“I knew I wanted to be a doctor that could help anyone, anywhere.”
Dr. Griffin McMath first envisioned her future as a naturopathic doctor at a young age. “When I was a child—and still to this day—that visual includes me being dropped nearly anywhere in the world, no matter how globalized or ‘developed,’ with only my knowledge, two hands, and limited supplies, and serving as an effective and compassionate physician to whoever needs my help,” she says.
She did her undergraduate work at Central Michigan University, where she studied anthropology, and this solidified her desire to help those in need. “Regardless of their cultural or religious beliefs and socioeconomic status, I knew I needed to be equipped with training that could provide me with expertise and creativity to meet and treat a person wherever they are at that moment,” she says. “Before I knew naturopathic medicine existed, my values regarding Therapeutic Order in healing were parallel to the principles of this profession I now love so much.”
The road to naturopathic medical school
Dr. McMath quickly determined that naturopathic medicine was the right path for her. “From the moment I began switching gears to apply to naturopathic medical school, I felt more in alignment with myself and my purpose,” she says.
When applying to schools, she was encouraged by the holistic admissions process. “Even filling out the applications showed that AANMC schools looked not only at your transcripts, but also at who you are as a person and how capable you may be at creating and maintaining a therapeutic connection,” she recalls.
She eventually chose Bastyr University California because it aligned with her goals and her personality. “Bastyr was opening a second campus at the time, and I knew I had a personality that did well with adventure and pioneering. I enjoy environments where I am able to create my own opportunities and give back in order to build something bigger and better,” she says.
The university’s admissions advisor also facilitated a positive experience as Dr. McMath explored her options. “This made me feel and know that this school really wanted me to succeed,” she says.
Building a foundation at Bastyr
“I could write a book on what I gained from my time at Bastyr,” Dr. McMath says. The most memorable aspect of her experience at the university was the support she received from the faculty and staff. “I’m a boisterous and bold individual, and learning how to channel enthusiasm and ambition such as mine requires guidance by a supervisor and institution. Since my energy and passion are rarely in short supply, Bastyr helped teach me how to use my strengths and personality in a way that is effective in patient care and in countless other settings,” she says.
Bastyr also prepared her for the business side of becoming an ND. “I attended almost every business workshop Bastyr provided from day one and was an active participant of nearly every state and federal legislative initiative,” she says.
“I planned backward: put big goals on a timeline and strategized what training or experience I would need to get there, and how I would obtain that. I did this by maintaining two copies of my CV at all times: one that was ready to share at a moment’s notice, and the other that was my ‘dreams fulfilled’ CV. I used the latter almost as a manifesto,” she says. “It was exciting to see that my CV at graduation only had a few differences compared to my ‘dreams fulfilled’ CV.”
Making her goals a reality after graduation
After graduating and passing her NPLEX exams, Dr. McMath took some part time work before moving to Washington, D.C. to chase her dreams. “I had no full-time position, no solid community of friends or family waiting for me, and minimal recollection of a life involving weather below 65 degrees. Still, my dreams persisted, and I followed my passions and my instincts. The encouragement and support of friends and family from afar truly helped give my wings flight at that time,” she says.
She sent out her CV to several academic institutions and practices, and landed at The Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). “Proton therapy is a relatively new treatment that delivers radiation specifically at the site of tumor. This spares healthy tissue beyond and surrounding the tumor site,” Dr. McMath explains. “Since day one of the interview process, I could see how many of my principles as a naturopathic doctor resonated with the priorities of the team at MPTC. I’ve been brought into this community to expand upon their already incredibly patient-centered approach using integrative medicine.”
“My work and life are pretty busy—yet manageable—right now, and I’m reminded of that unofficial principle of naturopathic medicine: ‘Physician Heal Thyself,’” she says. With a full-time position as program administrator of Integrative Medicine at MPTC plus a role as the community outreach coordinator for the Institute for Natural Medicine, Dr. McMath makes an effort to stay grounded and connected. “I utilize my daily commute to catch up with family or friends, listen to audiobooks or the news, and belt out some tunes to start my day on a cheery note. I walk or run with my pup multiple times each day, try to prep my meals as often as possible, and spend time exploring D.C. with girlfriends on the weekend evenings,” she says.
The future of naturopathic medicine
“Naturopathic medicine gives you the mindset to keep asking ‘why?’ and peeling each layer of the clinical ‘onion’ backward,” Dr. McMath says. She views the flexibility of the profession as one of the most attractive aspects of her career. “I see naturopathic medicine as an incredible philosophy, structure, and mechanism, which has principles that can drastically benefit public health and policy realms. It is my hope to utilize my degree in naturopathic medicine in these ways as well as work one-on-one with patients,” she says.
“Guiding naturopathic doctors into local and global public health and policy settings continues to be a vital priority, especially as the public increasingly vocalizes an interest in natural and integrative health—our experts should be the ones to help facilitate these conversations,” she says.
Advice for aspiring NDs
Dr. McMath urges those interested in naturopathic medicine to consider whether or not their philosophy and purpose align with the principles of the discipline. If so, she suggests a few things to keep in mind after enrolling in ND school:
- Work smarter. Collaborate; support one another; challenge one another.
- Take care of yourself.
- Diversify your clinical exposure and skillset, and engage in respectful, open-minded discourse with others.
- Join your state association, NMSA, AANP, and consider becoming an INM Ambassador.
- Attend the free workshops and seminars and find a mentor.
- Appreciate the work and impact of those who have come before you, and continue to grow and build this profession.
- Be involved. Attend state and federal lobby days. Take part in awareness activities.
- Always remember, FIRST become a great doctor.
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