“Teaching students the tools of learning empowers them for lifelong learning.”
Chris Pickrell, ND is a registered herbalist and the head of the botanical medicine program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) – his alma mater.
Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?
“I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare in some capacity, and for many years, I assumed that would be as a medical doctor. The more I learned about naturopathic medicine, the more it felt like the way I wanted to contribute. The best answer I can offer here, though I borrow it from a line I once saw written as an answer to this specific question, is – I want to be part of the solution.”
What can students learn from you?
“I coordinate the botanical medicine program at CCNM and teach the second-year botanical course as well as the advanced botanical elective course along with a senior colleague. I also teach botanical medicine and Chinese medicine within our specialized program for International Medical Graduates (IMG), a program that allows IMG students to use their training as medical doctors to become naturopathic doctors.
There are two ways I try to focus student learning. The first is to reframe the student problem. Most students come from undergrad with the primary focus of passing their classes and achieving good grades. Nothing wrong with that. But, as we move from that mindset of achievement-as-outcome into a broader approach to learning that includes both the mind and the heart, we reframe the context of learning into practical clinical application.
Similarly, the second aspect, another reframe, is to move the agency of learning back to the student. I often start class by saying, ‘We’re not teaching botanical medicine, we’re teaching how to learn botanical medicine.’ It is neither possible nor desirable to cover every single herb for every single condition. Teaching students the tools of learning empowers them for lifelong learning.”
Finding fulfillment as an ND
The flexibility of a career in naturopathic medicine is very rewarding. “In my 10+ years of practice, I have started a walk-in community acupuncture clinic, a walk-in naturopathic clinic, and created a practitioner clinic with a focus on offering affordable naturopathic care to everyone. I have also enjoyed teaching, supervising in our student clinic, and even starting a botanical business on the side. I’ve also taken groups of CCNM students to Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals in China.” There are so many opportunities in naturopathic medicine!
“I am most passionate about finding ways to support NDs offering affordable care. I’ve got a standing offer of support for any practitioner looking to make affordable care a focus of their practice. I want to see our profession do everything we can to make sure we stay part of the solution, for everyone.”
What qualities make a strong ND student?
“The qualities that make a strong ND student are the same as those that make a strong ND in practice. Foremost is integrity. Compassion, equanimity, passion for lifelong learning, and a broad mind are all required to excel as a naturopathic doctor.”
What advice do you have for prospective ND students?
“Deciding to join any profession or take on any significant amount of schooling is always a major decision. Take your time, test it out, spend some time with at least a few different NDs, and visit a couple of the schools. Then, at a certain point, you’ll have all the information you can gather. With decisions this big, you can never know every possible variable, and that is okay. When you’re ready, sit down somewhere quiet and you’ll find you already know the answer that’s right for you.”
Learn more about Dr. Pickrell
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