Having a career as a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) is exciting and rewarding. However, choosing what type of educational program to enroll in is often a confusing decision for many potential students, who come across numerous different types of naturopathic doctor and naturopathy programs advertised. How do you choose the right one for you? Some schools offer online or correspondence programs, while others are accredited four year, in-residence medical schools. With all of the programs out there, it’s important to know that not all naturopathic doctor programs are created equal, and that graduates of these programs leave with varied degree/certificate titles and professional training, which can create confusion for patients. This is especially true when it comes to knowing the difference between a traditional naturopath and a licensed naturopathic doctor/physician (ND).
What is the difference between a traditional naturopath and a licensed naturopathic doctor?
While both traditional naturopaths and licensed NDs aim to help the body heal through natural substances such as food, herbs, and water, their education is very different, and their scope of practice and regulatory status vary from state to state and province to province—and in some states and provinces there are not yet any regulations pertaining any types of naturopathic practice. The titles “traditional naturopath” and “naturopathic doctor” (or “naturopathic physician”) are not interchangeable. A licensed ND is a primary care physician who is trained to diagnose and prescribe, while a traditional naturopath is not able to do either. In some states where naturopathic medicine is not yet a regulated medical profession, a traditional naturopath may on his/her own, choose to use the title, “naturopathic doctor,” which is likely to be confusing to patients looking for a licensed ND.
What is the education of a licensed naturopathic doctor?
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a naturopathic medical student in the United States or Canada attends a four-year, professional, in-residence doctoral program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is recognized as an accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education, and it is the only accrediting body for naturopathic medical programs in the U.S. and Canada that qualify graduates for licensure. Students from accredited naturopathic medical schools complete a more than 4,100 contact hours of instruction, including at least 1,200 hours of supervised, hands-on clinical training. The schools’ evidence-informed curricula consists of biomedical sciences—including anatomy (with cadaver lab), physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, and embryology)—similar to conventional medical school, as well as clinical medicine, homeopathy, botanical medicine, lifestyle management, nutrition, pharmacology, radiology, physical medicine. Additionally, the curriculum includes specialized classes in such areas as pediatrics, fibromyalgia, oncology, and sports medicine. Some schools also offer the option of studying Asian medicine and acupuncture, which enables graduates to become a licensed acupuncturist in addition to a licensed ND.
In order to become licensed, naturopathic medical graduates must also pass the two-part national board exam, Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX), which consists of biomedical science and clinical medicine portions. Some licensed ND students go on to complete post-doctoral residencies in health care facilities across North America.
What is taught at a traditional naturopathic school?
Online and correspondence naturopathic doctor degree or certificate programs teach a variety of classes that help students understand the healing power of nature and the innate ability of the body to heal itself. The classes may consist of botanical medicine, homeopathy, orthomolecular nutrition, introductory anatomy, reflexology, and iridology, among others. Program length can vary from a few months to a few years to complete. There is no standard curriculum for traditional naturopathic programs and they are not accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education.
Since classes are mostly offered online in traditional naturopathic programs, these programs lack standardized, on-site, clinical training in treating patients under the supervision of experienced licensed NDs. Also, faculty in traditional naturopath programs are not required to be licensed NDs, which is in contrast to CNME-accredited four-year naturopathic medical programs where naturopathic faculty must have an ND degree and other faculty must have terminal degrees in their professional fields (e.g., PhD). Some traditional naturopath programs are entirely online, and students in these programs may never interact with faculty in person.
In addition, traditional naturopaths are not eligible to write the NPLEX national board exam or obtain licensing. For that reason, many traditional naturopaths choose to practice in unregulated states and provinces, and use their knowledge primarily to help family and friends, or for their own personal health use. Some individuals trained as traditional naturopaths subsequently choose to attend a four-year, CNME-accredited naturopathic medical program in order to become licensed.
Which program should I attend?
Determine your end-goal. First, it’s important to determine what you want to do with your education. If you want to be trained as a primary care physician and act as a partner in health with your patients, then becoming a licensed ND may be the career for you. However, if you want to learn more about botanical medicine, nutrition, or homeopathy, and use that education to help yourself or family, there are many other programs that may fulfill that desire.
Do your research. Find out what the degree you are looking at will allow you to do. Each state and province is different in terms of scope of practice and regulation of both naturopathic doctors and traditional naturopaths. Also, the term “accredited” can be confusing because many online or correspondence naturopathic programs are “accredited” by organizations that—unlike the CNME which accredits 4-year, doctoral level ND programs—are not recognized by the U. S. Department of Education. These other types of programs will not make you eligible to obtain licensure or write NPLEX. So carefully research your options before deciding.
Fall in love with the curriculum. Whatever program you decided to attend, make sure you fall in love with the curriculum, and that it will enable you to reach your desired end-goal.
For more information about CNME-accredited ND programs and becoming a licensed ND, go to AANMC.org.
Valerie A. Kremer, CNHP, is a second year naturopathic medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto, ON, Canada. She is also a traditional naturopathic doctor graduate from Trinity School of Natural Health. Prior to her path in naturopathic medicine, Valerie was a public affairs specialist and director for community outreach for U.S. Navy Medicine. Valerie received her B.A. in public communication and international relations from American University, Washington, D.C.
One of the most common questions the AANMC receives from prospective 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 naturopathic career.
