We live in an age of global cooperation, with humanitarian efforts that are not only growing in popularity but also growing in need. The disparity between developing nations and their neighbors increases each day, complicated by warfare, disease, natural disasters, and poverty. Just as the medical field is expanding and taking on a more international flavor, so too is the naturopathic medical field. Programs such as the Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders have helped to bring medical treatment to impoverished, low-resource communities across the globe.
Travel the Globe Bringing Naturopathic Medicine to Those in Need
Many don’t realize that there are a number of philanthropic organizations providing naturopathic treatments to these same communities. Naturopaths Without Borders (NWB) has been delivering naturopathic medicine to those who previously had little to no access to healthcare. In addition, the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) supports the growth and dissemination of information on international naturopathic medicine, while also working closely with such agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, and UNESCO to help promote the profession around the world. These organizations, among others, are helping to bring global service and cooperation into the spectrum of naturopathic medicine. Natural Doctors International (NDI), and Homeopaths Without Borders are two other non-profit organizations with close ties to the naturopathic community.
Why Practice Globally?
In the past few years, we have seen change in the popular mindset of looking at ourselves locally, shifting to a more global perspective. Many people have stopped asking what impact they can have in their respective backyards and instead have started to look at who truly needs help. They are challenging themselves to make a more profound and lasting impact on the world at large. This is especially true of Dr. Wendy Coram Vialet, who practices in the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas. When she graduated from her naturopathic program at Bastyr University, Dr. Coram Vialet returned to her native home to help introduce naturopathic medicine to a community that needed it and was vastly underrepresented in terms of access to such services.
In recognition of her efforts, she received the Territorial Endowment Award, a program that helps promote individuals who can make a difference in their own communities by encouraging them to return home to practice. She was inspired, in large part, by Virgin Islands Judge Emeritus Verne A. Hodge, who urges those who become successful overseas to return to their home to give back to the community that gave them their first start.
Another naturopathic success story, Dr. Ysu Umbalo was driven by the need to “[understand] the patient and [meet] them where they are.” Many of those in developing nations do not have the ability to access any form of medical treatment, but especially not naturopathic medicine. So by getting out in these communities, doctors and other professionals see this as a chance to give back while at the same time practicing their skills in the field that they love.
Benefits of a Global Practice
There are so many benefits to beginning a global practice that it is almost difficult to know where to start. First and foremost, is the flexibility that is afforded a naturopathic doctor practicing abroad. Many are able to set their own schedules and “office” hours. In addition, some cultures are more accepting of naturopathic medicine by not having the stereotypes that come with Western healthcare. As Dr. Umbalo says, “I embrace the principles of nature and move with them. I have been running my clinic on those principles for the past 12 years and it’s fulfilling to me.”
Naturopathic doctors have a vast toolkit of therapies and are able to adapt their practice to work specifically with what they have available to them and with respect to the unique needs of their patients. Since many developing countries have long histories of traditional medicine, naturopathic treatments often fit right in. For instance, Dr. Vialet has been able to blend local herbs found in the Virgin Islands with Western herbal medicines that result in not only healing properties but also a “sense of familiarity in the prescribing process.” By recommending something patients are already culturally comfortable with, they are able to break down international boundaries and make connections with the community.
Making a Global Impact
Organizations such as NWB, NDI and WNF have been working to make an impact on the global community. They are not only supporting the growth of naturopathic medicine, but are also encouraging the regulation and recognition of such practices along with increasing the paths to accreditation in the education process and regulation of the practice of naturopathic medicine. These organizations are dedicated to spreading the good that naturopathic medicine can provide while also encouraging new developments in practice. By working together with the local communities, they are able to educate both their patients and the areas they serve, and also grow the base of knowledge available to naturopathic professionals. As Dr. Umbalo says, the doctor ultimately “teaches the patients to listen to their bodies and [to know] when to seek medical attention.”
National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) has been building awareness about natural medicine through engaging their local communities. Whether on- or off-campus, faculty experts and students are participating in a wide variety of outreach opportunities.
In addition to educating more individuals about natural medicine and helping to increase awareness of naturopathic medicine, each one of these events helps expose students to various specialties that may interest them in their future careers in integrative medicine.
NUHS Nutrition Conference to feature latest in food movements
From March 24-25 NUHS will host the first conference of its kind focused on the latest research and trends in nutrition at its Lombard campus and via webinar. Aimed at health care practitioners, students and the public, attendees will learn about various food movements and how to implement these food diets or strategies to optimize health.
The conference program will feature Dr. Tom O’Bryan (NUHS ’80), a world-renowned expert in the field of gluten-related disorders, along with nine other experts with backgrounds in functional medicine, chiropractic medicine, allopathic medicine, psychotherapy and nutritional biochemistry.
Those interested can attend the conference in-person or via webinar. Register and learn more about the conference speakers and schedule.
Dr. Smith shares heart health tips for American Heart Health Month
Fraser Smith, MATD, ND, assistant dean of the NUHS naturopathic medicine program, marked American Heart Health month in February by sharing a list of naturopathic medicine tips for maintaining optimal heart health on NUHS’ the Future of Integrative Health Blog.
On Feb. 15, Dr. Smith and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medicine Colleges (AANMC) also hosted a free webinar on heart health. During the webinar, Dr. Smith discussed the various environmental factors that impact metabolism and increase the likelihood of developing heart disease and/or becoming obese.
Year round, naturopathic interns at the on-campus Whole Health Center clinic work with Cleveland HeartLab, Inc. to assess a patient’s risk for heart disease or heart attack by offering inflammatory and other innovative and scientifically proven biomarker tests. According to Dr. Smith, ND students are already preparing for a clinical trial of these assessments for later this year.
NUHS to host second-annual Healthy Kids event
After the success of the inaugural Healthy Kids event last year, NUHS is planning the next Healthy Kids event in May.
The event welcomes local families on campus to learn about natural approaches to keeping children in optimal health. Similar to last year, NUHS naturopathic, chiropractic, and oriental medicine faculty experts and interns will host activities, classes, and demonstrations for both children and adults to enjoy.
For updates on event details visit the NUHS website.
NUHS students gain new insights at integrative medicine conference
While volunteering at the Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (IM4US) conference, NUHS students learned additional approaches to working with underserved populations. Over 300 acupuncturists, East Asian medicine practitioners, naturopathic doctors, nutritionists, physicians, nurses, etc., attended the three-day event in August at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“Opportunities abound as more allopathic practitioners of various disciplines are becoming open to integrative approaches,” said Anita Hollins, a volunteer and student in the NUHS Master of Science in Oriental Medicine program. “I spoke to several family practice physicians that either have certifications or have partnered with AOM, DC, and ND practitioners.”
In addition to providing volunteers, NUHS sponsored the research portion of the conference that included 18 poster presentations and three breakout sessions. NUHS also helped fund IM4US’s first annual research prizes for “Outstanding Young Investigator” and “Outstanding Research Innovation.”
Explore a Career in Integrative Medicine at NUHS on March 10
If you’re considering a career in integrative medicine, come visit NUHS’s Lombard campus during Campus Visit Day on March 10th.
Offered only twice a year, the event allows prospective students to explore graduate programs in chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and East Asian medicine as well as the undergraduate program in biomedical science.
Throughout the day, participants will also have the opportunity to interact with faculty, students, and graduates of NUHS. Prospective students will experience NUHS student life through interactive activities and real-life scenarios.
To guarantee your spot for Campus Visit Day on March 10th, you can register online, or call 1-800-826-6285. You will receive a confirmation packet with directions and a schedule of the day’s events. If you have any questions or would like more information, contact the Office of Admissions at 1-800-826-6285 or email email@example.com.
“I knew that I was looking for a career in the healthcare field and believed that doing things in the most natural way possible lead to the best health. Naturopathic Medicine combined these two elements, so it felt right for me.”
