Bastyr vs NCNM and other Naturopathic Medical Schools

May 2010 my husband, Todd Sattersten, and I visited Bastyr and NCNM to see which (if either) school and city we would like to move to.  We had narrowed it down to these two schools primairily based on geographic location.  Although, I had already talked to at least one admission counselor and 3 students from each of these two schools and from SCNM in Arizona.  I also talked to a student at  CCNM in Toronto, Canada and a person who had visited Univ. of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

One of the students I talked to had been told an interesting analogy of all the US schools;  Bastyr is like the oldest sibling in a family – straight A student, serious.  SCNM is like the hippy sister.  NCNM is the rebel.  And Univ. of Bridgeport is the baby, they were just getting started during this analogy.  The school outside of Chicago, NUHS, that is getting accreditation, was not at this time.  Neither my husband nor I felt the labels for NCNM and Bastyr were true but it’s a fun analogy none the less.

What I have pulled together about the different schools is the following, in order from North to south and west to east for North America:

Overall – every student and staff member emphasized that you MUST visit each school and see which one ‘resonantes’ with you.  I agree.  You have to put in the (comparably) small amount of money for a plane ticket, hotel, meals and rental car before you decide where to spend the next 4 or more years of your life and your $150K – $250K dollars!  Each school requires different pre-requisite classes, watch out for that.

BINM – Boucher in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  It seems for a US license states will accept Canadian degrees just as readily as US degrees.  For both the Canadian schools there are lots of big questions to be answered; US taxes, Student Financial Aide, moving all your belongings out of the country and back again (taxes?, issues?), etc.  Plus the Canadian laws are different than US laws for Naturopaths – the CDN curriculums are adjusted for their Province and country/ethics laws.  For example, no surgery is allowed by Naturopaths in Canada so there isn’t any training – but in the US Naturopaths can perform minor surgery and are trained for it.  Plus they are very far north – I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 12 years, time to move south.

Bastyr:  Kenmore, WA.  The school took over a monastary and is basically located on a beautiful state park.  The school was founded by students from NCNM.  Secluded location, NOT in the city of Seattle.

    The positive:  Their website completely blows the others away.  Their cafeteria is outstanding both in food selection and taste.  They have on-site day care!  The students were extremely friendly and helpful.  The former chapel and their secluded/wooded location are beautiful.  They have an herb and meditiation garden, on-site new eco-friendly housing, and an impressive/small library.  Wall of windows in every classroom.

    The negative:  In a word – Attitude!  I found the staff to be friendly but short with you.  And the admissions counselors are short, terse, and not very talkative.  I called over 6 weeks in advance (flying in from Wisconsin), but it was nearly impossible to get an in-person appointment, when we did the counselor rushed us, was short with her replies, got defensive with common questions, and  was rude.  A student who choose another school said they always felt like a ‘number’ when they called the school.  The finance office didn’t want to really talk to you until you were at the school.  The doors and hallways to the classrooms reminded me of a prison – metal doors with small window, really heavy, hallways with white tile.  It was hard to find out about research projects.

    Conclusion/Notes:  I was given no compelling reason to attend the school.  Note 1:  Their reputation is that they are ‘more scientific’ (which would/should appeal to me being an engineer).  However, I sat in on two classes and heard completely un-scientific comments from both the teachers (more on that later).   I saw NO EVIDENCE of them being more ‘scientific’.  Note 2:  Odd observation;  Most students had medium length hair between bottom of ear and top of shoulder, no matter their gender.  50% of students had laptops in class.  Most students wore jeans and hoodies.  Note 3:  Heard their cadaver lab was old and gas masks/showers after each lab were common.  Asked a Bastyr student about it and they said, “You have to wear gas masks at any cadaver lab.”   (not true, see NCNM and SCNM).

NCNM:  Portland, OR.  The first Naturopathic Medical School in North America.  Main classrooms are in refurbished 1950’s Elementary school.  Other buildings are brand-new.  Located at intersecting highways in Downtown Portland.  Mountains 1.5 hours east, Ocean 1.5 hours west, River runs through the middle of this modern eco-friendly small city.

The Positive:  The Admissions and Financial Aide Counselors are the most knowledgable, friendly, organized, and genuine of any staff that I talked with.  This school has their act together.  The students are extremely friendly and helpful.  The New on-site Clinic building with medicinary and on-site laboratory.  Helfgott Research Institute on-site and about 25% of students participate in research projects.  Beautiful, original hard-wood floors and doors in Main class room building.  State-of-the-art cadaver lab, gas masks optional.  Cadaver lab is prossection (they cut the cadavers for you; all other schools you have to cut them).  Nice, modern library with a cozy/antique-feeling rare books room.  Wall of windows in every classroom (including the cadaver lab).  EVERYONE we talked to that used to live in Portland or does now – Loves it, no one had anything bad to say (except comments about the rain).

The Negative: Their website is adequate but lame compared to Bastyr and SCNM.  They are working on it but currently no on-site day-care.  (They do have the closed circuit TV option).  No on-site cafeteria (a ‘food-cart’ does set up shop in the parking lot).  Location – city noise, older windows in main class room buildings (drafty).  Portland has a reputation for being rainy (but average high in winter is 45F! And snow in the city is rare).  If you are into it, the lack of cadaver dissection could be a negative (Update: you can volunteer to do the cadaver dissections!)

Conclusions/Notes:  Ok, you might think us biased as we ‘resonated’ with this school and the Portland area.  But seriously, this is how you would expect the staff of a graduate college to be: professional, friendly, organized, and selling you on the school.  The first counselor I talked to actually asked me some unexpected questions (like if I would want to practice internationally – they have a program for it).  Also, every staff member I talked to was as enthusiastic and passionate about natural medicine as I am – amazing!  50% of students had laptops in class.  Note 1:  They appeared to me to be just as scientific as Bastyr.  And you have to take the same classes and pass the same Licensing exams in the end – how different could the schools be?  Note 2: Odd Observation; students had longer hair (than Bastyr) from shoulder length and longer.  Noticed some skirts.  Note 3:  Student body appeared way more diverse than Bastyr.  Different ages, ethnicities, clothing styles, hair styles, etc.

 

SCNM:  Tempe, AZ.  Brand-new facilities.  Started by a student from NCNM.

The Positive:  Students were extremely friendly and helpful on the phone.  The admission counselors were friendly, enthusiastic, (but see below) and sent paperwork the quickest.  Their website contains excellent video interviews.    An average of 350 days of sunshine per year!

The Negative:  You have to learn Acupuncture (obviously a positive for some) since it is part of the ND scope in the state of AZ.  Therefore, you have less time for electives.  Admission Counselor’s were disorganized and didn’t seem to know the school very well.

    Conclusion/Notes:  This would be our follow-up trip if neither NCNM/Portland or Bastyr/Seattle was right for us.   My husband and one of my children do not do well in the heat/sun.  Note1: Talked to a cadaver lab T.A. – she doesn’t wear a gas mask but most of the students do.  She went into extreme detail about the lab (helpful for me) let me know if you want a blog entry on that.

 

NUHS:  Lombard, IL.  Working on getting accreditation as a Naturopathic college.  Adding Naturopathic curriculum to a (100+ year old!) Chiropractic college.  With no current accreditation and being outside of Chicago (about a 40minute drive) this was not on our list of schools to visit, nor did I talk to anyone from this college.

CCNM: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  It seems for a US license states will accept Canadian degrees just as readily as US degrees.  For both the Canadian schools there are lots of big questions to be answered; US taxes, Student Financial Aide, moving all your belongings out of the country and back again (taxes?, issues?), etc.  Plus the Canadian laws are different than US laws for Naturopaths – the CDN curriculums are adjusted for their Province and country/ethics laws.  For example, no surgery is allowed by Naturopaths in Canada so there isn’t any training – but in the US Naturopaths can perform minor surgery and are trained for it.  Plus they are very far north – I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 12 years, time to move south.

Univ. of Bridgeport:  Bridgeport, CT.  I was told this school was in a bad part of town – don’t be fooled by it’s proximity to the ocean!  We did not want to live in CT so I did not investigate this school.

UPDATE:  As of August 2010, we moved to Portland, while taking pre-reqs. for admission to NCNM, I started volunteering at NCNM’s Helfgott Research Institute.  Sept. 2012, I started in the Dual ND – MSOM program.  Week 7 of the first semester I figured out that the ND degree was not the area of concentration I wanted.  I switched to MSOM (only) and started those classes in Jan. 2013.  By my 3rd quarter in Chinese Medicine/MSOM I fell in love with the curriculum!

20 thoughts on “Bastyr vs NCNM and other Naturopathic Medical Schools

  1. Hi Amy,
    I found this blog post as a prospective ND student forwarded it to me.
    I’m sorry to hear that you have a negative experience at Bastyr. It’s disappointing to me, since I really love my school. (Though your description of everyone have shoulder-length hair is hilariously accurate this year.)
    Can I comment on the Cadaver lab? We do have the formaldehyde levels tested regularly (I believe they are technically within EPA standards – which doesn’t mean anything at all). We do require everyone to wear gas masks to protect our livers and general health. There is a high incidence of autoimmune disease after formaldehyde exposure. Being a health-concious program we take extra steps to make sure everyone is as safe and healthy as possible.
    Can you comment on the unscientific statements?
    One last thing – please be careful what you post on the internet. I think your assessments of the schools were fair, but I’ve seen some blog posts ripping different naturopathic schools. It saddens me because we are such a small profession, the last thing we need is fighting amongst ourselves.
    In Health,
    Erika Krumbeck
    (4th year ND student at Bastyr)
    P.S. – Welcome to our profession!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you know if Bastyr has a program so that you can practice internationally like the NCNM campus?
      I’m debating between the two schools and trying to figure out the differences.

      I graduated from Bastyr with my B.S. in Nutrition but now I want to go back to become a N.D. since everything I learned from this school has helped me heal myself and others with conditions that I didn’t even think were possible to heal! 😀

      I really do love Bastyr but all the great N.D.’s I have worked with came from NCNM but that might be because I live in Southern CA….so I dont know!

      Also all the professors were amazing at teaching except for maybe one… but thats outstanding in my opinion compared to most schools!

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    • Do you know if Bastyr has a program so that you can practice internationally like the NCNM campus?
      I’m debating between the two schools and trying to figure out the differences.

      I graduated from Bastyr with my B.S. in Nutrition but now I want to go back to become a N.D. since everything I learned from this school has helped me heal myself and others with conditions that I didn’t even think were possible to heal! 😀

      I really do love Bastyr but all the great N.D.’s I have worked with came from NCNM but that might be because I live in Southern CA….so I dont know!

      Also all the professors were amazing at teaching except for maybe one… but thats outstanding in my opinion compared to most schools!

      –Thanks!

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      • Hi Susan, I did a quick check and it looks like Bastyr Univ. offers similar international opportunities that NCNM does, check out Bastyr’s programs listed under ‘Student Life’ here: http://www.bastyr.edu/student-life/future-students/study-away-opportunities

        Since Bastyr and NCNM are only a 3.5 hour drive apart anyone considering one school should definitely check out the other. You have such positive experiences with NCNM ND’s I think you owe it to yourself to come and check NCNM out! The Admission Counselors can help you with an Exploration Day, a current student led campus tour, Shadowing an ND (or Chinese Medicine practioner) in the NCNM Clinic, talking with or e-mailing current students, or making your own appointment at the clinic (to survey the ND/Professor’s and students). Contact the Admission Counselors (they are all awesome, I know them personally) from here: http://admissions.ncnm.edu/visit-ncnm/the-ncnm-admissions-team/

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      • Thanks for responding so quickly!!! I have been trying to decide if I should become a ND or to just stay as a Certified Health Coach and Nutritionist… I love the idea of becoming a ND since I completely agree on the philosophy of it but I’m not sure if the cost of tuition will be worth it :(… At the same time I wonder if I will be able to help the variety of patients that I will see. I have been able to heal my IBD of 20 years from the knowledge I gained at Bastyr plus the experience of living with the disease… but I found out that it was caused by a huge dysbiosis through a ND but the diet they provided did not help heal my gut completely it made me feel mentally better but not physically so I developed my own diet…the idea of not being able to test the reason behind their IBD makes me feel lost a bit even though I know the main part is that they have a leaky gut but what caused the leaky gut??? That answer could be different for each person… Stress, environmental pollutants, pharma drugs, age, disruption in the body like the thyroid, pancreas, etc…. with all these possibilities it makes my head spin :S gah!!!

