This morning I had a fascinating conversation with a current medical student who wants to transfer from her allopathic school to Bastyr’s ND program. This young woman wants to be a primary care provider, and after much soul-searching decided it was in the best interest of herself and her future patients to study naturopathic medicine rather than the current medical model taught at allopathic school.
All this talk brought up a good question: so what is the difference really? What makes naturopathic medicine different from conventional medicine? What is the advantage of studying naturopathic medicine?
I touched upon this a little bit in my last post on naturopathic medical education. First, naturopathic physicians are experts in the treatment of primary care conditions, since our entire education focuses on primary care. Secondly, naturopathic doctors have extensive training in natural treatments options not taught in a traditional medical school, including hundreds of additional hours in botanical medicine, nutrition, osseous manipulation, homeopathy, and counseling. (Don’t believe me? Check out the curriculum on Bastyr’s website)
But the most striking difference between an allopathic primary care physician and a naturopathic physician is the philosophy that governs the treatment of our patient. Naturopathic medicine is characterized by six philosophical principles: 1) Treat the Whole, 2) Treat the Cause, 3) The Healing Power of Nature, 4) Prevention, 5) First Do No Harm, 6) Doctor as Teacher. I have previous blog posts on each of these (follow the links).
Now many healthcare practitioners will argue that these principles are not unique to naturopathic medicine, but that they follow these maxims as well. What is unique to naturopathic medicine? The Therapeutic Order. The Therapeutic Order is a set of guidelines to help physicians follow the philosophical principles. The goal of treatment is to completely resolve the patient’s symptoms and address the underlying cause while using the least force possible. Here is my illustration: