While speaking to the Chatham Rotary Club a few weeks ago, I mentioned I spend a lot of time discussing just what Naturopathic Medicine is, what we as Naturopathic Doctors do, and how I think our practice philosophy can help patients achieve greater health. More recently, I spoke with a local Medical Doctor over a cup of coffee and we discussed at length what we thought Family Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine should mean. When asked “what is Naturopathic Medicine” I often rely on a short elevator speech I have prepared, and I have another reliable intro I give to new patients regarding what to expect as we work together, but beyond that I think there is a lot more to define when it comes to Naturopathic Medicine – or maybe there isn’t.
I am unsure of where I first ran into the concept of stripping away the definition of alternative medicine, but I really think that there is only “medicine that works, and medicine that doesn’t work”. The labels alternative, complimentary, etc, do help us to roughly define a “different” system in which medicine is practiced, but I think at times they are used to question legitimacy, or imply a less rigorous evaluation of some medical diagnostics or therapeutics.
Personally I am trying to redefine how I speak about Naturopathic Medicine. As a system or style of practice the philosophy speaks to the major commonalities between practitioners in our profession – treating the whole person, doctor as teacher, and treating the fundamental cause of disease. I also think these are tenants important in “good medicine”, and should not remain unique to Naturopathic Doctors. Plenty of Medical Doctors, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Social Workers, Dentists, and others are involved in evaluating and addressing the social determinants of health, the individual nature of disease, and the importance in teaching as part of healthcare. There are lots of individuals practicing “good medicine” in different ways.
The next time I am asked “What is Naturopathic Medicine?” I am going to be much more thoughtful in my response. Naturopathic Doctors practice medicine. We address health concerns, health promotion, and disease prevention through individualized medical approaches rooted in evidence based medicine and clinical experience.