“I knew I wanted to be a doctor that could help anyone, anywhere.”
Dr. Griffin McMath first envisioned her future as a naturopathic doctor at a young age. “When I was a child—and still to this day—that visual includes me being dropped nearly anywhere in the world, no matter how globalized or ‘developed,’ with only my knowledge, two hands, and limited supplies, and serving as an effective and compassionate physician to whoever needs my help,” she says.
She did her undergraduate work at Central Michigan University, where she studied anthropology, and this solidified her desire to help those in need. “Regardless of their cultural or religious beliefs and socioeconomic status, I knew I needed to be equipped with training that could provide me with expertise and creativity to meet and treat a person wherever they are at that moment,” she says. “Before I knew naturopathic medicine existed, my values regarding Therapeutic Order in healing were parallel to the principles of this profession I now love so much.”
The road to naturopathic medical school
Dr. McMath quickly determined that naturopathic medicine was the right path for her. “From the moment I began switching gears to apply to naturopathic medical school, I felt more in alignment with myself and my purpose,” she says.
When applying to schools, she was encouraged by the holistic admissions process. “Even filling out the applications showed that AANMC schools looked not only at your transcripts, but also at who you are as a person and how capable you may be at creating and maintaining a therapeutic connection,” she recalls.
She eventually chose Bastyr University California because it aligned with her goals and her personality. “Bastyr was opening a second campus at the time, and I knew I had a personality that did well with adventure and pioneering. I enjoy environments where I am able to create my own opportunities and give back in order to build something bigger and better,” she says.
The university’s admissions advisor also facilitated a positive experience as Dr. McMath explored her options. “This made me feel and know that this school really wanted me to succeed,” she says.
Building a foundation at Bastyr
“I could write a book on what I gained from my time at Bastyr,” Dr. McMath says. The most memorable aspect of her experience at the university was the support she received from the faculty and staff. “I’m a boisterous and bold individual, and learning how to channel enthusiasm and ambition such as mine requires guidance by a supervisor and institution. Since my energy and passion are rarely in short supply, Bastyr helped teach me how to use my strengths and personality in a way that is effective in patient care and in countless other settings,” she says.
Bastyr also prepared her for the business side of becoming an ND. “I attended almost every business workshop Bastyr provided from day one and was an active participant of nearly every state and federal legislative initiative,” she says.
“I planned backward: put big goals on a timeline and strategized what training or experience I would need to get there, and how I would obtain that. I did this by maintaining two copies of my CV at all times: one that was ready to share at a moment’s notice, and the other that was my ‘dreams fulfilled’ CV. I used the latter almost as a manifesto,” she says. “It was exciting to see that my CV at graduation only had a few differences compared to my ‘dreams fulfilled’ CV.”
Making her goals a reality after graduation
After graduating and passing her NPLEX exams, Dr. McMath took some part time work before moving to Washington, D.C. to chase her dreams. “I had no full-time position, no solid community of friends or family waiting for me, and minimal recollection of a life involving weather below 65 degrees. Still, my dreams persisted, and I followed my passions and my instincts. The encouragement and support of friends and family from afar truly helped give my wings flight at that time,” she says.
She sent out her CV to several academic institutions and practices, and landed at The Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). “Proton therapy is a relatively new treatment that delivers radiation specifically at the site of tumor. This spares healthy tissue beyond and surrounding the tumor site,” Dr. McMath explains. “Since day one of the interview process, I could see how many of my principles as a naturopathic doctor resonated with the priorities of the team at MPTC. I’ve been brought into this community to expand upon their already incredibly patient-centered approach using integrative medicine.”
“My work and life are pretty busy—yet manageable—right now, and I’m reminded of that unofficial principle of naturopathic medicine: ‘Physician Heal Thyself,’” she says. With a full-time position as program administrator of Integrative Medicine at MPTC plus a role as the community outreach coordinator for the Institute for Natural Medicine, Dr. McMath makes an effort to stay grounded and connected. “I utilize my daily commute to catch up with family or friends, listen to audiobooks or the news, and belt out some tunes to start my day on a cheery note. I walk or run with my pup multiple times each day, try to prep my meals as often as possible, and spend time exploring D.C. with girlfriends on the weekend evenings,” she says.