For Dr. Rachel Klein, being a great doctor is a part of a family tradition. Her father, who attended National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), inspired her to seek out the same educational opportunities. Growing up in Hawaii, she loved the area and planned to return home after graduation. “I knew that my time in Illinois was limited,” she says. So she sought to get as much education as she could, both in school and during weekend seminars. In addition, she took night classes at NUHS to get her certificate in massage therapy and worked weekends as a massage therapist to get extra experience with patient contact. It was the latter experience that gave her the opportunity to practice not only her palpation skills, but also her patient interaction. To help pass on this information, she tutored students to not only assist them but also to “solidify the information I was learning in the various classes.”
Laying the groundwork to become an ND
Dr. Klein began her path to become an ND by attending NUHS where she was studying for her Doctor of Chiropractic degree. “I…had joint classes with students who were in the Naturopathic Medical program. It was through getting to know these students and some of the overlapping subject matter that I first learned about naturopathic medicine.” After some time, Dr. Klein came to the realization that if she truly wanted to serve her patients more comprehensively, then she needed to have more tools at her disposal, including advanced knowledge of naturopathic medicine. This led her to pursue the Doctor of Naturopathic medicine degree so she could “become the best doctor that I could be.”
NUHS as a springboard
Dr. Klein came to NUHS with a bit of family history. Her father was a graduate of the program, so this obviously influenced her to want to become the second generation to earn her degree from the school so that she could “be as good of a doctor as he is.” She was also drawn to the school because of its programs. “I was really impressed by the facilities for and strength of the basic sciences division of the school. I knew that it was important to begin by learning the sciences well in order to be a good clinician in the end.” After she received her chiropractic degree, Dr. Klein decided to stay at NUHS because of her respect for the knowledgeable faculty, adding that “I knew that I would be in good hands there.”
When it comes to explaining what she received from her time at NUHS, the answer is quite complex. “I gained, of course, the skills and knowledge that help [me to] be a good doctor for my patients.” But she adds, “I got so much more out of my experience…I gained confidence, friends, [and] a network of colleagues.” What is more, she says that, “I gained the sense that I can do anything I put my mind to, difficult though it may seem at first.”
“Living the dream” after graduation
After she graduated from NUHS for the last time, she took the second part of the NPLEX and then treated herself to a long vacation. “I went to Brazil for a month to unwind from the many years I’d just spent in school.” She adds, “I think this relaxation was really important for me to be able to begin my practice life feeling fresh and ready to work hard.”
Today she lives in her hometown in Hawaii and practices five days a week on a schedule that she gets to set for herself. What she really enjoys is that, while she spends a few hours everyday doing paperwork and business management, she gets to spend the rest of her work hours seeing patients. “I practice with two other graduates from NUHS, which is wonderful because we can each take time off when needed and know that our patients will be well cared for while we are away.”
Finding fulfillment as an ND
One area Dr. Klein is most passionate about is working with patients and their neurological conditions. As part of this, she is also interested in regenerative injection therapy as a way of helping her patients. But ultimately, “any time you can make an impact on a patient’s life, especially when using simple interventions, it makes a big difference. Seeing the difference I can make in my patients’ lives is the most rewarding thing about this profession.”
She also finds fulfillment as an ND enjoying the flexibility her schedule brings. She attributes this to the fact that she does a lot of business management. “Not everyone would enjoy running a business, but because I do, I am allowed a great deal of flexibility in managing my own time. This is great for me because it allows me rest when I need it and enjoyment of my hobbies outside of my work life.”
Advice for aspiring NDs
Dr. Klein has straightforward advice for those hoping to enter the field as NDs: “Be prepared to face doubt,” she says. “Some people will never accept or respect the type of work that we do.” But she goes on to add that this negativity “doesn’t matter; the patient’s that we help do.” She also reminds aspiring NDs they should “understand that it is a difficult path to choose, but a very rewarding one. If you are looking for fame or fortune, this might not be the path for you. But if you are looking to help people and lead a balanced life, then this might be just what you are looking for.”