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 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 several officially recognized specialty associations focused on specific areas of medicine, including oncology, environmental medicine, and pediatrics.
All specialty associations are open to licensed naturopathic doctors and ND students. Anyone who meets these criteria, shares an interest in the specific field, and wants to learn more about an area of interest is eligible to join. For instance, in order to join 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 members, from educational resources to mentorship and networking opportunities.
Dr. Joshua Goldenberg, President of the Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, explains why being a member is valuable to doctors and students. “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.”
Dr. Dan Rubin, founding President of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (2004-2009), says that his organization plays an important role for members. “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.”
Dr. Leslie Solomonian, the newly appointed President of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, says that her organization also focuses on helping students learn more about their career options. “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.”
In addition to creating an educational and professional community for a particular area of naturopathic medicine, some specialty associations also offer formal specializations. This means they provide a path to become board-certified in a specific field.
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. This is available with the Oncology and Pediatric Associations.
In years long past, the family doctor was seen as an extension of the family—a trusted authority who covered a family’s care from birth to death, who came to the home when illness prevented patients from office visits. Times change. But the profession of naturopathic medicine harkens back to the old days, when medicine was high-touch and compassionate.
Today, those who are drawn to the noble healing profession increasingly view it as a calling, a way of contributing in the world that allows a person to give the very best of themselves in the service of others, in the service of health.
For those considering the healing professions, there’s a reason National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) ranks as a top choice for those embarking on a career in naturopathic medicine. NUNM has a long history of graduating some of the most well-known and highly-respected names in naturopathic medicine. Located in the environmentally-conscious city of Portland, Oregon, NUNM’s naturopathic training is unique and innovative.
Extensive Clinical Training at NUNM
NUNM naturopathic students are trained as healers and as primary care physicians. They receive their clinical education at NUNM’s two full-service health centers or at one of the university’s 10 affiliated community clinics that provide safety-net healthcare to the uninsured or underinsured throughout the Portland metro area. Working with their supervising clinic doctors and attending resident physicians, NUNM students review and help diagnose a broad array of medical conditions and diseases, as NUNM clinics log thousands of patient visits per month.
NUNM’s Health Centers
NUNM’s Campus Health Center and its Beaverton Health Center have both been credentialed by the State of Oregon as Patient-Centered Primary Care Homes, a stamp of approval by the state’s Health Authority that attests to the high level of patient outcomes and team-based, coordinated care that patients receive.
NUNM clinical training takes full advantage of Oregon licensure laws, which allow naturopathic physicians a unique scope of practice—the largest in the entire country. For example, NUNM physicians are trained in both botanical medicine and pharmacology, and in Oregon they can prescribe nearly a full formulary of pharmaceuticals to assist their patients.
Because NUNM offers naturopathic medicine education and training with access to and affiliations with nearby hospitals, NUNM clinics can make and receive referrals from medical doctors and share health records with other physicians. NUNM’s on-site clinic lab allows NDs to order and share results as necessary, and the state-of-the-art health centers include access to institutional diagnostic equipment often found only in hospital family practices, such as ultrasound machines.
When patients are referred by their medical doctors to NUNM clinics for intractable diseases, they can rest assured that NUNM physicians can address the condition with the full arsenal of tools in their medical toolbox, which begins with natural approaches and remedies.
The Foundation of Naturopathic Medicine
The value proposition that NUNM offers its students is based in the roots of the profession, beginning with the philosophy of naturopathic medicine. This philosophy is woven through all four years of study alongside a focus on the Vitalist/Nature Cure therapies that stimulate and strengthen the body’s innate ability to heal itself, from hydrotherapy and homeopathy to nutrition and acupuncture.
In addition to Chinese medicine, NUNM offers a wide range of additional degree programs to complement and expand its students’ naturopathic education, including integrative medicine research, global health, integrative mental health, Ayurveda, and more. Many students apply to more than one program depending on their interests. NUNM’s very active student clubs support specialized student interests and bring in speakers to further enhance students’ understanding of certain areas of medicine, from the Vitalist Club to the Oncology Club.
A Bright Future After Graduation
NUNM naturopathic graduates have a wide variety of career options available to them upon graduation. Currently, around 20% begin practice in integrative clinics, like ZOOM+Care in Portland, which offer excellent starting salaries. Others focus on specialty areas like endocrinology or nutrition, or apply to research fellowships. The naturopathic profession offers as many vocational options as there are dreams to inspire them, and NUNM’s Career Services department does everything it can to support those dreams.
NUNM is proud of its legacy and longstanding tradition of offering naturopathic education at its finest, preparing the NDs of tomorrow with all the tools they need to offer the compassionate healing care that today’s patients are seeking.
“There is demand for our medicine and there are many ways to deliver it; the challenge is to figure out what works to your strengths.”
Dr. Julie Briley was well on her way to a career in environmental education work before discovering naturopathic medicine. Then she realized that she could combine all of her passions in one field.
Initially, Dr. Briley earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she focused on education program development for underserved communities.
After graduation, she served in the U.S. Peace Corps as an Environmental Education Specialist in Paraguay. “There, in addition to natural resource conservation, I began to develop and provide health education,” she says. “I worked with families to start organic gardening, I created and facilitated a women’s cooking group, and I worked in elementary and middle schools on topics including physical education, disease prevention, and dental hygiene. I began to expand and apply concepts of environmentalism to health and learned local plant medicine from my neighbors.”
