Amy Johnson-Grass, ND, always wanted to go to medical school. But the more she learned about conventional medicine, the less it held her interest. As a pre-med student in Minnesota, she became disillusioned with the profession. She felt like she was "just a number," with her studies solely focused on achieving top grades and MCAT scores. While volunteering at a hospital, she saw the same patients — often allotted only a few minutes to speak with a doctor — returning repeatedly with health complaints.
"I thought, 'Where is the quality interaction with patients so they don't need to come back so often?'" Dr. Johnson-Grass says.
Thus began her quest to find a different kind of medicine. She found it in naturopathic medicine and midwifery. Determined to contribute all she could to her patients, Dr. Johnson-Grass completed three programs at Bastyr University: the master's degree in nutrition, the naturopathic doctoral (ND) program and the naturopathic midwifery certificate.
"All of that schoolwork definitely paid off as a graduate," she says. "Each degree has fostered a piece of my professional practice. It ended up working out very well."
Her interest in obstetrics/gynecology was inspired by a doula program she completed during her undergraduate education in Minnesota. After this, Dr. Johnson-Grass knew she wanted to work with mothers and children, but the final piece of the puzzle fell into place when she discovered naturopathic medicine through a chance meeting with an ND. After the encounter, Dr. Johnson-Grass set up a preceptorship at the ND's clinic. This confirmed naturopathic medicine as the perfect career choice.
"It was a fabulous fit," Dr. Johnson-Grass says. "It was empowering. I loved that my ND mentor spent ample time with patients and gave people tools to heal themselves."
After such an eye-opening experience, Dr. Johnson-Grass researched naturopathic medicine schools and eventually chose to attend Bastyr. "One reason I chose Bastyr University was because it had a superb midwifery program," she explains.
Although earning several degrees increased her workload and lengthened her studies, it helped her create exactly the kind of career she sought. Now Dr. Johnson-Grass is a nutritionist and naturopathic doctor in the Minnesota Children's Hospital Integrative Medicine Program, and she runs a private practice focused on women's health and pediatrics. She specializes in fertility counseling and oversees 30-50 births each year. At Minnesota Children's Hospital, she treats children with complicated diagnoses. By consulting with the children's other providers, she helps decrease or discontinue children's medications and manages their medicinal side effects. She also advises parents and doctors about nutrition.
In addition to these responsibilities, Dr. Johnson-Grass conducts research through an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation. She secured the fellowship thanks, in part, to her experience at Bastyr University, where she assisted a researcher with an ADD/ADHD study.
"Because I was working on campus and completing two degree programs, I don't think I saw my husband for a couple of years," she jokes. That's all changed now, however, as running a business has given Dr. Johnson-Grass the freedom to make her own schedule — something that will soon come in handy. She is pregnant with her second child, due in December.
So, for Dr. Johnson-Grass, it has all paid off. "I highly recommend this kind of education if you are dissatisfied with the conventional medical approach," she says. "It is so satisfying to fully believe in what you do."