A Musician's Path to Medicine
Many hours were poured over eighty-eight ivory keys, countless days spent in practice. I was in five performing ensembles and was the on call accompanist for a traveling children's theatre group. If anyone needed background music, or wanted someone to run through a vocal piece, I was there. I auditioned for five different undergraduate music programs. My friends laughed with me about wanting to be a crazy musician with a PhD or two living in a van down by the river. I was ok with that. However, my plans changed in ways that I would never have imagined possible.
I really hated going to the doctor's office. It seemed like I just had one problem after another. It started when I was four and was screened for neurofibromatosis, spending what felt like forever in a specialist's office under a black light, and it spiraled out of control until it seemed like my body was falling apart. As an adolescent, I felt aged. Crippled by musculoskeletal complaints, hampered by dozens of allergies, plagued with gastrointestinal problems, I knew the doctors’ routines very well. Yes, there is a problem. Here is a prescription. See if it goes away.
None of my problems really went away. They were just covered in bandaids. I had to quit sports. Sell my horses. Give up many foods. Feel ostracized at school because I was that kid with the special diet. I had trouble sitting down on the floor and getting back up again. Sometimes I couldn't even play the piano too long without my back erupting into muscle spasm.
I was 15 when I discovered a breast tumor, and dealing with a tumor was different. I often felt embarrassed and belittled by the nurses and doctors. I wasn't sure what was happening to my own body, because no one would talk to me like I had a brain. After watching it grow for over a year, the medical staff agreed it was time to remove it and send it to pathology. Thankfully, it was benign; but the surgeon was sure that there would only be more tumors. Just come back, he said.
I was never going back. It wasn't right to be 17 and feel like I was staring down my own mortality. I was sick of being sick! Now, the tumor alone wasn't enough to turn this musician into a scientist; but after my surgery, many opportunities arose to examine the effects of food consumption, lifestyle, and the environment on the human body. It was novel to me that my environment and what I put on and in my body could have a strong effect on my health. (And it feels like a no-brainer now.)
With the amazement came fury. I wondered if my tumor, the whole crushing experience, could have been avoided. I started to wonder if many diseases and illnesses could be avoided through preventive care. Here was all of this information on preventing illness and disease, and no doctor ever took the time to tell me how to prevent illness. No healthcare provider taught me to live well. When I shared my frustrations with my mom, she said five words that completely changed my life. “Have you looked into naturopathy?”
The first article I read about naturopathy was about the six basic principles.
- First, do no harm (Primum non nocere)
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis medicatrix naturae)
- Identify and treat the causes (Tolle causam)
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
- Treat the whole person (Tolle totum)
- Prevention (Praevenic)
I was convicted that the solution to providing excellent preventive care and educating patients about their health laid with naturopathy. Despite the sciences, at the time, being difficult and outright terrifying, I knew I needed to be a naturopath. I love music, but the passion to provide people with health care that treats the roots of problems and prevents illness from developing in the first place grew uncontrollably within me. In order to educate and empower people to take control of their health, I was willing to change the entire trajectory of my life.
Two weeks before starting undergraduate school, I changed my major from music education to health science. Not once have I regretted it. As I progressed through my bachelor's degree, I fell in love with identifying pathophysiological pathways, discovered the power of functional movement, the ability of food to heal, and the facility of botanicals to address everyday ailments. My appreciation and love of naturopathy deepened as connections between it, physiology, biochemistry, and biomechanics were formed.
I had my eyes set on my school, the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), since my sophomore year of college. I knew where I needed to go, and I did everything in my power to make sure I got there (and learned a lot about naturopathy along the way). I made the right choice.
My future plans now entail practicing in my rural hometown in Montana. I want to offer the best combination of naturopathic primary care, expert nutritional counseling, specific exercise prescription, and safe, holistic maternal health. I know rural medicine can be a many-headed beast, requiring doctors to know a substantial something about everything. I will be so excited to offer a variety of services to my future patients and feel comfortable doing so.
I believe naturopathic doctors are positioned to empower patients to live better, to find safer, long-term solutions for chronic illnesses, and provide over all excellent primary care. I want people to have access to the kind of care that I wish I had.
I can't wait to be an ND.
And now it's your turn: what made you choose your path? Let me know in the comments below!