The future of naturopathic medicine
“Naturopathic medicine gives you the mindset to keep asking ‘why?’ and peeling each layer of the clinical ‘onion’ backward,” Dr. McMath says. She views the flexibility of the profession as one of the most attractive aspects of her career. “I see naturopathic medicine as an incredible philosophy, structure, and mechanism, which has principles that can drastically benefit public health and policy realms. It is my hope to utilize my degree in naturopathic medicine in these ways as well as work one-on-one with patients,” she says.
“Guiding naturopathic doctors into local and global public health and policy settings continues to be a vital priority, especially as the public increasingly vocalizes an interest in natural and integrative health—our experts should be the ones to help facilitate these conversations,” she says.
Advice for aspiring NDs
Dr. McMath urges those interested in naturopathic medicine to consider whether or not their philosophy and purpose align with the principles of the discipline. If so, she suggests a few things to keep in mind after enrolling in ND school:
- Work smarter. Collaborate; support one another; challenge one another.
- Take care of yourself.
- Diversify your clinical exposure and skillset, and engage in respectful, open-minded discourse with others.
- Join your state association, NMSA, AANP, and consider becoming an INM Ambassador.
- Attend the free workshops and seminars and find a mentor.
- Appreciate the work and impact of those who have come before you, and continue to grow and build this profession.
- Be involved. Attend state and federal lobby days. Take part in awareness activities.
- Always remember, FIRST become a great doctor.
Learn more about Proton Therapy:
Maryland Proton Treatment Center
Learn more about Dr. Griffin McMath:
Dr. McMath’s LinkedIn
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Dr. McMath’s Twitter
Dr. McMath’s Instagram
If you’re like a lot of people in this country, chances are you are worried about your health and the health of your family. Chronic health issues often lead many to explore all available treatment options. Extended medication protocols may be appropriate for some patients, however the ‘never-ending pill’ often leaves others questioning if there are any safe alternatives. Increasingly, patients are seeking out health providers who are knowledgeable about a more organic and natural lifestyle in everything from cooking to medicine. Click here learn more about the top conditions treated by naturopathic medicine.
Multiple Health Issues
At the core of naturopathic medicine is the belief in six guiding principles. One of those principles is the idea that NDs should look beyond the basic symptoms that are presenting themselves and search for the underlying causes of these problems. This often leads to the discovery there is not one “magic bullet” that can cure you of your problems. But it can also help you realize there may be many health issues that are all interconnected, some of which you may not even be aware of. Another of the ND principles is the idea of treating the whole person. By focusing on both your physical and spiritual well-being, an ND can help you to work on multiple areas in your life.
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
Some of the biggest health problems facing those in North America are often directly tied to nutrition. As a whole, we consume far too much processed food, high in fat and empty calories. One of the best reasons to see a naturopathic doctor is to help tailor your nutrition to meet your unique needs. Core to naturopathic practice is the role of an ND as a health educator, helping identify and guide patients to eat properly for their particular situation. A naturopathic physician can provide suggestions on how to eat healthy, and often on a budget. As a result of therapeutic nutrition, you can expect to see many of your health problems get better. Food as medicine can help ease problems associated with diabetes, as well as help patients shed pounds, promote lowering of high blood pressure, fostering a general improvement in well-being.
Nutritional planning from an ND can help when it comes to sorting out problems with digestion and digestive tract issues. From Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and heartburn to bloating, NDs can help examine what you are eating, and get to the root cause of your problem. Naturopathic doctors use diagnostic tools to determine if your body is having trouble digesting certain foods or reacting to food and food additives and may recommend diet and lifestyle changes as well as supplementation.
Nutrition doesn’t just impact what goes on in your stomach. A realignment of diet to a more wholesome approach can help with hormonal imbalances aggravating problems such as PMS and menstrual irregularity. Instead of turning to synthetic hormones, NDs may suggest herbs or naturally derived hormones that will get your body back into alignment. They can also identify foods that naturally regulate the cycle and promote balanced moods and sleep.
