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traditional naturopath vs Licensed Naturopathic Doctor

I’ve had discussions with men and women who claim they are a Naturopath. When I ask them what Medical School they attended, they respond:
I took a weekend seminar
I took on online correspondence course
It should be illegal for anyone with such limited education to be allowed to call themselves either a naturopath or sometimes in unlicensed states, a naturopathic doctor.

There are numerous phone books, both paper and online, that use these terms interchangeably. Either they are ignorant of the differences or simply do not care. Who suffers are the patients.

The titles “traditional naturopath” and “Naturopathic Doctor” (or “Naturopathic Physician”) are NOT interchangeable! A licensed Naturopathic Doctor (ND/NMD) is a primary care physician who is trained to diagnose and prescribe, while a traditional naturopath is not able to do either. In some states where naturopathic medicine is not yet a regulated medical profession, a traditional naturopath may choose to use the title, “naturopathic doctor,” which is likely to be confusing for patients looking for a licensed ND.

To apply to Naturopathic Medical School, the applicant must have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. Not everyone who applies for admittance to Naturopathic Medical School is accepted.

Naturopathic Medical Schools must be accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is recognized as the only accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education. It is the only accrediting body for naturopathic medical programs in the U.S. and Canada that qualify graduates for licensure.

There are four degrees of licensed primary care providers, licensed to practice medicine in the United States:
1) Allopathic (Commonly called Medical Doctors)
2) Chiropractic
3) Naturopathic
4) Osteopathic
Note: All end in “opathic.”

It took me ten years to become a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor, plus an additional three years residency to formally complete my training.
Four years Pre-Med at Utah State University in Logan Utah
Six years at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland Oregon
Three years residency at Gresham Naturopathic Clinic in Gresham Oregon.

I graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in 1990. At that time students were required to complete approximately 5500 hours of a combination of classroom and internship education. Electives were in addition to the 5500 total required hours. At that time NCNM required more classroom / internship then either Harvard or Yale Medical Schools, surpassing both by approximately 50 to 150 hours.

Naturopathic Residency programs were not mandatory, but encouraged. These were in addition to the basic 5500 hours, to be completed after graduation from Medical School.

The first two years of Naturopathic Medical School were “Basic Sciences.” Our courses were pretty much the same as Harvard and Yale, many times using the same text books. The educational program between Naturopathic and Allopathic began to separate during the last two years called “Clinical Sciences.” While both Naturopathic and Allopathic students still studied pretty much the same disease courses, the Naturopathic Doctors were taught how to address these diseases using natural medicines and therapies that were in “harmony” with the body. Allopathic students studied how to use medicines that were in “disharmony” with the body. These are the hundreds of prescription drugs that are prescribed daily across the U.S.A. and abroad.

Naturopathic Doctors still had to learn about the same drugs that were routinely prescribed by Allopathic Doctors, but our emphasis was to only use these drugs as an absolute last defense in times when natural medicines were not working fast enough.

Current requirements for today’s Naturopathic Doctors are 4100 hours with internship. Emphasis of modern Naturopathic Medicine has shifted somewhat. Drugs have become the first line of defense and natural medicines are being used less and less.

Before receiving my license, I had to pass four, eight hour days of exhaustive board exams. This was divided into two parts: One eight hour day for basic sciences and three eight hour days for clinical sciences. The examinations are issued by the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX) which is nationally recognized in all licensed states. In addition, for every state in which the new doctor wishes to practice, State Jurisprudence exams must also be completed.

Currently there are six accredited Naturopathic Medical Universities in North America. Naturopathic Doctors are regulated in 22 states and 5 provinces, as well as the District of Columbia, U.S.A. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In some of these states and provinces, licensed N.D.s are able to prescribe pharmaceuticals, administer vaccinations, and perform minor surgery, as well as order labs, diagnostic imaging, and food sensitivity tests. N.D.s follow different career paths and work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, integrative oncology care, private practice, medical schools, and government organizations.

DISCLAIMER This information is provided for Educational Purposes Only and has NOT been designed to diagnose, treat or cure any health conditions. Please consult a qualified Health Care Professional with Nutritional Training to diagnose your health conditions and avoid self-diagnosis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not evaluated statements about these health topics or any suggested product compositions.