One of the things I value most about naturopathic medicine is our ability to embrace diversity in practice. This diversity allows us the freedom to tailor the care that is best for our patients, and provides us the canvas to honor our own unique talents as healers. Core to naturopathic education is an understanding of the biological and physical sciences that form the foundation in which we explore all the possibilities of healing available to our patients. The learning this entails is rooted in a rigorous course of study and continues for a lifetime.
Education is not meant to be static.
As academics and scientists, by nature we should embrace change, dare I say, even look for it. In 2015 AANMC published the Professional Competencies of the Graduating Naturopathic Doctor. For those unfamiliar with this document, they were the culmination of over two years of work from all seven accredited programs. They were intended to describe the core competencies of a graduate from an accredited naturopathic doctoral program in order to align curriculum, define expectations of graduates and inform stakeholders regarding the education of physicians who practice naturopathic medicine. The expectation is that this document will serve to guide current and future programs of naturopathic medical education as a framework broad enough to allow academic freedom for innovation at the member colleges, but similar enough that there are clear expectations for graduate knowledge from any of the AANMC member schools.
As is the practice in higher education, ND programs often undergo curriculum revisions so that we can stay ahead of change, lead change, and best prepare our graduates for an evolving workforce. For example, in response to the 2015 AANMC Alumni Survey, AANMC member schools saw an opportunity to increase business preparedness and all of the member schools are now working on implementation as a result of the survey data. I remember years ago, when all in the medical community were straining to keep up with a thing called ‘electronic medical records’ – that is now commonplace in most clinical settings and training scenarios.
In order to maintain accreditation with the CNME, all member schools undergo voluntary and regular review, to ensure they are meeting or exceeding standards for accreditation. We also need to assure, that while we do not teach to the test, our students are well prepared to pass licensing exams and excel as naturopathic doctors.
Our student body is diverse, and as I stated in the opening, that diversity, in my opinion is our strength. International medical graduates, students fresh out of college, career changers and our wonderful rainbow ND demographic from all walks of life and backgrounds, form the backbone of our profession and our profession’s future. In any profession with as many tools in our toolbox as we have, not all graduates will be drawn to practice every facet of what is taught in naturopathic medical school. As we honor individual healing paths for our patients, I am hopeful that will continue to be open to the individual practice paths of our practitioners.
What unites us as a profession are the naturopathic principles.
When crafting the competencies, we were mindful to ensure that regardless of the area we were discussing, our 6 principles informed and were core to every component of ND education. While at the International Congress of Naturopathic Medicine in Barcelona last year, I noticed the wide variety of naturopathic practice globally. Practice and education differed, what was central were those core foundational principles.
Naturopathic medical school is a wonderful and dynamic education that serves as a springboard for so many people to create the career of their dreams. Those careers are going to be as unique and nuanced as the people who choose to study to be a naturopathic doctor.
JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges