In September 2013, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognizing October 7-11 as “Naturopathic Medicine Week.” The resolution is a historic milestone for a growing branch of medicine offering safe, effective health care based on the power of nature for over 100 years.
Naturopathic medicine, which integrates modern medical diagnostics and interventions with natural health care modalities, is gradually earning recognition across the United States. Currently, 17 U.S. states license naturopathic physicians (NDs) to practice. Intensive lobbying efforts are underway in remaining states to license NDs so that all U.S. citizens can choose naturopathic medicine as a primary health care option.
National University offers the doctor of naturopathic medicine degree (ND), and has regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission as well as programmatic accreditation from the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Yet NUHS is located in Illinois, a state that does not yet recognize the naturopathic medical profession with licensure. The university’s leadership is currently working with state legislators in Springfield to license naturopathic physicians to practice in Illinois.
“Our population is experiencing an epidemic of chronic diseases that cannot be cured through surgery and drugs alone,” says Dr. Fraser Smith, assistant dean for naturopathic medicine at NUHS. “Naturopathic physicians bring to the table the ability to combine techniques that use the healing power of nature along with modern medical care that can really make a difference in people’s health.”
The University is urging Illinois residents to call their state senators and representatives to support SB 1168 sponsored by Senator Iris Martinez, and HB 3645 sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond. The bills grant naturopathic physicians the right to practice as primary care doctors in Illinois under the same rights and restrictions that currently apply to chiropractic physicians. Licensure laws also safeguard the public from poorly trained practitioners and physicians with fraudulent credentials – protection that is lacking in unlicensed states.
“We would like to see every health care consumer in Illinois have the right to choose a naturopathic physician for their health care needs, and feel confident that the ND they choose has passed rigorous education and licensing standards,” says Dr. Smith.
“Consumer health awareness is resulting in increased demand for more natural forms of health care. In addition, our nation is experiencing a growing shortage of primary care physicians,” says Dr. Smith. “Our naturopathic medicine degree program, along with state licensure, will help meet that demand in Illinois.”
Although NUHS has been graduating chiropractic physicians since 1906, it admitted its first class of ND students in 2006. Since then, the number of ND students at NUHS has grown from 5 to 117, and the university has added 15 faculty positions to the thriving program.
NUHS trains naturopathic physicians in a five-year graduate program that is evidence-based, with a strong foundation in basic sciences. ND students must complete an education that is very similar to the training received by MDs, including a full-year clinical internship. In addition, NDs must undergo extensive training in nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physical manipulation and counseling. NUHS is one of only seven accredited naturopathic medicine schools in North America, and the only one in the Midwest.
“We hope that our work with the legislature over the next several months, will result in the ability for naturopathic physicians to practice as primary care doctors in Illinois,” says Dr. Joseph Stiefel, president of NUHS. “The greatest reward will be that the people of Illinois will have access to a wider range of options in effective and integrative health care.”