Updated: Aug 8, 2018
A journey to naturopathic medicine
Posted June 4, 2014 By Dr. Carina Lopez
People always ask me what kind of a doctor I am, and my answer is, “a good one”. Patch Adams, the famous doctor cum clown, taught me to always reply that way as a reminder to myself to always indeed be good.
My desire to become a doctor began when I was a child in the Bronx, where, as many kids do, I grew up with eczema and asthma while eating a diet of sugary and processed foods. Out of breath and itching most of the time, I used steroid creams and my inhaler to treat my symptoms, but I was always bothered by the realization that no one was helping me understand why I was sick. I soon began to dream of becoming a doctor and finding a cure for what ailed kids like me.
Many years later, I studied premed at New York University and began the journey that would lead me to my goal of becoming a good doctor. I was admitted to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I was exhilarated, illuminated by gratitude and determined to succeed at my studies to allow my dream to become a reality.
I remember my first and only elective nutrition class at Einstein. Six of the 100 students in my medical school class showed up and a nutritionist came in to go over the food pyramid. Starches, dairy and meat were the staples and vegetables remained as a garnish. I was very disappointed.
In cardiology class, we learned that statin drugs eventually cause myocardial infarction, which, of course, is what people with the need for statins are trying to avoid.
During endocrinology, we learned that within 10 years all those who underwent weight loss management protocols, including lap band surgery, regained their original weight. I was beginning to understand that my childhood frustration with treating symptoms instead of causes was not an isolated experience, but a common one.
Besides my experience of growing disillusionment with the efficacy of modern medicine, I was also trained to adapt to the well-known time pressures of modern medicine. In preparation for board exams, my patient intakes had to be trimmed to take less than the standard of 15 minutes. I did not even know how to say hello in less than five, so I was penalized.
A journey to naturopathic medicine
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I began to experience depression. I also developed severe eczema, asthma, anxiety, intestinal issues, palpitations and regular headaches. At 26 years old, I was united with millions of chronically medicated Americans. I started to question what I was being taught and wonder how I was actually going to become a “good doctor.”
I began to seek alternative practitioners and study different ideologies for help with my own health issues. Both the naturopathic doctor and the acupuncturist that I saw spent more than an hour with me on the first visit. I learned that my diet was crucial and that food, along with curative herbs, could be my medicine.
I was also asked about my emotional life and whether or not I was actually happy, as these practitioners believed in a unity of body and mind.
The journey was transformative. I went off all of my medications, had no recurrence of symptoms and felt better than I ever had before. At that point, I decided to transfer to the University of Bridgeport where I could study to become a doctor of naturopathic medicine as well as an acupuncturist. Three years later, I became a very different kind of doctor than I thought that I would be when I began my journey.
We as a society have become so bombarded with advertisements for the next new drugs that they are almost as familiar to us as the food we eat.
But what is really the role of a physician in a world dominated by pharmaceuticals? I hope the story of my journey will resonate with some readers and inspire people to become more actively involved in their health. Discovering naturopathic medicine and acupuncture was a way to check the root causes of my health issues. Maybe the same can happen for you.