Daniella Remy is a second-year naturopathic medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She shares her path to naturopathic medicine.
Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?
Following the completion of her masters degree in Family Relations and Human Development in Ontario, Daniella moved to France to study at the University of Nice while teaching English in three elementary schools.”My goal was to engage in language development in five countries over five years to collect data for a PhD thesis on improving ESL programs, but on one of my trips I met a man who took me on another path. My ex is a naturopathic doctor who does amazing work throughout many countries in Europe and I was blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it. Then when my mother had an aggressive form of breast cancer but was successfully treated with integrative cancer care, the power of naturopathic medicine was truly brought to light and I fell in love with the profession.
Though I wasn’t consciously aware of it, everything I experienced since 2006 has been leading down the path of naturopathic medicine. In fact, while speaking to my current partner about my frustrations of having a lack of medical knowledge and considering going back to school, his response was “Finally! It’s obvious to everyone that you should be a doctor but it’s important for you to decide this for yourself.” Well, I no longer hesitated and started searching immediately for what school I should attend. I debated getting my MD, but it was the naturopathic philosophy that mirrors my own that made me realize getting my ND is the way for me and CCNM was the only place to which I applied.
During my time abroad, I got involved in research, edited a book, prepared manuals and courses, established a clinic in Austria, helped with an herbal shop in Italy, learned how to make products in Switzerland, and even sat in on clinic sessions to translate for patients. I had a whirlwind of experiences in Europe and Australia. I then got involved in the development of an app called ph360.me (Shae) that uses a person’s anthropometry and health assessment questionnaire to estimate current health and disease trends. It then provides personalized evidence-based lifestyle recommendations. After I moved back to Canada, I continued to work for ph360 but felt I was missing an essential foundation of medicine to truly contribute the way I wanted to. This was my springboard to pursue a medical education.
How did you prepare for ND school?
Once I started, there was no doubt left in my mind. I jumped in with both feet. I tend to do that in life, it’s part of my character. And as long as it continues to feel right, I’ll keep giving it my all.
CCNM is only one hour away from where I live and that played a key role. I came back to Canada after nearly a decade abroad because I had come to value family and no longer wanted to be so far away from them. At first, I didn’t know schools of naturopathic medicine existed, but when looking into medical schools in general and finding one that fosters the same values I do, I felt blessed that it was in Toronto so I didn’t have to pick up and move.
Having come from a social science background many years ago, I needed to take all the science prerequisite courses. But having been out of school for so long, I found it challenging to memorize and study for exams again, so I invested some time on learning how to learn. I also communicated openly with my employer about what I would need for success and got their support to manage my hours and workload in a way that would accommodate achieving my academic goals. Finally, I decided to start school in January instead of September because I needed the time to get my affairs in order, wrap up projects I had underway, train others to do some of my work while I went part-time, and make sure I could manage the next 4 years financially. In my mind, there was no point doing something so important unless I can do it well, so taking the time to prepare and make sure I can be fully engaged from the very first day was vital to me.
What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?
“The CCNM community fosters learning and encourages excellence in the naturopathic profession. Students can create clubs and interest groups, engage in mentored research, provide feedback to the school that is truly taken to heart, and participate in many additional lectures and webinars for their professional and academic development. Students are offered an environment for collaboration and cohesiveness, and that is inspirational to me.”
“Naturopathic medicine is like a start-up business – it needs highly motivated and driven people to establish it. There are so many ways we can do that. Whether it’s through advocacy, quality research, evidence-based practice, interdisciplinary collaboration, or any number of engagements, there is a type of team comradery in the profession that can be quite powerful. Students can get involved in so many ways, knowing there’s an entire team supporting and encouraging your success. And the more you give, the more you get back. There is no shortage of opportunities to grow, be creative and explore your passion.”
How do you maintain a school/life balance?
I am grateful for having a loving and supportive partner and family to get me through the tough times, and strong goals that keep me going. I’m not afraid to ask for help when I need it, get treatments at the RSNC for my physical health, or seek counseling for my mental health. I try to practice what I preach by making sure I get sunshine, nutritious food, recuperative sleep, and take care of my body and mind. I’m far from perfect and exercise may fall to the bottom of my priority list more often than I’d like, but I maintain awareness of my priorities, remain mindful of my needs in a particular moment, avoid procrastinating because that just makes the stress worse, and don’t hesitate to use my support network. So although I’m the student governor with the NSA, the VP of professional development with the NMSA, engaging in research while maintaining my part-time job and still maintaining good grades in school, I have learned that I can only do so much because I don’t do it alone.
What advice do you have for prospective ND students?
“You are responsible for the energy you bring, so look on the bright side of things and make what you want from your experiences. Life can take many twists and turns but they always lead to a place that’s right for you. Embrace it, make the most of the journey, and stay positive. Even with the COVID challenges we’re currently facing. Rather than complain or let others bring you down, look for solutions and better outcomes. This is a time to focus on priorities, learn something about yourself and the ones you love, step up and take on the challenges that may come, engage in positive change and help foster a supportive community. The student life isn’t easy, but nothing that’s worthwhile really is. So always keep in mind why you’re here and what your ultimate purpose is, for this will help you stay on track with the right attitude to make it through. Studying for exams is much easier when you’re thinking about it as a necessary stepping stone to your ultimate purpose and see it as a means to the end you’re aiming for.
Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.