Dr. Leslie Batten
(p) 503.860.4338 | (f) 866.561.8033
Although I live in Portland, Oregon where alternative *everything* is common, it's interesting to learn when talking with people that many don't know what a naturopathic physician is. So, I volunteered to write an article for our neighborhood paper, the Southeast Examiner, to explain who we are and what we do. Here it is:
It's an odd position to be in, explaining one's profession. If you say, "I'm a physician," the listener knows precisely what you do. You're the person they go to when they're sick. Then they ask, "What's your specialty?" When I say, "I'm a naturopathic physician," the response is almost universal. "Oh, that's homeopathy, right?"
No, although that's one of the tools available to us.
The second almost-universal response is, "Acupuncture. I love acupuncture. And massage." Well, some naturopathic physicians are also licensed acupuncturists and massage therapists, but not all are.
"You use herbs and natural stuff, right?" Yes, we start with herbs when appropriate. Sometimes we need to prescribe other medicines.
"You can prescribe things like antibiotics?" We can. That and more.
Here are some basic facts about naturopathic physicians.
Naturopathic physicians attend a four-year, nationally-accredited medical school (accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, which is recognized by the US Department of Education, the same agency that accredits medical schools like OHSU). Naturopathic physicians study the same basic science curriculum as medical doctors (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, immunology, public health, histology) as well as specialty areas (neurology, oncology, gynecology, proctology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, pharmacology, urology, endocrinology, cardiology, minor surgery, emergency medicine, and more). In addition, naturopathic colleges provide extensive coursework in clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy, psychology, IV therapy, and counseling.
There are two national board exams; one covers basic sciences, and one covers the clinical practice of medicine plus the drugs we can prescribe, and the laws that govern our scope of practice. Currently, 16 states, five Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands license naturopathic physicians.
In Oregon, the scope of practice for naturopathic physicians is essentially the same as for any general practice physician. We can prescribe medications, including scheduled drugs (for example, pain medications). We can perform minor surgery (removing cysts, stitching superficial wounds). Some are certified to deliver babies. Naturopaths work in hospitals, private practices, and community clinics. Naturopathic physicians are covered by many insurance companies.
We treat you. Naturopathic physicians focus on treating the whole person and on finding and treating the cause of disease. We treat all medical conditions. Depending on your condition, we may refer you to a specialist (surgeon, oncologist or cardiologist), if appropriate. Some conditions where the naturopathic approach has proven especially advantageous include: allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility issues, weight issues, menopause, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Naturopathic physicians focus on finding the cause of your complaint rather than just treating your symptoms. It often takes substantial investigation to understand what is happening in your body and how that relates to your current symptoms. We spend a lot of time with you.
Naturopathic physicians are well-trained to offer a wide variety of ways to treat illness. Once the cause of your symptoms has been identified, a naturopathic physician will seek to solve the problem in the least invasive way possible. In addition to the treatments offered by medical doctors, naturopathic physicians may suggest healthful food choices, botanical medicines, physical medicine, counseling, hydrotherapy, or homeopathy. Some naturopaths choose to specialize in one or a few treatments.
Naturopathic physicians focus on wellness and prevention. The goal is to keep you healthy rather than to see you only when you are sick. By identifying and treating the cause of your illness, a naturopathic physician can help move you from a chronic state of illness to a chronic state of wellness.
There are many practicing in the Portland metro area. One of the easiest ways is to go to the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians (www.oanp.org) and click on Find a Physician.
Note: If you don't live in Oregon and wish to find a natuopathic physician, go to the webiste of American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and search by practice, doctor's name, specialty, or state.