A peek into what it’s like studying for boards..

Image

A picture speaks a thousand words.. So here it is, this is what it’s like studying for boards. I have successfully built a nest of nerd that can keep me equally enthusiastic while supporting my distractable nature as I go from TCM to botanical medicine to seizures to etc.

One thing that I’m appreciating is that I’m getting a chance to connect information that may have not been as solid in my mind. I’m getting a chance to review modalities that maybe I wasn’t to keen on while in school (ahem, physmed..) and I love reviewing my ERmed before actually going out into practice. We have so much we need to know for this exam including bot med, homeopathy, pharmacology, ERmed, geriatrics, pediatrics, HEENT, pulm, I could keep going. So I will: ALL of chinese medicine, nutrition, physical and lab diagnosis, environmental medicine, psychology, cardiology, urology, nephrology, and I could keep going. But I won’t.

As for the process itself.. I’ve minimized distractions and focused on surrounding myself with positive affirmations. I may have been a little slow in realizing that NPLEx creates a cut-off every year so that a certain # of students fail. Yuck. Nevertheless, all of the doctors I’ve been talking to have told me that this entire process is more of a mind game than anything else. Making sure you can stay calm under pressure and make good clinical decisions even after 4 years of medical school and 1 month (or in my case 3 weeks) of cramming in three days of 8 hours of testing.

So long story short: It’s time to invoke my inner Jedi.

5 Tips for Success in Naturopathic Medical School

Image5. Exercise = Better academic performance. You sit on your bum all day, your poor postural muscles are strained, you are literally studying ALL DAY! I noticed that my grades and ability to focus skyrocketed when I incorporated exercise into my life. Check out this awesome literature review on the effects of exercise on academic performance: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16363467. I took advantage of the student discounts that many yoga studios and climbing gyms offered. There’s so much incredible hiking in the Southwest too!  As doctors, we will be asking so many of our patients to incorporate exercise into their own busy schedules and so I’ve learned a lot about how to sustain balance in medical school through making self-care a priority. ALSO: You may discover that you have a love for exercise medicine, I certainly did. (Note: talk to your doctor before making any healthcare changes).

4. Maintain a spiritual practice. Many of us come from all over the country to go to medical school and there are times when you hit rock bottom and wonder why you moved across the country (or world) to go to medical school. It’s okay, these moments are natural. One of the things that helped me was my spiritual practice that involved giving thanks for all the opportunities and blessings I have in my life. One of my favorite ways to give thanks is by volunteering my time, I would volunteer with NWB, N-ACT, the community acupuncture clinics and at a local raptor (bird of prey) rehabilitation center. 

3. Become part of the greater student community. I was chapter president of the NMSA, coordinated the national NMSA conference in 2010, was active in N-ACT, attended leadership retreats and herbal medicine and philosophy conferences. These were enriching experiences and I made contacts with so many students at the other schools. Not only that, but I was able to contribute to the NMSA while they were still in the process of launching their website and incorporating the entire naturopathic student body into their organization. I think about all the students I met with fondness in my heart and excitement as I watch them transition into becoming doctors.

2. If you are applying for residency, try to take a couple of shifts with doctors you jive well with. They will be so enthusiastic about writing you letters of recommendations once they know how incredibly competent you are (and you know you are ;o)). Also, ask them earlier on because some of them have a cut-off for the number of students they would like to recommend for residency.

1. WEAR YOUR ENTREPRENEUR “HAT” STARTING DAY ONE. We’re in this profession to help people and many of us are guilty of forgetting that we have bills to pay starting from the day we graduate. Be on a lookout for healthcare trends, how successful doctors are practicing and envision your future practice. Think about patient hand outs, protocols, target patient demographics, and programs you can offer as you breeze through med school.

My biggest regret during naturopathic medical school

What I’m about to tell you may sound very simple and perhaps even silly, but it’s not. If I could do anything over the past four years differently, I would have specialized training in some sort of physical therapy modality. I’m planning to return to an unlicensed state, where naturopathic doctors cannot even perform physical exams or touch their patients. They’re to be strictly natural health consultant.
My Arizona medical license will cover me to practice acupuncture and physical medicine in the state of Arizona. Some ND’s in Maryland went to SCNM when the Acupuncture certification program was optional and an extra year. These ND’s have a BUSY clinic and are able to see two to three patients at a time. How? They stagger the appointment times:

2:00 – acupuncture patient comes in, do acupuncture intake, put needles in.

2:15 – naturopathic follow up appointment comes in, follow up and treatment is provided in 30 minutes.

2:45 – naturopathic follow up patient happily leaves office with treatment sheet in hand.

3:00 – acupuncture needles are removed and acupuncture patient happily leaves office.

These doctors are able to see more patients, and are able to provide more than just diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations.

I did specialized training in Mayan Uterine Massage while I was here, but I still need to practice more before I feel comfortable providing this therapy to my patients. If I could go back in time, I would have received this training earlier in my career and been on shifts where the attendings were trained in uterine massage so I could practice on patients. Or, I would have received training in craniosacral manipulation. I had the pleasure of helping an MD in DC practice craniosacral on one of his patients and the entire experience was incredible and I was full of regret for not taking seminars in it while I was a student so that I could offer it to my patients as another service. Some of my friends have training in applied kinesiology, or IV therapy, while others are staying in Arizona and are taking courses in prolothearpy and PRP where they’ll be able to provide those services.

