Why I Became a Naturopathic Doctor
I never imagined my quest to fulfill my learners permit hours as fast as possible would lead me to my future career. After all, I was fifteen and the only vision I had for my future was the freedom of having my license and then maybe becoming a pro snowboarder and some day managing a ski resort or becoming a marine biologist. Truth be told I never really thought about my future that much prior to this particular day but I knew I liked snow and was fascinated by the ocean so thought I’d start there.
It sure is interesting how things can evolve over a series of chance events. My mother was seeing a group of naturopathic doctors and an acupuncturist for adjunct therapy for her breast cancer. Three days after each chemo round she would go to acupuncture to help minimize side effects. I knew it was helping her as she’d leave looking awful and come back rejuvenated. One day she was feeling too sick to drive so she asked if I would drive her. Excited to drive anyone anywhere I jumped at the chance. Turns out that day would be a huge turning point in my life.
Because she was quite woozy and fatigued I helped her walk into the clinic. Because of her condition we were brought to a treatment room quickly. I recall thinking that the office smelled funny and wondering what kind of weird treatment is she going to get? My only experience with acupuncture at this point was watching a Steven Segal movie with my Dad so I’m wondering how many needles will she get and are they going to light the herbs on the needles on fire? The office smelled like something was burning already so I figured this has to be the standard treatment. My teenage imagination was running wild but was put at ease when Dr. Chen snuck into the room like a ninja.
Dr. Chen moved as if he was floating and spoke in a calming soft spoken manner. I was impressed at how fast but gentle he put the needles in and then as quickly and quietly as he snuck in the room he was out. No herbs, no fire, I was kind of bummed. As soon as he was out I was checking out all the needles and asking a ton of questions. My Mom explained a few things before Dr. Chen was back in like a ninja and telling me to let her rest and that he’d tell me about the needles. I could tell he loved being an acupuncturist and each visit from that day forward he’d talk to me as if he was letting me in on ancient secrets. I became quickly fascinated by him and obsessed about everything Chinese Medicine. It was the only place that I’d ever seen people go into a doctor’s visit looking quite sick or in pain and leave smiling, more vibrant and as if they had a new pep in their step. Over the course of the next year I made sure I didn’t miss a visit because, seeing my Mom and other people transform in an hour was amazing.
During my exploration into Chinese Medicine I asked my mom to take me to one of her naturopathic doctor visits because I knew that she was making herbal teas, taking homeopathic medicine, she had ditched the microwave cooking, threw out the margarine, stopped buying low fat everything and my Dad and I couldn’t have been happier. Plus she would bring home new recipes and teas to brew at home that I couldn’t wait to try. I thrived on the lessons that I would later come to realize were tools for living a healthy life.
A few years would pass before I was able to go to an appointment but I knew that they were helping her because she was still alive despite 5 years of recurring metastasis and remissions. I was in undergrad at the time and searching for a career development internship that was research based. My mom hooked me up with her naturopathic doctors Tim and Shauna Birdsall and I had the pleasure of helping them compile data for a green tea study they were conducting. The research to me was cool, but what blew my mind is how so many patients praised the docs when they would catch them in the hallway at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I never saw other doctors in that hospital have the connection these two had with their patients.
At that point, I saw how important it was to form a partnership of health with your patients. Once the internship ended I was 85% certain I was going to go to naturopathic medicine school but I had family members in my ear telling me to go to conventional medical school because it was less controversial and I’d always have a secure job. I knew there would be some hills to climb but it didn’t scare me. There were plenty of successful NDs out there that blazed the trails for those to follow. I knew the conventional medical doctor route didn’t provide education around building a comprehensive toolbox that one could use to treat patients.
After watching my mother’s ups and downs on the cancer rollercoaster I knew I wanted to provide people with the tools to restore balance within their body, live a healthy life and prevent chronic illness. Plus I never wanted anyone to leave my office feeling worse than they came in thus the physical medicine side of naturopathic medicine also appealed to me and would become a significant part of my practice just like acupuncture.
To decide what I truly wanted I took a year off between undergrad and medical school. In that time I realized that naturopathic medicine had everything I wanted for my patients and how I saw myself providing patient care. The ultimate deciding factor was that being an ND allowed for me to use my creativity and intuition, something I learned from Dr. Chen years ago. With the toolbox naturopathic training provided I could create custom treatments with herbs, put herbs in recipes, create soaks, poultices, essential oils, hydrosols and combine them with physical medicine and acupuncture. The options are endless and that’s what’s amazing about being a naturopathic doctor.
So despite a few eye rolls from family members, I went to Bastyr in 2001 and never looked back. 15+ years into my career I wouldn’t change a thing. Granted, I’ve had my ups and downs, mostly with running a business not the medicine. But oddly enough COVID expanded my faith in natural medicine and the need to educate people on what is crucial for preventing illness and increasing longevity.
I never would have imagined myself as a doctor, but all I know is that I was given a gift the day I was introduced to alternative medicine by my mother. Had I not been open to experiencing something new, I might be miserable stuck in a job that was not my calling. The process of becoming a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist was one that I look back on fondly as it brought me closer to my mother and as a teenager that’s a huge feat. She would pass ten years after her diagnosis with many ups and downs but I’m convinced that naturopathic medicine and acupuncture kept her going for those ten years. Although she didn’t live to see me graduate from Bastyr I know that she is smiling down and knowing that she introduced me to a career where I would go on to help many to live longer healthier lives.
Dr. Jannine Krause is a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and host of The Health Fix Podcast, who specializes in helping women over 35 improve their physical & mental performance, feel less sore all while looking amazing every time they walk out the door. When not in her Tacoma, WA office she can be found helping ladies via her online programs at doctorjkrausend.com.