Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Village People

By Bill Benda, MD

Photo by ArizonaMentor via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
I have a sort of interesting gig. I teach emergency medicine, my particular specialty for the past 35 years, to students at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. 20 hours the first term, 30 hours the second, bopping down to Phoenix from Big Sur every month or two to impart information based more on experience than textbook teachings to future clinicians who may, or may not, someday witness a patient in the throes of a myocardial infarction or anaphylactic shock. This has given me a unique, and most valuable, insight into the machinations of naturopathic medical education, and an appreciation for both the similarities and differences between your students and ours (I’m an MD).

Each term I elect to spend a bit of time discussing health care politics once the “required” information is neatly tucked away in their inquisitive minds. The topics range from D.C.’s recent legislation, to the AMA, to the AANP, to the NMSA, to the AHMA, to the medical school SGAs, and all acronyms in between. It’s amazing how the energy in the room shifts from somewhat bored attention to intellectual engagement – instead of two or three in the audience raising their hands in response to some clinical query, half the class at any one time vie to be called upon to state their personal perspectives on all things non-clinical. These young (and not-so-young) scholars are hungry for real-world social and political discourse, a very good omen for the future of the field.

But something is missing. This hunger for information as to how the real world actually works is actually a referendum on where we have fallen a bit short as mentors. Yes, there are caring, passionate practitioners willing and available to impart clinical knowledge, and a cadre of political junkies at the state and national level available to provide direction if asked. The AANP and NCC (Naturopathic Coordinating Council) have both invited the president of the NMSA to sit at the boardroom table, and the AANMC is working to ensure fiscal support to the national student organization. But resources are stretched to their limits, and each aforementioned soul who volunteers their time and energy to students also has a medical practice and teaching duties and family and financial responsibilities. There simply is not enough human resource to shepherd this profession through the national and state and local and academic labyrinths, and still find the time to parent our students as we do our own children.

The thing is, though, they are our virtual children, as well as the future of naturopathic medicine. And to be quite honest, their inexperience is a stumbling block on their path to becoming our legacy and future leaders. So I believe this to be an opportune moment for those of you reading this blog to consider what it is you might contribute to their, and your, coming success in navigating this big, confusing world of ours. If you live near a medical college, volunteer your clinic or office and have them shadow you on your rounds. If you are part of a state association, invite them to your next meeting and solicit their input. If you are a national leader, push for fiscal and political support for their fledgling organizations.

It takes a village, people . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment