Fall 2012 at National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) where I was enrolled as a first year ND (Naturopathic Doctorate) and MSOM (Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine) student. Unfortunately, ‘Dual Degree’ students, as they are called, do not get any MSOM classes until their Spring Term during the first year. So this summary is on the ND classes only.
Overall Summary: The common euphemism for medical school is that “It’s like drinking from a fire hose”. That is to say, that there is so much information coming at you, so fast, that it’s hard to catch and retain any of it. While it does feel like a fire hose of information – you are expected to retain ALL of it – at least until the next exam. (Luckily, at NCNM, most of the exams are not cumulative). In some cases, you are given only the highlights of topics and have to go fill in the details (which are necessary to pass the exam) from a book you might buy, the internet, or hopefully, pulling from the pre-reqs you took.
What’s nice is that the classes start to overlap. Anatomy and Organ Systems. Biochemistry examples and Organ Systems. Clinical Correlates case studies and Organ Systems, etc. Even during the first term you start to see that the information isn’t endless – the body only has so many parts and so many key processes. Learn those and you can start applying future classes to that base knowledge.
Words of Wisdom: Take as many courses as you can before you start medical school – not just the ones required to attend the school, but the ‘Suggested’ courses too. Take lots of physiology and anatomy. I didn’t have any. Every class has these subjects as their basis, even if it’s just in the use of examples. Even though you might take these courses you will still find the curriculum challenging. Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chem., BioChemistry are all necessary as well. These concepts are assumed to be in the forefront of your mind (luckily for me that was the case). The medical courses take off from there. Get a ‘private’ tutor immediately – these are upper classmen on Work Study. An hour of their insight can save you 3 hours of trying to decipher Power Point slides. And it gives you unparalleled access to the type of questions that will be on exams.
My experience: I am 41 years old. I have a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. I have an MBA from my time at General Electric, from a program they have with Marquette University. I am an overachiever. I took every course at GE I could – including their intensive Statistics Training called “Six Sigma”. I learn fast and I’m into details. None-the-less, this curriculum required 110% of my time. Finding time to eat or exercise was nearly impossible. If you get sick or have to attend to personal business, nothing slows down, sure you can ‘make up’ exams – but when? It’s like you fell off of a train going 80 miles an hour and now you have to run to catch up. It may sound like I’m being overly dramatic, but I’m not, you’ll see.
I had another 40 year old tell me it was like a 9-5 job and she didn’t study evenings or weekends. She must have taken all the classes before she got here. I don’t see any way to pass the tests unless you are studying in between classes, at night, and at least one and a half days on the weekend. It’s just too fast, you are in class too many hours, and the level of detail required on the exams is too in-depth. I have always been a B+/A- student. For the pre-reqs I was an A+ student. At NCNM it’s Pass/Fail but you still know your percentage: mine was 60-80%. Passing is 70%.
I found the information extremely interesting. And it would be great to slow down a bit and absorb it. But there is so much being crammed into the 4 years to prepare for the State Board Licensing Exams that slowing down is not possible. And this is how MD medical schools are too. How are any of the schools turning out decent Doctors? The 4 year curriculum is ridiculous. And yes, it’s doable (but at what cost to your personal health?), so the pace continues. At least at NCNM the Administration knows how hard it is and offer alternatives. They offer 4 year ND because all the other ND schools do too. And ND schools offer it because MD schools do it in 4 years. At NCNM there is an established 5 year track and some students take even longer. Don’t worry, the 5 year track will still be challenging – do yourself a favor and start in that. I’ve heard many students call the 5 year ‘The Happy Track’.
THE MAIN CLASSES and their NCNM PROFESSORS
Organ Systems –
This is the bulk of the first year classes. Extreme detail of body organs and how they work is taught. Very interesting – to a point. And then your mind says – really? I need to know these minute details? Yes, you do for the test.
This is the little brother of Organ Systems. Just as much detail is required, but the amount of material is less. It’s really challenging for non-science majors. Only the highlights are given and you have to go find resources to teach yourself the material.
If this is your first exposure to anatomy and physiology you have a LOT of memorizing to do. The professors are so flexible at NCNM that they don’t require a text book. This was NOT beneficial for me since I hadn’t had anatomy before. Get one of the recommended texts ASAP and start memorizing. I found ‘Clinically Oriented Anatomy‘ by Keith Moore, et. al. to be great – it has drawings, real cadaver photos and x-rays….all of which you will need to know.
The ND Professors –
The professors of these main classes are excellent. They know their subject area extremely well, try to keep up with the latest developments, and aren’t afraid to tell you when they don’t know something. They are more dedicated to the students and more personable than most college professors at the three other colleges I’ve attended.
NOTE: As of 2013 the ND Curriculum at NCNM is going through a review and will be changed. Check out their website or call the Admissions Counselors for more information.