Guest post by Fraser Smith, MATD, ND
It’s easier to prevent an illness than treat it, and when it comes to heart health, keeping the body in an optimally healthy state is a good insurance policy against premature aging of the heart and arteries. One beneficial practice that many people enjoy is hydrotherapy. This includes the use of alternating hot and cold moist applications, steam treatments, baths, and saunas. Water, and, the purposeful use of heat or cold are key in these treatments. This type of therapy can modulate the flow of blood, the circulation in the body, which stimulates nourishment to the body’s tissues, the clearance of waste from those tissues, and have overall relaxing effects.
Study shows sauna treatments lower blood pressure
Recently, the Chicago Tribune featured a very insightful article that summarized recent research published in the scientific literature. The study involved having middle aged adults take a sauna treatment and afterwards, measured their blood pressure, heart rate, and how flexible or elastic their blood vessels were. It turns out, that after the hydrotherapy treatment their heart rate went up, even though they had not been running or cycling. Moreover, their blood pressure dropped and their blood vessels became more elastic. This is an excellent state for the circulatory system to be in. What is surprising is that higher heart rate tends to drive blood pressure up (the faster “the pump” works, the more the pressure in our bloodstream gets cranked up). In this case, the whole circulatory system wound down -in a good way.
The study was done in Finland, where sauna treatments are very popular. Many countries around the world use heat therapy and hydrotherapy, including Sweden, Russia, India and many more. In naturopathic medicine, we make extensive use of hydrotherapy. It can be used, and tailored for specific complaints or for general health. Many of these patients have medical conditions that definitely requires some degree of medication. But not all healing comes in the shape of a pill. It can be surprising to some, that an agent as simple, easy to manage and inexpensive as water, along with heat and/or cold, can be a powerful influence on health. In naturopathic medicine, we believe that these are just the things that people need. When patients can use the best of all that medicine has to offer, good things can result.
Fraser Smith, MATD, ND is the chief academic officer for the ND program serving as Assistant Dean of Naturopathic Medicine at the National University of Health Sciences’
(NUHS) College of Professionals Studies. He is a Professor and author of the textbook, Introduction to Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Medicine
. Dr. Smith is also the author of three additional books for the public, Keep Your Brain Young
; The pH Balance Health & Diet Guide for GERD, IBS and IBD
; and The Complete Brain Exercise Book
. He is an editorial board member of the Natural Medicine Journal
, and teaches Botanical Medicine, Pharmacology and Naturopathic History, Philosophy and Principles at NUHS. Dr. Smith is licensed to practice as a naturopathic physician in Vermont. He is past president (2008 – 2013) of the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Guest Post by Valerie A. Kremer, CNHP
Having a career as a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) is exciting and rewarding. However, choosing what type of educational program to enroll in is often a confusing decision for many potential students, who come across numerous different types of naturopathic doctor and naturopathy programs advertised. How do you choose the right one for you? Some schools offer online or correspondence programs, while others are accredited four year, in-residence medical schools. With all of the programs out there, it’s important to know that not all naturopathic doctor programs are created equal, and that graduates of these programs leave with varied degree/certificate titles and professional training, which can create confusion for patients. This is especially true when it comes to knowing the difference between a traditional naturopath and a licensed naturopathic doctor/physician (ND) in North America.
What is the difference between a traditional naturopath and a licensed naturopathic doctor?
While both traditional naturopaths and licensed NDs aim to help the body heal through natural substances such as food, herbs, and water, their education is very different, and their scope of practice and regulatory status vary from state to state and province to province—and in some states and provinces there are not yet any regulations pertaining any types of naturopathic practice. The titles “traditional naturopath” and “naturopathic doctor” (or “naturopathic physician”) are not interchangeable. A licensed ND is a primary care physician who is trained to diagnose and prescribe, while a traditional naturopath is not able to do either. In some states where naturopathic medicine is not yet a regulated medical profession, a traditional naturopath may on his/her own, choose to use the title, “naturopathic doctor,” which is likely to be confusing to patients looking for a licensed ND.
What is the education of a licensed naturopathic doctor?