Once she returned to the U.S., she and her husband started a family, and that’s when her discovery of naturopathic medicine began. “I struggled to find a doctor or pediatrician that could provide health care focused on holistic health,” she says. “During that time, my interest in nutrition and natural medicine grew while I was looking to further my education. I remember thinking that it shouldn’t be a struggle to find a doctor with knowledge about nutrition, lifestyle medicine, prevention, natural medicine, and an alternative to conventional pharmaceuticals.” So, she took matters into her own hands.
Exploring naturopathic medicine
Dr. Briley wasn’t familiar with the field until she learned about it online. “I immediately knew it was the perfect path for me, given my background, history, and interests,” she recalls. “I could see that it was the only way that I could provide health care that incorporated nutrition, natural medicine, and prevention to assist others on their healing journeys.”
During her time at NUNM, Dr. Briley learned from respected academic and clinical faculty. “The most important aspect I gained from NUNM was that it gave me a very strong foundation in the naturopathic principles and history of the medicine, which is woven into the curriculum,” she says. “Since graduating, I continue to learn new treatment approaches, but I always return to the naturopathic principles when considering the best approach to patient care.”
Since she was also raising two daughters while attending NUNM, she had to be very efficient with her time outside of classes and clinic in order to prepare herself for a successful career. “I aimed to get involved with groups and projects that would give me experience and insight into what could benefit me as I began my career as a naturopathic doctor.”
“For example, I explored international work as co-president of Natural Doctors International, planning a student brigade to Nicaragua,” she says. “I volunteered with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, helping to organize lead testing clinics in Portland. I had an NUNM faculty mentor during my last year at NUNM who gave me the skills and confidence I needed to feel prepared for clinical practice.”
During her last year of school, Dr. Briley came across an opportunity to help with a community-based nutrition education project. “I remember reading the job description and thinking about how my experience and passion could not have been a better fit for the program,” she says. “Luckily, Dr. Courtney Jackson, the project leader, thought so too, and it was the beginning of major changes in my life and career.”
Bob’s Red Mill partnered with NUNM to create a free community-based nutrition program, then known as the ECO Project (Ending Childhood Obesity). As a student, Dr. Briley helped Dr. Jackson to develop the curriculum and implement the first cooking and nutrition series for the program.
These experiences, coupled with her robust education in the classroom, helped propel her into her professional life after graduating.
Hitting the ground running
After graduation, Dr. Briley was hired to develop and expand the program. “Dr. Jackson and I have now worked together for over six years,” Dr. Briley says. “We learned that there was a large audience clamoring for what we provided, and so the ECO Project developed into NUNM’s Food as Medicine Everyday (FAME) series. This eventually led to the creation of the Food As Medicine Institute at NUNM, which now offers conferences, workshops, and a variety of resources to the public as well as a broad spectrum of healthcare practitioners.”
“The small project we created in 2011 has grown way beyond our wildest imaginings,” she adds. “We have been featured in a commercial documentary film, interviewed on TV and in the newspapers, and much more. Our timing was impeccable—more and more people were just discovering the connection between health and nutrition. I was incredibly blessed to be at NUNM at just the right time.”
Balancing education, practice, and family
Dr. Briley now works full time, splitting her time between the Food As Medicine Institute at NUNM and her private practice. “I feel that I have the best of both worlds. I enjoy the diversity of working one-on-one with patients in my clinic and helping them reach their health goals, while also developing the ability to reach more people through my work at NUNM,” she says.
She and Dr. Jackson also published a book, Food As Medicine Everyday, Reclaim Your Health with Whole Foods, and they have been working to make FAME a national program by training other naturopathic doctors and nutritionists to implement the program in their communities. “I hope the FAME series will not only benefit the public, but also can provide an additional opportunity for ND and nutrition graduates,” she says.
Advice for aspiring NDs
Dr. Briley finds her work to be very valuable to her patients. “I like knowing that I am providing a service and approach to health care that people want and need,” she says. “I feel it is my job to educate patients on every aspect of their health; whether explaining normal physiology, understanding their lab results, or why a certain diet approach will help their condition, for example. Empowering a patient is one of the most important things I do.”
“The flexibility of my profession has allowed me to grow and pursue opportunities that I would not have thought possible just six years post-graduation. I have been able to grow and maintain a successful clinical practice while also continuing to provide community-based education through the Food As Medicine Institute,” she says. “Not everyone is able to see a naturopathic doctor, but I am reaching more people than I ever could in just a one-on-one clinical practice through these other endeavors, which is deeply gratifying.”
Her best piece of advice for those considering naturopathic medicine is to prepare for the entrepreneurial nature of the field. “There is no cookie-cutter job track for naturopathic doctors,” she says. “There is demand for our medicine and there are many ways to deliver it, the challenge is to figure out what works to your strengths.”
Thinking about a career change? Join the AANMC and Lucas MacMillan RN, ND for a special webinar focused on making a career change to follow your dreams as a naturopathic physician. It’s never too late!
Changing Your Career to Naturopathic Medicine – The Journey, Challenges & Charms
Dr. MacMillan covers:
Why he chose to change careers to become a naturopathic doctor
Naturopathic doctor’s scope of practice – The benefits of having many different treatment options for patients.
