From May 21-23rd, 2016, eleven Canadian students from the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) attended the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) DC-FLI (Federal Legislative Initiative) in Washington, D.C.. These students represented both the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and the Boucher Institute for Naturopathic Medicine (BINM). As members of the NMSA, these students advocated for naturopathic medicine as a whole, through supporting our naturopathic community in the United States in their legislative efforts on Capitol Hill.
The NMSA serves as a voice for naturopathic medical students across Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico. This voice advocates in support of intercollegiate community, for connection to the profession, and to provide a national and international student presence. The annual DC-FLI event provides an opportunity for Canadian students to engage in valuable leadership training opportunities and facilitates political awareness. This particular event serves as an important reminder that naturopathic medicine is not just a profession, it is a community; a community that needs its members to stand with a unified voice in advocating for our profession. By choosing to attend and enhance our leadership skills, we are cultivating professionals that will advocate for naturopathic medicine as a whole to create a sustainable and growing field. In this way by becoming involved as students, we are choosing to make a difference in our profession.
Through lectures and break-out training sessions at DC FLI, students and naturopathic doctors (NDs) alike were given a great deal of food for thought, both to broaden our own foundations and to enhance our outlook on the future of the profession. We were reminded that as NDs, holistic and individualized treatment with the patient is priceless. Furthermore, that with a practice based on genuine connection, communication and authenticity, the navigation of challenges of being a healthcare practitioner will become easier. Lectures from speakers including Dr. Wendy Weber, ND, PhD, MPH from the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) gave students a glimpse of how they can take advantages of the clinical research opportunities offered by the NIH.
The speakers also provided practical skill development in the fields of legislation literacy (“Key Elements of a Licensure or Registration Bill”, “Building your Grassroots Presence”), practice management (“Succeeding as an ND in a Pre-Licensed State”), and association management (“Small Association Management”, “Fundraising Fundamentals”). These concepts were foreign, yet a welcome introduction to open the NMSA student’s perspective to the many facets of our living community of naturopathic medicine.
These lectures were interspersed with sessions that trained conference attendees for their legislative visits on Capitol Hill at the end of the weekend. Students were given the opportunity to work on creating a message that explains naturopathic medicine, but attention was brought to being aware of the audience that is receiving this message each time you deliver it. The attendees were educated on the AANP’s policy priorities of raising public awareness and understanding, and commitment to state licensure. Students could feel the excitement and dedication towards sustainability, unification and promotion of our profession.
Students that attend the DC FLI are given the advantage of building their professional leadership and advocacy skills. They are educated about our profession at an international level and learn the language and skill set that is required to make our voices heard. As naturopathic medical students, we are called to go beyond the books and connect to our profession and our community by contributing in a supportive and active capacity. By being active members of the NMSA and attending events like the DC FLI, we will build the foundation and skills to truly understand who we are as a profession and where we are going as student leaders and advocates for naturopathic medicine.
-Vanessa Ling (Immediate-Past Chapter President, CCNM)
-Sophia Vathracoulis (Chapter President, BINM)