ND Advisory Board (ND-AB)
The ND Advisory Board (ND-AB) provides expertise on issues relating to naturopathic medicine and Integrative, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (ICAM). These include, without limitation, research, patient safety, professional licensure and credentialing, school accreditation, practice standards, education, and public policy. The ND-AB also seeks to strengthen the lines of communication between naturopathic physicians-in-training and AMSA to facilitate mutual awareness of relevant events, legislation, and other initiatives that are of interest to AMSA as a whole.
AMSA student members may contact the ND-AB to receive a roster of available Naturopathic Medicine and ICAM clinical experiences.
What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct method of primary health care that incorporates CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and conventional medical therapies and diagnostics. Naturopathic physicians are trained in conventional medical sciences including physical examination, lab diagnosis, pharmacology and minor surgery, as well as safe and evidence-based CAM therapies.1,2
Naturopathic physicians receive extensive training in many natural therapies not offered, or offered in a limited capacity, in conventional medical programs. This includes clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, environmental medicine, physical medicine and naturopathic manipulation, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, psychology, and lifestyle counseling. Students may also elect to complete additional studies in traditional medicines such as acupuncture and Ayurvedic medicine.
Naturopathic physicians function as ICAM (Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine) experts, and are able to combine all of their areas of training into a truly integrated medical practice. Naturopathic physicians can function as primary care physicians in states where they are licensed to do so, or can work alongside conventional physicians to help advise both patients and physicians on the safe and effective use of ICAM.
Who are naturopathic medical students?
Naturopathic medical students attend one of the 8 accredited naturopathic medical schools in the US and Canada. These schools are all members of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the national accrediting agency for the Naturopathic Doctorate degree, and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.3 The Department of Education classifies the Naturopathic Doctor degree (ND) from CNME schools as a Doctor’s degree - Professional practice, along with MD and DO degrees.4,5
The Naturopathic doctoral program is at least four years in duration. These first two years are spent in the classroom learning anatomy, physiology, pathology, and conventional diagnosis and treatments, very similar to a conventional medical program. The last two years of school involve clinical rotations, with special focus on primary care and preventive medicine. ND students receive clinical training at their school's teaching clinics and off-site clinics including those in rural and underserved areas, and graduate with the training to practice as Primary Care Physicians.6
Do naturopathic medical students complete residencies after graduation?
Recent graduates can apply to participate in one to three-year residency programs to enhance their skills under the guidance of seasoned physicians. Residencies are approved and accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). While residencies for NDs are not currently required in all states, they are highly sought after by students and efforts are being made to increase available opportunities.
Do naturopathic medical students take standardized board exams?
Students are required to take and pass two sets of board exams, the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). The first exam, NPLEX Part I, is the Biomedical Science Examination, usually taken after the second year of school and is similar to USMLE Step I. The second exam, NPLEX Part 2, is the Core Clinical Science Examination. It is taken after graduation and is similar to USMLE Step II. This exam focuses on diagnosis, treatment and safety within a clinical setting. Both exams must be passed in order to achieve licensing as a Naturopathic Doctor.
Do naturopathic physicians practice Evidence-Based Medicine?
Naturopathic Physicians utilize all available information including current research and case-studies, as well as clinical experience and factors relevant to each individual patient to help determine which treatments to recommend. Naturopathic physicians have the most comprehensive evidence-based ICAM training at the physician level upon graduation and serve as invaluable resources in the medical field.
The field of ICAM research is growing rapidly, and much of this new research is coming out of research departments at accredited naturopathic medical schools across the country, including the Bastyr University Research Institute and the Helfgott Research Institute at NCNM. Naturopathic physicians are also active in research departments at conventional academic medical centers, such as Yale University School of Medicine and Oregon Heath and Science University, and at organizations such as the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
What do conventional and naturopathic physicians have to offer each other in terms of patient care?
Naturopathic physicians refer their patients to MD/DOs, and other conventional medical providers, when more invasive procedures are warranted, and when specialists such as oncologists and surgeons are needed. NDs work with and rely on specialists and other conventional providers just as any other family physician does.
Naturopathic physicians are trained to be Primary Care Physicians, and practice as PCPs in areas where they are licensed to do so. Chronic illness is implicated as a major cause for rising health care costs, and NDs are trained in the prevention, treatment and management of those conditions which results in significant cost savings and cost effectiveness.7,8 Naturopathic physicians help to fill a gap in the health care system and are part of the solution to the PCP shortage in underserved populations. NDs can also work alongside conventional physicians to help advise both patients and physicians on the safe and effective use of ICAM.
Where are naturopathic physicians licensed to practice?
Currently, 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. The full list of licensed states, with contact information for State Organizations, can be found on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website. In states that do not have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors, NDs work as ICAM experts and health and wellness advisors to complement conventional medical care.