Physician: a person skilled in the art of healing. The practice of medicine is about helping others. But medicine is also a profession. Like many other career choices, there can be more than one path to the admirable goal of professional healer. But how does someone know they’re a healer? Why would someone choose to become a doctor of naturopathy?
For Dr. Ivy Branin, ND, founder of Simplicity Health Associates, answering that question is easier than explaining to some people what she does for a living.
She started out with a natural inclination toward math and science and a love for meeting challenges. Plus she wanted optimal workplace choices and the pharmaceutical industry was booming in New Jersey. So she steered her initial efforts into an undergraduate degree in biochemical engineering from Rutgers. For a few years, she worked in two different companies: one in which she helped work on vaccine development and another where the goal was new forms of treatment for diabetes.
“I felt at the time that I was really going to help people,” Dr. Branin reflects. “But I became disenchanted after a few experiences, wondering if we were really helping solve these problems or not.”
In hindsight, a few experiences in the young scientist’s life might have hinted at a talent that seems necessary in the practice of naturopathy: insightful and integrative listening.
“I watched someone close to me struggle with using many different medications to treat more than one health condition. It didn’t seem like all these therapies were solving anything. At the same time, I was starting to realize a desire to work more directly and one-on-one with people. Then when I worked at the second pharmaceutical company, I was introduced to homeopathy by a neighbor, and I was thoroughly intrigued.”
She delved into research on healing careers. She found the science base of naturopathic medicine very appealing. She says:
“It’s almost in line with engineering, in a way, because naturopathy is very much concerned with the nuts and bolts of health. The related research I found clicked for me. For example, the homeopathic principle of ‘like serves like’ resonated with me from my previous work with vaccines.”
As her interest piqued, she sought out others who had gone into the field. Conversations with another woman who had been an electrical engineer and transitioned into homeopathy helped clarify how her situation at the time — a women in her mid-20′s without children or heavy financial commitments yet, with a heavy science background and a desire to help individuals — called for a career move.
About six years later, Dr. Branin received her degree in Naturophic Medicine from renowned Bastyr University. Now she has two practice locations, one in New Jersey and a newer one in Manhattan. Her license is from the state of Vermont. Not all states have a licensing program yet for naturopathic physicians, but most practitioners do maintain a license regardless of where they practice. Some states that do not license NDs restrict a few practice privileges, like minor surgery and prescribing pharmaceuticals.
The reason it’s tough to describe the practice of naturopathy is because of its holistic, encompassing nature. An ND’s training includes all that an MD is required to learn plus more about the impact of an individual’s environment and lifestyle on their health, in-depth nutrition, herbal/homeopathic/physical medicine, and counseling.
“The big thing that sets naturopathy apart,” Dr. Branin explains, “is the way we look at a patient, not necessarily the modalities we use for treatment. We really delve deep to look at the cause of the problem — rather than just stopping the pain, why is this person having headaches? How can we help this individual toward natural self-healing?”
Another difference is the hierarchical approach to treatment, starting with a baseline. “I’ve treated patients with a little diet change and increasing water intake before getting into herbal medicine or high-dose supplement therapy.”
Naturopathic physicians typically spend more time during individual visits because of the wealth of information that discussion with patients can provide. Dr. Branin says many of her new patients come in without understanding their diagnoses or why they’re using medications prescribed by other doctors. Much of her work is patient education. She’s found that developing relationships with her patients is crucial to the effectiveness of the profession she’s chosen.
There are inherent risks in changing career paths, but now Dr. Branin spends her workdays integrating scientific knowledge with applied empathy and skill. When it comes to healing professions, everyone — providers and patients — benefits from a practitioner who has chosen well.
About Tracy Morris
I wear a lot of hats while spinning plates and true stories. In between taking care of myself and my family, I write about fertility and other health care topics. Most of my online time lately is spent at two very different places: FertilityTies.com and TrailerParkKarma.com. Perspective is everything -- my pre-teen reminds me daily.Web | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | More Posts (29)