Please list your name and your hometown.
Taylor Minh Dang, New York, NY
What year are you in ND school?
I am a first-year student in the dual Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Classical Chinese Medicine (ND/MSOM) program at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR.
Why do you want to be a naturopathic doctor?
I chose to pursue naturopathic medicine because, through its foundational philosophy, I see a route to truly just and equitable healthcare. I stand by the notion that all healthcare issues arise from political structures that are inherently protective of some groups of people and provocative of others. Our United States healthcare system fails so much of our BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, immigrant and refugee, and low-income communities that radical change to systems of medicine has become urgently vital.
I believe that naturopathic medicine bridges the gap between healing and healthcare systems by applying a philosophy and method of practice that is holistic, biologically intuitive, and preventive in nature. I believe that naturopathic medicine creates possibilities for great healing by centering the needs of the patient and relying on centuries-old medical wisdom. I look forward to a career in healthcare justice and service through naturopathic medicine.
How did you prepare to be a strong candidate for ND school?
With an early start, I planned my academic and professional careers around the goal of learning about healthcare justice, nutrition and culinary education, and local-level political advocacy to best complement a career in medicine. I studied at New York University (NYU) where I received a B.S. in Nutrition & Food Studies with a concentration in Dietetics and a minor in American Sign Language on the Pre-Health track. My studies gave me a strong foundation in medical nutrition therapy and functional nutrition, the opportunity to practice more inclusive medicine for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, and the basics of pre-medical level math and science. While at NYU, I worked for several grassroots organizations in both public and private sectors as a community organizer, researcher, educator, and advocate across all New York City boroughs. I also volunteered, interned, and worked at multiple hospitals and healthcare centers throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan in their nutrition, dietetics, and various laboratory departments. In all my work, I prioritized the needs of my community and in doing so, I have had many opportunities for reflection and self-growth. My personal philosophy is that a life’s work is valued based on one’s service to others. To become a strong candidate, I focused not only on building a foundation in academia, but on developing my own character, philosophy, and commitment to service through medicine.
What was important to you in selecting a school?
One of the most important qualities I was seeking when selecting a school was academic excellence. Though I was incredibly challenged at NYU, I truly loved the rigorous nature of studying alongside such impressive professors and classmates. My academic community inspired me to work harder and dive deeper into my passions every day. After interviewing and touring several universities, I knew that NUNM would fulfill my search for the perfect balance of modern medicine, clinical research, and traditional roots. I was drawn to the dual program NUNM offers in naturopathic medicine and classical Chinese medicine on a six-year track and I was incredibly excited for the possibilities of studying at a university in the state with the broadest scope of naturopathic licensure. With an end goal of returning to NYC to offer naturopathic and classical Chinese medicine in a state where naturopathic medicine is not yet licensed, I prioritized finding the most comprehensive and dynamic education opportunity – one that would set me up for success.
Now that you are in school, what have you learned/experienced that you didn’t expect?
My most meaningful experience at NUNM thus far has been meeting and building relationships with my professors and members of NUNM staff. While at NYU, I only connected with a small handful of professors, so I did not expect anything otherwise at NUNM. Since beginning classes in September 2020, I have felt incredibly lucky to come across such kind hearts and brilliant minds. There are some individuals who care so deeply for each of their students and dedicate time and resources to ensure their students are happy, healthy, and successful. These individuals are masters in their fields, sharing their wisdom with such devotion and grace that NUNM is a very special place because of them. It feels like a true gift to attend a university where professors and staff members are so committed to their students.
What is your favorite thing about school so far?
There are many things to love about school. One of my favorites is studying classical Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine alongside my naturopathic medicine studies. There has been a seamless harmony between conventions of medicine, each complimenting the other while also highlighting vastly different philosophies, practices, and traditions. Professors from each program discuss components of the other medicines and curate an experience that is profoundly holistic. It feels like these conventions of medicine were meant to be studied together so it is a beautiful experience to do so at NUNM.
What advice do you have to offer future students?
Let your work be driven by injustice and guided by love.
It is important to think about how we want to leave this life. There is too much suffering to do nothing, but navigating a route to take action may be challenging. If I leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to find a social issue prevalent in your community that you are passionate about, then curate your development, skills, and experiences to aid that cause. Be genuine in your efforts to learn about the needs of your community and find out what work is already being done at a grassroots level. Use your strengths and privileges to seek service to others and work towards equity and justice.
How did you learn about naturopathic medicine?
Throughout my childhood, I was convinced that I would pursue a career in music. I played the trumpet in jazz bands for thirteen years and the cello in orchestra for ten. This might be my most embarrassing experience, but I was also the lead guitarist in a middle school Green Day cover band. My whole world was music. Ultimately, though, it was my connection to music that brought me to naturopathic medicine. I remember the day when I confessed to my cello instructor that I had doubts about pursuing music and she recommended I investigate homeopathic medicine, given my interests in nature, healing, and community. From there, I learned about the naturopathic principles and herbal medicine which had me hooked. This was the moment that set me on a path to naturopathic medicine.
What steps did you take to ensure naturopathic medicine was the right fit for you? Did you attend an AANMC virtual fair, watch a webinar, visit school(s), or shadow an ND?
My research of naturopathic medicine began in high school. After coming across the AANMC website, I learned about the philosophies of naturopathic medicine, read about NDs in the field, and researched the accredited ND schools. In 2014, I attended an open house at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine as a high school senior. Premature, yes, but I wanted to get a sense of the ND student experience and speak with an admissions counselor for guidance on building an undergraduate plan. After beginning undergrad, I attended the AANMC webinars from coffee shops and break rooms during my lunch breaks. Later, I met Dr. Ralph Esposito, ND, LAc, and fellow NYU alum, who became my mentor and advisor as I approached the later years of undergrad. Dr. Esposito helped me identify and honor the core of my call to medicine: service; and reminded me to never give up on pursuing my dreams of becoming a Naturopathic Physician.
How do you maintain school/life balance? Please note other activities you may be involved with on campus or in the community.
In addition to being an ND/MSOM student, I serve as the NUNM Student Government Association’s Equity and Inclusion Student Representative through which I liaise the student body, SGA, NUNM administration, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. In this role, I advocate for diverse students and community members through various forms of equity work including policy writing, committee advising, and resource coordinating. One of the most rewarding aspects of this role is organizing with my peers and working collaboratively with NUNM to initiate sustainable change.
Every day is trial and error. As a first-year student in a dual degree medicine program during the time of COVID-19, I am still learning how to find and maintain balance in my life. Right now, the best I can do is go with the flow and embark on new challenges one step at a time. I remind myself to take time to reflect, amend, and repeat.
Anything else you wish to share?
It is a great privilege to pursue the path of medicine. I am thankful for the people and organizations who have prepared me with the skills and knowledge to reach this point, who have encouraged me to keep working when it felt impossible, and who have taught me to stay humble, enjoy life, and incorporate love into everything I do.