I had the honor of addressing my class at graduation. Below is the speech I gave and the guiding philosophy of the medicine I practice.
NCNM Graduation Speech June 29, 2009
For Dr. Lawton who could not be here with us today.
Faculty, Family, and Friends. Thank you for being here with us on this special day. A day set aside to acknowledge that after 4-9 years there is only one test left until NCNM returns your loved ones to you.
NCNM is in the shape of an H. On one side we have reductionism and the latest greatest research. On the other side we have alchemy and the experience of the ancients. For me to suggest both sides are the same would be insulting to the ancients, but there is common ground. What connects both sides is the middle hall. What connects the programs is the connection to and the power of nature.
In this connection, there is a discrepancy in the language we use to describe it. ND’s talk about the Vis and CCM’ers talk about Qi. We can argue the merits of Angelica vs. Dong Quai, but really it is a language issue. I was told I could not refer to all of today’s graduates as doctors or physicians. While I’m sure the suggested licensed CAM practitioner is the politically correct term, it pains my soul to say it. We are all doctors. We are all physicians. We are all practitioners. We are all healers.
Let us focus on what we have in common rather than our differences. Admittedly, most of my time has been spent on the reductionist side. So please forgive me if the language I use is not the language you resonate with. When I wrote this speech, I had all of us, ND’s and CCMer’s, in mind.
Well Doctors here we are. The big day. It felt like an eternity, yet it flew by. It seems like just yesterday we were in orientation telling our stories of how we got to NCNM. Now we are one test away from being unsupervised doctors. On our own. All by ourselves. If this reality is causing you a little or a lot of anxiety you are not alone.
After we told our stories in orientation, Dr. Scarlett talked about Joseph Campbell, archetypes, and the hero’s journey. The hero, that’s us, is always hesitant to accept the call to go on the journey. They eventually accept and go into the unknown where they face a huge learning curve. They make some friends and gain information at a watering hole, that would be STUMP TOWN. She said there would be a disemboweling phase during second year. Like so many other policies at NCNM, this was changed afterwards, and a second disemboweling phase was added fourth year. As this counts as a credit, a $300 fee was added as well. An email was sent to our student account.
As Heiner promised we have cultivated ourselves to strengthen our connection to heaven and earth. As Dr. Scarlett promised, we have grown, matured, and become better dressed. Today is the end of one journey and the beginning of the next. We, like no other class I have seen, made it through school because we relied on each other. When one person’s strengths were another’s weakness, we helped them. We were in it together. We worked and moved as a group to ensure everyone got what they needed.
Just because we are graduating, doesn’t mean that has to end. We may be unsupervised in the near future, but we will not be alone. We will still have each other if one of us gets stuck. We may have to do it over the phone, email, or skype, but lets continue to work together.
It is okay to feel like we do not know all that we would like. Graduation just means we have enough of a foundation to begin learning. This is a life long process. We may not know it all, but believe me we know enough. We know more than enough to help people with their health.
We will have incredible successes, and will likely present some at Grand Rounds. We will also have failures, and that is okay, as long as we learn from them. Our patients will understand. There is a reason they are called patients and a reason it is called a medical practice.
Let our principles and oath guide us: First do no harm. If we don’t know, refer. This is part of the learning process. The Healing power of nature. Remember the Vis. The body has the innate ability to heal itself. We are not doing the healing, they are. Identify and treat the cause. The symptoms are not the problem, only the warning sign that there is a problem. Treat the whole person. We are more than a physical body. We have a mind and spirit as well. Doctor as teacher. Doctor means teacher, and we need to be one. Prevention. Teach people how to prevent disease and maintain wellness.
To follow in the way of the great physician we must strive to live in harmony with nature and teach others to do the same. When treating dis-ease we must remain calm, committed, and compassionate. We will know we are on the right path when our hearts are open and we remain humble in our devotion to saving the sacred spark of life in every creature that carries it.
As long as we follow this path, we know enough. Our society has created an artificial environment on the presumption that humans are controllers of nature and not subjects of nature. The further we have moved away from our connection to nature, the more dis-eased we have become. Despite our technological progress, we still need to follow the seasons, breath clean air, drink clean water, eat food in it’s natural unprocessed unpreserved form, move our bodies in the sun, sleep in the dark, play, and love each day. We are not designed to be stressed out every day, to drink and eat chemically packed processed things, and live in pollution.
