One of the most common questions the AANMC receives from future ND 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 career in naturopathic medicine.
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 internships and 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 a number of officially recognized specialty associations in the following areas of medicine, including oncology, environmental medicine, and pediatrics. Please see below for the complete list.
All specialty associations are open to licensed naturopathic doctors and ND students. Anyone who meets these criteria, shares an interest in that field, and wants to learn more is eligible to join. For instance, in order to become a member of 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 its members, from educational resources, to mentorship and networking opportunities.
“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.”
“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.”
Founding President, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians
“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.”
In addition to creating an educational and professional community for a particular area of naturopathic medicine, some specialty associations also offer board certification. Currently, the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the Naturopathic Medicine Institute, the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians are the only groups to offer board certification exams. Several other groups are actively working toward the creation of specialty board certification examinations and professional specialty competencies.
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.
Current Specialty Associations affiliated with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Academy for Parenteral Therapies
*Use of the term specialist may vary based on regulatory jurisdiction.