What? No Lunch Time Tea Sessions!

“Contrary to popular belief, naturopathic medical school is still medical school. Many anticipate our curriculum to be filled with lunchtime tea sessions on the lawn and meditation circles but in reality, your life revolves around studying, attending lectures, and more studying,” states Sarah G. Ellis.  But Ms. Ellis is being a little modest, she also balanced being married and having a child during her 5 years of naturopathic medical school.  

Her Community Inspired Her

Ms. Ellis grew up off the coast of Charleston, SC, on a small island called James Island.  She became aware that her community was in need of more healthcare options.  “So many people are tired of just being offered pharmaceuticals and surgery.  They are yearning for more information about nutrition, herbs and overall holistic approaches to healthcare.”

Support and Hard Work are Keys to Success

Having a strong support system is key to being successful in life according to Ms. Ellis. “The rigor of school requires a lot of strength that you will have to pull from the depths of yourself and your support system. So having friends, family, and classmates that you can lean on, cry with, and celebrate with is crucial.”

Ms. Ellis invested a lot of time and energy into preparing herself for ND school. This meant that she spent nearly every weekend shadowing a local ND for almost two years.  “The ND I shadowed became my mentor and a dear friend. I have carried the lessons I learned from her with me every day.”

In addition to shadowing, Ms. Ellis read research articles on integrative medicine and spent a lot of time making sure that she performed well on her prerequisites. She watched YouTube videos about anatomy & physiology in an attempt to prepare herself for the material that would be covered during the first year. “But I have to warn you….there really isn’t much that will prepare you for the intensity of the first year.”  

Choosing the Right School for You

When asked how she decided to attend Bastyr University she stated that it was important that she chose a school that had a reputation for excellence and provided a strong research foundation. Research had been a huge part of her academic career and she didn’t want to stop doing research while she was in medical school.  She learned about Bastyr’s ND research program while attending the AANMC Virtual Fair and found it to be incredibly helpful.  She knew she wasn’t going to be able to visit all the schools so meeting representatives from each school virtually really helped her choose the right school for her.  

Being in the clinic as a student clinician has been Ms. Ellis’ favorite thing about ND school. “Finally getting the chance to apply what I’ve learned in class and in preceptorships has been wonderful. My favorite part of being a student clinician is seeing the improvement in our patients after working with us. We often have patients who come in to see us as a last resort, who have tried everything to feel better but it hasn’t worked. So, to see them walk into our clinic with a smile on their face as they share how much better they are feeling just makes my day.”

Balancing ND School and Family

When asked how she balanced school and family, Ms. Ellis stated, “My concept of school/life balance has evolved as I’ve progressed through the program. Since starting school I have given birth to my son and I am currently 7 months pregnant with my daughter. Being a wife and a mother has meant that my studying hours have changed drastically. I now do my best to finish all of my work/studying before 4pm so that once I get home I can focus on spending time with my family.” In addition to prioritizing her school work & clinic responsibilities, Ms. Ellis is also the Professional Development Chair for Bastyr University campus’ chapter of NMSA.  She is on the board of the Bastyr Pediatrics Club and a Student Research Fellow with the Bastyr Library. “I’m ridiculously busy, but I make it a point to listen to my body and react accordingly. I rest when I need to, and push through when I have to.”

Best Advice

Two of the best pieces of advice that Ms. Ellis has been given is that “You will drop some balls as you go through this program but the key is to figure out which balls are rubber and which ones are glass.”  She advises future students to, “Know your reason why before you start ND school. This will carry you through every long day, impossibly difficult exam, and stressful practicum. It will reinforce your joy when you’ve helped a patient with a complicated case.”

If you would like to learn more about ND schools, consider attending AANMC’s Naturopathic Medical College Virtual Fair.


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