It’s April 2017 and exactly four years ago I was making my final decision about which naturopathic school I would attend. As I am contemplating the past few years of long studying hours, interesting clinical cases, patient stories, and the community we’ve developed at Bastyr University, many thoughts about our future profession come to mind. As soon-to-be graduates and licensed professionals, we have some serious undertakings ahead. Firstly, some of the conventional medical community continue to be skeptical of our profession while the patient basis across North America is pushing for more complementary and integrative medicine options. With this in mind, we look to our mentors in our field and those who have gone before us in creating successful practices. While we are proud and excited to be part of the changing medical field landscape, we are also disappointed when we hear about NDs who are treating their patients in ways we have not been taught. As our profession continues to struggle to define who and what we are, I think it is important to get back to our basics – do no harm. Are we doing what is best for our patients considering their quality of life, values, and resources? In the end, whether we are conventional or more alternative in our philosophy of medicine, we must always consider what is optimal for our patients in terms of taking into account their personal values and what is evident in the literature. This is evidence-based medicine. I am humbled as we strive to combine art and science to bring the best medical care to the complex multi-dimensional individual in front of us.
With this landscape, I find myself contemplating what I know is going to be a difficult yet rewarding career. Our generation of naturopathic physicians will have to answer to several issues that pervades the current healthcare system. Not only are we expected to provide safe, competent, and high-quality healthcare to our patients, we strive to develop and maintain long-lasting effective relationships with our conventional colleagues so that we can move our profession forward towards nation-wide licensure.
As I look back on my career as a student and look forward to the future, I would like to suggest several ways the naturopathic medical program can consider in an effort to improve training of future students. These suggestions include mandatory two-year residencies for all ND graduates and increased employment opportunities in the community and integrative health clinics with clinical rotations at hospitals during our time as a medical student. Although these are not currently in place, I feel graduates have a responsibility to push for them and be active in this process as our profession gains traction. If we want to truly collaborate with our allopathic and osteopathic counterparts, we must hold ourselves to the similar educational standards as conventional practitioners who share our scope of practice.
Although some of these tasks are as daunting as they are difficult, I am also encouraged. I am excited to be a part of a changing medical field. I am excited to enter primary care medicine with the opportunity to offer time and compassion to my patients. I am passionate about working towards helping every single one of my patients to move more, eat healthier, and develop effective stress management techniques while offering them a variety of evidence-based treatments. Between observing the process of death in my ER rotation, witnessing the last few months of life for cancer patients, holding people’s stories in in the counseling room and managing chronic disease in the teaching clinic, I am both humbled and passionate about developing as a healer.
I wish the very best to all of our future graduates and current students. I encourage us to continue challenging our profession, our accepted norms, and our place in the healthcare system. Moreover, I hope we can remain highly dedicated, open-minded, and enthusiastic about the healing arts as we strive to deliver exceptional care to our patients and help create effective change in the healthcare field at large.
-By Lydia Peters
Lydia Peters is a fourth-year naturopathic medical student at Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA). She is passionate about evidence-based primary care medicine and enjoys learning about cardiovascular disease and women’s health. When she is not studying or preparing for patients, you will find her hitting the local ski slopes or planning the next outdoor adventure.