When naturopathic medicine students graduate, they can pursue many options: completing a naturopathic residency, working at an integrative clinic, starting their own practice, or—since 2002—applying for the teaching fellowship at Bastyr.
Bastyr's teaching fellowship prepares naturopathic physicians to become classroom educators. Bastyr graduate Alicia Gonzalez, ND, is one of four graduates so far who have been selected for the position.
Gonzalez, who graduated in 2002 and began the fellowship in January, has relished the chance to fine-tune her teaching skills while deepening her expertise in various areas. "The fellowship was a great way to learn more about teaching as well as more about the medicine," she says. "I progressed to more responsibility as I gained skills throughout the year. And the fellowship was adapted to my interests."
During the fellowship, Gonzalez served as a guest lecturer for a wide variety of Bastyr classes, including Naturopathic Counseling Lab, Biochemistry, Introduction to Botanical Medicine, Neurology, Psychological Assessment, and Childhood Vaccinations. Some of Gonzalez's teaching assignments were based on the university's needs, and some upon her own interests. Gonzalez began as an occasional guest lecturer and quickly moved on to teaching an entire course.
In the process, Gonzalez has also discovered new interests. When she was assigned the Childhood Vaccinations course, she initially wasn't drawn to the topic. But as Gonzalez learned more about the issue, she became passionate about it. She became such a champion of the issue that she joined a committee at the university's teaching clinic that is creating a vaccination program.
The teaching fellowship has been great for Gonzalez, but it has also benefited Bastyr. One reason that Bastyr developed the teaching fellowship in 2002 was to bring a naturopathic physician's viewpoint to the basic science classes, which are often taught by allopathic doctors and scientists who are not trained to apply the concepts to naturopathic patient care. The new teaching fellowship bridges this gap. "The fellowship provides the 'natural' piece in the science classes," says Gonzalez.
Amongst the Bastyr community, the teaching fellows have been well received. Christy Lee-Engel, ND, assistant dean of naturopathic medicine, explains, "We have had great feedback about the teaching fellows and their contribution to so many different courses, from the students who benefit, to the senior faculty who have taken them under their wings. It is also really beneficial for the naturopathic medicine program to have more naturopathic doctors involved on campus." So far, all four of Bastyr's fellows have been Bastyr alumni, but graduates from any accredited naturopathic medicine program are eligible for the position.
One of the reasons that Gonzalez was selected for the fellowship was the initiative she demonstrated as a student in starting the Holistic Psychiatry Club at Bastyr. "Natural medicine has a lot to offer people with mental health disorders. One of my passions is to spread the word that we can help," she says.
In fact, Gonzalez first became interested in natural medicine when she was in college and worked with adults with mental disorders and children with behavior disorders. "People in the facility weren't being helped by the medicines. The drugs got them through an acute phase, but I wanted to learn other ways to help."
Still, she wasn't sure exactly how to help. Then, while visiting a friend on Whidbey Island, Gonzalez had a severe asthma attack. With no hospital nearby, her friend offered her a homeopathic remedy. Not only did the remedy stop the asthma attack (preventing a costly visit to the hospital), but, "It was the first time I ever got treated for a severe asthma attack without having severe side effects," she says. "I decided I wanted to learn more about this medicine."
Following that event, whenever Gonzalez was ill, she sought homeopathic remedies or herbs. "One time when I was sick, I took an antibiotic, and it didn't help," she says. "Then I took an herb, and it did help. Once again I realized, 'This stuff works.'" When Gonzalez heard about Bastyr University through a friend, she immediately knew that it was right for her.
While in the naturopathic medicine program, Gonzalez has pursued many special interests: neurology, homeopathy, counseling and craniosacral therapy. She has done some informal residencies and preceptorships: one at an osteopathic doctor's office, one with a naturopathic midwife and others with Bastyr faculty members who have private practices with specialties in botanical medicine and physical/manual medicine.
This fall, Gonzalez opened her own private practice at a clinic in Seattle called Tashi Delek Health and Wellness. She currently devotes 40 percent of her time to her practice and 60 percent of her time to the fellowship.
Gonzalez plans to have a career as both a doctor and a teacher, and encourages any naturopathic graduate with an interest in teaching and learning to try for the Bastyr fellowship. "I love being a doctor. I'll always be a doctor," says Gonzalez. "But there's something wonderful about having the opportunity to share knowledge with students."