        How did you decide that you wanted to be an ND?
        Do you have any suggestions upon my dilemma?

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      • Susan – I now use Muscle Testing for exactly the questions you are talking about. This book explains one person’s view about the testing. I have not read the book – but since I already knew the concept I just saw the book cover and started using the ‘arm length muscle test’. I always ask for ‘my greatest good’ or ‘the greatest good’. The more cleared out you are and the more in-tune you are with your higher-self, the better the results. It’s awesome! http://yes-no-book.tumblr.com

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      • Thanks, this helped, I never knew how strong muscle testing was until I had it performed on me and each time it has always been accurate! I’ve never done it on my self but according to the results my inner self says I should become a ND 🙂

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  2. Hi Amy,
    I am considering the same three schools and am interested to know which you finally picked as your top choice.

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  3. Dear Amy,
    You did an amazing job of comparing the schools. I attended the ND program at Bastyr for 2 years and have decided to transfer to NCNM. Your observations about the staff and administrators at Bastyr is correct, many do not support the students. Something else that needs to pointed out is that there is a huge communitcation breakdown between admin, staff and faculty. As a result, students suffer. It is a poorly run business. The institution is more concerned about prooving themselves to be the leader of naturopathic medicine, but they fail to provide support to the ND students.
    I have found no real leadership there.
    The library staff, and some of the faculty have been supportive. Bastyr has a difficult time keeping erudite faculty – there is a high turnover of faculty and this has been a real concern for many students for several years.
    Only one (maybe 2) ND sits on the Board of Directors. How can this be? ND students were in an uproar when not one ND sat on the Board.
    The gross lab at Bastyr meets OSHA standards, but many of my classmates have experienced short term side effects – burning eyes, migrane headaches, runny nose, and thyroiditis. If you have a history of cancer or are chemically sensitive, I strongly suggest that you stay out of the lab. When 3-4 students in Jan 2011 were becoming violently ill from the formaldehyde, the school faculty and admin did very little to find a solution. Many students had to postpone their studies for a year until the faculty could develop a non toxic gross lab experience. The only reason this was done is because a former student filed a complaint with the Department of Education, Civil Rights. Bastyr is not very disability or handicap friendly.
    If you talk to many ND students they will tell you that their experience at Bastyr is not very satisfying or fulfilling, but it’s to late for most of them to transfer. Only 1 year classes can be transferred to another ND school.
    I would suggest that future ND applicants not be fooled by the beautiful grounds and the cafeteria, but rather by the quality of your education.
    I do not agree with the direction that the Institution is moving or its philosophy.
    Higher education is something that should be challenging, spark creativity and take students to higher levels of thinking. Bastyr failed in this regard.
    The filtration system is poor in the gross lab at Bastyr and students are required to wear full or partial face masks, and a jumpsuit. At NCNM, mask or suits are not needed becasue their filtration system is superior.
    If I was giving Bastyr a grade, I would give them a “D”
    I refuse to spend that kind of money on my education and receive no support from the administration.

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    • Hello, I’ve been accepted to Bastyr, NCNM, and SCNM to start in the fall and I’m wondering if I can talk to you about your experiences after reading your post. I have visited all three schools and it seems each has its own advantages and disadvantages and each has a distinct vibe as well. Would you be amenable to sharing your experiences with me over phone or email?

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  4. Hi Amy,

    Although I am still in the process of earning my bachelors degree from the University of CA, Merced, I had this same question on my mind for a while now: Bastyr or NCNM? Well, this post definitely helped me think…I will still check out both schools (actually all three schools as Bastyr also has a branch of their school in San Diego CA); but ultimately I do think my gut “feeling” about wanting to attend NCNM was sound. Thank you for your post!

