thought was some sort of monster. Kevin and I had never seen one of these before and we were directly on the heels of a Big Foot hunt (this was during the Big Foot craze when we were kids), so we were already on edge, having convinced ourselves that we had a Sasquatch on the mountain behind our homes. Since the Sasquatch was already in residence, why couldn't another heinous creature be lurking about in our woods?

Well, Kevin and I were walking along the creek and all of a sudden, from a small pool, we heard this "splash, splash" from the water and little clicking (barking?) sounds from the water. We look over the edge and lo and behold, we spy a legitimate, dare I say "bonafied" water monster!!!! This thing had to be two feet long, with legs and a huge tail! It had huge feathery things flapping behind its head! It was either a baby Loch Ness Monster in its spawning grounds (obviously) or a humongous tadpole, which would eventually grow into a giant frog and starting eating everything in sight! After reeling in our excitement, we watched for a bit, not sure if it would attack or if it was happy with its aquatic kingdom and was only warning us to stay away.

We decided to hop into the water and see what would happen (we weren't very smart back then). By the time we had taken off our shoes and positioned ourselves on both ends of the small pond that was only about 12 feet long, the mud puppy decided it had had enough and, with a bolt, disappeared under the overhang of the stream bank, never to be seen again! This was in the "pre-cell phone camera" era, ahem, so unless we had an instant camera or lugged around my older sister's camera (tried that, she didn't appreciate a dirt covered camera), we had NO WAY of proving that this creature existed!

We couldn't wait to get home and tell Dad all about this new creature...dare we!?!...that inhabited our little stream! Should we tell the neighbors? Should we have the Forest Service come out to collect and study this heinous creature? 

Wikimedia Commons - Mud puppy

Well, once we described it to Dad and the noise it made, he said, "Oh! That's a just a Mud Puppy! It won't hurt you and you boys had better leave it alone." Well, leave it to Dad to hose up a good monster hunt with the facts and lack of danger! This creature turned out to be a Necturus Maculosus or Common Mudpuppy, based upon the habitat range in western North Carolina. Now, these guys are called Mud Puppies because they make a barking sound, hence folks giving them that name. They are considered a very large salamander, looking like a giant tadpole. They eat small minnows, crayfish, tadpoles, etc., and are a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

So, while enjoying the 'present' is the way to be, a trip back to childhood adventures is not so bad every once in a while also! Time to get back to studying, polish up presentations, prep for exams, and finish the trimester strong for both patients (present and future) and grades alike!

Midterms II - The Creepy Knock on the Door that Won't Stop

Well, last week's midterms are done and I survived, if you call living on about 5 hours sleep per night and coffee throughout the day as "survival"! :) That was just about the toughest week of exams I can remember! Not so much because of multiple exams in one day or that any one subject was the 'killer' class. These exams just seemed to march relentlessly in order (think White Stripes' Seven Nation Army music video). Sample thoughts for the week…Monday, exam…whew! Wait, I have another on Tuesday, better study; time for coffee. Tuesday, exam again…whew! Crud! Another one tomorrow! What?!?! I forgot about writing that summary for the Practice Management Project; that's due when? Oh! Great! How about another cup o' Joe? Until Friday…what? Who are you? Oh! You're my Endocrinology professor…and we have an exam right now? Awesome! :)…and the slow knock at the door just keeps tapping, tapping, tapping…close with the Twilight Zone theme.

While my description of the exams last week is a bit dramatic, suffice to say that after days on end of little sleep, little exercise and lots of study, a naturopathic medical student's 'Determinants of Health' are a little out of whack!  I suppose I should give a bit of info on the determinants of health. Naturopathic medicine considers the determinants of health the 'basis' for a healthy human being. Our medicine focuses on returning people to that 'basis' for health by first regaining balance amongst the Determinants of Health. These determinants are:

  • Breath (or air)
  • Water (or hydration)
  • Exercise (movement and flexibility)
  • Sleep (no brainer here)
  • Nutrition and Digestion (our diet, ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste)
  • Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation (or Vitamin R, credit to Dr. Louise Edwards)

The determinants can also be anything a person is 'born with' vs. 'environmental' exposures throughout life. The focus can be as broad or narrow as the naturopathic practitioner deems necessary for each unique case and each unique human being. Other key determinants are genetic, mental/emotional state, education level, work environment, history of illness, access to health care, etc. The list can go on and on. While learning to become a naturopathic doctor, we keep the determinants basic and simple. With each of these basic six categories, a person can be led toward or away from a 'Basis for Health' and a healthy person is our ultimate goal! When we are in practice, we will listen to each patient, take a thorough case study and find the unique combination of determinants to help that person become as healthy as possible.

While medical school has never claimed to be the best thing for a student's 'basis for health', we take measures sometimes in attempt to balance our determinants and keep our basis somewhat stable, even during midterms and finals. My effort to balance' is to print study notes and walk at a nature preserve near NUHS called Hidden Lake Preserve. Taking my 'study walks' helps to maintain a bit of exercise, Vitamin R and fresh air while prepping for exams. I've even done this in freezing temps during the winter!


The preserve has two small lakes, one wooded and the other on open prairie with a small network of paths winding around the lakes. While walking and studying, I have found and returned baby snapping turtles who had lost their way from the water, with blessings to be the 'scourge of the pond for decades to come.' Chipmunks have also stepped up on a stump right beside me as I sat and studied. I don't know how these animals keep finding me; I just enjoy their company quietly (entirely out of character if you know me) and we each go on our way. That is, unless a baby snapper about the size of a silver dollar traipses away from their aquatic home, then I'll usher them back to the water. I have included a pic this week from the footbridge during my walk last Wednesday. This is such a beautiful place, I don't mind sharing as long as you don't tell too many folks!

This week I'm thankful that the 'slow tap, tap, tapping' at the door signaling another midterm is only heralding the arrival of two exams this coming week--an imaging (X-ray) midterm as well as a 'Head to Toe' unsupervised complete physical on a live patient in less than one hour. The physical is filmed and graded based on 'proper sequence' of exams as well as proper procedure, patient instruction and explanation of findings. Come to think of it, I think that tapping is getting…just a little…bit…LOUDER!

See you next week…if I make it! :)