on Her Career Choice: "No Regrets"
Pamela Snider, ND, was a college student, she wasn't sure what she
wanted to do with her life. First she majored
studies, then psychology, then biology. She volunteered at a women's
health clinic. "Each of those fields offered something important,
but wasn't really what I was looking for," she recalls.
At the time she was dealing with a persistent health problem. Though
she went to the university's health clinic, the doctors there
prescribed the same treatment every time, and didn't seem interested
in solving the problem. Then a friend advised Snider to visit the
National College of Naturopathic Medicine's teaching clinic in Portland,
Oregon. "I still remember the two student interns I saw that
day, because they changed my life," Snider says. "They
were scientific, compassionate, and thorough. They asked me about everything:
how I ate, what I thought, how I felt, my environment, my living conditions,
family history, work. After an hour of being interviewed and diagnosed
I left with a new treatment strategy, and a light bulb over my head.
I'll never forget that moment. I said 'THIS is what I
want to do for the rest of my life.''' The next
week, she switched to pre-med. She adds, "I have never regretted
Snider joined the very first class of naturopathic physicians trained
at Bastyr University, in Seattle. After six years in private practice,
and twelve years in teaching and administration, she was invited
back to Bastyr to serve as Associate Dean for Naturopathic Medicine
Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs. Currently, she's
the managing editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine
Project, producing an in-depth textbook on the philosophy and theory
medicine and its practical applications, in collaboration with scholars
in the US, Canada, Australia and England. She's also consortium
director of the multi-disciplinary Academic Consortium for Complementary
and Alternative Healthcare (ACCAHC), an alliance of CAM academic
organizations, leaders, and educators collaborating to advance healthcare
in the United
States. "Our initial thought was that educators in the CAM professions
would have a good deal to gain from being in regular contact with each
other. Our progress so far confirms our instinct," Snider says.
In November 2002, together with Joseph Pizzorno, Jr., ND, Snider
was appointed to the Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC).
group advises the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about
which services ought to be covered under Medicare, and they are the
first naturopathic physicians ever invited to participate. "The
staggering number of individuals with chronic disease is a significant
factor in skyrocketing healthcare costs, amounting to a national disease
debt," adds Snider. "CAM's history of incorporating
prevention in its practice and philosophy is a valuable resource
to help solve the complex problems of healthcare."
What Makes Naturopathic Medicine Special?
Naturopathic medicine relies on many methods,
including clinical nutrition, diet, botanicals, homeopathic medicine,
counseling, physical medicine,
Nature cure, and spirituality to help people heal. It uses conventional
therapies and office surgery as needed by individual patients. But
what makes it really special, Snider says, is the way naturopathic
philosophy offers a primary caregiver an efficient, orderly way to
integrate different therapies and modalities from many disciplines
and select what's most relevant for a specific health problem
manifesting in a particular person.
Naturopathic medicine understands health to be our natural state,
while illness develops based on stresses and disturbances in natural
Susceptibility to these factors may vary, depending on a person's
constitution, hereditary factors, and their environment. In order to
heal, it's important to remove disturbing factors, stimulate
self-healing mechanisms, provide an environment that supports health,
and allow damaged systems and organs to recover. Naturopathic physicians
use medications and botanicals to address specific pathologies, but
their first step is to support the body's natural healing process.
Key Issues Facing Naturopathic Medicine
Currently, 13 states, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic
(See www.naturopathic.org/licensure/licensing.html for
the list.) Natural health advocates are pressing for licensure in
Both MDs and NDs attend accredited schools for four years after they
graduate from college. But when it comes to public funding for education,
the playing field is hardly level. "Our current system has an
entrenched bias towards conventional medicine," Snider says. "Accredited
CAM academic institutions training licensed healthcare providers aren't
included in the federal programs that support medical and nursing schools
and provide employment and residencies for their graduates. Sometimes
there's specific exclusionary language in the enabling legislation,
but often the CAM professions are just not mentioned."
The bill founding the National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (NCCAM) in 1998 was the first federal legislation to mandate
all licensed CAM professions and accredited CAM colleges would be eligible
for NCCAM funding for research, training and infrastructure. All the
CAM professions participate in the NCCAM Advisory Council. "Other
federal programs need to catch up," Snider says.
The number of accredited schools graduating licensed CAM providers
has tripled since 1990, and there's been substantial growth
in CAM usage. Snider comments: "Federal funding for CAM integration
has grown by tens of millions of dollars, but the money typically goes
to conventional medical institutions that want to incorporate CAM,
not to CAM schools for the development of their disciplines, faculty
Even with the limits on funding, many people today choose to become
naturopathic physicians. To take on this role, Snider says, you need
to be something of a pioneer. "We have so much still to learn
about the real basis of healing and disease, how to prevent it and
cure it. You need to be a good co-manager and collaborator, able to
evaluate many modalities and philosophies of treatment. At the same
time you need to be an independent, critical, and scientific thinker.
The kind of person who would love naturopathic medicine is someone
who is both open and critical in their thinking about new healing practices."
Finally, you need to enjoy being a teacher and a healing presence,
and have respect and compassion for your patients. The work of naturopathic
physicians is often to partner with patients, listening, hearing them
on many levels, and empowering them.
Naturopathic medicine relies on the vital life force within human beings
and the healing power of Nature. "Naturopathic medicine isn't
just a system or a discipline of healthcare," Snider says. "It's
also a way of living. It's a philosophy that extends into our
economy, our sociological systems, our ecosystem and our biosphere."
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
3201 New Mexico Ave NW #350
Washington, DC 20016 USA
202-895-1392 or 866-538-2267 (toll-free)
14500 Juanita Dr. NE
Kenmore, Washington 98028-4966 USA
American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges
3201 New Mexico Avenue NW, Suite 350
Washington, DC 20016
202-895-1392 or 866-538-2267 (toll-free)
The third edition of the Textbook
of Natural Medicine, to be published in spring 2005, includes a new chapter
on naturopathic medicine, called "A
Hierarchy of Healing: The Therapeutic Order." Written by Snider,
as well as Jared Zeff, ND, LAc, and Stephen P Myers, ND, BMed, PhD,
the chapter restates the unifying theory of naturopathic medicine in
a clear, accessible way.
Elaine Zablocki is the editor of CHRF
News Files, a bimonthly emailed newsletter about the emerging
integrative medicine industry, published by the Collaboration for
Healthcare Renewal Foundation.