I was stopped in the hallway and asked to be in this video. Having had a chaotic (that’s an understatement) adjustment to first year, I’m always happy to help new students so I was glad they asked me!
This weekend and next, Bastyr students are hosting the public for Haunted Trails! I am an assistant manager this year, and it feels really awesome to be a second year and finally feeling like I can manage a responsibility other than my schoolwork. If you are in the Seattle area, come by!
Today was my first day as a second year ND student. I feel so drastically different than I did starting last year that it is hard to even put it into words. Most simply stated, I feel very much more alive.
When I started a year ago, I did not feel certain of my ability to make it at all but I am really quite impressed with myself for the number of times I can splat on the floor, pick myself up, and keep going. I could not have grown so much without the supportive environment at Bastyr. Everyone here is recognized for their individual strengths, and it seems like any member of the Bastyr community is ready to help with your weaknesses. I have never been someplace before where I felt so safe being myself with all my flaws and struggles. Being in this environment has definitely made me a much less judgmental person, which is one of my favorite things that has changed about myself this year.
It felt really awesome to hear one of my classmates tell me she noticed how much I blossomed this year. I was definitely pushed beyond what I thought I could do; many days were exhausting and overwhelming with such a heavy credit load but the amazing examples of naturopathic physicians at Bastyr keep me pushing toward the end goal of becoming one of them. I feel honored to be part of this wonderful community that has helped me come alive. Many NDs and students say you can’t fully understand what naturopathic school is like unless you’ve done it. It is impossible to sum up how hugely transformative this year has been!
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I spent three weeks in Germany this September with 17 other Bastyr ND students to study the roots of naturopathic medicine. Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) treated people with hydrotherapy so successfully that people traveled from all over the world to be treated by him in Bad Worishofen. Benedict Lust was healed of tuberculosis by him and brought Kneipp therapies to the US, where it eventually evolved into the modern naturopathic primary care model that we have today in North America. At this time, Sebastian Kneipp was one of the most famous people in the world. It was wonderful to visit Bad Worishofen, see the Kneipp school, and experience some Kneipp treatments in the place where he healed so many. Nature Doctors by Friedhelm Kirchfeld and Wayde Boyle is an excellent book for more on this history.
Our next stops were Bad Sulza and Bad Orb (Bad means bath for bath town or spa town. There are a number of criteria required to have this designation). In these two towns are large hydrotherapy facilities that include rehabilitation centers and various kinds of medical treatment, as well as the opportunity to stay as a guest just to relax and recharge. We were given lectures and instruction at the school in Bad Sulza on spa management, rehabilitation, lymphatic drainage, and of course Kneipp treatments.
Besides the traditional Kneipp hydrotherapy, these facilities have modern hydrotherapy such as underwater sound therapy inspired by whale sounds called Liquid Sound. Dr. Mindy Beck was one of the instructors and the original creator of this Germany trip for Bastyr students after traveling to Europe to study hydrotherapy on her own. She is in the process of bringing her own version of Aqua Wellness to practice in the United States.
Hydrotherapy can be a really simple, cheap, and effective treatment to teach patients to do themselves at home. This was a really great trip and I learned a lot that I can take home for my future practice. Sebastian Kneipp’s book, My Water Cure, is great if you want to learn more about his treatments.
When I arrived in Germany, I was getting over strep throat and they gave me a simple throat wrap at the Sebastianeum in Bad Worishofen. It included a cloth that I soaked in cold water from the sink, wrapped around my neck, and then covered in a dry fleece wrap. After putting this on, I got in bed and warmed up. My body automatically tried to warm up the cold wet wrap, and I could feel my blood flow to my neck increase quickly. This brought more oxygen and nutrients to my throat where I needed them. I did this twice a day and definitely felt much better after each one.
My hand was numb for a while around my thumb and second digit, and at first I was concerned about it but I remembered that the median nerve innervated that part of my hand, and a classmate felt my neck and realized that I felt tight and pinchy where that nerve starts at C6 with the brachial plexus. There is an open lab time for physical medicine at Bastyr when instructors are available and students can learn. I went, and a physical medicine instructor used me as an example while a bunch of my classmates watched. How was I standing? Did my shoulders look even? Were my hips straight? My instructor adjusted my neck and back, and I haven’t had numb fingers since. I am so excited I will get to learn how to do that for people!!!
Physical medicine is an important part of naturopathic medicine. We learn the same type of osseous manipulation that chiropractors do. I really like this particular instructor that I saw because he says he tells his patients he doesn’t want to see them. If he can heal them in 3 visits, that means he is doing a good job. In my case, I needed one neck adjustment to fix the pinched nerve and the numbness is all gone. I would much prefer that than a doctor who tells me I need to keep coming back unnecessarily.