Choosing how to practice – going broad vs. focusing on a specific treatment modality
Tips for students considering a career change to naturopathic medicine
Case Studies – Seeing how naturopathic medicine can work
Helping people that otherwise wouldn’t have hope
Case 1 – Eczema patient that was told he’d have to live with head to toe eczema from multiple dermatologists – cured with naturopathic treatment.
Case 2 – Low energy and weight loss. Combination of counseling, lab testing, and nutrition to help a patient.
Why naturopathic medicine over other professions?
The deeper training of the naturopathic doctor program
Wide scope of practice
Deep patient connections
Tips for Applying
Talk to universities directly
Connect with a local ND
Search out pre-requisite course option
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius
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So often through the course of my career as a naturopathic physician, I have been asked the definition of naturopathic medicine. Whether it has been by well-meaning family members, taxi cab drivers, legislative or regulatory bodies, corporations or patients, a common thread for some has been the lack of awareness for what NDs really do. I don’t see that as a negative, it just means the profession as a whole needs to do a better job at raising public awareness, and in clearing up existing misperceptions. Folks may confuse naturopathic medicine for homeopathy, or not understand that our training is akin to conventional medical school in many aspects, with the addition that NDs become experts in evidence-based integrative and natural medicine.
We are a small, but mighty group of people who feel strongly that one’s profession should align with our personal principles. NDs believe that above all we should, as doctors, strive to address the root cause of illness in the most gentle and natural manner possible.
What is the definition of naturopathy?
Some public sites have made the definition of naturopathic medicine a political football, and have combined licensed naturopathic physician level training with that of lay practitioners. This is confusing and potentially dangerous for the public, because patients may not understand the difference in training between online programs and accredited four-year naturopathic programs. Over the years, I have heard from upset students and patients who did not realize that there was a difference in training for online and in-person programs. To date this is still the number one question we get from inquiries at the AANMC.
The truth of the matter is that naturopathic medicine IS defined by our national and international professional associations, is recognized by regulatory agencies across the globe, and most importantly, is clear to the patients who benefit from licensed ND care every day.
Naturopathic Medical Education continues to push the envelope in developing innovative ways to harness age-old therapies and research advances in natural and integrative health.
How do YOU define naturopathic medicine?
For more information on the definition of naturopathic medicine and the definition of naturopathy:
Dr. JoAnn Yanez, Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (right), joins KCAAs “On the Brink” hosts, Erin Brinker (left) and Tobin Brinker (middle) to discuss healthy approaches to New Year’s resolutions.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
Naturopathic approaches to the flu
Resolutions as steps to achieving greater goals
Setting goals and resolutions that match your priorities
Erin Brinker: After the break, we have Dr. JoAnn Yanez and we’ll ask her about the flu …
Tobin Brinker: Oh, good.
Erin Brinker: … from her point of view. Actually, she’s on the line, I could bring her on a little bit early. I’m going to put her on the spot. Let’s see if she’s there. Dr. Yanez, how ‘ya doing?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Good morning.
Erin Brinker: Good morning. I’ll do the full regular introduction after the break, but we’re talking about the flu right now, and I thought it would be, since you’re a doctor, it would be great to get your opinion about what’s going on.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Wow. Well, I know you know my husband’s a hospital administrator at St. Bernardine, and the hospitals here are overwhelmed right now with flu cases. I think health education, basic health education on, “Is it the flu? What should I do for the flu?” is vital for people so that they don’t go to an ER or a doctor’s office if it isn’t something that needs attention at an ER or a doctor’s office. Because what can end up happening is they get everybody else sick.
Erin Brinker: They do.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It keeps getting passed, and this is coming from somebody who got slammed with the flu, I don’t know if you remember, back in November. I think first off is knowing your body. Obviously, if you have any additional health concerns, if you’re elderly, if you’re very young, if there’s asthma or there are other conditions onboard where you’re at high risk for problems from the flu, definitely seek out medical information from a licensed professional.
I think, what I just caught, the tail end was call your doctor, let them know your symptoms, and if it’s needed to come in then, of course, go in. Just the basics, rest, hydration, good old chicken soup. Lots of fluids, broths, garlic. There are a number of botanical medicines that can help, in some cases shorten the prodrome and shorten the virus. I think just all of those good basic things that we do when we’re sick, and take good care of yourself so you don’t get it in the first place.
Erin Brinker: It has been, it’s 27 deaths throughout the state of California, people under the age of 65.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes, yeah. This flu, and I think we talked about it last time. The coverage for the flu vaccine this year was not great, and so I can’t say that this is … It’s extremely unfortunate, but it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this kind of a bump in flu with the flu vaccine, not covering it as well as it normally does.
Erin Brinker: Let’s go ahead and … Thank you very much for that. Let’s go ahead and take a break, and Dr. Yanez, we will give you a full introduction when we come back.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: No worries.
Erin Brinker: I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: We are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back. (singing)
Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: We’re “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA. Excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life, Dr. JoAnn’s Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academia, naturopathic patient care and public health. She serves as Vice President of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, and on the Advisory Board for the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions.
Dr. Yanez, here’s your official welcome. Welcome back to the show.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: No worries. I didn’t even have coffee this morning, Erin.
