Why I Applied to Study Naturopathic Medicine | & Why I Had to Refuse My Seat

In November of this year (2017), I applied for, was interviewed and was accepted into the Boucher Institute Of Naturopathic Medicine in New Westminster, BC. It was a very simple process…I filled out the online application, asked some of my coworkers to provide a reference and was asked to attend an interview!

I live on the east coast and BC is on the west coast, so I was very happy to be allowed to interview via Skype! I had my interview, and while I thought it went well, I did have my doubts. I’ve had job interviews before, but never an interview that could affect my future like this one could. Interviewing for medical school (whether naturopathic, osteopathic or allopathic) could set my life on a completely different course.

When I received the call from admissions telling me I had been accepted for January 2018, I cried. I was beyond happy. I mean, who wouldn’t be? It was time for me to discover something new, become someone I’ve always wanted to be and start a new adventure on the “warmer” coast. Plans started coming together immediately. I needed to book plane tickets, find living arrangements and figure out how to move my vehicle, dog and a couple of suitcases across the country- all in 6 weeks.

But I was ready for the challenge. I was ready to spend my days helping patients at work and spend my evenings hunting on Kijiji and Craigslist for apartments- it certainly helped that there was a significant time difference.

Everything was fine, until I started talking to the banks.

Did you know that Naturopathic Medicine is not considered medical school by Canadian banks? 

While I understand the need for distinction between an ND and an MD, I don’t understand the lack of funding available to ND candidates. I called EVERY bank, Credit Union and financial institution I could find online & in my community- and was offered a maximum of $20,000 PER YEAR for the 4 year ND program. Tuition is $23,933 per year, not including cost of books, national exam fees or personal medical equipment required. And that’s just for school. British Columbia is known to be one of the most expensive provinces in Canada. Living, eating and entertainment costs are out of this world. As a student living along (until I could find a trustworthy roommate), I’d be looking at a MINIMUM of another $25,000 per year. That means that I’d probably owe around $200,000 at the end of the 4 year program.

I took some time to digest this number and what it actually meant. $200,000 is a lot of money. Where I live, that’s a mortgage on a BEAUTIFUL home. That’s 10 new Nissan Jukes (I bought mine in 2016). That is almost 7 TIMES what I take home in a tax year.

I’ve had many chats with family and friends, and frankly, the opinions are mixed. Very mixed. I have those who are telling me to go for it, they say “if you really want it, you’ll find a way to do it.” And I also have those who think I’m crazy for wanting to spend $200,000 on an education that they see will reap no benefits.

As for me? I have no idea what to think.

I never considered medicine as a career, until I discovered naturopathic medicine. Western medicine and the way in which our practitioners are so overworked doesn’t interest me at all. I believe that a BIG part of medicine is listening and communicating, which I’ve really only gotten from my ND. Having an opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings and opinions has not only done wonders for my (health)-confidence, but most importantly, it has ALLOWED ME TO BECOME PART OF MY OWN HEALTHCARE. I am part of the “exclusive” healthcare team I wrote about on Monday, and I can influence the decisions that are made on my behalf.

Additionally, I’ve had wonderful success with alternative therapies like herbs and vitamins- which have been used for thousands of years. We don’t always NEED a pharmaceutical, but we think we do. Sometimes, taking time for yourself can be the best medicine. 

Lastly, my thoughts on income as an ND:

A lot of my readers will have only seen naturopathic medicine from the view of a small town/ province that does not yet have a designation for NDs. However, in Ontario and BC, NDs have quickly become a primary physician for patients. They are running clinics and working with Cancer Treatment centres. NDs are providing the care that our system just DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR. In these provinces, NDs are registered and have a protected title. They can write prescriptions when and if pharmaceuticals are needed and can act as the only practitioner a patient needs to see. They are making a difference (and as I’m sure you’re all wondering, yes, they are making money. Good money).

The more I think about money and naturopathic medicine, the more I keep returning to this conclusion: I want to make a difference, and while there are many ways to make a difference, naturopathic medicine aligns with MY preferences, ideas and knowledge. If I can pay back my loans and live a comfortable lifestyle, that is all I need.

Leave a Reply