First Week at NCNM

The first week at NCNM felt like being

Low light attempt to capture the drumming circle with my iPhone.

in the dryer with a bunch of clothes….it’s a swirl of new people, your own positive and negative emotions, biochemistry equations, body parts and names, research tools and talk, new classroom environments, new computer systems, to take an elective or not?, a new commute, different schedule everyday, to buy books or not?, etc., etc.

It is at once daunting, exhilarating, fun, and scary.

It is also clear that you are not alone and the administrators, upperclassmen, fellow classmates, professors are here to help you – you just need to ask. And it is emphasized that one of the best tools a doctor can possess is the ability to ask for help.

The first class of our entire school career started with a Drumming circle. As all (approximately) 90 us waited for the Biochemistry professor 3 drummers started a beat in the hallway. They entered the room and were followed by 100 clapping upperclassmen, teachers, administrators, and counselors. It was an awesome upbeat tempo that quickly got all the new students clapping as well. Once the drumlin line and people had completely surround the tables we were sitting at there was a brief Welcome introduction. Then the drummers and clappers filed out of the room clapping and drumming the entire way. It was so uplifting, welcoming, and ‘yang’!

Other professors started their classes with: meeting for a moment of silence in ‘the heart space’, singing and dancing, a small speech about this journey we were embarking on, and, yes, some even just introduced themselves and the topic of the class straight away.

Other notable first week items and quotes:
– Two back to school parties sponsored by the school
– “It’s best if you wear a sports bra and biking shorts to this class”. (Palpatation Lab)

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.

My Story Update: May 2009 – July 2010

I left off the telling of my story in May 2009, where I had just found the bioresonance practicioner near my house in Wisconsin.  As I said, that's when the real road to recovery took place.  The machine produced such a dramatic improvement in my health that I will dedicate one or more entire entries to it.  For now, I'll leave you without the details on that and just say that it did not entirely solve my recurring issues.  The problems that kept coming back were dizziness, heart palpitations, green urine, circulation problems (including blue nail beds on my fingers), food sensitivity, environmental sensitivities, etc.  However, after a year following the bioresonce machine's recommendations those symptoms were often so slight I only knew there was a problem because I was still keeping daily notes.  One slight heart palpatation would happen and a few days later a slight dizzy feeling and then I would review my notes and see the pattern.  More on that and May 2009 – May 2010 update of my health later.

By the fall of 2009 I was pretty convinced that I wanted to become a Naturopathic Doctor myself.  I had been trying to figure out what career/job I would do once my time of staying home with the kids was over.  I liked a lot of areas and knew I was done working for a a big corporation, probably done doing Mechanical Engineering work, and didn't really want to work for any one else.  I started telling my thoughts about becoming an ND/NMD to my friends and extended family and everyone was very encouraging.  My husband thought that it was an outstanding idea.  Even though he seemed to be fighting against me with every alternative therapy I tried, he was ecstatic about the thought of me becoming an ND.

We decided that I needed to be a 'bridge' between western medicine and natural medicine.  So I wouldn't get my ND degree on-line or from a small school but I would get the same education as any Medical Doctor, MD.  To do that you have to go to an accredited naturopathic medical college.  There are currently 6 such colleges in North America.  I began investigating them on-line, contacted admissions counselors and started talking to current students.  I wanted to get a feel for how hard the schooling was, how long it would take, and what I needed to apply.  We knew it would be expensive, but you get student loans for that and pay it back as you make money in your practice. (For us, the $150,000 – $250,000 the medical school costs were a concern but not a stopping mechanism.  We were used to large numbers from working at GE. The amount is like owning a house, which we also had experience with).  Since I would be in school for at least four years and we would have to move our whole family to the city where the school was we decided we better visit the campuses early-on to make sure the whole thing would work for our family.  (Note that I already knew I would have to take at least 6 courses at a community college to fulfill the pre-requisite education requirements).  So, even before getting started on that we went to visit the schools.  (See my complete review of the schools under the Schools tab).

In May 2010 my husband and I went to visit Bastyr near Seattle, WA and NCNM (National College of Naturopathic Medicine) in Portland, OR.  We were extremely impressed by NCNM, it's on-site Medical Clinic, the Helfgott Research Institute (part of NCNM), and Portland iteself.  In fact, the city, and our future, took such hold of us that we decided to move ASAP.  We flew home on a Sunday and Monday had 5 yards of mulch delivered to our house in Wisconsin to start getting it ready to sell . . .  We had lived in Wisconsin for 12 years.  The housing market is the worst in decades.  We have three kids ages 7, 5, and 3 years.  Portland is over 2000 miles away from our house in Wisconsin.  Todd had one business associate and I had one former college friend that we knew in Oregon, that's it.  We cut down our belongings from taking up over 3,300 sq. feet of space to fitting into 1 POD – 128 sq. feet of space!  We rented a house from just viewing it's listing over the internet.  My husband, Todd,  had just started his own business in Oct. 2009 – his income was not steady nor assured.  And I had a three year on-going illness that needed constant attention and often rendered me physically useless and/or mentally fuzzy (I'm the main planner/organizer/detailed-oriented/experienced mover of the two of us).


 We are,         but,         we did it.

WE are now living in Portland, OR literally across the street from the Rock Creek, PCC (Portland Community College).  While our Wisconsin home, still for sale, got over two feet of snow and a low of -4F yesterday . . . we are in a place that doesn't often get below 45 degrees in the winter!  The house we rented on-line looks just like the photos, it's beautiful and full of light.  I made it through my first quarter at PCC where I took the same Chemistry class I had 21 years ago.  I also took Psychology of the Human Life Span (good one if you want to be a doctor) and passed both.  Somehow we have managed to keep up with all our bills.  Todd is loving Portland and it's great for his new business.  The kids have lots of new friends and love riding the bus.   In other words, life is really great right now.  :)    But the saga that is my illness continues, more on that later.


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!