British Medical Journal: Holistic Medicine is Human Medicine

The mainstream medical journal British Medical Journal recently published an online article for medical students on the importance of a balanced approach to medicine; one that is both holistic and mechanistic.

It provides a nice history of the advancement of science in medicine and how this history has changed medicine for better and for worse; mentions some very interesting research in psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the psyche, brain and immune system are inter-related); and favorably reviews trends in medical schools in Great Britain and the United States to include Complimentary & Alternative Medicine in their training.

It is exciting to see holistic approaches to peoples health becoming more acceptable in mainstream medicine. However, it saddens me that still the majority of mainstream medicine seems to deride the training of naturopathic doctors even while adopting their perspective and approach.

The description of the ideal medical program is so similar to the training I received at naturopathic medical school, but most states (including New York) still do not acknowledge naturopaths as health care providers Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine do. Some states that license naturopaths allow a broad scope of prescriptive rights for naturopaths, which include many pharmaceutical drugs.

Of course, naturopaths are not perfect. Some of the cases of simply bad medicine make me (and most other health care provider) cringe. Like all physicians, licensed naturopaths must carry mal-practice insurance. However, the rate of malpractice claims against naturopaths is very low and is reflected in comparably miniscule malpractice insurance rates.

Just so you know, my naturopathic education included a 5 year post-graduate training where the basic science coursework is modeled after and often compared to the training at the finest medical schools in the U.S. The clinical training teaches naturopaths to prescribe drugs and surgery, but focuses on prevention, nutrition, nutrition, herbal medicine, counseling, physcial medicine, and energy medicine. Unfortunately, naturopathic training does not include residencies because the residency infrastructure is too small. However, the clear goal of the professional organizations is for all naturopaths to have residencies in the near future. I had heard that residencies became a requirement for medical doctors only in the middle part of the last century (I am not sure about this fact – let me know if the truth is different).

There currently is a bill that is making its way through the New York State legislature to license naturopaths. To find out more about and to support it, go to Licensure is important because it lets you know that the naturopath you are seeing has attended and completed an extensive medical program. Right now, in New York State and Massachusetts, anyone can call themselves a naturopath and many people do who take correspondence courses and get their degrees in the mail. This, of course, is fine as long as the healthcare consumer fully understands what they are getting.

This blog post is an item from the Albany Times Union Podcast: Holistic Health.

Be Well,


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