Naturopathic Medicine, The Road Less Traveled
By Jennifer Kaumeyer, M.D.
I am from a long line of doctors, five generations of allopathic medical doctors (MDs). There is actually a book written and movie made about my great grandfather, Dr. Corydon McAlmont Wassell; he was a WWII hero. I didn’t think anyone really knew the movie until my first year of medical school, as my Anatomy professor was calling roll, he asked if I was kin to the famous Dr. Wassell. (Wassell is my maiden name.) You should have seen the shock on my face! You are probably wondering when I’m going to discuss Naturopathic Medicine. You may also be asking yourself, “How does a young woman with such heritage in the medical field become a ‘Naturopathic’ doctor, and what does her family think?” I get asked this ALL the time… It is kind of a long boring story, but I am going to tell you anyway!
To begin with, my dad is a radiologist, and I grew up NEVER going to the doctor. He always said unless it’s an acute infection, medicine is not going to help you. So I often was told to ‘suck it up’. I went to the doctor twice that I remember as a child – the first time I was 10 and had the shingles, affecting my vision for 3 weeks before he finally decided, hmmm, something really may be wrong. And the second time, I was 15 and was having horrible pains in my ankle and couldn’t walk. He said it wasn’t broken, but I demanded he x-ray it anyway. (He may be a radiologist, but I knew my body and I knew something was terribly wrong.) Of course, I was in emergency surgery the next day. Yes, children of doctors often get neglected! Just kidding. My point is, I was raised believing that prescription medicine wasn’t the answer. If you need a limb sewed back on then YES you need a doctor, otherwise he told me to steer clear and figure out the cause before you use medications, or at least look for the cause while you have the Band-Aid on. I’m certainly not telling you not to see your doctor, but I am telling you to always ask questions and understand your diagnosis and the treatment protocol.
As I got older, I watched my dad get very frustrated with the ‘business of medicine’. He often said medicine and the practice of medicine is evolving from patient centered to revenue centered, run by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. He told me stories of my grandfather and great grandfather and how they practiced medicine. It wasn’t a ‘prestigious’ field back then. They visited their patients at home and treatment sometimes was cooking and cleaning for them, and they were paid in pigs and produce. Allopathic medicine used to be holistic, believe it or not, and has since evolved into what it is today.
My dad repeatedly asked me not to go into medicine, however, I enjoyed learning about the human body and how it works. Our bodies are absolutely amazing! When I was in college, I was taking a pre-med biochemistry course and a nutrition oriented biochemistry course at the same time. This was the first time the light bulb went off in my head. We were learning about the energy cycle and all the fancy long names for the enzymes and such… (NADH, FAD, etc.). The nutrition students were learning that all these enzymes are components of our food, but the pre-med students were not. In the nutrition class, the professor always made statements such as, “This is actually riboflavin or B2,” and so forth. Nutrition absolutely runs ALL of our biochemistry. So as I’m sitting there watching my classmates look at what their diet consists of, it hit me… no wonder everyone is sick and having chronic migraines, IBS, acne, endometriosis, fatigue, etc. Why aren’t the medical students learning this?! Why aren’t the doctors teaching this to patients? This is when I decided I HAD to spend my life addressing nutrition and the role it plays in health and disease. I dreaded the idea of handing over scripts the rest of my life.
During my junior year of college, I took my FAVORITE class; it was a graduate course in FOOD chemistry. I learned a ton in class and the laboratory. We got to make food dyes, artificial sweeteners, MSG, etc… The most important thing I learned is TO NEVER EAT PROCESSED FOOD, or if you must, only sparingly. Food chemists have no idea how these chemicals affect the biochemistry of our bodies; do not trust them. This class is why I’m so against food additives. That was the second time the light bulb went off.
I took the MCAT exam and still was going to pursue medicine because I had a fierce hunger for learning. But at the last minute, I entertained graduate school in nutrition and biochemistry. As a result of ‘Google searching’ doctorate programs, I learned about Naturopathic Medicine. I fell in LOVE when I read about the philosophy and education. I couldn’t understand why I had never heard of this field of medicine. I chalked it up to being from south Louisiana, the last state to ever learn about anything, but still the best state for the college football experience- geaux Tigers! I showed my dad the curriculum and shared my enthusiasm, and surprisingly he was all for it. At the time, he was researching other cures for Renal Cell Carcinoma for his dear friend and happened upon Dr. Riordan‘s research. I believe he had actually just gotten back from a week long retreat at the Riordan Clinic. My dad’s introduction to holistic medicine through his experience here at the Riordan Clinic, is what sparked his acceptance of my career path. Looking back, I don’t think this was a coincidence at all, but rather an intelligently planned sequence of events. It is a sign to me now, that yes, I chose the “road less traveled,” but it was the right road to take. Obviously, there was some foreshadowing involved as here I am now, Clinic Director at the Riordan Clinic, writing this article for the Health Hunters Newsletter that I have been a subscriber of since 2005.
This was a quick story of how I chose the field of Naturopathic Medicine. I realize I haven’t given you a very detailed description of this field of medicine yet. The simplest, and my favorite, description of Naturopathic Medicine is how it blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. To learn more about this approach to medicine, we invite you to our lunch and lecture on Thursday, November 8. Or if you can’t make it or can’t wait any longer, you can visit the following websites: www.Naturopathic.org or www.scnm.edu.