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Biomedical Sciences 

Naturopathic Physician (NDs)

What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is an emerging "alternative medical profession" now licenced in 16 states and the District of Columbia as of summer 2005. It is among the more developed groups in what has come to be known as "Complementary and Alternative Medicine". Because naturopathic medicine is not regulated in 37 states, some individuals call themselves "naturopaths" who do not meet the historical standards of the profession. Such individuals sometimes have degrees or diplomas from correspondence schools, weekend seminar programs without supervised clinical training, extremely abbreviated courses, "certifying" agencies that confer naturopathic credentials based on other kinds of health education, "home study" schools without state authority to grant degrees, or schools without naturopathic programs or faculty. None of these programs qualify a candidate to sit for board exams or to receive licensure in any state. In other states, individuals may call themselves "naturopaths" simply by paying a fee for a business license requiring no evidence of education at all. The thirteen states that license NDs are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Also, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have licensing laws.

Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care.

Naturopathic medicine concentrates on whole-patient wellness: the medicine is tailored to the patient and emphasizes prevention and self-care. Naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the patient's condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

There has been a 47.3% increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners, from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997. In 2001, 78% of the candidates were female and the average age was 30. The cumulative GPA averaged 3.29 and the prerequisite GPA averaged 3.34. The application process is similar to other professional programs and includes submitting an application, writing an essay, providing letters of recommendation and official transcripts, and an interview. Licensed naturopathic physicians practice in hospitals, community wellness centers, mobile clinics, have joint practices with MDs, or are in private practice.

Importance of licensing and recognized educational programs

As in other medical professions, there are two primary reasons to license a profession. The first reason is to protect the public from potential harm. Obviously, in medicine, potential harm is a real concern. A second reason is to protect the integrity of a profession against charlatans and unqualified persons. When states license naturopathic doctors, they require practitioners to have graduated from an accredited program and to have completed all appropriate tests and clinical training. There are five schools offering the N.D. degree* (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine), four in the United States and one in Canada. Naturopaths describe their approach as being more holistic than other medical professions with treatment regimens designed not suppress the ability of the body to heal itself. Their concept of disease is much broader than the more standard medical professions and emphasis is strong on the importance of personal relationships to health.

*Not to be confused with the N.D. degree representing the clinical Doctorate in Nursing.

Principles of Naturopathic Medcine

  • The Healing Power of Nature
  • First, Do No Harm
  • Find and Treat the Cause
  • Treat the Whole Person
  • Prevent Disease
  • Physician as Teacher

The scope of practice in naturopathic medicine

  • Accupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Botanical (Herbal) Medicine
  • Lifestyle and Nutritional Counseling
  • Constitutional Hydrotherapy
  • Physical Medicine and Spinal Manipulation
  • Homeopathy
  • Allergy Desensitization
  • Intravenous Nutrition
  • Detoxification and Colonic Therapy
  • Drug (prescription) Therapy

Through such therapies, the naturopathic physician treats the "whole person" - mind, body, and spirit - for optimal health.

Other forms of alternative medicine include:

Aromatherapists - rely on natural herbs, oils, and plants to therapeutically treat swelling, infection, depression, and a host of other ailments
Biofeedback Therapy - allows an individual to consciously rid the body of stress and tension by controlling the symptons that they see documented on electronic instruments
Ayruvedic Medicine - comes from India and is characterized by the fundamental belief in holistic medicine and treatment of the entire body
Reiki - a technique that is based on the premise that by focusing on the body, mind, spirit, and internal energy of the patient, one may provide pain relief, relaxation, and hapiness.


Caution for applicants interested in naturopathic medicine

There is a growing number of correspondence schools claiming to offer educational programs leading to the N.D. degree. These schools may not be accredited by Council on Naturopathic Medicine (CNME). Graduates of these schools have never been allowed to take NPLEX. Graduates of these schools have not been allowed to take any other state-approved licensing examination. Graduates from these schools are not licenced by any state naturopathic board. Correspondence courses are discouraged since naturopathic medicine requires "hands on" experience with different modalities and biomedical scicenes.

The following information is provided by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME): Not all NDs (nor ND educational programs) are created equal! Buyer beware is the rule here, both for those seeking a health care provider and for those thinking about a career. Would you choose a doctor for yourself, your family or friends, who had not attended medical school? Why would you want to call yourself a doctor without first acquiring a meaningful and comprehensive education? Why settle for anything less than a complete medical education in a naturopathic doctor? There are still 39 states that lack licensing laws, and many of these allow correspondence schools to legally operate as businesses selling products. And business it is. However, none of these programs grants a degree that is recognized by any state licensing board for naturopathic doctors, nor is any of them accredited (or a candidate for accreditation) with the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, which for more than 15 years has been accrediting naturopathic colleges and programs and has helped to develop the highest standards of education for naturopathic doctors. When your health is at stake, we urge you to exercise good judgment, and to seek a doctor who has invested the necessary time and energy to earn a really credible degree and to function as a well-qualified member of your own health care team. And if your desire is to become a credible healthcare provider, we urge you to exercise good judgement and gain a worthwhile naturopathic medical education that will allow you to recognize serious illness, and serve community as well as individual health needs.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians does not endorse the concept of correspondence schools nor see much value in such 'certification' in the practice of naturopathic medicine. Indeed, such certificates would not qualify the holder to sit for licensing boards in any state where licensing laws and practice standards exist. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is a strong advocate for licensing laws in all 50 states. Use this specific link if you have further questions about naturopathic physicians.

How can I contact the naturopathic medical schools?

Bastyr University
14500 Juanita Dr. NE
Kenmore, WA 98028
(425) 823-1300 phone
(425) 823-6222 fax

1255 Sheppard Ave. East
Toronto, Ontario
M2K, E2
(416) 498-1255 phone
(416) 498-1576 fax

2220 SW 1st Avenue
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 255-7355

2232 NW Pettygrove
Portland, OR 97210-2608
(503) 255-7355

2140 East Broadway Road
Tempe, Arizona 85282
(480) 858-9100
Fax: (480) 858-9116

Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center
8010 East McDowell Road
Scottsdale, Arizona 85257
(480) 970-0000
Fax: (480) 970-0003

60 Lafayette St,br>. Bridgeport, CT 06601
(203) 576-4109
email: natmed@bridgeport.edu

Important websites for more information:


Council on Naturopathic Medicine
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges

Masters Programs:

In Fall 2003, a new masters degree program in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), is being initiated at Georgetown University Medical Center as a track within their graduate program in Phyiology and Biophysics. Entry into the program requires the B.S. or B.A. and coursework in biology, chemistry (including organic chemistry or biochemistry). and physics. The three semester curriculum grooms students in the biomedical sciences with the courses being taught by the faculty of the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Prospective students should contact Adam Myers, program director at physio@georgetown.edu


For More Information


Dr. Richard Garrad (417) 836-5372, Prof. Bldg, Room 345

Dr. Colette Witkowski (417) 836-6140, Prof. Bldg, Room 341

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
Springfield, Missouri 65897
(417) 836-5603