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Despite my many blog posts about our educational level, I realize that there is still some misinformation about naturopathic physicians. Many people want access to naturopathic medicine and well-trained naturopathic physicians, but it is still a little confusing as to who’s who. Here’s my guide to finding a legitimate naturopathic doctor and supporting our profession:
1) Check out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) website: www.naturopathic.org. Click on the link “find a naturopathic doctor near you”. This is the quickest and easiest way to find a licensed naturopathic physician. All ND’s listed on the AANP website have graduated from 4-year medical schools.
2) The AANP maintains an up-to-date list of which states license naturopathic physicians. Why is this important? In unlicensed states any person can call themselves a “naturopath” regardless of their training. Are you in an unlicensed state? Be extremely cautious when interacting with someone who claims to be a naturopath or naturopathic doctor. Always ask where they received their training (it should be from one of 6 schools: Bastyr, Boucher, Bridgeport, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, or Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine). Note that there are many “diploma mill” type colleges that offer “Naturopathic Doctor” degrees. These are typically online or distance learning courses, and these graduates can only call themselves “doctor” in unlicensed states. These graduates have not had hands-on coursework (like a cadaver lab, or training in minor surgery or physical exam techniques), or supervised interaction with real patients (minimum 1,200 hours for licensed ND’s). There are qualified ND’s in unlicensed states; most practice very conservatively (as a “healthcare consultant” or something similar), and simultaneously hold a license in a licensed state. This is because there is no governing body in that state.
In licensed states, you can simply search for any Naturopathic Physician or Naturopathic Doctor to find a well-qualified medical professional. Ask around to find one that suits you – many ND’s have additional training in certain areas, or tend to focus on a specific patient population (like pediatrics, or physical medicine/body work, or cardiology patients). Different naturopathic physicians have different personalities just like everyone else.
3) Get involved! Are you in an unlicensed state? Call/e-mail your state senator or representative and ask to draft legislation requiring the licensure of naturopathic physicians. Check the AANP website for updates regarding the status of your state. Currently New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have legislation in the works, in addition to Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and Iowa – states whose legislative sessions have ended for the year.
Remember, you can make a difference when it comes to a patient’s right to choose appropriate, effective, preventive healthcare.