Naturopathic medicine students spend hours pouring over textbooks, memorizing facts, and studying for difficult exams. However, an important part of ND education is practicing the interpersonal skills necessary in providing effective, compassionate treatment along with getting a variety of experiences to work with diverse patient populations. The lessons learned in the classroom could remain in textbooks if students neglect to practice effective dialogue with their training.
Programs such as Naturopaths without Borders (NWB) bridge this gap, giving students the opportunity to work with people facing certain health challenges and draw from their classroom knowledge with the help of a licensed ND mentor. This program is unique in that students can participate at any point in their Naturopathic Medicine training, giving particularly 1st and 2nd year students a boost before beginning their clinical hours.
This spring break, two Bastyr University students, Yelena Novik and Josel Diane Dauz-Brosnan, participated in the NWB program in Haiti. Each day, Novik and Dauz-Brosnan were part of the teams that would meet with local patients to discuss their symptoms, concerns, and any medications they were taking.
Novik performed physical exams, charting her findings, and recommending a treatment to her mentor, who would give her feedback on her choice. She started the week nervous and unsure, but slowly, her confidence began to grow. In a few instances, Novik served as the primary during her week in Haiti, while supervisor Dr. Sean Hesler walked her through, asking for her opinions on treatment and the best options for moving forward. During her week in Haiti, Novik also learned the importance of discovering the resources available to individual communities and how to utilize them.
“My experiences with NWB in Haiti showed me the value of being able to provide medical care that is practical and accessible," Novik shares. "Each country has unique resources and skillsets to share with those in the community."
“NWB - Haiti is truly an experience of a lifetime. It opened my eyes to the immeasurable need for naturopathic doctors and the potential to make a difference globally," commented Dauz-Brosnan. "With the brilliant supervision of Dr. Sean Hesler, not only was I able to develop the skills I’ve been learning as an ND student at Bastyr, I also gained tremendous insight to sustainable international medicine, all while immersing in the beautiful vibrant culture and landscape of Haiti. The people were so kind and gracious as patients, I found my confidence grew exponentially as a student clinician and was gifted with a rejuvenating new perspective and deeper purpose to becoming a naturopathic doctor. I’m inspired to open a clinic in my native country, Philippines, one day and also work with underserved communities in the United States.”
Bastyr University became the second NWB chapter in 2010 and has since taken many groups of students to support the efforts in both Haiti and Rocky Point, Mexico. For more information on NWB, visit their website at www.nwb.ngo.
Photo credit - Dr. Sean Hesler