I spent half of my undergrad pushing myself into a mold in order to become a pharmacist. I took all the right classes, I did my research and I even applied to the program in Waterloo. I had never felt such relief when I wasn’t accepted (because I was missing a prereq, I hope 😉 ). That was my first clue that I wasn’t being true to myself. I struggled for months wondering what I was going to do with my life until finally I gave up. I told myself, it’s okay to not know right now – when the time is right everything will work out. A few short months later I was being accepted to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and here I am.
There’s a few things I didn’t consider when I started my medical journey:
1. How much money I was going to have to borrow in order to finance my next educational venture.
2. The weight that 4 more years of school was going to place on my personal life.
3. How I was going to have to learn an appropriate way to both explain and sometimes defend my desired profession.
I find that when people ask me what I’m doing with my life I get really nervous. It always takes me a minute or two to spit out that I’m going to be a Naturopathic doctor – and I can feel myself internally preparing to the go on the defensive and hoping they won’t go further in their questioning. The amount of times I’ve received puzzled looks outweighs the times I’ve received pats on the back. Why am I so uncomfortable telling people what I’m spending 4 years of my life learning? Well how do you explain something that people have never heard of?
I know that part of my displeasure of explaining myself is due to the fact that I haven’t come up with a solid speech yet that gives the profession its appropriate description while simultaneously leaving my questioner satisfied with their new knowledge. The truth of the matter is there really is a lot of people that still don’t know what Naturopathic medicine is. I’m not even entirely sure I know what it is and I’m 2 years into the program! It’s not because the profession is obscure, but because it truly is a broad area of medicine. When you get those quizzical looks it’s hard to feel confident in explaining that we use traditional Chinese medicine, botanicals or acupuncture – not to mention homeopathy – to optimize one’s health. In a society where Western medicine has had a strangle hold for so many years it’s difficult to give someone the Cole’s notes on the innate ability your body has to heal itself.
Is describing my future difficult because I can’t do it in 2 sentences? Probably. But the fact of the matter is is that this is my future – and I need to get confident in promotion of my career. Naturopathic medicine is becoming mainstream in the healthy-living population, but what about the other 90%? It’s the head scratchers that we need to be able to satisfy with our answers to the question: “what are you studying”. The more when can get the word out of the health food stores and into businesses, schools, hospitals, etc. the better we will be able to gain acceptance in the medical profession, and the broader subset of people we will be able to help.
I never wanted to be a doctor. Sometimes in the thick of exams when I’m so stressed I can’t see straight I really, really don’t want to be a doctor. I question my decision to go back to school and sometimes lose faith in the process. But when I allowed myself to be silent 3 years ago this is where my path brought me and that is a fact I have never once questioned. Finding my niche in the profession is to be determined, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get comfortable with telling people what this profession does as a whole. An end goal of mine for 2014 is to give as many “elevator speeches” as I can to find the words I need to tell people what a Naturopathic doctor really is. I want to gain the confidence I need to promote Naturopathic medicine to the best of my ability. It’s time to start spreading the word as wide and as loudly as we can so those people that have never heard of Naturopathy have a chance to form their own opinions and make their own decisions regarding their health. I’ve remained in the program because I’m passionate about what I will be able to achieve when I graduate. So the next time someone asks me what I’m in school for, I’m going to stand up straight, look them in the eye and explain proudly that I’m going to be a Naturopathic Doctor.
In love & health,
The Future Dr. Duncan.