Leadership Blog Series: When grief, stress and burnout mix altogether in your Naturopathic Medical Experience

Welcome to our leadership blog series! This month David T. Nachi, NMSA Chapter President at Universidad Ana G. Méndez (Ana G. Méndez University) in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, discusses his journey through Naturopathic Medical School. 

Leadership Blog Series: When grief, stress and burnout mix altogether in your Naturopathic Medical Experience

As a Naturopathic Medical Student, you will face many challenges that might lead you tap to the guillotine choke (Alert: MMA joke!!!) or to become a Level 5 Super Saiyan (Alert: Anime joke!!!). Whatever the case might be, please remember that the obstacles make the best Olympic medalists and record-breakers. For this professional degree, just as many others, there is just a perfectly fitting saying in the form of a Japanese proverb stating that “you fall seven times and get up eight times”. Besides, there is something of an alchemy going on with this profession: you will never be the same person after you crossed the twilight zone between the start and the end of your career.

What I want is not to give you senseless quotes and jokes that might distract you for a while. Instead, I want to give you a piece of my personal experience, noting that every person might bleed from each personal pain experience and in some unique way, even despite looking strong-minded and determined. Everything in Nature, which is the source of all of us, has the inherent ability to heal itself (does that sound familiar?). For example, when a tissue is being exposed to oxidative damage, there are ways that the body synthesize fibrotic tissue to make it resistant to further damage. After the burning of a primary forest, a new secondary forest forms more resistant than the previous. As you could see, watching the patterns of our beautiful Nature confirms what Nietzsche stated: “what does not kill you, only makes you stronger”.

First, I would like to share with you one of the most difficult events in this career ever. This happened between the start of February and the start of March. Year by year, I have been grieving the death of my godfather, which is on February 6th, and the death of my mother, on February 28th. Though I still think I might be somewhat able to control my grief, I cannot help but to feel sad when February comes. Adding the stress of the toughest year of a Naturopathic Medical Program, with 62 hours of preceptorship, tasks to the different commitments I have had as a representative of my chapter, my program, and my colleagues in the diverse forums at the school, my lectures, my clinical shifts and competencies while trying to balance my life to be the best husband to my pregnant wife were more than enough by that time. All of this happened in a 10-week part of term, which is the format of our school.  The burnout was hot-blooded in my body, my adrenals felt almost idyllic, I gained weight inadvertently, and there were bouts of weeping every other day alternating with bouts of outrage. Something than even Mercury retrograde would have had the blame even if it was not influencing.

There was more than I could tell with these events, which are the feelings. Behind the mask of pretending that I was only stressed out of overwhelming tasks, I was grieving. There was a certain amount of poisonous thoughts that combined with Naturopathic Medical School, commitments, my obsessive and compulsive sense of duty, my charred adrenals. These thoughts were screaming about death, about giving up, about many things that would not happen to the balanced version of me otherwise. After I overcame that difficult mix, then COVID-19 came. I have succeeded in complying with all the assigned tasks and I found some time to rest and relax while everything shifted to remote, virtual, online, Blackboard-based courses.

What was once upside down then turned into an opportunity to regain my “Zen”. I was able to finish two 10-week courses in a 4-week timeline while I was working on my workups, telemedicine, clinic competencies and waking up whenever I want. Where there appeared to have a global crisis, was a brake in the “bullet train” of my life, but also a moment to get back to normal, to heal again, to bloom against the environmental adversities.

Now that I could tell you my biggest emotional low of my career as a Naturopathic Medical Student, I can now share my results. After more than 1,200 clinical hours, more than 180 preceptorship hours, more than 450 patient contacts as an intern, more than 75 acupuncture contacts, more than 380 patient contacts as a secondary and 225 primary contacts, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I became a Naturopathic Medical Doctor, I became the father of the most beautiful girl in the world, and I regained strength in my constitution and hope that everything falls into place harmoniously.
I bet with all my heart that there is nothing you cannot overcome, but sometimes, even when we do not intend to pay high prices, they are necessary to find ourselves, to reach higher notes, to get back to the heavenly essence we came from. I hope that a little piece of my story serves you as a map to help you through what you are still about to face. I bet that you will do it valiantly and gracefully.

With gratitude, compassion and love,

David T. Nachi

David T. Nachi is a fourth-year student at Universidad Ana G. Méndez (Ana G. Méndez University) in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey with a degree in General Biology in 2003. Prior to coming to UAGM at Gurabo, David pursued a Master of Science in Environmental Management with a specialty in Conservation and Management of Natural Resources at UAGM Metropolitan in 2014 in San Juan, PR. His goals as Chapter President are to bring awareness of being involved with Naturopathic Medicine professional associations such as NMSA at UAGM and to spread the word and spark the flame of collaboration, respect, and unity. His current clinical interests include Homeopathy, Japanese Meridian Therapy Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Environmental Medicine, and Functional Medicine. His hobbies are Kyokushin Karate, Music (especially Rock, Indie, and Independent Music), Chess, Table Tennis, Video Games, and Didactic Genres (Movies, Books, Anime that inspire moral lessons).


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