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From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
February/March 2005

Pathways to Healing
by Elaine Zablocki
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Naturopathic Physician on Her Career Choice: "No Regrets"

When Pamela Snider, ND, was a college student, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life. First she majored in religious 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.

Pamela SniderAt 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 it."

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 and 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 of naturopathic 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). This 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 functioning. 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 physicians. (See for the list.) Natural health advocates are pressing for licensure in additional states.

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 and practitioners."

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)

Bastyr University
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.



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