Vicks Vapo Rub and a conversation at a Mexican restaurant helped Dr. Kabran Chapek discover his true passion: naturopathic medicine.
As a child, Kabran M. Chapek, ND (Bastyr, class of 2006) despised getting sick, but, of course, couldn’t avoid the occasional cold or fever. To help him recuperate, his parents would offer up solutions such as rubbing Vicks® VapoRub on his chest – which fell in line with the family’s overall embrace of holistic practices in both medicine and diet.
The Vicks® treatments would work, as would the family’s healthy diet.
“I thought it was cool that you could do things to change your body just by what you ate,” Dr. Chapek said.
His admiration for the impact lifestyle choices have on our lives led Dr. Chapek to start reading about nutrition as early as in the 7th grade. But a conversation he had in a Topeka, KS Mexican restaurant, with a family friend, is what likely led him to eventually choose naturopathic medicine as his passion and career.
“My parents and I were eating with my parents’ friends, and they asked one of their friends to tell me what they did,” Dr. Chapek recalls.
That friend was a professor at Bastyr University, who went on to talk about his work within the field of naturopathic medicine.
“I sat there wide-eyed, saying that I’d love to do this,” Dr. Chapek said.
But just because he would have loved to practice naturopathic medicine didn’t mean he thought he could actually become a doctor. So, he continued on to the University of Kansas, putting the idea of practicing medicine on the back burner – but never far from his mind: he did take a few basic sciences just in case he did eventually decide to try his hand at naturopathic medicine.
Eventually Dr. Chapek did pursue his passion and, in fact, has since focused his energy on naturopathic mental health.
The practice of naturopathic mental health
“My training is as a naturopathic physician with primary experience in psychiatry.”
That’s how Dr. Chapek best explains his work. Patients who meet with him will have an experience more in line with meeting with a mental health specialist than with a medical doctor. He currently works at Amen Clinics in Bellevue, where he is the only naturopathic doctor on staff.
Part of the reason why Dr. Chapek was brought on as the resident naturopathic doctor was because Dr. Amen – while traditionally trained as an M.D. – is a staunch believer of natural treatments, and prefers all his doctors to use the least toxic methods that are most effective.
“That’s one of our principles in naturopathic medicine,” Dr. Chapek said.
One of the most exciting aspects of Dr. Chapek’s position at Amen Clinics is conducting brain imaging as part of a psychiatric assessment.
“Almost all specialists look at the organ they’re treating,” he said. “But mental health specialists rarely look at the organ they’re treating. This is the future of mental health and psychiatry, and I want to be a part of it.”
What is the best part of your career?
The challenges Dr. Chapek faces each day are what inspire him to continue on, and to improve upon his craft. Often times he realizes that his clinic is the last stop for a patient.
“They’ve tried other treatments, and they’re like, ‘What else can we do,’” he said. “It’s like a puzzle.”
Being able to solve these puzzles means constantly learning new methodologies and approaches, which is another part of his career he loves. As a naturopathic mental health specialist, he’s constantly looking at what else he can learn. He has to stay on top of the latest in brain health and traumatic brain injury, meaning his education is never complete.
What is the future of naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Chapek believes specialization is the future of naturopathic medicine.
“We need board certification in many different specialties,” he said. “The field of oncology, and naturopathic oncologists, have set the bar high, and is the model for what we’d like to have.”
So passionate is Dr. Chapek about this future that he’s actively working toward a board certification in psychiatry for naturopathic physicians (and is always looking for others who want to help make this happen).
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Dr. Chapek’s advice to prospective and current students falls in line with what he’s currently doing to establish a board certification in psychiatry:
“You are the profession. Think big. Think what you’d like to see that may not be there, and remember: you can create that.”
He also reminds students that right after graduation, there may be a gap when income isn’t so high, yet loan payments are coming in.
For some, “That’s a really vulnerable time,,” he said. His advice is, “not to give up, to have a plan for graduation and not to be afraid to make your own way.”