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!