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  5. Dear Amy: Thank you for you information. I almost signed up at Bastyr
    in San Diego, but I changed my mind. I am glad I followed my gut
    instinct. When I visited the school in SD, it seemed disorganized. When I
    visited again, there was a turnaround of staff and the vibe was not
    good. They take a while to respond by email and the front desk person is
    not friendly. I have called the Kenmore school and they seem a little
    more enthusiastic, but one of the counselors I spoke too was indeed
    snotty. Another time, I called Kenmore by accident, trying to reach one
    of the SD staff and the receptionist was so mean, she made me feel like I
    had committed a sin calling the wrong office. In addition, I witnessed
    something that I think is wrong on a twitter page from one of their
    administrative staff in charge of admissions in SD. This staff person
    posted a picture on her twitter page about the extra work she takes
    home. I guess it makes her feel special to be so busy. The worst part
    was that the picture showed papers that looked like forms and it had
    students names on it. I think this is unprofessional and disclosing
    students names on twitter is wrong. Then all she tweets about is weekend
    beerfests, fat burgers, cupcakes, candies, happy hour and eating out.
    She uses words like “WTF” I don’t think she is in tune with nutrition,
    wellness.body-mind-spirit. Don’t understand why she was hired to
    represent the school. Not much Namaste going on in there. I would rather
    attend a school, where I believe their instructors and staff live and
    breathe what they teach. How can they possibly encourage me to enroll if
    they are not living up to the standards which they hold so high. I am
    not a prude and I occasionally have my glass of wine but when you are
    representing a school, then REPRESENT. That school needs to change the
    standards on hiring staff. I will look at other schools. One of the main
    things that I look for in a school, beside the care for the students,
    is that they are proactive with students concerns, accept when there is a
    problem and find a solution, not sugar coat or dig it under a rug. It
    is not a lot to ask for when we are paying for these expensive careers.

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  6. I attended University of Bridgeport and it is in a bad area, but I never have been mugged or harassed and the campus is security-infested so don’t worry. Just be safe! You should be cautious anywhere actually. The curriculum is EXCELLENT and I have heard from others they felt UB prepared them to take the boards and do residency. The basic science and NDs are fantastic! The only complaint I have is the lack of communication between the staff and students. It’s getting better, but that was something I griped about for awhile. It’s frustrating.

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    • Hi Krystal, I hope this message will reach you. I got accepted into UB but didn’t go because of the crime and broke-down city. I am now at SCNM; I do enjoy it here but the professors are lackluster and mostly of recent ND grads who little/no teaching experience; it’s only getting worse too. I am originally from the east coast, so the idea of being in CT was much more appealing. Would you recommend I give UB another look? I’d consider transferring if it meant a more solid education and being closer to my family… Thanks a lot!

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  7. Dear Amy,

    Thank you for writing this review a few years back. I just met somebody training in the ND program at Bastyr and she’s very excited about the school and program. She’s a bit young and is not paying for the school herself, so her idealism is quite justified. However, as a post-grad with some real-life experience, I understand how important money is when making a big decision like this. From everything you said and through the various internet reviews, I feel somewhat drawn to NCNM. Getting a graduate degree has been on my mind for a while, and perhaps it’s time for me to actually pick something and go with it.

    I want to see if you would be open to sharing your experiences at NCNM with me either on the phone or through email.

    Let me know. Thank you!

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  8. Thank you for the information and comparisons. They are very helpful and a good place to start. I am currently in the process of applying to an ND program and I am considering both Bastyr and SCNM. Unfortunately no one has commented on SCNM. I have visited Bastyr in San Diego and didn’t have a very good overall vibe. I am planning to visit SCNM in about one month. My thinking in honing in on SCNM is that since Arizona has the widest scope of practice for ND in the US that their corriculum and clinical experience provides more opportunities. For instance they have training in suturing and other minor surgery that from their websites it appears the other schools do not have. Does anyone have any feed back/personal experience with SCNM?

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