Dr. JoAnn Yanez, Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (right), joins KCAAs “On the Brink” host, Erin Brinker (left) and Tobin Brinker (middle) to discuss myths in naturopathic medicine.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
- Learn more about:
- Common myths about naturopathic medical education
- Naturopathic medicine and evidence-based medicine
- Naturopathy vs. homeopathy
- Naturopathic Doctors and Vaccines
- And more…..
Erin Brinker: Welcome back, I’m Erin Brinker and I’m Tobin Brinker, and we are on The Brink, the Morning Show, on KCAA, AM 1050, FM 106.5 and FM 102.3. So 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. Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academic, naturopathic patient care, and public health. Dr. Yanez serves as Vice President of the Academic Collaborative for Integrated Health and is on the Advisory Board for the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions. Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.
Dr. Yanez: Good morning, folks. How are you both doing?
Erin Brinker: Just doing great. The weather is not as hot this week, so I’m much better.
Dr. Yanez: No kidding.
Erin Brinker: It’s been brutal. Tell us about some of the myths of naturopathic medicine.
Dr. Yanez: It’s really funny. As a naturopathic doctor and even in my own story, when I found out about naturopathic medicine for the very first time, I said to the doctor that I heard the word from, I said, “naturo what”? I’m very used to people either not being familiar with the terminology or having some misperceptions. Recently, our Association put out an article on the top 10 myths that we hear as an Association about naturopathic physicians and naturopathic medicine. There are so many. I will definitely say the number one question we’re asked as an Association is, “Can I get this degree online?” I emphatically say, “No, you cannot learn how to be a doctor online.” I’m not quite sure why that misperception exists. There have been programs who have offered the naturopathic degree as a correspondence degree in years prior and they are not accredited. They’re not recognized by the United States Department of Education. It’s really unfortunate that that existed and does exist in some places, but there are accredited schools. AANMC programs are recognized by the Secretary of Education. It is a designation where I don’t think you would want your doctor to have learned how to do a physical exam online.
Erin Brinker: No. No, no. No, no, no, no. No, no, no. There are actually very few degrees that you can successful do online. Even if they are offered online, you don’t get the same education and especially the hard sciences.
Dr. Yanez: Online education is really evolving. Technology is there. There is a lot of advancement and online delivery or hybrid course delivery. I think that is a very large misconception out there. Another myth is that we’re not science-based. There are folks out there that say, “Naturopathic medicine is not based in evidence. It’s not based in science.” That is a huge misconception. Folks don’t realize. A couple weeks ago or so, I met with somebody from the VA. They had attended one of our schools on a special visitation with a number of high level VA staffers and went to the school. One of the first comments they said was, “This is medical school.” Like, they were surprised.
Erin Brinker: You’re like, “Yes, it is.”
Dr. Yanez: I said, “Yes, it is.” The first two years are very much identical to the sciences that conventional medical students take. There is anatomy with dissection lab on human cadavers. There are biochemistry laboratories, physiology, histology. All the ologies that you would get in conventional medical school happen in naturopathic medicine because, guess what, your heart doesn’t move because you’re seeing a naturopathic doctor. The chest cavity is in the same place.
Erin Brinker: Exactly.
Dr. Yanez: It works the same. Really though, in naturopathic medical education, we take all of those hard sciences and we look at it in a holistic fashion. When you’re studying physiology, you’re studying how the body interacts, how all the organ systems interact with each other. How one impacts and the endocrine system can impact the digestive system or vice versa. If anything, we’re going into those hard sciences in a lot of depth. Another area is all of our schools participate in creating primary research. That means that every single school and every single student is involved in creating the evidence-base for integrated medicine. Right now, I have a multi-clinic study going on with our clinical centers at the naturopathic colleges looking at patient outcomes and quality of life markers and a number of other markers that we’re looking at. I think folks don’t recognize, hey, we’re involved in evidence. There are areas where the evidence-base is developing and as evidence comes out, we reevaluate therapy, but I think that, that evidence-base and this isn’t scientific or this isn’t science-based. There are a lot of critics out there who will throw stones. They’re also not looking at their own evidence-base. There are many things that have been shown, as I know you’ve talked about on your show before, many things that were in the conventional medical model that were originally things that were done often that now evidence has shown are not healthy or not safe.
Erin Brinker: Right. I think people need to see what they’re doing in countries like Germany, where naturopathic medicine is as prevalent as the more general medicine. You can go to a pharmacist and find naturopathic remedies as easily as you can find pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Yanez: Yes. I think when people have a global perspective of healthcare, the Asian medicine that’s been used in practice for thousands of years. There’s Ayurvedic medicine. There’s indigenous medicines that have been practiced successfully for eons. As a naturopathic doctor and as a multi-cultural person, I know who was raised out of different types of ethnicities and our cultural medicine, I think that there is room in the dialogue to understand that there may be more ways to skin the cat. One of the other myths that I wanted to talk about, and this one hurts me, is that naturopathic medicine is only for wealthy patients. As a person, myself dedicated to making healthcare accessible, I have a public health degree in addition to my ND making healthcare accessible. That’s one thing that I always want to bring to the forefront is the community clinics that every single one of my member schools participates in and hosts, sometimes at the cost of the college. All of the schools operate community centers, community clinics. Our students train in community medicine offering care to indigent patients, offering care to homeless shelters, and battered women shelters, school clinics. Recently, one of our schools in the Arizona area opened up clinic space out of elementary schools.
Erin Brinker: That’s great.
