There are two forms of education for “Naturopathy” or Naturopathic Medicine.
One, is a correspondence degree or an online certificate, they are sometimes called “traditional naturopath.” These schools began popping up in the mid century when the AMA launched a campaign against alternative medicine and the ND medical schools began closing. These are NOT physicians and these degrees or certificates, although “accredited” through different boards with medical names, do not allow the person to practice naturopathic medicine in ANY of the states that license naturopathic medicine. Please be wary of these degrees!
Two, Naturopathic Medical Schools. In 1978 the naturopathic MEDICAL schools began reopening and starting to train a new crop of physicians. Thankfully just in time, as all the physicians trained in the early part of the century were nearing the end of their careers. It was they who kept the profession alive during those years and were instrumental in opening naturopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada in the 1970’s.
Today there are six naturopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada. These schools are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and have strict guidelines on medical education being provided. Naturopathic Doctors are trained to be primary care physicians with an emphasis on preventative, integrative, and alternative approaches to health care. There are 16 states that license naturopathic physicians with varying scopes of practice. Naturopathic physicians in unlicensed states function as a naturopathic expert, health care consultant and often work with m.d.s as an integrative, natural health expert.
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Naturopathic Doctors (N.D.’s) use traditional lab values that M.D.’s use, as well as many other functional medicine lab tests and a detailed history to reach a diagnosis for the patient. Once the diagnosis is determined, this is where the Naturopathic Doctor’s approach will differ from that of an M.D.. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in pharmacology and licensed to prescribe in certain states, but it isn’t always their first approach. Lifestyle modification, therapeutic diet, physical manipulation, hydrotherapy, supplementation, homeopathy, traditional chinese medicine, acupuncture, and counseling are some of the modalities used by Naturopathic Doctors.
Naturopathic physicians enter medical school with an undergraduate degree in Science or Pre-Medical Sciences. The first two years of school are much like “standard” or “ allopathic” medical school. They learn the basic sciences, have cadaver lab for a full year, neurology lab, histology, immunology, pharmacology, pathology, endocrinology, infectious disease, etc. At the end of the first two years, they take a national board exam encompassing the basic sciences: Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology, and Microbiology. The second two years continues with sciences and adds in naturopathic modalities like acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, therapeutic nutrition, IV nutrition, minor surgery, and clinical practice. There are residencies and specialties available within the profession. One popular clinical residency is with Cancer Treatment Centers of America.