COMMENTARY

Naturopathic Medicine Is an Emerging Field in One of Medicine's Most Dynamic Eras

Nancy Dunne Boggs, ND; Paul Mittman, ND, DHANP

Disclosures

March 24, 2004

In his article, "Naturopathy: A Critical Appraisal,"[1] Dr. Atwood described his perception of the history, education, and current practice of naturopathic medicine. His presentation of the material reveals gaps in understanding that lead to conclusions that are inaccurate. Perhaps the most salient point Dr. Atwood misses in his selective interpretation of credible sources is that naturopathic physicians are, like it or not, his colleagues. He describes, without acceding the point, an emerging profession, one that has successfully salvaged an invaluable medical specialty from the mire of the 19th century, when crude, ineffective medical care of all persuasions was the universal rule.[2] Naturopathic medicine is forging a path very parallel to, albeit some decades later, the development of allopathic medicine over the last century. We have accomplished, in 30 years, with essentially no subsidization, and against significant opposition, standards of education, accountability, and science that stand any fair and appropriately informed examination.

We, and a group of our colleagues representing the agencies and individuals mentioned in Dr. Atwood's piece, are collaborating on a companion article, in response to his appraisal. It would be valuable to your readership to have a broader-based perspective, including an understanding of the necessary and legitimate phases of development of an emerging profession, of which naturopathic medicine is a prime example.[3] Naturopathic physicians are having a growing and positive effect on the healthcare system in North America. We hope to add to the information base of this journal's readership regarding the foundation and the future of what will be an ongoing integration of the healthcare system. We believe fostering mutual understanding and collegial relations with accurate information supports the development of the healthcare system as a whole, benefiting providers and the public alike.

Naturopathic medicine is an emerging field in one of medicine's most dynamic eras, one that is richer for the inclusion of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This development is inevitable as well as profoundly valuable. The appreciation of this value is observed by Gordon,[4] who reveals that close to 40% of family medicine departments offer some CAM curriculum. Future medical students and current allopathic physicians should be well informed about the practices and principles of naturopathic medicine. The sooner our medical colleagues understand that the naturopathic medical profession is well grounded in the biomedical sciences and evidence-based medicine, the sooner we will accomplish the delivery of safe, effective, and cost-effective healthcare to the nation.

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