Dr. Yanez: These clinics have grown-and-grown-and-grown. It’s one of the poorest strips in the Phoenix area. They just started as a little pop-up clinic and it grew, and it grew. Parents started coming and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this problem. Can you help me too? I’m also sick. I can’t take care of them.” It just grew into this wonderful thing. I think folks often feel, “Well, this must be just for hippies or this must be educated folks.” It is true that people with education and upward mobility often do seek out natural health in a more frequent manner, but that doesn’t mean that everybody doesn’t deserve access to being more healthy.
Erin Brinker: It could be true that they’re more likely to be aware that naturopathic medicine is an option.
Dr. Yanez: There’s more likelihood that their neighbors, somebody’s going to have used this, there’s internet access. I don’t think we talk enough about the internet access necessarily in this country. Internet right now, is one of those things that it’s really a deal breaker. Think of how much you rely on your internet connection every single day.
Erin Brinker: Absolutely. That’s true. Now, through President Obama had a program that got people who could not afford it, were able to get mobile phones that had internet access. That leveled the playing field for a lot of families.You’ll see families and you’ll see people who don’t have money for internet or computers at home but they’ll have that mobile phone. They’ll have access that way. Wouldn’t you agree, Tobin?
Tobin Brinker: Yeah. We actually see that with our students. That they don’t have access to the computer, but they definitely have the phones.
Dr. Yanez: Yep.
Erin Brinker: One of the things that I know is a myth and I think partially it’s brought about by some people who are activists on the internet, is that naturopathic doctors are anti-pharmaceutical. Anti-conventional treatments. There are doctors out there like Dr. Mercola, who are controversial. People assume that naturopathics are anti-vaccine. That you’re anti-pharmaceutical. Can you address that?
Dr. Yanez: Absolutely. Thank you for asking that. It is a huge misconception. Right now, we’re actually working on a white paper with all of my clinical deans on what exactly is taught in naturopathic medical school regarding vaccinations. We are taught the vaccine schedule. We are taught the CDC schedule. That is educated in all of the naturopathic medical colleges emphatically across the board. I think that there are many misconceptions that come out there. The one you said was, we’re anti-establishment medicine. I’m married to a conventional physician, who’s a hospital administrator. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think that at the end of the day, and I even think of our early dating days, it’s, “You’re going to hate me. I’m an emergency physician.” “Why do you say that?” If I’m in an auto accident and my arm is hanging off, get me some really strong drugs and get me a vascular surgeon who can fix me up.
Erin Brinker: Exactly.
Dr. Yanez: I think that there is … We’re taught in naturopathic medical education when to refer, how to work within the conventional system, when laboratory diagnostic tests are appropriate. I think, as I said, in that foundational two years of learning those biomedical sciences, that is included. Conventional pharmacology’s included. Guess what? I’m a naturopathic physician and I learn about herbs and I learn about supplements and I learn about nutrition, but does that mean every single one of my patients is going to come in as a clean slate and is not going to be taking medications, conventional or otherwise? No. I need to know how my supplements interact, how my therapies interact with the conventional supplements. Anything we learn about drugs, we learn about the interaction. We learn about the contraindications, the side effects and all of that. It isn’t that we’re anti-anything, we’re FOR the patient and we’re for what is going to be best for that patient. If I’ve got a patient that’s acute … Years ago, I had a woman who came in. Chief complaint was depression, but it turned out, she was five months’ pregnant and was totally not facing the fact. She was in denial of her pregnancy. I ran a quick pregnancy test. I’m, “Hey, guess what? You’re going right …” She was complaining of abdominal pain. I said, “This is outside of my lane. You’re going directly to the emergency room to assess if there is a viable pregnancy inside of you and get yourself some appropriate gynecological care and obstetric care right now.” That’s the sort of thing where I know my lanes. I do what I do really well and things that are outside of my lane, I refer. I’ve got networks with professionals. We work together and we work as a healthcare team. Period.
Erin Brinker: Naturopathy is not homeopathy.
Dr. Yanez: It is not. There are many folks who say, we’ll hear skeptics talking about homeopathy. We’ll hear folks saying things regardless, either way, about homeopathy. Naturopathic medicine is not the same as homeopathic medicine. Homeopathy is taught in the naturopathic curriculum; however, that is not the only thing that is taught in the naturopathic curriculum. There are many other things. Just as, I’m sure you went to college, and you learned a number of different types of avenues. In college, some things resonated with you and you really wanted to learn them more. Other things did not resonate and you took that one class and that was the end of it. Homeopathy is also one of those names that maybe it’s a little easier to pronounce, maybe people might be familiar with it because they see the remedies on the counter of the drug store, but it is not the same. It’s one of tools in the toolbox that a naturopathic physician trains in, but it is by no means all of the tools.
Erin Brinker: I’ve just met a young man who’s considering his options. He doesn’t know if he wants to be a physician’s assistant, if he wants to go to medical school, if he wants to … I’m going to send this interview to him because I think it’s been fabulous. Thank you so much. How do people get more information about naturopathic medicine? How do they follow you, etc.?
Dr. Yanez: aanmc.org. That is our website. We’ve got webinars that we post monthly. We have an archive of all of our past webinars and events as well so folks can go digging in there and find a topic they’re interested in and hear more.
Erin Brinker: That’s AANMC for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Dr. JoAnn Yanez. Thank you so much. It’s always a treat to have you on the air with us.
Dr. Yanez: Thank you. Thank you for having me on this morning.
Erin Brinker: We’ll see you next week.
Dr. Yanez: Have a great day.
Erin Brinker: Next month.
Dr. Yanez: Yep.
Erin Brinker: Thank you. You too.
Dr. Yanez: Bye.
Erin Brinker: Bye, bye. All right. 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.