Erica Cardenas

Healing holistically

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“My dad had attended a conference where he learned about naturopathic medicine and he told me all about it,” says Romero-Bosch. “He encouraged me to look into the field, and so I did. After I learned more about naturopathic medicine in comparison to traditional medicine, I just knew it was the perfect fit for me.”

Her practice, Iluminar Therapy, specializes in the evaluation and effective treatment of metabolic conditions such as fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue and appetite and weight management.

As for the education and training needed to become an N.D., the schooling is right in line with that of a medical doctor (M.D.).

For example, an N.D. will attend a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D. In addition, an N.D. also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy, with a strong emphasis in disease prevention and optimizing wellness.

But the training and education doesn’t stop there.

In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health).

A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams, so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.

Romero-Bosch is a graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, which is only one of four accredited schools of naturopathic medicine in the U.S. and the first of its kind in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The college offers a four-year, professional-level Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.) program and non-degree coursework.

In states that license naturopathic physicians, including Arizona, the profession is regulated. Naturopathic physicians must pass either national or state board examinations and must have received an education from an accredited, four-year, graduate level, naturopathic medical school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment opportunities for N.D.s are expected to increase by 13 percent by 2018.

The salary rate is comparatively good. In 2008, N.D.s were reported to take home an annual income of over $65,000. As naturopathic medicine continues to gain recognition from patients, N.D.s will not run out of jobs.

Romero-Bosch points out a challenge of the naturopathic field as it stands today.

“One thing to point out to prospective students of the field is that there is no guaranteed residency at the end of your four years of school,” says the 33-year-old doctor. “With traditional medicine, there are programs where they match students up to a job. With naturopathic medicine, there is no such mandatory program.”

Body, mind y alma

On the holistic health therapy side, massage therapy, nutritional counseling, herbology, chiropractic and reflexology are just a few of the many career choices available.

The “holistic” approach to medicine, simply put, is a way of treating the patient as a whole. In other words, when a patient presents symptoms of an underlying disease, all aspects of the person’s health are considered in the diagnosis and treatment. This means the various physical, psychological and spiritual processes are considered in the treatment.

The yearly salary of a holistic health practitioner will vary depending on the specialty, experience, place of employment, and the work done to earn credibility and build a strong client base.

Employment prospects and salary potential in holistic health are as diverse as the types of medical practitioners who apply it, from conventionally trained physicians to massage therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of a chiropractor in 2009 was $67,650. The BLS also reported that nutritionists and dietitians earned a median income of $52,150.

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