Erin Brinker: Uh oh. I brought you in before you had your coffee. Sorry.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: That’s okay. Good morning folks, good morning.
Erin Brinker: One of the things that the AANMC has a great website, and one of the features on the website is a monthly article giving tips on everything health related. What does this article, this month’s article about?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Well, topically and timely we talked about resolutions. I spoke with eight leaders from the ND field and asked them all, “Hey, how do you guys resolve for the year? What are you tips? How do you lead your own lives in a healthful manner? What is your take on this whole New Year resolution thing?” It was really funny. Years ago, the only successful resolution I ever kept was a resolution to never resolve ever again.
Erin Brinker: That’s awesome.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I don’t even remember how many years ago it was, but I resolved to never make a resolution again. I’ll go a couple steps into that. My resolution actually wasn’t to just like nix resolutions. It was really, “Hey, if I see something that needs a change, I’m not going to wait for a new year to do it. I’m not going to wait for tomorrow. I’m going to do it today,” and so that was my resolution. That’s the only one that I’ve ever stuck with.
It forced me to be self-aware, it forced me not to put things off for another time or, “When I have money or when I …” Whatever. Or “When you go on vacation.” Like, “No. If you need a change, let’s do it now.”
Erin Brinker: Oh, that’s a good idea. I think people, you just kind of throw caution to the wind and you eat, drink and are merry between Thanksgiving and the New Year. By the time you come screeching or crawling into the New Year, you’re thinking, “Okay, I’m done. I don’t want to overeat, I don’t want to over-drink, I don’t want to … I want to get focused on my life.”
I think it’s just about finding your true North again more than … I don’t know, for some people maybe they really, the resolution is everything. I say that because I’m looking at my husband who resolved to run 1,000 miles last year, and he did it.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, not to call Tobin out but that’s what ends up happening is a lot of times people get grand ideas at the beginning of the year. Not to say 1,000 miles is a grand idea-
Erin Brinker: It’s a grand idea.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: A lot of times people will get these big ideas, and they’ll get excited about something really, really big, but I always go back to that saying, “How do you eat an elephant?”
Erin Brinker: One bite at a time?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: One bite at a time. When it comes down to nutrition or exercise or any of these things, one of the things that I have always found most helpful is not … For a lot of people, now some people can do big goals like that, but a lot of people find it much more easy to break things down into smaller tasks. Like if I have a big project to do at work, I don’t say, “Okay, you’re going to write a 100 page paper.”
What do I do? No. I break it down into sections, I divide out the sections. I figure out a plan for each one of those little pieces and then little by little, I chop off a piece, then I chop off another piece. Then by the end of it, I’ve got that 100 pages written. I think if it’s health related, or every single day ask yourself, “Are the choices that I’m making today moving me toward my goal or moving me away from it?” Those are the types of things that keep us focused and on task.
I always tell people, if you’re making diet changes, if you’re trying to implement exercise into your life, make those goals realistic, make them time bound. Give yourself some accountability so it isn’t a big, kind of empty set, and then you beat yourself … It doesn’t make anybody feel good or anyone feel like they want to do something like that again. Make those goals realistic, make them easy enough for you to cross off your list.
For me, exercise has to happen before 6:00 a.m. If it doesn’t happen before 6:00 a.m., I know it’s not getting done for the day. I have always just kind of figured out what works for me, but everybody’s got to do that for themselves. Whether it’s a plate of food and you’re looking at that plate of food, “Okay, are these food choices right now going to move me towards my goal or they going to move me away from my goal? Am I okay with that choice?” Being mindful.
When I look at all of the resolutions from the naturopathic doctors in our article, almost every single one of them talks about mindfulness. I don’t know how familiar your audience is with mindfulness, Erin and Tobin. It’s really just being aware in the moment of what’s going on, and being present. So often, we do things without even thinking about them. We eat in our car, we eat in front of the TV. We’re not even present with what we’re doing. Does that makes sense?
Erin Brinker: Oh, it makes total sense. That’s actually, I have a tendency to get so lost in my own head that I am completely unaware with … Deep in thought, not really paying attention to what’s going on around me. Consequently, I don’t necessarily experience what’s going on around me. Then I will eat mindlessly, I will …Hours will go by and I’m working or I’m doing something, but I haven’t made time to exercise. I haven’t followed up like I should have with things I needed to do, so that’s something that’s a goal for me.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah, and just I think everybody probably at some level struggles with that. It is easy to get focused or to get sidetracked. Just being present, being mindful, being aware of your body, being aware of your needs, being aware of your surroundings. A couple of folks even said being aware of your family’s needs were a priority for them.
Like, “Hey, I want to be more tuned into the needs of my family. Sometimes I get so focused on me and work that I don’t realize what’s going on.” I think what all of that boils down to is a sense of mindfulness, a sense of purpose, a direction for your goals and a plan to get there.
Erin Brinker: I actually am one of those who set the big, audacious goal. It was the same goal I’d set last year, but I lost my mentor and boss last year. He passed away quite suddenly, and it just turned my world upside down.
I’ve refocused, and I’m taking a long hike, backpacking trip in late October. I’m going to walk from Holcomb Lake in Big Bear to the entrance of Silverwood Park, so the entrance to, it’s a lake, Silverwood Lake entrance, which is about 44 point … It’s 44.2 trail miles.
