Medical curriculum comparison

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between naturopathic medical education and conventional medical education? Check out this comparison of accredited naturopathic schools, conventional medical schools, and non-accredited “ND” programs.

What is similar?

In sciences, naturopathic and conventional medical schools are on par. Naturopathic doctors must complete required science courses and pass licensing exams in basic sciences in order to become licensed to practice in North America. These exams are administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE).

StethoscopeWhat is different?

A very interesting area is nutritional education. Given that food is literally the material that fuels all the processes in our bodies and from which all our cells and bodily structures are constructed, one would expect (not unreasonably) that any professional in the health care field would be educated in the use of nutrition as medical therapy (which includes therapeutic use of vitamins and minerals in addition to diet). Nutrition is most certainly a first line therapy and is repeatedly confirmed to produce dramatic clinical improvements in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

Another interesting area is botanical medicine, which is included under naturopathic therapeutics. Most pharmaceuticals are inspired by or made directly from plant constituents, which is why naturopathic medical students are required to complete courses in both pharmacology and botanical medicine and also pass licensing exams in both these subjects. There is a movement now to treat botanicals as drugs since many of them have powerful actions and carry risks if used improperly. Again, one would expect that any medical professional be trained in both these areas.

Does accreditation matter?

The last key point here is the vast difference in education between accredited and non-accredited ND programs. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) accredits naturopathic medical programs. NDs from accredited schools have a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education. This includes at least three years of university and prerequisites in chemistry, biology, and psychology. Naturopathic medicine is a four year program offered by six schools in North America. Upon completion of the program, naturopathic doctors are qualified to work as primary care physicians.

Naturopathic medicine is a regulated profession in five Canadian provinces (BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia) and many states in the US. For more information on naturopathic medicine, check out the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) and the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND).

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