Surviving the Midterm Academic Obstacle Course in ND Med School

By Valerie A. Kremer, 1st Year Naturopathic Doctoral Medical Student, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

I feel like I just competed in an Ironman crossed with a Tough Mudder of academics this week … and it’s just the first set of exams for this semester. We have just endured a week of six midterms in botanical medicine, homeopathy, anatomy, Asian medicine, biochemistry, and clinical physiology. Although I am mentally exhausted, I feel good overall and am relieved they are over.

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The transversospinal group drawn by Dr. Terzic.

So what were we tested on? What do we learn in ND school you might wonder? I can’t give away all of the secrets, since some students have not taken the exams (some have opted to resit), but I can share an overview with you. We competed in a variety of academic obstacles, with great success. I have never made so many flashcards in such a short amount of time in my life – nearly 400 of them!

So what did the obstacle course look like? Botanical medicine looked like a wall climb in actions AND Latin names of nearly 70 herbs. Homeopathy was an obstacle course of different homeopathic remedies and how they are made. Anatomy was a mud crawl of all our knowledge all of the bones, muscles and nerves of the back, neck and head (more Latin). Asian medicine was a hoop of fire of different conditions (excess, deficient, wind, cold, heat, etc.) based on the elements (some in Chinese). Biochemistry was an electric shock event of glycolysis and the Krebs cycle. And finally, clinical physiology was a plank obstacle of fever pathways, muscle twitches, and action potentials. Overall, it was glorious and definitely tested my strength and endurance.

Although exhausting, I did manage to put self-care in the forefront every day to keep up my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical strength. I love the hashtag, #SelfCareisHealthCare. If I am not taking care of myself, I cannot be there for those around me (or be kind to those around me) and be the person I aim to be in this world. Every single day this week, I made sure to eat healthy food, get 8 hours of sleep, work out, and practice gratitude. I know this essential for me in med school and will be essential in my practice.

As part of my wellness plan at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic at school, I had stress relieving acupuncture done during midterm week by my rockstar intern. I had my appointment the day before my Asian Medicine exam, which helped me see how a Traditional Chinese Medicine intake is conducted. I was also able to learn about issues that can lead to organ imbalance, such as liver stagnation causing skin issues. I left the appointment extremely relaxed and it felt like my anxiety had been washed away. It was an incredible experience that I encourage everyone to have. I can’t wait for this coming week of more stress relieving acupuncture!

When I started this program, I was told that naturopathic medical school would change you as a person. The person you were starting on day one would not be the same person as when you graduate. This is starting to show. Besides gaining a ton of knowledge in naturopathic medicine, my soft skills (listening, being empathic, understanding, etc.) are already becoming more fine-tuned. I am excited to learn more knowledge and stay open to the journey.

Learning to be Great Doctors in Naturopathic Medical School

By Valerie A. Kremer, 1st Year Naturopathic Doctoral Medical Student, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

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Some of the first year naturopathic medical school books.

When I first saw the schedule of classes for my first semester, I was filled with excitement, joy, and … anxiety. Naturopathic medical school is not like undergrad with its five or six fairly rigorous classes. Oh, no. When I carefully looked at the schedule I was given at orientation at the beginning of last month, there were ELEVEN classes for this semester … count them … 11! We are mostly in class for eight hours a day with some breaks in between.

This is the list of our classes for this semester:

  • Botanical medicine 1
  • Anatomy 1 (3 times a week)
  • Clinical Physiology 1 (2 times a week)
  • Naturopathic History, Philosophy, and Principles
  • Homeopathic Medicine 1
  • Clinic 1
  • Principles in research
  • Anatomy 1 lab
  • Health psychology
  • Asian medicine 1
  • Biochemistry

Sounds amazing and fun, right?! It truly is. I have learned so much in the past month and am continuing to learn new things every day. Right now we are learning all of the vertebrae with their unique markings in Anatomy, sharpening our analytical skills in our research class, and cracking open the Synthesis Repertorium Homeopathicum Syntheticum or as we fondly call it, “Synthesis” to find a fitting remedy and symptom profile in Homeopathy.

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A drawing from Dr. Terzic showing us the ligaments of the cervical vertebrae.

In many of our classes, we are also learning the soft skills — the skills that will make us incredible naturopathic doctors. I honestly didn’t expect to learn these soft skills so quickly from the first week of classes but they are beginning to enrich my life as a person and future ND. We have been learning how to self-reflect after a patient interview, how to truly listen to the patient, acknowledge them and understand them — to truly make them feel heard. This is an incredible gift that I cannot wait to give to my future patients!

Some of us have begun shadowing the clinic supervisor at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic located here at the school. During our shadowing, we are able to see how the supervisor interacts with the staff, observes patient cases, and helps to solidify the treatment plan that each intern forms. I also bought my stethoscope and lab coat and am very excited for my first clinic shift later this month.

I have also been making it a priority to practice self-care every day. I have been making time for working out, meditating, and spending time with my amazing fiancé and friends. I love the hashtag #Selfcareishealthcare! If we keep ourselves healthy, we will be able to be there for those around us, as well as oxygenate our blood and support our brain function! I definitely don’t want to lose my health while studying health so I make it a point each day to practice self-care.

Overall, it’s been an intense schedule but I wouldn’t trade this experience in for the world. My fellow 79 classmates are the most incredible, amazing, emotionally intelligent, and beautiful people I have ever met. I am so excited to get to know them more during the next four years and look forward to becoming incredible NDs! It’s great that we all go through this program together. I am also so excited and proud to be the co-academic representative for my class. We truly embody our theme of Forging the Future!

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THE room where we spend all of our classes and time together for year 1. Also known as the menopause room because of drastic changes in temperature.

We are currently preparing for our six midterms that we will have in two weeks. Although this is a busy time, I am so happy I am able to share what it’s been like during the first month of naturopathic medical school!