NCNM Study Abroad

NCNM offers trips and study opportunities abroad.  China, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are just a few countries that have recurring trips.  Here is a link to the African countries information:  NCNM website

Here is an example of a study abroad class, the class currently counts for credit in the NCNM ND, MSiMR, and MSOM degrees.

NCNM Tanzania Trip Description (Tentative – subject to change a little)

Week 1 (July 7-11) – Portland. Reading, videos, discussion.
Students will spend 9 a.m. to noon each day with Dr. Zwickey preparing for the trip. There will be readings, videos, and discussion about international public health, tropical diseases, and cultural topics relevant to Tanzania. Students will start their projects which will be presented the last week of the trip.
July 12 – Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
All students will fly to Tanzania on the 12th of July. Students may fly whatever airline they choose. However, because we will need to pick them up in Dar Es Salaam, it’s important that everyone arrive on the 13th.
July 13-15 Orientation; Basic Swahili; Jet-lag recovery
Students will arrive on the 13th or 14th (often flights land at 2 a.m. the next day). We’ll stay at Kigamboni, on the beach. Student will have the opportunity to sleep, swim, and will complete some local orientation.
July 16-17 Muhimbili University Institute for Traditional Medicine and CDC
Muhimbili University has an Institute for Traditional Medicine, where they study some of the 10,000+ plants that grow in Tanzania, analyzing them for activity against HIV, cancer, and malaria. We’ll tour their facility and talk to some of the scientists who work at Muhimbili. We’ll also spend some time talking to a public health expert from the CDC who works in Tanzania.
July 17 Fly to Moshi/Arusha
July 18-19 Orientation to Moshi, Mowo, Arusha
Located at the base of Kilimanjaro, this area is where we have relationships with researchers and some smaller villages. All students will visit Mowo, a village outside of Moshi.
July 20-22 Off (Ngorogoro Crater (optional safari) /Massai Village (optional village stay)
A popular safari takes place in Ngorogoro crater. Students will have the option to go to Karatu, and complete the Ngorogoro safari. Additionally, an herbalist who has lived with the Massai will provide herbal medicine history, and arrange a village stay with Massai villagers.
July 23-27 Activities in Moshi, Mowo, Arusha (optional village stay)
Students will alternate between 3 activities, a clinic day in Mowo village, visiting the herbal medicine research center on Mt. Meru, outside of Arusha, and completing public health activities.
July 28 Drive to Lushoto / Hike
July 29 Free day (or hike to waterfalls)
July 30 Drive to Tanga
Tanga is a coastal city that is primarily Muslim.
July 31-August 2 Tanga (Mama-Baby Clinic; Bombo Hospital; Bongo)
Students will alternate between three activities, including visiting a Tanzanian hospital, spending time with a traditional Tanzanian herbalist, and helping with a Mama-Baby clinic. Students will also deliver public health lectures at a local elementary school.
August 3 Boat to Zanzibar
August 4 Off
August 5-7 Stonetown; Spice Farm; Wrap up classes; Presentations
August 8 Leave
Course information will be distributed and discussed at breakfasts and dinners. Daily reflections will occur with faculty during drives to various locations.
After August 8th, students are welcome to fly back to the US, or to stay in Tanzania to travel and explore. Students may also want to spend time in other parts of the world on their way back to the US. Note that the last night of paid housing is August 7th.

First Term of Medical School

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’.


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.

Anatomy – 

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.

Pre-attendance at NCNM

In two weeks class starts at the National College of Natural Medicine.  The incoming class was put onto a Google Group to receive information from the college and about each other.  For several months people have been posting introductions of themselves; their educational and personal background, area of intended study, etc.  There are about 110 people on the group.  I finally was inspired to post my introduction, but took it a completely different direction:  Educational Poetry!  (LOL and making fun of myself).  And I’ve posted it here for your review.  Hopefully it will inspire some of the blog readers to come and join us!