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a naturopathic medical student in the United States or Canada attends a four-year, professional, in-residence doctoral program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is recognized as an accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education, and it is the only accrediting body for naturopathic medical programs in the U.S. and Canada that qualify graduates for licensure. Students from accredited naturopathic medical schools complete a more than 4,100 contact hours of instruction, including at least 1,200 hours of supervised, hands-on clinical training. The schools’ evidence-informed curricula consists of biomedical sciences—including anatomy (with cadaver lab), physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, and embryology)—similar to conventional medical school, as well as clinical medicine, homeopathy, botanical medicine, lifestyle management, nutrition, pharmacology, radiology, physical medicine. Additionally, the curriculum includes specialized classes in such areas as pediatrics, fibromyalgia, oncology, and sports medicine. Some schools also offer the option of studying Asian medicine and acupuncture, which enables graduates to become a licensed acupuncturist in addition to a licensed ND.
In order to become licensed, naturopathic medical graduates must also pass the two-part national board exam, Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX), which consists of biomedical science and clinical medicine portions. Some licensed ND students go on to complete post-doctoral residencies in health care facilities across North America.
Currently there are eight accredited naturopathic medical programs in Canada and the U.S., and NDs are regulated in 20 states and 5 provinces, as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In some of these states and provinces, licensed NDs are able to prescribe pharmaceuticals, administer vaccinations, and perform minor surgery, as well as order labs, diagnostic imaging, and food sensitivity tests. NDs also work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, integrative oncology care, private practice, medical schools, and government organizations.
What is taught at a traditional naturopathic school?
Online and correspondence naturopathic doctor degree or certificate programs teach a variety of classes that help students understand the healing power of nature and the innate ability of the body to heal itself. The classes may consist of botanical medicine, homeopathy, orthomolecular nutrition, introductory anatomy, reflexology, and iridology, among others. Program length can vary from a few months to a few years to complete. There is no standard curriculum for traditional naturopathic programs and they are not accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education.
Since classes are mostly offered online in traditional naturopathic programs, these programs lack standardized, on-site, clinical training in treating patients under the supervision of experienced licensed NDs. Also, faculty in traditional naturopath programs are not required to be licensed NDs, which is in contrast to CNME-accredited four-year naturopathic medical programs where naturopathic faculty must have an ND degree and other faculty must have terminal degrees in their professional fields (e.g., PhD). Some traditional naturopath programs are entirely online, and students in these programs may never interact with faculty in person.
In addition, traditional naturopaths are not eligible to write the NPLEX national board exam or obtain licensing. For that reason, many traditional naturopaths choose to practice in unregulated states and provinces, and use their knowledge primarily to help family and friends, or for their own personal health use. Some individuals trained as traditional naturopaths subsequently choose to attend a four-year, CNME-accredited naturopathic medical program in order to become licensed.
Which program should I attend?
- Determine your end-goal. First, it’s important to determine what you want to do with your education. If you want to be trained as a primary care physician and act as a partner in health with your patients, then becoming a licensed ND may be the career for you. However, if you want to learn more about botanical medicine, nutrition, or homeopathy, and use that education to help yourself or family, there are many other programs that may fulfill that desire.
- Do your research. Find out what the degree you are looking at will allow you to do. Each state and province is different in terms of scope of practice and regulation of both naturopathic doctors and traditional naturopaths. Also, the term “accredited” can be confusing because many online or correspondence naturopathic programs are “accredited” by organizations that—unlike the CNME which accredits 4-year, doctoral level ND programs—are not recognized by the U. S. Department of Education. These other types of programs will not make you eligible to obtain licensure or write NPLEX. So carefully research your options before deciding.
- Fall in love with the curriculum. Whatever program you decided to attend, make sure you fall in love with the curriculum, and that it will enable you to reach your desired end-goal.
For more information about CNME-accredited ND programs and becoming a licensed ND, go to AANMC.org.
Valerie A. Kremer, CNHP, is a second year naturopathic medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto, ON, Canada. She is also a traditional naturopathic doctor graduate from Trinity School of Natural Health. Prior to her path in naturopathic medicine, Valerie was a public affairs specialist and director for community outreach for U.S. Navy Medicine. Valerie received her B.A. in public communication and international relations from American University, Washington, D.C.
