Blending Naturopathic Medicine and Massage

Sarah -GerencherEarning a certificate in massage therapy is certainly a gateway to a great career. However, did you know that future physicians can also add massage therapy to their credentials in order to broaden their future medical practice?

Meet Sarah Gerencher, who is enrolled in National University of Health Sciences' Massage Therapy Certification Program, while at the same time earning her doctor of naturopathic medicine degree at National.

Originally from Joliet, Illinois, Sarah always loved science. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. After college, Sarah spent time working as a laboratory technician, making slides for pathologists, but she soon tired of spending all of her time with microscopes. She decided to enroll in National's naturopathic medicine program to become a naturopathic physician.

While a student at National, Sarah took advantage of health care at the on-campus clinic. "I received quite a few massages here at the clinic, which is what first got me interested in learning massage. I remember my first trimester in the ND program; I had a bad headache and a massage made it disappear. It seemed like a good idea to study another modality that would help people and make them feel better," says Sarah. Only a few trimesters into her graduate program, Sarah also enrolled in National's MT program.

Some of Sarah's advanced science classes from her naturopathic medicine curriculum transferred into the massage program. This allows Sarah to take a lighter load. Yet Sarah is still quite busy completing a full-time ND schedule during the day, coupled with MT classes at night.

"I really like the classes and the faculty in the massage program," says Sarah. "I especially like the yoga class, as it gives you time to relax and focus on yourself. I like the fact that NUHS gives you tools to take care of yourself while you're learning to take care of others."

"My favorite teacher is Dr. Patricia Coe, a chiropractic physician and massage therapist and the clinical supervisor for the massage program," says Sarah. "She knows what she's doing and is very straightforward and compassionate."

Even though Sarah was already studying to be a physician, she had not yet reached the clinical portion of her studies. Her clinical internship in massage started several trimesters before her ND internship and served as her introduction to the clinic. "I was nervous about seeing massage clients for the first time. I thought it was going to be very intimidating, but it wasn't that bad after I got into the swing of it." In fact, Sarah's sure that working through the jitters of seeing her first massage clients, will help her when she starts her ND clinical internship next year.

In the future, Sarah sees herself combining her expertise in massage and naturopathic medicine and travelling out west to practice.

In the meantime, Sarah has advice for those considering massage therapy as a career: "Do research on what type of massage you would like to learn. Different schools vary in what they actually teach. A lot of schools don't have an anatomy lab with real dissected cadavers. That's what's cool about National. Also, our professors here are very accessible and the class size is small."