If you’re planning on practicing in the uncharted areas of an unlicensed state, make sure to shadow doctors out there early on so you can see how they keep their clinics busy and help people. Think about your future practice and what tools you want to be able to treat your patients. I think there’s something very healing in a doctor being fully present and providing healing touch to their patients.

“THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.” was what I said to myself as I went to get my graduation regalia from the registrar.

gold-starTears came to my eyes when I saw her, because she’s always been such an encouraging and positive presence for the students. With 9 days left until graduation, I’ve been flooded with so many strong emotions. The most dominant emotion has been that of tremendous gratitude. So with this post I am hoping to reignite the spark for students who are burning low on fuel and show prospective students how incredible the experience of becoming a “baby doc” can be. (Baby doc is the term that ND’s use for newly graduated ND students).

Image

Me trying on my graduation cap!

First, I am so grateful that there was a medical school out there that would help me integrate conventional medicine with natural medicine. Since the age of 17, I thought I’d have to go to MD school and learn nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc. on my own. I didn’t have to, here I was able to develop my clinical thinking skills, learn how and why to order various labs and imaging and provide healing while keeping the tenants of naturopathic medicine in my heart. In 9 days, I’m going to become the doctor of my dreams.

I am grateful for the elders of our profession (some of who teach at SCNM). They persevered to attend naturopathic medical school during a time when there was only 1 school in the U.S with only 20 students enrolled! Can you believe that there was once a time- very recently- where our medicine almost went extinct? I get goosebumps every time I think about it. If it wasn’t for those before us, we literally wouldn’t be here today. (Special shoutout to you, Dr. Lindlahr, you have and will always inspire me.)

Image

Thank you, Dr. Henry Lindlahr!

I’m grateful to each and every one of my teachers, (especially a certain pathology professor) for giving me such a strong foundation in the biomedical sciences while keeping class entertaining. I’m grateful for every rotation I’ve taken, the doctors who patiently worked with me and encouraged me to grow, grateful to the patients who allowed me to practice and learn the art of healing with them. There are some cases I had that will forever be in my heart and have changed my life in innumerable ways. My family – in the last four years my family back home were so supportive of me. I have a new naturopathic family here who have walked the path with me: we’ve studied together, held each other through hard times and laughed a hell of a lot. The front desk and medicinary employees at our clinic – they’re SO FREAKING AWESOME, they keep the clinic running smoothly and brighten up our days. I’ve been blessed with some amazing mentors who gave me support and reminded me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can’t stop smiling, I’m feeling so blown away, there’s no other way to describe it.  I am beginning a new journey and I know my gratitude will only continue to grow after I walk the stage on July 6th.

Prospective ND student?? Is this career path right for you???

gold-starI’ll start with what admissions probably may not tell you: Becoming a doctor of Naturopathic Medicine is NOT for the weak of heart. Just a warning: If you know you care too much about what people think, you’re easily bothered by people making flash judgments or uneducated conclusions about you, or you are expecting an easy road through medical school, then, please, hear me out:

Your friends or family WILL make jokes about peyote and voodoo medicine when they hear that you’re studying “NATURO-what?!” medicine. Many people will reduce the vast amount of knowledge of the biomedical sciences and healing arts in our medicine down to one healing modality, “Right, so you study..homeopathy, right?” People will say things like, “Uh.. yeah, I’ll go to a real doctor..” They’ll conclude you’re some radical vegan hippie that brews Kombucha, is anti-big pharma. (When in reality, you love Kombucha, probably realized veganism wasn’t for you and have prescribed pharmaceutical drugs to patients when necessary.)

You will feel frustrated because you WILL be working the same laborious hours as 1st and 2nd year MD students (I know this because I’m engaged to a 3rd year MD student.) You will be expected to know the same material AS WELL as botanical medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, physical medicine..etc. You will be required to take 2 sets of board exams. It will take blood, sweat, and tears to get through the program and even when you’re but a few months away from graduating, some random dude at a party will say, “OH NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE. I tried that! I got this supplement off the shelf of CVS for my runny nose and it didn’t work!” (As if the efficacy of an entire healing profession can be reduced down to one supplement that one randomly decided to try on their own?)

Are you so passionate about natural health that you’re ready for a lifetime of educating the public of their healthcare options when they ask what you do? Are you motivated to compassionately change misconceptions that your friends, family members and strangers have about “alternative” medicine? Are you excited to have constructive debates with your fellow scientist friends when they question the validity of your medicine? Bottom line: Do you have the courage to follow your heart?

