Please list your name and your hometown.
Monicka Fosnocht, Phoenixville, PA
What year are you in ND school?
I am a 5th year, dual ND/MACP (Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology) student at Bastyr University, California (BUC).
Why do you want to be a naturopathic doctor?
When I saw the principles of naturopathic medicine, I knew instantly that this was the profession I was looking for. I knew I wanted to be a doctor of some sort, but could not decide how I was going to combine my love for holistic psychology with medicine. I then discovered the therapeutic order and modalities that NDs are taught and thought, oh my gosh, this is it. I have always wanted to do the most that I could with the gifts I have, and naturopathic medicine felt like the best way to arm myself with a wide range of thoughtful and powerful tools to best promote wellness and healing. I can truly say that when I graduate in June and see patients and clients, that I have options for them, and that I can provide truly individualized, person-centered care. Those who feel called to this profession are drawn to it for a reason. Six years ago, when I first discovered naturopathic medicine, it just felt right, and I’m so excited to get out there and start spreading its wisdom. The Vis (Vital Force) is strong with this one.
I have always loved to be busy and have always found myself involved in a little bit of everything from a young age: sports, the arts, leadership positions, you name it. So needless to say, I had the extracurricular portion down. What I struggled with was finding my motivation for medicine in college, when the abstract nature of organic chemistry and physics did not “spark joy”. Because of this, I took a year after college to explore my passions further while building my resume. I got a biomedical engineering graduate certificate, worked in a neuro-engineering lab, and volunteered at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in their pediatric clinics. I felt this gap-year to explore and be open to new experiences allowed me to stumble upon naturopathic medicine, while also providing me with both clinical and research experience to boost my candidacy application. I also utilized this time to interview as many NDs as I could in Pennsylvania, California, and Virginia to solidify my interest and learn about what it was like to practice in licensed and prelicensed states.
Which school to attend was never really a question for me, because to be honest, I fell in love with Bastyr through its website.
Not only did I like the reputation, I was also inspired by looking at the alumni stories, and how Bastyr NDs have found success working in academic, integrative clinical, and hospital settings across the US. It was exciting to see others doing something that already aligned with how I would like to practice healthcare, and doing it well.
As someone who grew up on the East Coast, attending medical school in California was a big draw. I saw it as a fun new adventure to the West Coast to become a doctor! I was sold. I knew that the California campus had only been open for a few years and was small, but I didn’t mind that at all, it was actually a pro for me. Coming from a huge university like Penn State, I was excited for my teachers and peers to know my name and to add a sense of community and accountability that I haven’t felt in a while.
Wow, so much. Not only have I met incredibly kind and intelligent human beings and got to enjoy all of the perks of what it’s like to be a resident of Southern California, but the opportunities I have had while being a naturopathic medical school student at Bastyr University have been amazing.
Reflecting on the last five years, a few stand-outs are planning and being in BUC’s talent-no-talent show, sitting on the committee that chose the Associate Vice-president of the California campus, traveling to Kenmore to sit on the Board of Trustees as the student representative, working with Deb Hubers, my colleagues Tara Nolan and Hannah Lollar, and EpigeneticsRx on the San Diego County Neighborhood Reinvestment Program Veteran Genomic Study, presenting a poster at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) on biofeedback research with our stress-reduction and resiliency clinic shift, and so many opportunities for additional training like applied kinesiology and microcurrent neurofeedback that I had no idea I would be learning.
I’ve also really appreciated the blending of conventional and naturopathic medical education all from the orientation of holistic medicine. Now that I am at the end of my schooling and applying for residencies and job opportunities, I didn’t expect to feel so excited/nervous about all of the different opportunities — the hard part is choosing the next step!
The top two would definitely be 1) the people and 2) adding the dual counseling program. Bastyr has a way of drawing wildly intelligent people, wrapped up in these quirky little boxes of unique life experience and individuality. As someone who loves psychology and sociology, what a beautiful thing it is to see a philosophy of healthcare draw so many people from all walks of life to come together to practice something we all strongly believe in. I have learned so much from my peers and am continually inspired by their goals of incorporating naturopathic medicine into their unique dreams and futures.
I also have to give a shout out to the faculty, staff, and professors at Bastyr. They work their butts off to keep this medicine alive, and they deserve the world.
Adding the second holistic psychology program was a huge game-changer for me, because it reignited my passion, reminded me why I got into medicine in the first place, and provided a much needed “breath of fresh air” to my long days of clinical and biomedical science classes. I was part of the first MACP class to graduate from BUC (I still think of them fondly as my MACP family), and Dr. Sylvie Shuttleworth has done an amazing job at creating a program for aspiring clinical counselors and therapists that want to operate within the integrative and holistic framework that Bastyr boasts.
What advice do you have to offer future students?
If you feel called to naturopathic medicine, listen. It is true that the journey isn’t the easiest, both in academic rigor, and finding a way to fit into the current culture of conventional medicine and healthcare. But what we do is important and is so desperately needed in the world right now. We have this one, wild and precious life to live right now, and if you believe naturopathic medicine may be how you would like to give back during your time here, that is not a mistake.
I am also a big-picture person, so what has been helpful for me to get through the past 5 years has been to cling tightly to my motivation (my “why”), make sure not to ignore the other parts of myself (a wife, daughter, friend), and to nourish all of my hobbies (singing, playing guitar, dance, being physically active, etc.). We are multidimensional human beings who need balance in order to sustain and be resilient. What that balance looks like during medical school is different for everybody, but it’s an explorative journey that we’re all on together.
Lastly, individualized, holistic medicine is so much more authentic when we are being our true selves. I’m a weirdo (in the best way, in my opinion), and I think it’s important that we don’t shy away from showing up as our authentic selves in order to give our future patients permission to do the same. Even when we are unsure as students and clinicians, practicing unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and compassion go a long way. This energy is healing, and it cannot be discounted.
I was stuck, studying for the MCAT, feeling discouraged by my college advisors who told me that “no one cared about my passion or drive” if I do not get straight A’s. I was sitting in my living room when my wife calls over from the kitchen, ‘’have you ever heard of naturopathic medicine?” Of course at that time I hadn’t. She followed that it sounded cool and like something that I would be interested in… It was then that I went on the Google deep dive: anything that anyone had to say about naturopathic medicine that I could find, I was looking through. Long story short, she was right.
What steps did you take to ensure naturopathic medicine was the right fit for you? Did you attend AANMC, watch a webinar, visit schools, or shadow an ND?
I may be a strange case, but I have to say, it was so automatic when I felt called to naturopathic medicine. It’s like when you read a book or listen to a professor and think, “my gosh, they are speaking my language.” I did interview quite a few NDs, talk with Bastyr’s advisor, did a lot of online research, but when I applied to ND school, I had not been exposed to naturopathic medicine. My first experience as a patient was during my interview day, when I met with Dr. Dejarra Sims – She was vibrant and knowledgeable, and further excited me to be able to practice like her. Connecting with the people who were practicing and chose this profession was so much more important to me, that it didn’t matter what the campus looked like (although BUC’s clinic, kitchen, and botanical medicine labs are beautiful).
How do you maintain school/life balance? Please note other activities you may be involved with on campus or in the community.
I learned a lot about myself during my time in both the ND and MACP program. I knew I was going into the full-time job of being a medical student, and of course that meant that there would be certain areas of my life that would need to look different. It was important to me that I would not compromise.
I shared a lot! I love giving back to the communities I’m a part of, so I’ve been very involved at Bastyr. I think what this article may be missing is a shoutout to my wife, Courtney who is absolutely amazing. She is currently pursuing her RD to practice as a registered dietitian, and she has been my rock during these past 5 years. Not only does she keep me well-fed so I can work hard, she has been such a supportive teammate in my life and has never failed to love me and build me up when I’m down, and cheer me on when I’m crushing it.