Tobin is totally helping me kind of break it down into … I’ve bought some tools to break it down so like, “Okay, well I need to be doing this hike by this date, and this hike by this date.” Because otherwise, it’s completely overwhelming.
Tobin Brinker: Here’s what happened. I had gotten my 1,000 mile goal this past year in 2017, but what many people don’t know is that I had the same goal in 2016 and didn’t come anywhere near it. I got 750 miles in and so, I learned a lot from that failure and I realized that there was a whole bunch of things that I needed to do differently in order to be able to achieve that big audacious goal.
For me, one of the things was making it public, right? Just sort of putting it out there so other people would then become that sort of support network for me to say, “Hey, how are you doing on your goal?” I had to keep it front and center in my life. Then I broke it down, like Erin was saying. Every month, a certain mileage goal.
I looked at what I had done the year previously. I was running, on average, three days a week. I said, “Well, I need to push that up. I need to go to four or five days a week.” Making little changes to my routines and just sort of trying to figure out what I needed to do a little different, and it made all the difference. I was able to add an extra 250 miles in, and I got the 1,000 miles this year.
Now, having done it, I’ve decided this year I won’t do that big goal again because I’ve looked at what’s coming up for this year, and I’ve got other things that I need to put my time into. Other important things for me. The big one for me that’s been on my mind is our son’s wedding. I don’t want to spend all my time out running, I want to make sure that I’ve got a lot of time available to spend with family this year.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I think for any goal, that’s always part of the process is assessing, reassessing, “Is this an important goal anymore?” We’re going through a strategic planning process right now and we’re looking at our goals. What was important three years ago is that still important? It very well may be, but it’s that positive conscious decision of, “What’s important to me?”
Whether you’re a board of directors or you’re an individual planning for your son’s wedding. Like, “What’s important for me now?” Always being mindful and present and reassessing. I think that’s the most important key to all of this.
What’s important to you and being flexible and gentle enough with yourself to say, you’re not going to beat yourself up over, “This year, I’m not making that goal a priority, I’m going to make other things a priority,” and you let it go. I think that’s the whole key with mindfulness is non-judgment.
Tobin Brinker: Yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: A lot of times when people make decisions or eat something that’s not necessarily going to help their health goals, there’s a lot of judgment that happens. “Oh, I’m a bad person.”
Erin Brinker: Oh yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: “I didn’t do this thing” or “I didn’t run my miles” or “I didn’t walk my steps today. I’m a bad person.” They make a judgment call, and that’s unfortunate because mindfulness really tries to teach us to go through life without that judgment. You just take it, “Okay, I didn’t make my steps today. What am I going to do tomorrow to make them happen?”
Rather than taking that time and going all internal and beating yourself up. What is that old … Half my family’s Catholic. The self-flagellation, the beating yourself with-
Tobin Brinker: Yes.
Erin Brinker: My Catholic husband can relate.
Tobin Brinker: Yes.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Let’s not go all medieval with the cat of nine tails.
Tobin Brinker: A little bit, a little bit of guilt or remorse about not making your goals can be a bit of a motivator as well. I mean, without going to the extreme of actual flagellation. To have that little bit of, “Boy, I really didn’t do it yesterday. I better make sure I get off my butt and do it today.”
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Well, and that’s totally fine. I think that’s the recognition, but a lot of people will go into … I’m sure you know what I’m talking about …
Tobin Brinker: Yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: … Will go deeper into that and start to make judgment calls. Like what you just said is not a judgment call. It’s just, “Well, I didn’t get it done today. I really want to make sure that I get off my butt and do it tomorrow.”
Tobin Brinker: Well, I think-
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: That’s not, “I’m a bad person for not doing it.”
Tobin Brinker: Yeah.
Erin Brinker: The “I’m a bad person for not doing it” is my MO, not his.
Tobin Brinker: Yeah, and I think that’s the important part that you’re saying is that sometimes we attach our identity so much to these things that when we allow it to become a negative that it really is self-defeating then.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Exactly.
Tobin Brinker: We can’t beat ourselves up like that.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: That’s where a lot of people fall down. You’ll see the gym is especially busy right now, and in about two weeks it won’t be.
Tobin Brinker: Yes.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I think people get, they have good intentions, they get started and then they miss a day or two here or there and they start to feel bad, and they start to get de-motivated and then it’s just, there’s an embarrassment or a shame that sets in and it doesn’t happen again until December 31st.
Erin Brinker: We are completely out of time. How do people find you, follow you and how do they read this blog?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Well, it’s on our website AANMC.org. We have lots of tools on our website, webinars on all different types of topics. In fact, today we have a webinar on career changers and folks considering changing careers. If you are in that boat or thinking about that boat, come and stop by our webinar.
Erin Brinker: Wonderful. Well, Dr. JoAnn Yanez, it’s always a delight to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Have a great day folks.
Erin Brinker: Thank you. Oh, and I forgot to say, thank you for the beautiful fruit basket that I got for Christmas, thank you so much.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You’re welcome. You’re so welcome.
Erin Brinker: I loved it, the fruit was delicious. It was wonderful.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh, great.
Erin Brinker: With that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: We are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back.
