At its core, a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) is an individual who has completed an undergraduate degree with the appropriate pre-requisite course required to be accepted into an accredited Naturopathic medical school and then passes two licensing exams in order to be a licensed and accredited primary care provider.
There are currently six accredited Naturopathic medical schools in the United States whom are overseen by the Council for Naturopathic Medical Education (the naturopathic equivalent of the American Medical Association). Once accepted into an accredited naturopathic doctoral program, naturopathic doctoral students complete a four-year program of formal medical education.
The classes that make up part of the naturopathic medical program include (but are not limited to) basic science courses such as biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, clinical lab education, orthopedics, biomechanics along with organ and disease specific classes such as neurology, gastroenterology, dermatology, endocrinology, gynecology, urology, nephrology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and others.
Another aspect of our doctoral program which I feel sets us apart is that we begin to see patient's after our second year of school (after passing our first round of medical boards...more on that later). When we enter clinic as secondary naturopathic medical student interns, we are overseen by a primary intern, a resident physician and an attending. What this translates to for our patient's then is that they have four or more minds working to help them achieve their best health possible.
The most wonderful thing (in my humble opinion) about the naturopathic medical school program is that aside from learning the basics of diagnosing and treating disease through western medical protocols such as pharmaceuticals, we have a vast ‘toolbox’ to help our patients heal from disease and super-charge their health. The naturopathic-specific treatments that make up this ‘toolbox’ include specific diets for different disease processes, physical manipulation, herbal medicine, supplemental therapy with amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc., homeopathy, massage therapy, IV therapy, minor surgery and many others.
In addition to completing rigorous coursework, our medical knowledge is assessed through two separate rounds of medical board exams. As mentioned earlier, our first round of medical boards assesses our knowledge of clinical practices and basic sciences and is taken after our second year of school, before we enter clinic as naturopathic medical student interns. Our second round of medical boards assesses our knowledge of clinical practices and basic sciences as well as patient assessment, diagnosis and treatment and is completed after graduation. It is only after we pass the first and second rounds of medical boards that we are fully licensed and legally able to practice naturopathic medicine as a medical provider in our state or state(s) of choice (there is further testing if you wish to be licensed in multiple states).
PHEW -- I know, that was ALOT. But I feel that it is so key to understand what kind of doctors NDs are, what we practice, how we practice and how passionate we are about holistic and individualized medicine. As a Naturopathic Doctor I strive to not only get to know the symptoms my patient's might be experiencing, but more importantly, get to know them as a person and learn how we can best work together to help them achieve their health goals. I truly find that it is only through working with each individual and making a treatment plan (mostly) together, that we, as a team, can positively impact health.
Have more questions about what a naturopathic doctor is or how I can specifically help you achieve your best health yet? Then schedule an appointment today!
*DISCLAIMER: This document is not intended to treat or diagnose disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols be sure to consult with a licensed physician. The author has nothing to disclose in regards to supplements or products mentioned within this document and the author does not receive any monetary or other incentive to mention the recommended supplements or products.