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Naturopathic Doctor...What's that?

A Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree program is 4 years in duration. There are two accredited naturopathic medical schools in Canada – The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Ontario and Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) in British Columbia.

The training of a ND includes basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc.), pathophysiology, diagnostic/physical examination, pharmacology and laboratory assessment & interpretation. NDs are also extensively trained in Clinical Nutrition, Botanical Medicine, Physical Medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture.

Naturopathic medical students are introduced into the clinic environment beginning their 1st year of the program up until they become a Naturopathic intern themselves in their 4th year, under the supervision of a licensed ND. Similar to conventional medical schools, OSCE examinations must be passed to confirm competence in physical & clinical diagnosis relating to all body systems. Naturopathic Medical students can apply for a selected number of seats within extended focused rotations to gain experience in a given field (e.g. adjunctive cancer care, sports medicine, pediatrics, fertility, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, mental health and more). There are also community satellite clinics outside the primary teaching clinic available for interns to practice at for 4-month long rotations. All interns must complete a mandatory number of patient visits applying each of the modalities of naturopathic medicine.

After 2nd and 4th years of naturopathic school, ND candidates are required to write 2 sets of board exams - Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination 1 and 2 (NPLEX 1 and 2), similar to USMLE I and USMLE II (conventional medical school). In order to practice as an ND, both NPLEX examinations must be passed, including board examinations in physical examination & diagnosis, acupuncture and any other restricted activities that the ND wishes to administer in practice. These examinations offered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE) allow NDs to practice anywhere in North America, provided they comply with state & provincial board examinations & jurisprudence examination requirements.

There are 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine by which Naturopathic Doctors practice:

  • 1) First, do no harm (primum non nocere): This means exactly what it says! Thorough assessment of patient condition, medications, physiology and mental-emotional health is taken into consideration prior to recommending treatment options to ensure that patient health care is safe and optimal.

  • 2) The healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae): The body has its own inherent ability to mount responses and it is important to support and optimize this mechanism, to its maximum potential. This DOES NOT mean that all conditions must be treated naturally.

  • 3) Identify and treat the cause (tolle causum): The basis behind this principle is that there may be more to an individual’s presentation than what meets the eye. What is the root cause? How can we eliminate this issue/symptom more effectively rather than just masking the symptoms with a “quick fix”? If this issue comes back, and it comes back stronger and more aggressive, why is this happening? If we know why, then we can treat it more effectively! This principle ties into principle #5.

  • 4) Doctor as teacher (docere): This principle is key, since the best doctors are teachers! – this means educating patients on how to manage their own health and encouraging them to be responsible for their own health.

  • 5) Treat the whole person (tolle totum): An individual’s health relies on more than just their physical health. Psychological, family history, social, lifestyle, genetics and mental-emotional factors ALL PLAY A ROLE IN OUR HEALTH and all factors MUST be taken into consideration.

  • 6) Prevention (praevenic): Why get to that point of no return? There are a lot of diseases and conditions that can be mended before they even occur. Educating the importance of prevention is imperative.

I hope that this clarifies any thoughts or questions regarding Naturopathic Medicine. Cheers!

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