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After the holiday presents are unwrapped and the New Year’s Eve glitter settles, the reality of a fresh start hits us. 2018 offers limitless possibilities and new beginnings, and you want to make the most of it. As you find yourself considering your vision for the year, where does your health fit into the equation? Doctors, professors, and other experts in the field of naturopathic medicine believe that setting wellness-driven resolutions will help you reach your full potential this year. Here are eight naturopathic new year’s resolutions you should consider adopting in 2018.
“Naturopathic medicine is about listening to your body and being in tune with the changes that need to be made to bring about health, wellbeing, and balance. Don’t wait to make a change that needs to be made—start today.
One resolution that can have a resounding impact on health and wellbeing is the art of being present.
Mindfulness and being in the moment is a powerful tool for the following reasons:
It allows us to fully engage and focus on the opportunities in front of us.
It minimizes the stress that comes with the ‘what ifs’. We don’t have power to change the past—our power is in the now.
It minimizes the stress that comes from worrying about the future.
It allows for better connection with our body and environment.
When we are fully present and in tune with our body, we can better understand the root cause of an issue and the impact of any one thing on us.
I think of mindfulness like a muscle—the more we practice, the stronger and more natural we get at it.
6 Short Mindfulness Exercises
1. Mindful Bites.
Use the daily opportunity of eating to practice mindfulness! Take first couple of bites of any meal or snack you eat, and focus on the full experience—from the smell of the food, and how you feel as you anticipate eating, through to the textures and sensations as you eat. Apply gratitude to the nourishment and support it gives you to create a strong and functional body.
2. One healing breath.
We can’t live without air, yet take this simple task for granted. Find a few moments each day to practice gratitude for breathing and fully experience the joy and peace of one breath. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you breathe, and use the breath as a tool to let go of tightness or tension.
3. Too much screen time?
Give your brain a break!
Instead of reflexively going to a device in the five minutes between meetings, or while waiting for something, try looking out your window and focusing on nature. Use mindfulness to give your brain a break rather than filling up every tiny space in your day by automatically reaching for a screen.
4. Healing air.
Yes – air too can heal. Pay attention to the feeling of air on your skin for up to a minute – or more if you can. Expose as much skin as is appropriate – even if that’s just your cheeks in the dead of winter.
5. Scan your body.
Scan your body, top to bottom for any sensations of discomfort or tension. Try softening any sensations of discomfort by breathing into those spaces, and filling them with healing light. Next, scan your body for areas of peace and relaxation.
6. Do one action mindfully.
If none of the above work for you, pick one thing you do daily and choose to do it mindfully – paying attention to each step in the process and doing it all without judgment.
“With so much chaos in the world and a global sense of being overwhelmed, my new year’s resolution is to spend more time in silence and reflection and enjoying nature. My goal is to practice the art of intention and to remind myself (and my patients) every day of the power of the mind and the ability of the mind to heal. I am excited about the possibilities!”
“My resolution is to not bite off more than I can chew! That relates to all aspects of life. Choosing healthy food portions, healthy work life balance, and sometimes saying ‘no’ to what seems like an important new endeavor to get involved in. There are so many opportunities to participate in with inspired, capable people doing good work! My goal is to keep laser-focused on the priorities I set out for me, in the year ahead.”
On New Year’s Day, spend at least two hours reflecting on how to incorporate some small, healthy habits into your lifestyle.
Spend at least one day away each year with no television, phone, or distractions; this was a common practice by beloved Maya Angelou.
Dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to meditation, prayer, or mantras.
Spend time in nature for 10 minutes a day or at minimum once a week (e.g. walking and observing your surroundings and the environment).
Be clear on your goals:
Write down one to two health goals for the year and look at them each day. Place these goals in a prominent place to be reminded daily (e.g. next to your nightstand, bathroom mirror, etc.). Reminders and reinforcements are key to resolutions.
Profess your goal out loud. Sharing with others helps to create accountability.
Be reasonable and love yourself:
It’s important to make baby steps towards your goals and also to be kind to yourself if you make a mistake or are not on track. Slander towards oneself is a self-defeating affirmation that makes it more difficult to reach your goal. Reflect, review, reaffirm, make a plan, and move on!
Remember that life is a marathon not a race; thus the small incremental health steps you make daily are much more impactful than short-term gains.”
“Resolve not to make resolutions! Rather, make the effort to improve your ability to set health related goals and achieve them. In practicing sports medicine, it has become apparent that those with effective goal setting skills, generally speaking, have improved long term athletic success and in doing so have inadvertently learned the art of resiliency.
How are these athletes any different from you and I? There are two factors at play. They are highly motivated to achieve performance and also excellent at defining performance indicators (through goal setting) that allow for successful outcomes. However, not only do their goals fit the principles of ‘SMART’ goals (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely), but athletes tend to add to their goal setting technique.
Many successful athletes have a training log. This tactic forces a goal to be recorded. In doing so, the athlete has established a contract with themselves, resulting in accountability, which helps drive improvement in performance.
Another key benefit of logging information is that it allows for the ongoing evaluation of a goal. An athlete’s training journal provides a way to review historical change and more clearly identify key challenges that may be barriers to success. These challenges can then be addressed quickly, leading to more timely success in goal achievement.
The final aspect that athletes take into consideration is a factor of reality when participating in sport—injury. Physical performance can be considerably influenced through the process of injury and subsequent therapy. As such, the willingness to have reversibility of goals allows for the unexpected in life to occur, while concurrently building the resiliency that is required to reset a training plan and, subsequently, build a new set of ‘SMART’ goals.