One of the most common questions the AANMC receives from prospective students is about specialization and specialties* within the field of naturopathic medicine. This topic is highly nuanced, and ultimately, the choice of whether or not to be a generalist or choose an area of focus comes down to each individual doctor, and what he or she is seeking from their naturopathic career.
Naturopathic medical education is extremely comprehensive and trains graduates for primary care delivery. New doctors may choose to develop an interest in a specific area of medicine, or maintain a broad practice, seeing a variety of patients and conditions.
For those NDs who graduate with a passion for a particular area of focus, there are many options to pursue that interest. Some naturopathic doctors seek out residencies in a specific field. Others begin practicing as generalists and naturally gravitate toward continuing education and patients with similar health journeys. The naturopathic profession offers career path flexibility that can grow and mature with a doctor’s clinical skill and professional trajectory.
Within the naturopathic medicine community, there are several officially recognized specialty associations focused on specific areas of medicine, including oncology, environmental medicine, and pediatrics.
All specialty associations are open to licensed naturopathic doctors and ND students. Anyone who meets these criteria, shares an interest in the specific field, and wants to learn more about an area of interest is eligible to join. For instance, in order to join the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, you don’t have to be a doctor who exclusively sees cancer patients.
Each of these associations provides a host of benefits to members, from educational resources to mentorship and networking opportunities.
Dr. Joshua Goldenberg, President of the Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, explains why being a member is valuable to doctors and students. “Membership in our organization allows for considerable benefits including free CEU courses/webinars, ‘find-a-doc’ online resources, a sense of community, and an exclusive member forum.”
Dr. Dan Rubin, founding President of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (2004-2009), says that his organization plays an important role for members. “OncANP is of extreme value in terms of community, continuing education, like-mindedness, sharing of clinical pearls, sharing of legal advice, sharing of treatments, new diagnostics, helping each other grow within their local communities, setting the stage for other specialty organizations, protection of the public, shared legitimacy in practice, and legal protection.”
Dr. Leslie Solomonian, the newly appointed President of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, says that her organization also focuses on helping students learn more about their career options. “We are reaching out to the students in AANMC schools to engage them in building their interest and confidence in pediatric care with an eye to increasing the service naturopathic doctors can offer to families and children. Pediatric care is the epitome of the naturopathic principle of prevention—by providing education, promoting health, and establishing a strong physiological and behavioral foundation in childhood, the population as a whole is healthier.”
In addition to creating an educational and professional community for a particular area of naturopathic medicine, some specialty associations also offer formal specializations. This means they provide a path to become board-certified in a specific field.
Currently, the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians are the only two groups that have board certification exams. Several other groups are actively working toward the creation of specialty board certification examinations.
Choosing Your Path
Many students wonder how to proceed given the varied nature of specialties. Those who already have a strong desire to practice a specific type of naturopathic medicine should get involved in a specialty association as a student. Student rates are typically very affordable, and include all of the same benefits as full ND membership. If you aren’t gravitating toward a specific field, you can still join multiple associations to learn more about conditions and treatment advances. Membership can also be valuable to help guide career choices and post-graduation employment opportunities.
As a practicing ND, joining a specialty association is a way to find community and learn more about clinical best practices and recent developments in evidence and research for that area of focus. There is a path to becoming a specialist, which involves taking a board certification exam and meeting the association’s criteria—such as completing a residency and practicing for a certain number of years. This is available with the Oncology and Pediatric Associations.
Current Specialty Associations
There are 10 specialty associations that are affiliated with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and this list is growing. Here are the current professional affiliates:
Academy for Parenteral Therapies (APT)
American Association of Naturopathic Midwives (AANM)
Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (EndoANP)
Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (GastroANP)
Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP)
Institute of Naturopathic Generative Medicine (INGM)
Naturopathic Association of Environmental Medicine (NAEM)
Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP)
Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PedANP)
*Use of the term specialist may vary based on regulatory jurisdiction.