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 naturopathic medicine: what is it, accredited schools and curriculum, naturopathic specialties and the top conditions treated.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
- Accredited schools
- What it takes to become an ND
- Specialties within naturopathic medicine
- Top conditions treated
Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 and FM 106.5. So excited to welcome to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life, Dr. Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academia, patient care, and public health. As AANMC Executive Director, Dr. Yanez, oversees research and advocacy efforts and the joint academic endeavors of the accredited colleges of naturopathic medicine. Additionally, she helps spread awareness of naturopathic medicine as a viable and satisfying career path in North America and worldwide.
I’m still new on the board. I just wanna give everybody a warning. I hope we’ve lined this up correctly. Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Good morning.
Erin Brinker: Good morning, good morning.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Can you hear me okay?
Erin Brinker: Yes, we can. That’s great. So excited to have you on the show today.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you so very much for having me. I’m actually a new transplant to the Inland Empire as well. So, a special thank you for having me on.
Erin Brinker: Well, welcome home to the Inland Empire.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thanks so much.
Erin Brinker: Tell us about the AANMC, and the work that you’re doing there.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. The AANMC supports the seven-accredited naturopathic medical colleges in North America. We are the umbrella organization for all of the accredited naturopathic medical education that happens in the North American continent. It’s really exciting the work that we’re doing. We actually just came off of a week-long series of meetings in conjunction with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians annual conference. Our deans met, our chief medical officers met, the presidents of the colleges all met. We just spearheaded the growth and the direction for naturopathic medical education moving into the future. It’s just so exciting.
Erin Brinker: It sounds exciting. Now, where are these colleges? I’m putting you on the spot because this is not one of the questions that were sent by your publicist, but where the naturopathic colleges in the United States?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. The naturopathic colleges are located across North America. There are three colleges on the west coast. There’s Bastyr University in Seattle. There is the National University of Natural Medicine, they just recently changed their name. They’re in the Portland area. There is Bastyr University which is in San Diego. They have a campus in San Diego. Then there’s the Southwest College in Phoenix.
National University of Health Sciences is in Lombard, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. University of Bridgeport is in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Then two colleges in Canada. Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, and Boucher Institute in Vancouver.
Erin Brinker: This is the same kind of degree as… it’s a doctorate degree. So, you finish a Bachelor’s Degree and then go on to study Naturopathic Medicine. Is that correct?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes. There’s a Bachelor’s that’s required as well as all of the pre-medical prerequisite courses. So, biology, chemistry, the premed courses. A solid GPA. Then you apply to naturopathic medical school either through our central application system or individually through some of the members colleges. Really what we expect from our grads, from our prospective students and applicants, is a solid passion for natural health.
I think one of the amazing things that we see with our naturopathic students is they all say they are so passionate about this medicine, what they want to bring to the table, and to have a medicine that matches their own personal philosophies and ethics. They aspire to make the world a better place, and to do that through helping patients live as healthfully as possible.
Erin Brinker: Now, Tobin, my co-host and husband has an uncle who’s a doctor or naturopathy. I think he went to school in Portland, Tobin, is that correct?
Tobin: Yeah, I think so.
Erin Brinker: Dr. Frances Brinker is his name.
Tobin Brinker: I’ll share with you, growing up and having him as a doctor of naturopathic medicine was really quite interesting because he would come and visit us. We would go for walks, and wherever we went, he could identify the various plants and their medicinal qualities. I think that’s his specialty.
Erin Brinker: He’s written several books on that that are far more clinical than I can understand.
Tobin Brinker: It’s fascinating. If you chew on this particular plant, it will help with gastrointestinal issues, you chew on this one it’ll help with a headache. Just fascinating what he could do. Instead of the idea of going to a pharmacy, that you could actually change what you’re eating, and change basics lifestyle things and get healthy. Really a fascinating approach to medicine.
Growing up with someone like that in the family, I think really opened my eyes to how much control we have over our health and how we’ve become so reliant on the pharmaceutical industry to solve our problems. When in fact, there’s just a lot of stuff around us that could be helping us if we just had a little more knowledge.
