What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

The majority of diseases in current times tend to have so many risk factors and symptoms that it can be difficult to discern exactly why there’s dis-ease present. While genetics can determine about 5% of our health, the other 95% is in our control, and unfortunately many chronic diseases did not just occur overnight, but over a period of time with contributing factors like poor diet and lifestyle. We are now in need of a medicine that can both heal, double as prevention, and most importantly, truly address the root cause of the many processes that contribute to the variety of conditions.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

By Dr. Serena Goldstein, ND

The Naturopathic Doctorate (ND) education has the same pre-medical prerequisites undergraduate courses, yet no MCAT as it also tests speed, and our first visit with someone is 1-1.5 hours. The first two years are closely related to conventional medical school as we take basic sciences and diagnostics (e.g. conditions, physical exams, labs, imaging), and then the next 2-3 years (can be a 4-5 year program) are spent learning pharmaceuticals, botanical medicine, IV therapy, minor surgery, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and nutrition, to not just treat, but to get to the underlying cause of disease. We have two sets of board exams similar to the USMLEs, one after the first two years, and the second after graduation. However, the second set is over three days (instead of one), and nearly 500 case based questions that tests us on all diagnostics and modalities. Graduates are not required to do a residency as we start treating people in clinic the last 2-3 years, required to complete over 200 hours of preceptorships, and our therapies for healing tend to begin as less invasive than pharmaceuticals or surgery.

States are licensed on a per-state basis, where we can either practice as full primary care (e.g. insurance, prescribing pharmaceuticals), or more as consultants in non-licensed states. Regardless of state, we always educate to instill healthful habits around the fundamentals of health such as diet, sleep, stress, and exercise that can certainly help heal a wide variety of concerns and double as preventative care. Nonetheless, licensure in all states is imperative as many people may say they are ‘Naturopaths’, or ‘have a degree in Naturopathy’, but went to online schools or received a certificate without comprehensive training such as lab classes or clinic rotations. Unfortunately there have been deleterious, and even fatal cases of ‘natural’ therapies performed or information given when patients have seen these ‘naturopaths.’ A Naturopathic Doctor must have attended one of the 6 accredited schools in the U.S. or the two in Canada.

The majority of concerns in present day did not just develop overnight, but could have been percolating until one day symptoms became too prevalent to ignore. From weight loss to working through multiple diagnoses, we create individualized plans for patients by removing the largest obstacles to cure, taking the least invasive measure based on our many learned modalities, all while educating patients to gain a heightened awareness of their bodies and how they live their life. Naturopathic Doctors ‘speak the language’ of both natural and conventional care, and in times where natural medicine has gained immense popularity, our knowledge of herb/drug/nutrient interaction becomes vital to patient health. Not all natural substances are safe, or in the proper form, dosage, or quality, as I have seen some of these cases reported as toxicology reports at NYU, especially around weight loss supplements.

Conventional medicine has its place, but perhaps not quite popularity and prevalence it once had over a hundred years ago when nearly all diseases could be cured with one treatment. Most scenarios now render people shuttled from specialist to specialist, and told they’re fine when they know there’s more that can be done. While doctors do care, they are in a system where they have to see hundreds of patients per week, and provide a solution with the modalities they learned (pharmaceuticals and surgery). Naturopathic medicine offers that bridge in facilitating the understanding and need for all types of medicine, from the ‘watch and wait’ to pharmaceuticals, and acknowledging all entities of the person to promote the healing power of nature.



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