What is a Naturopathic Doctor? (+ video)


The class of 2014 has graduated! I’ve received an email showing that I’ve officially completed my clinic numbers for the term. What has followed in the past few weeks has been a whirlwind of emotions: euphoria, exhaustion, excitement, sadness, grief, accomplishment, pride and anticipation for the future.

For the time being, I’ve returned to my part-time job as an English language teacher in down-town Toronto, entering the grey zone of being a post-graduate, pre-licensed ND on the one hand, and an ESL teacher on the other. Being a part of the real-world and outside of the naturopathic medical student bubble has proven to be interesting. It provides real insight into how other people see naturopathic doctors, or what things they associate with that term.

I remember listening to a group of teachers in the lunch-room speculating about which foods contain gluten. (“Does rice have gluten? No? Well, then why does the bag of rice I just bought say ‘Gluten Free’ on it?” “No, rice definitely doesn’t have gluten because gluten-free bread is made with rice flour..” And so on.) Since I still hadn’t told anyone what I am/do, I just watched in silence. I bit my tongue (figuratively) before taking a literal bite of my (gluten-free) sandwich and then made a mental note to pass around my business cards to these gluten-intolerant people once October rolls around. (FYI: yes, rice is naturally gluten-free. A package of rice that says “Gluten-Free” is probably just playing a marketing mind-game with you.)

At the photocopiers one day, a teacher asked me what I had been doing for the past year when I wasn’t teaching full-time at the language school.

“I’ve been finishing my program.” I told him, casually.

“Hmm…” He said, feeding some paper into the photocopier, “What program is that?”

“Oh, you know, naturopathic medicine.” I replied.

“Hm. Ok.” He collected his photocopies turned and left me standing there feeling a little bewildered as to why this didn’t warrant a follow-up question. I mean, how many NDs do you meet at your ESL school photocopy machine?

Another teacher asked me what happens if the people we perform our treatments on during our board exams don’t see immediate results. “What if,” He asked me, intently, “You perform your healing techniques on someone during your exam and they don’t feel better? What if they feel worse?” I stared at him for a moment, trying to understand what he was asking. Once I realized he expected our patients to magically get better after one acupuncture treatment, I thought of asking him if he was expected to teach his students to speak perfect English in one lesson as well. Instead, I explained to him that our boards are performed on standardized patients and assess our ability to perform the techniques safely and accurately, not the results of the techniques, which varies for everyone and, as you know, can take time. That’s why it’s called a healing process.

So, in short, entering the real world has revealed that there are a lot of misconceptions about what a naturopathic doctor is and what we do.

That’s why I was delighted to find out that my former RSNC intern, Dr. Dimpi Patel, developed this short, informative video, which eloquently and effectively explains what a naturopathic doctor is and why you should start seeing one immediately (or wait until the 2014 class becomes licensed in October).

Happy viewing!



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