It may seem too simple. But yes, we are going to charge people to tell them to drink water, eat vegetables, move, breath, and sleep in the dark. They need to hear it. People, for the most part, do not know how their body works. They do not have the owners’ manual. We need to teach them their problem is not a moxa, amino acid, hormone, or drug deficiency. And yes, it is scientific. Occam’s Razor states “The simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely the correct explanation.” People will pay us for this information and we will change peoples lives with these simple logical concepts.
Society is at a tipping point in a paradigm shift and we, our knowledge, and our abilities are direly needed. We are moving from the current sick care system to a true health care system. Under the sick care system no action is taken until after the body has lost the ability to function properly and is dis-eased. The person then goes to the doctor, is given a pill, and the person expects immediate relief. What took years to overwhelm the body is expected to be resolved overnight. The responsibility is solely on the doctor. Why and how they became dis-eased is not addressed. Palliation leads to suppression leading to even more serious diseases.
In true health care, the model in which we are trained, people form habits and take action to support health and prevent disease from occurring. It’s not about what they take but what they do. When dis-ease occurs, our job is to find out why in order to facilitate and guide the person’s natural healing ability. To get them to a place they don’t have to strain to find balance.
This is what we strive for, but it is not always the reality of our medicine. To often we fall into the trap of using the symptoms as our marker for health. As Dr. Lawton reminded us, just because the person’s symptoms went away, does not mean the problem that caused it has been resolved. Just because we use needles, herbs, undas, or homeopathy does not mean we aren’t palliating or suppressing.
It is so easy to get caught up in the symptoms. While we do want the symptoms to go away, we can not get seduced into thinking the person is cured because of it. We must pursue why they had the symptoms. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY. We must not stop asking WHY IS THAT SO. This is health care and how cure is reached. It will take years not 3 visits. It is true this does cost a little more on the front end, but in the long term it saves an exorbitant amount of money and people live healthier more rewarding lives.
All systems of medicine need a measuring stick to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments. Medical doctors, green allopaths, and TCM doctors use symptoms as their measuring stick. Symptoms do not assess the deeper imbalances. Energy, Balance, Connection, Creativity, Purpose, Freedom, and Strength are all required for health and wellness. Each of us need to define our measuring stick for health care.
What ever modalities we use should impact the person in these areas.
When we do this, we will be the master physician. When we do this, we will help people in a deeper more profound way allowing them to live more meaningful lives rather than be unfilled but without back pain or fatigue. The depth of our impact on people’s health is based on the measuring stick we use.
In the Pantheon of Doctors, some inspiring words have stayed with me that I’d like to share.
Dr. Daily, the doctor who inspired me to become a naturopath.
Don’t become bitter. Medical doctors are not the enemy. People fear what they don’t understand. Help them understand. This us – against them attitude only interferes with our patients’ care.
Not everyone wants to be treated by a Naturopath or Chinese medicine practitioner and that’s okay. Just be the best Naturopath or CCM practitioner you can be.
Dr. Heiner Fruehauf
The master acupuncturist is the one that has the deepest impact using the fewest needles. I would have impersonated Heiner, but no one would have been able to hear me.
Dr. Dipali Barrett
It doesn’t matter how much you know, but how much you love your patients. You have to have the love.
Dr. Suzanne Lawton
Get them off sugar and don’t forget to check for pyroluria.
Always have a kind heart and healing hands.
You must learn to follow the breath of nature.
When in doubt treat the spliver.
What is the adaptive physiology of the PROcess? Castor oil, fish oil, probiotics.
Magnesium, Fiber, and flavonoids otherwise you have One foot on the banana peel the other in a slippery place.
Oh my God, YOU GUYS. You are going to be such good doctors.
Before I came to NCNM I was an actor. I used to fantasize about winning an Academy Award and giving an acceptance speech. This. This is as close as I have ever come so if you wouldn’t mind indulging me for just a moment I have a few people to thank.
