Cara James just completed her medical school journey and graduated from SCNM. Cara grew up with naturopathic medicine, as both her mother and father are naturopathic doctors. The healthy lifestyle that so many of our students lead is something that Cara has been surrounded by her whole life, which is what encouraged her to pursue a career in the healthcare field. But after starting a nursing program, she decided that she needed to come full circle and connect to her roots. Having grown up in a household where diet and a holistic mindset were very important, Cara says, “I realized that (nursing school) did not align with my principles. I wanted something where you have to own the medicine and live it. And that’s why I felt naturopathic medicine was a huge draw for me to change everything.”
Students at SCNM train in the same basic medical sciences as conventional medical students. In addition, naturopathic students focus on natural therapies such as holistic nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, physical medicine, mind/body psychology, and many others. What makes naturopathic medical school so rewarding, Cara says, is that “as ND students, we’re getting a different training than conventional students, and what I really love is that we’re getting all levels.” When seeing patients on her clinical rotations, Cara realizes the importance of noting that there are both mental and emotional components, as well as physical components, to the symptoms her patients exhibit. She says it’s important to ask the patient, “What is your diet like? What is happening in your life at this time?” Looking at the full history of a patient, she says, is really unique and is one of naturopathic medicine’s strong points.
What excites Cara the most is learning about natural pain relief and sports medicine. “I played volleyball in high school and did triathlons with my dad. I never really experienced injuries, but I slowly started to have issues with my knee. I was involved in the naturopathic community, and got prolotherapy on my knee, which really helped. I think where my passion comes from is seeing the results for people who’ve had it. That’s what really drew me in. I saw that treatment options don’t always have to be these major things like a steroid injection or a surgery. With something like prolotherapy, all of a sudden, people are back on their feet, right where they wanted to be. Just seeing those results was what really made me see that it can be life-changing for people. Also, by having this amazing integrative pain relief center at SCNM, we have so many tools at our fingertips, and such a broad spectrum of physicians who do different things.”
That integrative approach is becoming more common, and is desperately needed in today’s healthcare settings. Patients want to feel heard, and they are often surprised and happy to learn that their first appointment with a naturopathic doctor will be one to two hours long. That is because naturopathic physicians make every attempt to truly understand the whole picture with regard to what is going on with their patient, and to get to the root cause. This is a big part of what drew Cara to naturopathic medicine and why it is a great option for those who want to focus on patient care.
Cara will soon take her board examinations and become officially licensed as an ND. She will then be joining an excellent local clinical practice, a job offer she received before she even graduated. While we will miss her on campus, we know Cara is starting an exciting new chapter in her career and would like to thank her for telling us about why studying naturopathic medicine is such a great choice.