Erin Brinker: But so anyway, tell us more about the profession. I think I would love to see more people go into this. I think it needs to be something that becomes normal. We need to, like I said, stop running to the pharmacy. Run out the backyard maybe and find the stuff that we need to help ourselves be healthy.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: That’s exactly where naturopathic physicians excel. Our medicine is based on the founding principles of naturopathic medicine. First, do no harm. But the remainder of the principles really rely on our body’s innate ability to heal itself. It’s the natural healing ability of our body. If you just give it what it needs, and take away any of the obstacles to cure, our body actually has a really amazing ability to fix itself.
In medical school, we learn about homeostasis, which are the ways that the body balances and regulates itself. Really, if we just give it the tools, often things, like you said, you can find in nature. We’re really able to help ourselves live a better lifestyle, and focus on the core issues of health. Naturopathic doctors also firmly believe in focusing on the root causes of illness and treating the individual person. And so, as that happens, we’re really dealing with the core issue of why somebody’s sick. Not so much just catching up. I liken it to driving a car. If you’re engine light comes on, well there are a couple ways of dealing with that. You can take it in to get service, you can have them check out all of the features. Well, it could be something electrical, or it could be your engine. Or you could just unplug the light and make it go away. Sometimes what we do is unplug that engine light or cover it up with some tape and envision that it’s not really there.
Naturopathic doctors really focus on the root cause. What’s making that engine light turn on? What’s causing your headaches? Not just going ahead and taking an Advil or an Ibuprofen. What’s the root cause of that headache? Is it dehydration? Is it stress? Is it muscle tension? Is it something physically out of line in your body? Is it a bad job or a bad worker ergonomics? There are so many things. Or is a brain tumor?
That’s the thing about naturopathic medical school. Like you said, it is four years of accredited medical school. We learn to diagnose and treat, and refer when appropriate. We work within the integrative system and conventional doctors, it’s nothing for a naturopathic doctor to call up an internist or neurologist or endocrinologist or a cardiologist and say, “Hey, I’ve got this patient with X complaint, I’d like to send them over and have a further work up before I move forward with them to make sure that they’re safe and okay to continue care with me.”
That’s really how naturopathic doctors work within the system as part of the integrative team.
Erin Brinker: So, I want to keep you over the break. Do you have time to stay with us through the commercial break?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely.
Erin Brinker: Wonderful, wonderful. We are talking Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Very, very interesting and engaging conversation. I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: And I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 and FM 106.5. We’ll be right back.
Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin: And I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 and FM 106.5. We continue our conversation with Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Dr. Yanez, we were talking about all the benefits of naturopathic medicine and tell us what is the process of getting into naturopathic medicine and what do most of your graduates do once they finish with their medical degree?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Those are really great questions. So, the process of getting into naturopathic medical is very similar to conventional medical school. As I said earlier, you have to have completed successfully the prerequisites which are mostly premed courses. Have an application into the medical colleges. The MCAT actually though, is not a requirement for entrance into the profession.
Then you’ve got four years of rigorous medical school. The first two years are predominantly the biomedical sciences, anatomy, physiology, dissection lab, and so on. Then, we get into the clinical sciences. That’s really where the medicine differs and is unique to naturopathic medicine, where you’re learning things like those botanical herbs that your uncle used to take you out on walks learning about. Vitamins, supplements, nutrition, mind-body counseling, traditional Chinese medicine can be part of the curriculum. Physical manipulation can also be part of the curriculum.
The application is really looking for students who are interested in this whole body, whole systems approach to care. One of the things that we talk to our prospective students about is really showing that you want to be a naturopathic doctor. That you’ve done your homework. Maybe you’ve visited a naturopathic doctor yourself as a patient, or you’ve shadowed one, or you’ve talked to them, or Skyped with one, visited the colleges and really have a full understanding of the profession.
Now, to answer your question about what NDs do afterwards, the most common treated diseases that NDs see range anywhere from chronic pain and allergies, cancer, anxiety, depression, autoimmune disease, infertilities, fatigue. Those are the types of things that we see folks with. Chronic issues, chronic disease. When we see naturopathic doctors out in practice, they tend to be focusing on those types of things. On endocrinology, on woman’s medicine, on pediatrics, on psych and psychiatric issues. There are a lot of ways that naturopathic doctors can practice or choose to practice.