“Dear Future Friends,

As a form of introduction I humbly offer up and wholly dedicate these words to you:

The Beginning
There were hundreds of paths leading to this precipice on which we now stand.
From here our choices substantially narrow,
Mostly because the climb ahead is so steep.
Some of us know precisely how we got here, counting every week, month, or year.
Others woke only yesterday, surprised to find themselves in this place.
No matter,
For now we are united, both in purpose – to obtain a degree,
And in intent – to learn to heal others.
Still there are paths to choose,
Some will go it alone relying on their own ropes and knots.
Others will need a lot of support and help and will find those willing to give it.
All of us together, forming a community,
Sharing Love and Laughter,
Joy and Sorrow . . .

Becoming a family over the next several years.

Let us learn as much from each other as we will from our studies.
And heal one another so that we may meet our clients with no ego –
Only clarity of purpose and unending compassion.
Let us be not afraid during this time of transition,
For we will meet the challenges as one –
A rising tide of strength, a tribe called ‘healers’.
Overflowing with momentum and grounded in wisdom,
Our powerful journey begins with a first step;
So breathe deep,
Join the outstretched hand of another,
And let us begin . . .
                                      -NCNM Fall 2012.

Amy Buckley
NCNM Incoming Class Fall 2012″

NCNM Admissions Interview

I recently spoke with an NCNM hopeful, Victoria, about her admissions interview.  Here is what I learned:

Which program?   ND and MAc (Masters of Acupuncture),  Dual Degree Program.

Who interviewed her?    1 ND faculty member who is an ND/MD; 1 Admissions Counselor; and 1 Chinese Medicine faculty member.

Interview situation:  All 3 NCNM representatives and her in a conference room at NCNM.

Length of interview:  1 hour.

Questions she was asked:        

  • What will you do if you don't get into NCNM?
  • What would you do if . . . quite a few of these types of questions.   One example is: What would you do as a practicing ND if one of your patients is blaming you for a side effect of a medication or supplement?
  • Personal background questions.
  • General Resume type of questions.

After the interview:  Within 2 weeks she received a phone call from the Admissions Counselor confirming her 'conditional acceptance' to the ND program.  This was followed with a formal letter, instructions, and paperwork.  Her acceptance was "conditonal" because she still needed to finish and pass two more of the required pre-requisite courses for entry to the program.  She was given a deadline to confirm her acceptance and send in a monetary deposit.

Her advice on interviews:  Know yourself and where you stand on healthcare issues, naturopathic medicine, and morality-type scenerios.  Don't be worried – it was a friendly atmosphere.  Take your time to think of your answer before starting to speak, silence is ok.  Try to be calm so that the real you comes through.

Her Background:  She is 45 years old.  She is an introvert.  She currently lives and has lived most of her life in Portland, OR. Since she was 2 years old she wanted to be a Medical Doctor (MD).  Her father was in the Biochemistry field and her mother was very into Natural Health methods when she was young.  In college she married and had children and so she ended up as a Registered Nurse (instead of an MD).  She is now divorced and her children are living on their own, so three years ago she set out to get her Bachelors degree in Nursing (a first step towards a doctorate).

Why Natural Medicine?:   After 15 years working in healthcare (a lot of it with mentally ill patients) she became disillusioned with the current healthcare system.  She witnessed time and again how medications were prescribed to people and it did not help them, often made them worse, and did not get at the root cause of their illness.  She was determined to be a different kind of MD.

    Then, one year before finishing her bachelors degree, she heard an ND speak at a Martial Arts Camp she was attending.  She spoke to him afterwards and learned about NCNM.  She knew immediately that becoming an ND instead of an MD was the route she wanted to take.

Experience with Natural Medicine?:  Introduction to it as a child from her mother.  Currently she sees an ND/LAc (Licensed Acupuncturist) and another ND.

SCNM Videos – Hilarious

SCNM is holding a video/YouTube Contest; three example videos are posted here.  A must see for anyone looking at naturopathic medical school or for those currently attending that need a study break!  Since these videos were recorded in the SCNM Clinic and Teaching buildings it also gives you a sneak peak at those.

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!