“Naturopathic doctors” make the absurd claim that they have the same education and training as medical doctors and are thus able to practice primary care medicine with the same competency. (For a look at how naturopaths misprepresent their education as compared to medical education click on the pdf at the end of this column to see a handout distributed by naturopaths seeking licensure.) One need only to look at a few features of naturopathic "medical” education to see that this is far from the truth. There are four small naturopathic colleges in the U.S. which have misleadingly appropriated the name “medical” for their schools. Although they may call themselves “universities” none are a part of the mainstream American system of public and private universities and colleges. These naturopathic schools also award degrees in subjects like acupuncture, homeopathy, Ayurveda (ancient Hindu medicine) and massage therapy. Unlike real medical schools (and other professional schools) there is no entrance exam for naturopathic school. They make up their own curriculum, are taught by other naturopaths, and create their own exams for admission to practice. Little objective information is available about these courses or exams.
These schools are accredited by a private agency run by naturopaths. While this agency has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education in order to access student loans, the
Department looks only at administrative issues and not course content. Most importantly, after they graduate from school, medical doctors must complete residencies, an additional 3 to 7 years (3 years for primary care physicians) of hospital-based, supervised training where they diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions and care for the most vulnerable and sick patients. Naturopaths are not required to complete a residency program – they can go into practice right after graduation and passing their self-created exams.
A brief look at the issue of funding and facilities clearly demonstrates that naturopathic education cannot possibly prepare students to practice as the equivalent of medical doctors. It takes between $75 and $150 million dollars to start a medical school. Average annual instructional costs per U.S. medical student is $73,544.41 (2009 cost). Bastyr University is one of the four “naturopathic doctor” degree (N.D.) granting schools in the U.S. According to Bastyr’s website, it has 1,108 students currently enrolled in 22 degree-granting programs, including Ayurvedic (ancient Hindu medicine), acupuncture and oriental medicine. There are 462 students currently enrolled in Bastyr's N.D. program. If these were medical students, the total annual instructional cost should be just under $33 million. Yet Bastyr's total expenditures for educating over 1,000 students enrolled in 22 degree programs are just under $30 million per year. There is no possible way Bastyr could properly educate naturopathic students to practice primary care in these circumstances. (And this doesn’t even take into account the lack of an additional three years of residency primary care M.D.s must complete to practice.)
Because naturopathic “medical” education occurs in a self-contained loop divorced from mainstream American universities and colleges – naturopaths teaching other naturopaths in a system created, controlled and evaluated solely by naturopaths – information about naturopathic education is not easily obtained except through their own self-serving statements.
In 2001, Kimball Atwood, M.D., a Massachusetts physician who is Board-certified in both internal medicine and anesthesiology, sat on a Massachusetts commission created to consider naturopathic licensing in that state. (Naturopaths are still not licensed in Massachusetts despite 11 attempts in 16 years.) His report, Naturopathy: A Monograph, is not to be missed. The entire document can be downloaded below. To the right are some highlights demonstrating how naturopathic college “medical” education, among other deficiencies, fails even the most basic science test.
From: Naturopathy: A Monograph