Naturopathic Medical Student
Last week, Oct. 7 through 13, was designated by Congress as national Naturopathic Medicine Week “to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective and affordable health care.” Many of you will not have heard of naturopathic medicine as it is not the mainstream form of health care in our society, yet is growing rapidly. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are licensed on a state-to-state basis and currently 20 states are licensed. Minnesota NDs received licensure in 2008.
I was in the 2008 graduating class of the Caledonia Area High School. I have my bachelor of science in biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of Minnesota Duluth, which I completed in 2012. I am in my second year of studies at Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., which is an accredited naturopathic medicine program through the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).
What drew me to the profession was the personal approach to health care. Every person is unique; unique in their genetic make-up, in their characteristics, their careers, lifestyles, unique in motivations and struggles. As holistic primary care physicians, NDs take the whole of the individual into account and address the cause of the illness, not the symptoms alone. NDs work with the patient to get them back to a state of optimal health and have training in counseling and mental health as well.
To do my part in spreading awareness of our profession, I thought I would start by informing my fellow residents of Caledonia of what naturopathic medicine has to offer.
What is a naturopathic physician?
A naturopathic physician (ND or NMD) is an expert in natural medicine. NDs blend natural, non-toxic therapies with current advancements in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. They are committed to using cutting edge medical knowledge and tools to resolve their patients’ health issues and to create health solutions that can be uniquely tailored to each individual patient’s needs.
NDs attempt to find the underlying cause of the patient’s condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment. They collaborate with all branches of medicine referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. NDs take the time to listen to their patients’ needs and provide them with the space and answers they need to feel cared for and supported and to enable patients to take control of their health.
Currently, 20 states and territories license NDs to practice. Licensed NDs are graduates of four-year naturopathic medical schools with admissions requirements comparable to those of other medical schools. Degrees are awarded after extensive classroom, clinical and practical study. Medical science coursework includes cardiology, neurology, radiology, obstetrics, gynecology, immunology, dermatology and pediatrics.
The Healing Power of Nature: NDs recognize a person’s innate ability to heal and remove obstacles to healing and recovery to facilitate this inherent self-healing process.
Identify and Treat the Cause: NDs seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness.
First Do No Harm: NDs follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient: (1) utilize methods and medical substances which mini- mize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; (2) avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; (3) and acknowledge, respect and work with the individual’s self-healing process.
Doctor As Teacher: NDs educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health.
Treat the Whole Person: NDs treat each patient by taking into account many factors including physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual ones.
Practice Prevention: NDs emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions.
NDs are trained to perform or order physical exams, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray exams and other diagnostic tests. They are the only physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, both acute and chronic. Some of the therapies used by NDs are listed here.
Clinical Nutrition is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. It refers to the practice of using food to maintain health, the therapeutic use of food to treat illness and the utilization of targeted vitamin and nutrient therapy, given orally and by IV, as part of their treatment plans.
Homeopathy is a powerful system of medicine that is more than 200 years old. This medical system uses highly diluted natural substances to treat illness. Some conditions that do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathy.
Botanical Medicine is also known as herbal medicine and is the use of plants as medicine. Many plant substances are powerful, safe and effective medicines when used properly.
Physical Medicine includes naturopathic manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine. Application of hot and cold, gentle electrical impulses, therapeutic ultrasound, hydrotherapy and exercise therapy are also used.
Counseling and Stress Management is offered by NDs. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing illness, and NDs are trained in counseling, biofeedback and other mind-body techniques.
Minor Surgery includes repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses, with local anesthesia as needed.
Natural Childbirth is offered by NDs with additional specialty training. These physicians offer prenatal and postnatal care using the most modern diagnostic techniques. When natural childbirth is not medically appropriate, patients are referred for appropriate care.
Brianna Vick is a 2008 graduate of
Caledonia Area High School, a 2012 graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a student at Bastyr University.