The exciting thing. One of the really new things that we’re seeing in tracking with our grads is their ability to go out and fashion a work/life balance that really is a great one for their individual needs. We’ve got young parents who may want to tailor a career to a young child’s lifestyle and have some more time to be home with their kids. So, they may have a part-time practice. Or you can have docs who are working in media like yourselves. There are a lot of naturopathic doctors who are very successful in media outlets.
They’re writing books. They’re presenting. They’re at conferences and consulting to wellness corporations and big industries. Some will serve as administrators in health care systems. Really the sky is the limit. I think the beautify of the naturopathic profession is that it teaches you not only the science, but the art of medicine. All of these other tools in your toolbox that you have to help people get well and stay well.
Tobin Brinker: Not to interrupt, but do naturopathic doctors, do they interact with conventional medical doctors? Like will you go to a medical group and they’ll have a conventional doctor and a naturopathic doctor? Do they work in the same hospital setting? How do they work together?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. Naturopathic doctors tend to be more in an outpatient type setting. However, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, they have hospitals all across the United States. They employ naturopathic physicians at every single one of their hospitals as part of the cancer team. A patient would see their conventional oncologist, they would see their nutritionist, they would see their naturopathic physician, maybe their acupuncturist, or their spiritual counselor. They would have a full body, full wellness approach to their cancer care.
That’s just one example of many. As I said in my example earlier, NDs are trained to diagnose and treat. But we also recognize that we’re part of the healthcare team. We have a unique skill set that makes us very valuable, but we also have limitations. Those limitations are when it comes to something that is outside of our scope of practice or skill, we refer. We know how to work within the healthcare team. Like you said, we may be part of an integrated practice with a medical doctor, an osteopathic physician, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and so on … and nurses. As part of the full healthcare team.
Tobin Brinker: Are there certain conditions where a patient may want to choose, let’s say a naturopathic physician over a conventional doctor? And why would they do that?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I think that there is so much benefit for folks really, even without illness conditions. We can all do better when it comes to living healthier lives. I can’t say that there is one specific condition that you would see a naturopathic doctor over a conventional physician. However, there really are so many areas that in health wise, I mentioned the top diseases, that folks come to see NDs for like chronic pain, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or cancer, or allergies, or gastrointestinal issues. Those things really are helped very much so with naturopathic medicine. There was a Canadian medical journal article that discussed the role of naturopathic medicine in cardiovascular disease. There are a number of areas where we’re really excelling. I think women’s medicine is another place that naturopathic doctors see a lot of patients. About 50%, a little over 50% of the visits to NDs are women’s medicine cases.
Erin Brinker: So, I have to say, I have Hashimotos. Which is an autoimmune thyroid disease. I was really frustrated not making any progress with my disease. I’ve had it for 15 years. I saw a naturopathic physician here in the Redlands area. She really helped me. It was with food. I cut out gluten from my diet. At that point, had no idea what it was doing to me. I just knew I felt lousy all the time. It took a naturopathic doctor put me in that right direction. I see an endocrinologist, but naturopathy really supported that.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. There are times where you could see a naturopathic physician alone. There are times, like you said, you might be working with both as part of your team. Maybe even other docs is part of that team.
Erin Brinker: We have about … oh sorry, sorry, sorry. We have about 30 seconds left. How do people get a hold of you?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Okay. It’s AANMC.org. That’s A-A-N-M-C. O-R-G is the association’s website. You can reach out to us with any questions. Info@aanmc.org is the best email address to reach us at with any questions regarding naturopathic medicine.
Tobin Brinker: One last question too–
Erin Brinker: Tobin, we don’t have time. Dr. JoAnn Yanez, thank you so much for joining us today. So excited to have you with us. Please come back. We’d love to have a regular segment with because we think this is really important. So, thank you for joining us.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I’d love to. Thank you so much.
Erin Brinker: So I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin Brinker: And I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are “On the Brink,” the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 and FM 106.5. Have a great day everybody.