When we found out about the work of Chris Krumm, ND ('04), MS ('04), LAc, at HealthPoint, a community health clinic in King County, we couldn't wait to talk to him. Many people pursue naturopathic medicine degrees because they want to make a difference in peoples' lives, including those without insurance and with little financial means. In addition to receiving satisfaction from his work, Dr. Krumm is receiving loan repayment from the state of Washington as compensation for serving underserved populations. We hope you'll enjoy Dr. Krumm's story, below.
I practice primary care naturopathic medicine and acupuncture at the HealthPoint clinics in Redmond and Kenmore (formerly Community Health Centers of King County). HealthPoint is a network of 12 nonprofit integrative community medical and dental centers that serve the medically underserved populations of King County. I work with many medical doctors (MDs), nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nutritionists, psychologists, two other naturopathic doctors (NDs) and one other acupuncturist. We treat patients with or without insurance, and offer an extremely affordable sliding scale (many patients pay $20 per visit). I use the full breadth of Washington's naturopathic and acupuncture scopes of practice to help patients however I can.
Since the clinic I work at is located in an underserved area, and we serve mostly low-income patients, I was able to apply for a loan repayment program through the state. Eventually, I was accepted into the program. The terms include a commitment to working here for about four and a half years. I receive monthly installments toward repayment of my loans, and in the end it will total $75,000 in loan repayment. But if I leave before it's completed, I would have to pay them back double. So it's a very big commitment.
Like many in the naturopathic medicine field, I took a circuitous path to Bastyr. An incredible auto shop instructor in my small Montana high school helped steer me into my first profession as a diagnostic auto technician in Detroit. I took a night course in acupressure for fun, and I stumbled upon some early Bastyr literature. I was fascinated with the concept of doctors being trained to use natural therapies in the context of modern medical practice. I eventually moved back to Montana to attend college, earned degrees in botany and environmental biology, worked as a field botanist for several years, and considered becoming an ethnobotanist. Through a job as biology lab coordinator at the University of Montana, I sat in on anatomy and physiology classes, and my early dreams of becoming a physician finally boiled over. After endless debate over allopathic versus naturopathic medical school, along with the incredible support and encouragement of my wife, I finally took the plunge and started medical school at Bastyr.
I knew I wanted to practice primary care medicine as an ND, and I was drawn to serving regular, working-class patients, especially those who could not normally afford to see an ND. I pursued every opportunity to obtain extra training in primary care, and I worked hard to earn a residency position. Through the second-year residency program, I was able to practice at the Kent Community Health Center. It was there that I decided I had to practice in a community health center full time. I proposed and negotiated a salaried position with them toward the end of my residency in 2006, and I have practiced there ever since.
The naturopathic medicine and acupuncture programs immerse you in such a massively broad array of medical perspectives that students can really take the base knowledge and go any direction they want. I really can't imagine another place where you can leave medical school with such a vast collection of tools to help people with their health.
I hope to continue my work in community medicine. This is probably one of the most challenging environments for an ND to work in, but I feel it's also one of the most rewarding. If I could ever find the time, I'd love to somehow help expand the number of NDs trained to practice primary care and community medicine, and also increase opportunities for them to find jobs in community health centers.
The ND and acupuncture programs at Bastyr gave me the basic medical knowledge and experience to graduate as a well-rounded practitioner ready for the rigors of primary care. It was really the tremendously rich clinical experiences of my first- and second-year residencies — especially the exposure to real community health practice — that helped prepare me for my current position.
Interviewed September 2009.