It seems like if you don't live in a large city or know someone who has seen an ND, you most likely, have absolutely no idea what naturopathic doctors are or the training they have. They will probably confuse a ND with a nutritionist, homeopath, health coach, witch, or some weirdo selling snake oil. ND's are definitely the underdog in the medical system with roughly 5,000 practicing in the United States while there are 893,851 practicing MD's. But that's no reason to give up... some of the most inspiring people in the world came from situations that bet against them. The solution is education, if people really knew the training and education that naturopathic doctors have they would be lining up at their clinics begging for a fresh perspective on their health.
ND's might be considered the underdogs based on sheer numbers, but these passionate men and women are part of an ELITE group of physicians with the best training in the world in natural medicine that fulfil a unique niche in the medical system and are transforming healthcare!
ND's like MD's are both required to have an undergraduate degree in premedical studies while maintaining an excellent GPA. They both take hundreds of credit hours in all the core sciences (anatomy, cadaver lab, biochemistry, physiology, pathology, neurology, pharmacology...) and both have to take 2 rigorous board licensing exams. The graph below provides an excellent comparison between Bastyr University (which I attend) to the University of Washington medical school.
Upon graduation a naturopathic doctor will have completed over 310 doctorate level credit hours and over 1500 clinical hours seeing a minimum of 350 patients and 144 preceptorship hours (with our choice of an MD, ND, DC, or DO). Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care physicians from the first day of medical school which is much different than M.D's which choose a speciality upon completion of school.
The residencies offered for naturopathic doctors are highly competitive and are focused on primary care medicine with specialties in family medicine, pediatrics, physical medicine, and oncology which take place either in a hospital or clinic setting. The clinical training after successful completion of the academic program is ongoing and residencies for naturopathic doctors is expanding rapidly.
Naturopathic doctors differ from allopathic medical doctors by addressing the patient from a holistic perspective. ND's believe in treating the cause rather than the symptom. Sure, we have pretty much the same rights as MD (diagnosing, treating, prescribing ability) but our goal is to find out the root of the problem.
Surprisingly, there are many people in the U.S who use the initials ND behind their name who barely graduated high school! So, if a person finds an "naturopath" with no real understanding of science or diagnoses and actually gets harmed in the process this creates a sigma for all ND's.
How can this happen? Well, there are several schools that are not accredited and do not even require an undergraduate degree to attend that teach "natural medicine"! Clayton college and many others somehow allow graduates to call themselves "doctors" but they have never seen a patient or even finished an undergraduate degree.
When looking for a naturopathic doctor please make sure that they meet the following:
National College of Natural Medicine
National University of Health Sciences
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
University of Bridgeport
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
The graph below reveals the training from an accredited naturopathic medical school versus a unaccredited school. What a huge difference!
Source of medical school data: 2009 Curriculum Directory of the Association of American Medical Colleges
A trained naturopathic doctor from an accredited university is taught to use an evidence-based model and undergoes rigorous training in research methodology and application. ND's like any other physician realize that they can't possibly specialize in everything and will refer to other practitioners when needed. In states where naturopathic medicine is licensed (currently 17 states) ND's work with MD's to optimize the patient's treatment and care. It couldn't be further from the truth that there is some sort of tension between the two parties! Let's abolish this myth once and for all.
˜˜ The Healing Power of Nature Vis Medicatrix Naturae
Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in the body that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic Physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to recovery as well as to facilitate and augment this healing ability.
˜˜ First Do No Harm Primum Non Nocere
Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient: (1) Utilize methods and medical substances that minimize the risk of harmful side effects (2) Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms (3) Acknowledge and respect the individual’s healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
˜˜ Find the Cause Tolle Causum
Underlying causes of illness must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. The Naturopathic Physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
˜˜ Treat the Whole Person Tolle Totem
Naturopathic Physicians treat each individual by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
˜˜ Doctor as Teacher Docere
The original meaning of the word “doctor” is teacher. One of the main objectives of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self –responsibility for health. Naturopathic physicians also acknowledge the therapeutic value of the doctor - patient relationship.
Naturopathic Physicians emphasize disease prevention, assessment of risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions to prevent illness.Naturopathic medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.
Wellness follows the establishment and maintenance of optimum health and balance.Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone, no matter what dis-ease(s) an individual might experience. If wellness is truly recognized and nurtured within that individual, he/she will more quickly heal, as compared to their healing with direct treatment of the dis-ease alone. (This principle was adopted by Bastyr University and added to the original six principles.)