If your response is, “YES!” then apply to an accredited 4 year naturopathic medical program ASAP!  (http://www.aanmc.org/)

If your response is, “Well… maybe not..” then please know that I didn’t realize how hard the path would be when I entered the program. I used to really care about peoples opinions of me. Then I entered clinic, I started seeing patients healing from chronic illnesses that they had thought would never resolve. At that moment I realized that all I really care about is healing people. From then on, I never resisted making dialogue with the misinformed and instead have chosen to use those situations to educate people on who naturopathic doctors are and what they can do for you.

4th year Med Student Pearls: How to make the most of your experience at SCNM..

ImageI apologize for disappearing! In the last two weeks I finished up my rotations in DC and returned to Arizona for board review classes. Since I’m 20 days from graduating and becoming Dr. K, I thought it would be perfect for me to blog about ways in which to make the most of your experience as a student and eventual student clinician at SCNM.

1. Read “Motivational Interviewing In Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior” by Rollnick and Miller. This book drastically changed my relationships with my patients. So many of our patients who suffer from chronic illness have some sort of lifestyle behavior that keeps them from experiencing wellness. This book really helped me help my patients determine their “Obstacles to Cure”, which allowed me to help them find ways to help themselves.. In essence: You help your patients heal themselves. It makes sense, true healing can really only come from within.

2. Start seeing a naturopathic doctor. This may sound silly, I mean, what kind of student would go to a med school without having experienced naturopathic healthcare? MANY! So many of my colleagues hadn’t seen a naturopathic doctor by the time they were doing rotations in the clinic. To put it nicely: You could tell which student clinicians had been to an ND before and experienced ND healthcare and which hadn’t.

3. Choose the modality you’re most skeptical about and go experience it from a Naturopathic doctor. I was most skeptical about homeopathy. I decided to go get it done. It works, REALLY freaking well.

4. Do offsite rotations to get more experience with a greater diversity of patients. Don’t avoid the difficult rotations. The offsite rotations are where you get to experience our medicine help underserved populations. I spoke to DO students my 2nd year who would have applied to our school had they known that we do extensive outreach to underserved populations. Check out this NPR article on our schools involvement with community clinics: http://www.kjzz.org/content/1304/holistic-health-care-goes-school . It’s important to take the shifts where you extensive work ups and the attendings really challenge you. It’s there that you develop your clinical thinking skills and actively learn by questioning, discussing, exploring resources and truly experiencing medicine.

5. Shadow docs outside of Arizona when you can. Get to know the elders of our profession. Write thank you letters, stay in touch, go back to shadow whenever you can. Medicine is an art that is practiced in many different ways.. You can only imagine the diversity of clinics that there are out there. Throughout my career I shadowed so many doctors in both licensed and unlicensed states. I’m SO GLAD I did this, because I got to see many different ways in which we can utilize our incredibly valuable degree in naturopathic medicine. Especially keep an eye out for conferences like The Gathering. (Sidenote: I’ll never forget my experience with Dr. Bill Mitchell’s spirit at the Bastyr University Gathering in 2010. Ask me and I’ll be happy to tell you.. 🙂

In Ayurvedic medicine, I’m predominantly Pitta, which is quick-witted, fast paced, and very analytical,

Imageall very good qualities to have in my profession. Although, one of our pitfalls is our strong response to stress: we literally combust in the face of stress. My combustion was isolating, I’d experience crippling stomach pain for days. I remember in high school, before I sought naturopathic healthcare, I would miss days of school because I was in so much pain.

Our gastrointestinal tracts are so important. It’s gained the reputation of being the king of our immune system due to it’s complex lymphatic system known as the GALT (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue). It’s also considered our second brain because of the amount of neurotransmitters produced in our gut, all the nervous tissue that lives inside our GI organs, and the intimate relationship our gastrointestinal tract has with our brain. To increase the complexity, the Chakra (Indian energy medicine) of our gastrointestinal tract houses our emotions. Think about it, when we get bad news where do we feel it first? In our gut, we feel nauseous and incapable of processing any new information. My gut instinct tells me.., I felt butterflies in my stomach.., My stomach is churning..  I thought I was going to vomit.., these are ways people experience various destructive emotions in their guts.

This past week, I had an experience where I became extremely bored and wanted time to move quicker. I then started thinking about what I was going to have for dinner, started to feel excited to go home and eat, and proceeded to think about whether I should go out with my fiance for dinner and what we would eat. As soon as I caught myself, I realized it was all happening not because I was hungry -or- stressed, but because I was discontented with my present situation. I immediately reminded myself of how valuable life is, even when we’re in less than ideal situations. I wish Friday would come quicker, there’s only 2 hours left in this work day and they feel so long, I just want this exam to be done and over with, etc.

The question hit me today: how often do people eat in order to put our that fire of discontentment? That same fire that helps you transform and move ahead. It must be hard to admit to being discontented, because that would mean assuming action to move into a contented place. But the second you eat, and eat, and eat, that fire is quenched, until next time. For the most part, I’m very content, but when I’m bored I lose my ability to sit still, I want to move on yet in a 9-5 life of seeing patients that’s just impossible. Now that I’ve identified this as a trigger though, I’m able to acknowledge when it happens and remind myself of how precious every moment of life is and fully embrace the beauty in meeting people, exploring our world, and fully actualizing my true and higher calling.