This quarter, I took colon hydrotherapy as an elective. A year ago when I moved here, a second year told me she took it and that everyone in the class practiced on each other. I didn’t think I’d ever want to take the class, but by the time spring quarter came around I couldn’t wait to sign up. It is amazing how much more comfortable you get with all kinds of things in medical school!
Colon hydro is great because it cleans out your whole large intestine, all the way to your cecum. Laxatives and enemas only cleanse up to your sigmoid colon.
Here are some pictures of the colon hydro machines we have at Bastyr:
Colon hydrotherapy can be helpful for: detoxing, cleansing, constipation, preparation for medical procedures, and overall well being.
Contraindications: You should not do colon hydrotherapy if you have had bowel surgery, kidney problems, or are pregnant.
This class is good so that we can experience the benefits of colon hydro ourselves so we know what to recommend for patients. We are also familiar with all the different kinds of machines so that if we want one for our office someday, we know what kind we prefer. This is not something that I (or most NDs) would do myself in my future practice, NDs may train a technician to do it in their office. There is currently very little regulation of colon hydrotherapy, there are unfortunately no required trainings for anyone in Washington to just have a machine and take clients.
The first couple weeks of the class we were all feeling a little awkward, but in the end, we just got really close!
Many medical schools, including the other naturopathic schools, have a while coat ceremony and wear white lab coats at their teaching clinics. Students at the Bastyr clinic do not wear lab coats because it puts the clinician and the patient on a different level. Naturopathic medicine is all about teaching patients how to be healthy while working as a team. Lab coats can make some patients feel inferior, and consequently, their treatment less effective. The team approach that Bastyr teaches is more effective. You may have heard of “white coat syndrome,” where patients blood pressure and stress levels go up when in the presence of a doctor in a lab coat. When I first heard the dean explain why we do not wear lab coats, I was so happy there is such an excellent reason. I will never wear a lab coat with a patient for this reason.
Acupuncture students at Bastyr do wear lab coats. I have no idea why that is.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Do you remember me? I don’t remember what you said that day, but I remember how you made me feel. You made me feel stupid, inadequate, for not understanding something you said in class, and I believed you. Today, my 25-year-old self sees that this was not about me, it was about you. You decided you did not like me, and you spoke to me condescendingly in your classroom. My 15-year-old self took it personally, was crushed by your authority, but 10 years is long enough. You are no longer allowed to make me feel like I am not good enough. I am in medical school now. I am tearing down those barriers to learning that you put up. I knew I was intelligent before you came along. You had no right to make me feel that way because I did not share your family’s affinity for artistic extracurriculars. You had no right to gossip about me among the faculty.
I am stronger than you, and even more so because of you. I am dedicating my life to building people up because you brought me down. My struggles have helped me grow. Yes, thank you, you have made me stronger, when you intended to break me down.
I own the two domains for this blog, thrivemedicine.com and thrivenaturopathicmedicine.com. So, I can see how many visitors I have each day, how they find me, what links they clicked on on my site, and what search terms they typed into a search engine before they clicked on my site. I was just very amused to see that someone google searched, “Is naturopathic medical school hard?”
Yes. It is very hard. I have to be competent in all the same stuff that a traditional MD student learns, plus things that they don’t learn: botanical medicine, nutrition, physical medicine, counseling, and homeopathy. Some ND schools also require acupuncture (at Bastyr, you can add acupuncture if you want to). It is MORE than traditional medical school. It is 310 credit hours. By comparison, my bachelor’s degree was 120 credits in the same amount of time! Bastyr offers a 5 year track for students who wish to spread out their coarseload. I recently switched to the five year track to make it easier, because quite honestly, it is slightly insane. (Probabaly about half of each class switches to a 5 year track) But, I absolutely love it and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am so sure this is my life path, but yes, it is very hard! In the 8 months or so since I started, I have grown astronomically. If it were easy, I would not be growing so much. Personal growth is so interesting and so much fun, I am so happy to be doing this!
Another reason naturopathic medical school is so hard is we are trained as primary care physicians from the start. MD students choose to specialize in primary care later on after their first four years. In Washington state, naturopathic physicians are very nearly equivalent to MD primary care physicians. We take licensing exams very similar to MD students.
All the NDs I have met are SO cool, I am so excited I get to be one. They all talk about how fulfilling it is to be genuinely helpful as a physician. A first visit with a naturopathic doctor is almost always more than an hour. They really get to the root cause of your health problems to make your life better. It is a long, hard road, but I am absolutely thrilled that is what I get to spend my life doing!