Practicing Naturopathic Medicine In an Unlicensed State
Posted May 15 2012 7:32pm
Currently, 16.5 states (16 full states, and Washington D.C.) are licensed for Naturopathic Medicine. The rest of the 33.5 states are unlicensed for practicing Naturopathic Medicine, which can mean some sketchy things about prescribing medicine within these states. There are even a few where it is illegal to practice Naturopathic Medicine, in which Tennessee comes to mind, although I will have to double check my sources and update my statistics if incorrect. There is an old school Naturopathic saying which states, “If you have not been to jail for practicing Naturopathic Medicine, you are not a real Naturopath.”
Although there is a long, tumultuous, history of the American Medical Association (AMA) vs. Naturopathic Physicians in the United States ( Wikipedia gives a pretty concise summary of what happened, although do your research if you’d like to know more), this is not what the post is intended for. It is intended to bring awareness that by contacting your senators and legislature in D.C., we can make a positive change towards promoting health, rather than treating disease. This is exactly what DCFli, a group at Bastyr, promoted when they lobbied at Congress in the beginning of May. This post is also to bring awareness and thanks to all of the students that have dedicated their time, energy, and resources into flying across country for such a great cause.
Today, I went to a talk by Dr. Peter Bongiorno and Dr. Pina LoGiudice, both Naturopathic Doctors and Acupuncturists working in New York State (at Inner Source Health in Manhattan and Long Island, to be exact). You might know Dr. Pina, as she has guest featured on the Dr. Oz show many times, giving advice as a Naturopathic Physician. It was an extremely inspiring talk based on practicing Natuorpathic Medicine in an unlicensed state. Dr. Peter and Dr. Pina shared with the audience their pitfalls, their successes, and their business tips for newly graduating Naturopaths, which was something that lacks at the business classes at our school. So I thank them, as well as from the rest of the Bastyr Community, for coming to speak at our school. It was invaluable to have them here today.
I later was speaking with a fellow colleague, who mentioned that a well-respected Naturopath in the profession explained: “The best naturopathic medicine is practiced in unliscenced states. And the worst Naturopathic medicine is practiced around the accredited schools.” Which holds some, but not all, weight. In an unlicensed state you are not allowed to administer supplements or “professional medical advice” without a medical license from that state. Which leaves options like physical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and lifestyle factors, as well as a few others for working with. This type of naturopathy goes back to the roots of our medicine, with the founding fathers such as Dr. John Bastyr, Father Kneipp, and Benedict Lust. The same roots that many naturopaths might have strayed from, in my opinion.
But in the end, it is all what you feel comfortable with. If you would like full prescriptive rights as a Naturopath, states like Washington, Oregon, or Vermont might be your cup of tea. Other licensed states have various different laws for each Naturopathic Physician, so education on each is key. In unlicensed states, the stakes get a little dicier, and it is important to talk to a local state representative, or do some extensive research to make sure that the laws are understood. Unless of course, you want to uphold that old-school Naturopathic saying about going to jail. I mean, it does sound pretty bad-ass. Help keep our profession alive – fight for state licensure to include Naturopathic Medicine.