My first quarter of ND medical school

I’m in my 2nd year of Naturopathic Medical school at Bastyr University. I plan on writing more posts about classes I’ve taken and my suggestions for how to succeed. I also plan on writing about my experiences in seeing naturopathic medicine at work in the clinic where I observe. At the end of my 2nd year I will be what was formerly known as a secondary student clinician. More on that later… For now I want to start at the beginning.

My first experience with ND medical school was the pre-quarter before first year. This was over a year ago in July of 2013.  I opted to take some of my fall classes the summer before. I had taken time off beforehand so I was ready for classes. I didn’t want to wait any longer before jumping in since I’d already had some time off.  My first classes were Integrated Structure and Function, Research Design, and Constitutional Assessment. 12.5 credits.

ISF – This is an integrated class meaning they attempt to combine Histology, embryology and biochemistry teaching all three separate but trying, where possible, to integrate concepts across molecular, cellular, and tissue levels. At this point it didn’t seem very integrated. I think it’s difficult to integrate all these different studies exactly. The integration aspect was much more obvious with the later classes in fall and beyond.

Overall you will be learning the basics in all three disciplines. Histology in the summer quarter included a lab time. This was great and from what I understand it was not offered in the fall quarter. I feel lucky that I had this lab time. Our instructor was great at making the ideas and concepts come alive. She insisted we have a histology lab book where we were required to do hand drawings of the tissue types we studied. This is an excellent way to learn. My biggest and most important piece of advice that I can give is to draw your way through the first year.  I had hoped in my undergraduate when I had to take that art elective that my drawing class would help me later, and it did!

For this notebook we had to sketch the tissue at a certain magnification and answer a few questions. I recommend also listing the function of the tissue, how it differs from a similar looking tissue and any structural hints for recognizing it later. The other thing I did that helped me learn them very quickly was I downloaded a program called Anki. A few classmates also did this and together we would find pictures online of the tissue we were studying and paste them into Anki and make our own “intelligent” online flashcards that we could share. Anki is a simple program available for free on all platforms. This made it easy to study for a few minutes wherever I was. It also has a way of figuring out which cards you still need to study more and which you can study less. I wish I could have used it more during the year but it is time intensive to get your study set together and I just didn’t usually have time to set it up. I think the most important idea for studying is that you are building something with the material you are studying. I have notebooks full of drawing and notes, lists, structures, etc. It was the process of building these that helped me more than actually studying them. Along this line just using someone else’s notes to study from might not be enough. There were lots of people sharing beautiful, organized, highly detailed notes, but it just didn’t do it for me to passively use these to study.

Research Design class was pretty straightforward. Read the text, go to lecture, take the online quizzes. Not difficult material, especially if you’ve had any exposure to types of research. Definitely useful material that you will need to be familiar with later. Also some training in how to access research articles.

Constitutional Assessment – a very, very basic overview of different modes of assessing a patient’s constitution. From Ayurveda, to Chinese medicine, tongue diagnosis, pulse diagnosis, really basic intro to homeopathy, and humors. Really basic, easy class. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Gives you an idea of what you might be interested in pursuing in more detail at a later date.