I want thank my mom, sister, cousin, and Annie for making the trip to be here today. I want to thank my aunt and uncle for making sure my mom and sister could be here today. It means a lot to me that you are here.
I have to apologize to my mom. 4 years in the most fertile place in the world, and still no grandkids. I guess I studied too much.
To my mentor and friend, Dr. Thom: thank you for walking this path with me and teaching me I don’t need to be in such an incredible hurry.
To MY INNER CIRCLE, you know who you are. Thank you with all my heart. I could not have made it through all that I have gone through on this journey without you. You are my ambassadors of love and friendship. Thank you for teaching me what those words mean. I love you all so much.
An Immense and giant thank you to all those who came before us who changed the budget to include paying for proctology models. And thank you to the people willing to be proctology models. God bless you all.
Thank you to the Faculty and Doctors of NCNM for your dedication, patience, and generosity.
Thank you Steve for your dedication, patience, and generosity with our sometimes technologically impaired faculty.
Thank you Pat for being the glue of the CCM program and making sure nothing got lost in translation.
Thank you Jolie for being the keystone of the school and always having a smile on your face.
Thank you Rhonda for all that you have done for the Community Clinics and for your amazing spirit.
Thank you Noel and Rick in the library for being so helpful.
Thank you Nora, Nicole, and Leah in the bookstore for having hearts of gold.
Thank you IT trio for always taking the time to help us with our laptops, even though it’s not in your job description.
Thank you to the Registrar’s office. Francine and Kelly. Despite what many of us have said over the years, clearly there is a method to the madness as we are all here.
Thank you to the financial aid office, Carrisa and Laurie for continuing to make the magic money appear.
Thank you to Sally for passing out our allowance checks every 3 months.
Thank you Molly, Sarah, Shelly, Jen, and all the other rock stars at the front desk and medicinaries.
Thank you to admissions, Helfgott, Buildings and grounds, security, and everyone I haven’t mentioned for all that you do for the NCNM community.
Most of all, we need to thank all you, our family and friends. Like JOB in the bible, you have been asked to endure. You’ve followed us to a new city only to have us disappear in classes and books. You thought you’d see us on weekends, but there was always that great seminar that couldn’t be missed: AK, Homeopathy, Qi Gong, Structural Integration, Cranial sacral, Undas, Herbs, Business strategies, 5 Elements. Then you got to be the guinea pig for all the things we learned. You became our personal practice patients on call 24 hours a day. You’ve been palpated, auscultated, percussed, needled, and adjusted. (Heckler: “It’s manipulated.” Response: “Alright, you got me. I just don’t like that word.”) You’ve had to stop eating wheat, dairy, sugar, soy and what ever other tid bit we learned in class that day. You tolerated smoldering moxa and bruise marks from cupping. You put on the cold damp socks when you were sick, you smeared the castor oil on when you weren’t sick, and you put an addition on the house to for all the supplements and herbs we made you take. Yet here you are. Still with us. Still by our side and behind us. Cheering us on.
What is even more impressive than what you let us do to you is what you have allowed us to go through on our own healing journey. You understood we couldn’t help others until we took care of ourselves. Faced and healed our own traumas. To watch your loved ones revisit these dark uncomfortable places and support us through it takes immense faith and love. It can strain even the strongest bonds. For some, the strain of the journey was more than they could bare, and relationships ended.
It means so much to me and to us that you are here today. Thank you for enduring. Thank you for your unwavering faith and tremendous love. Thank you for helping us become the physicians and healers we are and will become. We could not have done it without you.
Lastly, I need to thank all of my co-stars today. When I decided to become a doctor, I had a very clear vision of the doctor I wanted to be. Out of all the schools and branches of medicine I looked into, it was only at NCNM where I could see my vision becoming a reality. The difference wasn’t in the program, but in the people. You can’t log the hours we’ve logged together without becoming part of each other. I am so humbled and honored that you have shared so much of yourselves with me over the past 4 years. Thank you for helping to make my vision a reality.
Good luck on boards. It is the ultimate scan-tron test, but not to worry. We are all masters of filling in bubbles.
Patients are just human beings. They want to be listened to and cared about.
Don’t forget the love and you all are going to be great doctors, physicians, practitioners, and healers.