An area of focus that sets licensed naturopathic physicians apart is the emphasis they place on social support for the patient. The naturopathic doctor treats the whole person, recognizing the role of family and community in helping navigate tough issues in our lives. Inadequate social support has been shown to have detrimental health effects such as increasing cardiac risk and mortality. Strong networks can improve patient compliance with therapies as well as overall health care outcomes.
People are becoming much more aware of naturopathic medicine and are opening up to the possibilities that it offers. Rather than seeing it as a replacement for traditional medical healthcare, they understand that it can be an interlocking piece of the puzzle to help improve health.
If you or someone you know would like to visit a licensed naturopathic doctor, visit www.cand.ca for a doctor in Canada and in the U.S visit naturopathic.org’s Find a ND. If you would like more information on how to become a licensed naturopathic medical doctor in North America, please visit AANMC.org!
…opportunity to align their personal philosophies and ethics with their healthcare careers. Fact: The six guiding principles of naturopathic medical care are fundamental drivers of both career and personal satisfaction…
…you’re a naturopathic oncologist, or pediatrician, or midwife, those are the guiding principles because the word naturopathic is in there. Erin Brinker: I know that when you go to a…
As we continue into this new century, it seems that we are finally turning the corner on decades of unhealthy living. High-calorie diets full of fatty, processed foods are giving way to organic, wholesome foods. Years and years of less than healthy dietary decisions have left us with a healthcare crisis that sees over one-third of Americans dealing with obesity and related issues such as diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, and strokes which is costing us billions a year in health care costs and lost work profits. If you are one of those who sees this growing crisis and wants to be part of the solution, then naturopathic medicine may be the best field choice for you.
If you are just setting out to learn more about becoming a naturopathic doctor (ND), there are a few terms you need to become familiar with. The first of these is “therapeutic order.” This term is a naturopathic philosophy usually visualized as being like a pyramid. The framework is intended to work in the best interests of the patient, going through stages from least invasive to most invasive treatments.
Another aspect prospective students should be familiar with are the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine. If you have any doubts about whether naturopathic medicine is the right path for you, consider how much you believe these six principles and whether they guide you in your personal beliefs.
1. First, do no harm. A naturopathic doctor uses the most natural therapies at his or her disposal and avoids more invasive and topic treatments when not medically indicated.
2. The healing power of nature. A naturopathic doctor works as a partner with the patient to restore the body’s inherent wisdom to heal.
3. Identify and treat the causes. A naturopathic doctor looks beyond the symptoms to the underlying cause.
4. Doctor as teacher. A naturopathic doctor educates patients to achieve and maintain health on their own.
5. Treat the whole person. A naturopathic doctor views the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and psychospiritual dimensions.
6. Prevention. A naturopathic doctor focuses on overall health, wellness, and disease prevention.
Many prospective students are familiar with what goes into a traditional medical education but are ultimately unaware of how that translates into naturopathic medicine. In reality, there are many similarities including:
• Specialties—Just as a medical doctor may specialize in dermatology or pediatrics, a naturopathic doctor can specialize in a variety of areas including pediatrics, oncology, gastroenterology and more.
• Methodology—Most medical appointments, both traditional and naturopathic, begin with an examination, assessment, and diagnosis. What separates naturopathic medicine is that this is usually a much deeper experience, often lasting for upwards of one hour. This allows the ND to get a fuller picture of the patient’s problems and lifestyle, helping with larger scale treatments. It is also what draws many students to the field since they don’t want to see patient after patient with no time to connect with them.
• Patients—The biggest area of similarity is with the lasting impact that you can have on the lives of your patients. There are numerous success stories from patients who have been successfully treated by NDs. It is these success stories that most people point to as proof of why they went into the profession.
Students are looking at the current movement in healthcare as a chance to get in on the ground floor of a major change in an entrenched system. By putting a new spin on older, traditional forms of medicine, these students and doctors have a chance to revolutionize the system in the 21st century.
If you would like more information on how to become a licensed naturopathic medical doctor in North America, please visit AANMC.org!