In this political upheaval in healthcare, the “us versus them” mentality is getting out of hand. I don’t know who said it first and frankly, I don’t care. In my medical community, I want MDs and DOs to know that it’s not us versus them, but us working together in our own specialties to make our patients better.
There are a lot of misconceptions about naturopathic doctors. Much of this comes from the frustration that we are not licensed in all states. Because of this, there are “unlicensable” naturopaths in unlicensed states who did not go to an accredited naturopathic medical school yet are allowed to call themselves naturopaths or even naturopathic doctors because there is no regulation. We licensed naturopathic doctors however did go to an accredited, 4-year, post-graduate, naturopathic medical school. These medical schools are accredited by the same agencies as Harvard Medical School and any other medical school in the US. We take multi-step national board exams similar to the USMLE, the first focusing on basic sciences and the second and third on clinical practice. We get a minimum of 72 in-class hours in pharmacology, where many allopathic schools learn pharmacology in about 24 hours or in the field. Once we are licensed, we are required to get annual continuing education, often more than other types of physicians. So what’s the difference? Well, a lot. Our average patient visit is 30 minutes and up to 2 hours for a new patient. Obviously, we focus on diet and lifestyle as much as possible and we often prescribe supplements and other naturopathic treatments. We also prescribe pharmaceuticals when they are needed. Again, a common misconception is that we are anti-pharmaceutical. This is not true as we are pro-patient and whatever treatment is best for our patient is what we give them. If we can make nutritional changes to avoid them going on a statin, then we will. If their hypercholesterolemia is genetic and no diet in the world can bring their numbers down, then we prescribe what is needed.
Our medicine does work and there is a TON of research to back it up. It always confuses me when people say there is no research to back it up when there are always hundreds, sometimes thousands and tens of thousands of results on most of my PubMed searches. We help reduce ER visits and help reduce medical costs in general by teaching people how to live healthier lives within their own means. While we don't perform major surgeries, naturopaths have and will continue saving many lives. I have specialists and GPs referring complex patients to me, yet they won’t meet me for lunch. Why is this? When a patient gets better with both of our help it’s good medicine. When a patient who’s been to 15 doctors with no improvement finds relief from my therapies, it’s just an anomaly or a placebo-effect, it's not my medicine.
I chose a different type of medicine, but it is still medicine. It’s what I’m good at. DOs were in the same situation a mere 20 years ago, yet DOs are more resistant to accepting me as a medical colleague than many MDs. Now DOs are considered primary care physicians and are employed in hospitals, clinics and health care facilities all over the US. We all have something special to offer and it’s not about what the better medicine is. We all need every type of medicine at some point. So can’t we just all get along and get people healthy?