By engaging yourself in three additional goal setting tactics (recording, ongoing evaluation, and reversibility) you are positioning yourself for ongoing success, not only at the start of a new calendar year, but consistently over the course of life.”
“In this day and age, the speed and reality of our day-to-day lives just seems to get faster each day—email, social media, or the logistics of family schedules—all pulling us away from the most important things in life: quality time with family and self-care.
This year, I resolve the following: to make the health and well-being of my family the priority. To commit to regular meditation and nature time, self-care, and humor with my family every day. I resolve to make the health and well-being of my family and myself the top priority—before the Facebook feed, the online games or apps, the endless email, or the to-do lists that just get longer. Set it all aside and laugh and give health to yourself and to your family. Breathe life into that dream and vision for yourself in 2018. Take the plunge with me!”
“What is so great about our profession is that you can be successful on your terms. There are so many paths to becoming fulfilled, happy, and successful as an ND. It’s just up to you what that looks like.”
There was never any doubt in Dr. Paul Hrkal’s mind that he wanted to become a naturopathic doctor. “My family was into organic food and natural health well before it was popular, so I was exposed to a different way of approaching health early in my life,” he recalls. “In high school, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field and my mother encouraged me to consider naturopathic medicine.”
“Ultimately, I chose this path over conventional medicine because it resonated with my core value system; to treat the root cause and to do no harm,” he says. “I was attracted to the entrepreneurial flexibility naturopathic medicine offered because I knew I was not going to be satisfied by just practicing.”
CCNM was Dr. Hrkal’s first choice because of the proximity to his home. “I grew up in the Toronto area in a very tight knit family,” he says. “I didn’t realize CCNM’s strengths in research and academics until after I started to attend.”
CCNM as a springboard
“The single most valuable thing about my time at CCNM was the relationships that I formed over those four years,” Dr. Hrkal says. “The personal relationships and professional network that I was fortunate to create in my four years at CCNM have been a huge positive for me on every level. Those relationships are still supporting my growth as a practitioner and my business endeavors to this day.”
He was also very cognizant of planning for his future while he was earning his degree. “I have always been a forward thinker and planner. I can remember in my first year at CCNM, I observed that some of the most influential and dynamic upper year students were also student reps with natural health product companies. I immediately set this as a short-term goal for myself,” he recalls.
He became the student rep for Advanced Orthomolecular Research (AOR) in his third year. “While some of my colleagues shied away from involvement with industry for the sake of being unbiased, I had a different perspective,” he says. “The natural health product industry is different [than the pharmaceutical industry] in that nutrients are safe (do no harm) and they offer tools that can address underlying pathophysiology, rather than mask symptoms (root cause).”
“I looked at my work with AOR as a tremendous learning opportunity to understand the research and evidence behind supplements; one of the most important tools NDs use in practice,” he says. “It also put me in a position to use my networking and teaching skills early in my career, which allowed me to develop confidence and a skill set that is so valuable in practice.”
“Living the dream” after graduation
Dr. Hrkal knew that he wanted to see patients, but not exclusively. “I had an entrepreneurial desire that would have been limited if I was just seeing patients, so after graduation I began to work as a medical advisor for AOR. This allowed me to slowly grow a part-time practice while having some financial stability,” he says.
“In my opinion, it was the best of both worlds, as I learned the art of being an ND as well as the science of functional and nutritional medicine at the same time. Since graduation, I have maintained this balance as both my practice and role with AOR grew.”
His life and career now are everything he hoped they would be: he is happily married with three children, runs a successful practice, and serves as the medical director of AOR. “If you asked me ‘what would you change if you were to do it again?’ I can confidently say that I wouldn’t change a thing,” he says. “As you can imagine, life is extremely ‘busy,’ but I have stopped saying that because I get the feeling that that won’t change for many years, so I have now just embraced it. On top of family life, some days it’s a challenge to juggle a busy practice and my responsibilities as the medical director of AOR. However, I embrace this challenge because I love what I do and I am excited to get up every morning and get after it.”
Finding fulfillment as an ND
Dr. Hrkal believes that NDs have a unique ability to be an agent for change healthcare. “I love the flexibility to see patients and be involved in so many educational and entrepreneurial projects. With the exponential growth of the natural health sector, NDs are perfectly positioned as leaders in every aspect of this market place,” he says.
“In short, I am passionate about being able to both see patients as well as being able to use my educational skills to reach a much greater number of people through product formulations, written literature, and presentations,” he explains.
His clinical focus is treating traumatic brain injuries and concussions. “Brain health is such a key health issue that is getting more and more attention by both healthcare practitioners and the public,” he says. “It is my mission to share the powerful neuro-protective principles of naturopathic and functional medicine with as many people as possible.”
Advice for aspiring NDs
Dr. Hrkal hopes his experience will inspire more people to pursue naturopathic medicine. “Naturopathic medicine is a very rewarding and viable career,” he says. “You can be an extremely successful ND—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“If you are a dynamic and motivated person with a passion to truly help people get to the root cause of their health issues, naturopathic medicine is for you,” he advises. “What is so great about our profession is that you can be successful on your terms. There are so many paths to becoming fulfilled, happy, and successful as an ND—it’s just up to you what that looks like.”