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Wednesday, April 4, 2018 | By: Molly Harmon

The Making of a Naturopathic Doctor

Naturopathic Medicine | Graduate Student Stories

The following blog is a guest post by Molly Harmon, third year medical student at National University of Health Sciences. Molly’s article first appeared on the website of the Indiana Association of Naturopathic Physicians (INANP). It offers valuable insight for students working towards becoming a naturopathic physician and shares her journey from a unique perspective.

With a heavy emphasis in human biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology, naturopathic physicians understand how the body works with itself, to heal itself. Molly says she believes that naturopathic medicine is the only medicine to restore function, not replace it. 

She knew that in order to treat patients in the way she envisioned, she had to become a doctor. Molly soon realized she wanted to be able to actually spend time with her patients and get to know them on every level so she could treat them as a whole, as individuals, and treat the root cause of their health issues. “This,” she said, “is when naturopathic medicine found me.” 

My Passion for Naturopathic Medicine 

Hi – My name is Molly, and I am a third year naturopathic medical student at the National University of Health Sciences. When I tell people that I am in naturopathic medical school they usually respond with one of the following responses, “Wow, that’s awesome!” or “So, what is it that like—hippy medical school?”

I love to explain what naturopathic medicine is, what naturopathic doctors do, and elaborate on the lives that have been changed through naturopathic medicine. The next think I know, they are rolling up their shirt to show me the rash they can’t get rid of, and calling me “doc”. That’s just it, most people don’t know what naturopathic medical students are and what they study.

My Experience as a Naturopathic Medical Student

"Now entering my third year at NUHS, I have started to look back on everything I have learned in the past two years, and it has made me greatly appreciate my education."

In my first year alone I had completely hand dissected a human cadaver, including all muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. I know how to properly palpate, assess and adjust the cervical, thoracic, lumbar spine, and the extremities. I can complete a competent head to toe physical exam including cardiac, pulmonary, fundoscopic, ENT, and neurological complete assessments. The hundreds of hours I have spent with naturopathic doctors, chiropractic doctors, osteopathic doctors, and medical doctors, mastering and understanding the human body through the study of biochemistry, physiology, pathology, and anatomy has only made me a more competent and better prepared doctor for my future patients.

Becoming a naturopathic doctor has opened my eyes to the patient’s point of view. Currently a third year naturopathic medical student, I have started to observe real patients in the clinic. The number of times a patient has stopped us in the middle of collecting a history of present illness to say, “This is the first time I really feel like a doctor is listening to me,” was a really powerful moment for me as a student.

You see, in school we are rigorously challenged by our clinicians on what the purpose of our treatment plan is, what is the mechanism of action of the herb we are prescribing, what organs and systems are involved and specifically how is it going to help the patient. There is no one way to treat a cold, IBS, or autoimmune condition in naturopathic medicine. The most consistent thing in naturopathic care is that we see each patient as an individual, and we treat them as a whole.

The REAL Truth About Earning a Naturopathic Degree

Attending a naturopathic medical school is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Everyone warns you about the hardships of making a doctor and what it takes, but I did not begin to really appreciate that until I was in the thick of it.

"ND students take upwards of 25-28 credits a trimester, go year round in school, and are in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. The material you learn in four months at a naturopathic medical school is equivalent to the amount of material you cover in an entire year in undergraduate school."

As mentioned above, we are very competent in the basic sciences of the human body, and spend two years mastering the understanding of the body as a whole. Naturopathic students are exceptional in that we spend many hours not only in botanical medicine, as expected, but also oriental medicine, naturopathic counseling, genomics, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and pharmacology.

So, no, we are not a bunch of hippies sitting in a circle eating vegetables, but highly educated, bighearted, rigorously challenged naturopathic medical students trying to make a difference in the world. Even though there is occasionally class outside on a nice day, with a bunch of students drinking kombucha and wearing a lot of floral patterns. 

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