Matthew Renshaw Ruddell – NUNM ND Student

Matthew Renshaw Ruddell is a 4th year naturopathic medical student at the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, Oregon. He plans to complete an accredited naturopathic residency after graduation, and is interested in pediatrics, veteran care, nature cure, and traditional naturopathy. At NUNM, Matthew served in the Oregon Army National Guard as an infantryman in the 2/162 infantry battalion based in Springfield, Oregon. He is a veteran of the United States Army Infantry, and his long-term career aspirations include setting up a private practice and working with the local police force to develop a response team trained to handle mental health emergencies.
He shares his advice for veterans and students.

Why do you want to be a naturopathic doctor?

I want to be a provider who focuses on engaging patients in the cultivation of a healthy lifestyle which is individualized based on family history and identified risk factors so people can live, healthier, happier, longer lives. When I came upon the principles of naturopathic medicine, I knew naturopathic medicine was it for me. The principles speak for themselves, and, if followed well, they work wonders. 

How did you prepare to be a strong candidate for ND school?

I attended undergrad at Western Washington University where I received my B.S. in Biology and was a member of the honors program for my first three years. The rigor of my undergraduate education in all the major disciplines, especially the hard sciences, made me a strong candidate, but more importantly set me up for success throughout my time at NUNM. Equally important was my time studying in Chile in their study abroad program. I believe study abroad and exchange programs are very enriching and are a valuable, underutilized part of higher education. Lastly, my experience as an Infantryman in the United States Army, which I completed between finishing undergrad and starting medical school, helped me develop as an individual in ways my scholastic experience never could have, and this development made me a much stronger candidate and will make me a much better doctor.

What was important to you in selecting a school?

The most important factors in school selection for me were:

  1. Cost of attendance after VA benefits.
  2. School philosophy, culture, history and reputation (in this order.)
  3. Location.

Being a Yellow Ribbon school, NUNM had the best VA benefit package of any of the naturopathic schools I considered. 

Now that you are in school, what have you learned/experienced that you didn’t expect?

I never expected to have the last portion of my education at NUNM be predominantly virtual. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the educational scaffolding was shifted almost overnight, and much of the last year has been largely new experiences. Fortunately, I benefited from pre-COVID clinical experience as a primary intern and COVID experience as a primary intern which I would say is the best of both worlds since this does seem to be a new reality which is not going away anytime soon. 

The other unexpected experiences during my education were largely life events. Specifically, I became a parent while in school, which changed things dramatically. NUNM was exceptional in its support of me as a new parent. The long-established remote viewing rooms at the campus allowed me to participate in classes while simultaneously bringing my son to school with me daily and being his primary caregiver. If there was an in-person exercise,  I would simply leave the remote room and enter the larger lecture hall to engage in small group activities with my son strapped to me or, when he was older, roaming around the room. I found the NUNM campus and community to be very welcoming and safe for me as a new parent, and my son as an infant and toddler, and this was one of the most beautiful parts of my educational experience.

What is your favorite thing about school so far?

My favorite parts of school have been the clinical experiences. Being a people person, I will always prefer the in-person experience, but I have had some great telemedicine and video visit experiences as well. At NUNM we have a broad range of clinical faculty, and they offer many different approaches to patient care. I have most enjoyed working with the providers who resonate with my own values and approach to patient care but working with those who have different ideas and values is always good and stretching as a future provider.  

NUNM is unique in that it is also home to one of the only classical Chinese medicine schools in the country. I had the privilege of taking a number of the foundational courses in this program including multiple Qi Gong courses, which hugely enriched my experience and my development as a practitioner.

What advice do you have to offer future students?

Take a couple of years off after undergrad to do something different (not school). The life experience gained in 2-3 years of well-apportioned post-graduate time is invaluable during medical school and as you launch into a career as a doctor. 

The journey naturopathic doctors travel is definitely the path less traveled, and it is almost certainly the harder road. If you choose this path for the right reasons, and you are willing to swim upstream, you won’t regret it. Patients love naturopathic medicine and it so worth it to be truly helping people heal.

How do you maintain school/life balance? 

Maintaining balance between school and life was a moving target throughout my time at NUNM. For my first three years I was an infantryman in the Oregon Army National Guard which entailed approximately 48-72 hours of work one long weekend a month. During my third year, I also became a parent, which added another level of complexity. I think the school/work/life balance is best achieved when individuals use their values and beliefs to inform the allocation of their time and resources. For me, I decided early on in school that my family and I came before work/school. This often meant less time studying or preparing, which forced me to become more efficient and make critical decisions on what was most important. Being efficient in school boils down to a couple of key elements in my mind:

1) How you learn best

2) When you learn best

3) What is the holistic picture of your life and, given this picture, what is realistic?

In my case, I had always handwritten my notes in class throughout undergrad, and while many of my peers switched to typed notes, I stuck with what I knew worked for me, and it paid off while many of my peers struggled. Furthermore, handwriting my notes in class meant I had to cut down the information presented by at least 50% which helped me get very good at knowing what the most important information was. At the end of the day there will always be more to know than you can learn and more to learn than you can remember. If you go into it accepting you are human and have limitations, you end up retaining the smaller amount of information much better. I also knew I retained the information best if I re-wrote and simultaneously verbalized my notes at night right before bed. I used this strategy, which I had developed and used throughout my undergrad, my entire first year, and then modified it once I became a parent to simply re-reading my notes before bed because this was much more realistic as a new parent.


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