Why I Became a Naturopathic Doctor
Sara Thyr, ND
By accident, I ended up not going to allopathic medical school. That might sound unlikely, but it is true. I was a biology major in college and medical school seemed like a perfect next step. I had a 4.0 in my major (it was the 80’s, 4.0 was the best you could get) and was an honors student across the board.
I took the MCAT test and did ok. My advisor told me to try again, “don’t even study for it” – they’d take the highest score. I learned during a local medical school interview that that was not the case. They take your most recent score. Had I not taken it again, I would have easily been accepted into medical school. But that second test brought my score down and that was a deal breaker for them.
I got a job with a pharmaceutical company out of college. That worked for a while, but after some time it did not sit well with my soul. I left that job, but was back down in LA visiting friends and picked up a free healthy living magazine at the local health food store. In this little magazine was an article by Dr. Molly Linton. It was about treating childhood ear infections without antibiotics. It made so much sense. It was that moment when the light bulb went on, the clouds parted, whatever analogy for knowing you like. But I just knew. Find and treat underlying causes, support the person’s overall health, food matters, utilize natural therapies that are safe and effective, treat the whole person…it all just made so much sense to me. It really spoke to my heart.
I had taken all of the prerequisites during my undergraduate education except for one class, statistics, which I took that summer at a local community college. I started my life-changing education at Bastyr University that fall.
When I started college, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I went to a small, liberal arts school, where I felt that I could be exposed to a number of different things. I had been into photography and journalism in high school, but it was biology that I fell in love with in college. The magic of the living world, plants, animals, human systems and cells, was all truly fascinating to me. Naturopathic medical school was even better. It encompassed all of the things that I loved about learning all about the human body, but added all of these great things that made so much sense. I learned how to really listen to people, how to do excellent physical exams, which are key to finding and treating that underlying cause. I feel that is really the power of naturopathic medicine. I love utilizing herbs and nutrients that are also strong, powerful and supportive and don’t have the side effects that many medications do. I love that we can grow our medicine in our backyard. (Tonight I am straining the herbs out of a tincture of Melissa, or Lemon Balm, that I made to help treat anxiety and viral infections.)
I feel very blessed to have found my life’s work, which is never dull or boring. It is sometimes difficult, it is often challenging. But every day I wake up and I am happy to go to work. I am so happy to try to help people. I feel like an investigator – always trying to figure out what is underlying someone’s symptoms. Occasionally that is easy and straightforward. Often it requires more thought and delving into a variety of different ideas.
A few weeks ago a new patient came in who had been referred by a prior patient. They told me that I’d helped their friend so much, and they were really excited to be working with me. I was touched by this, because so often people come in and then I do whatever seems necessary, and then possibly never see them again. I never know if it is because they got well or it didn’t work at all and they moved on. It helped me to remember that I have helped some people and I need to keep that in my heart, especially when the day is long and stressful.
I am also very blessed right now to have a fantastic administrative assistant. And I will say, to anyone who is trying to hire the right person, try to wait for the right one to come along. I have gone through a number of people, some were ok, others not so much. But having Jessica at the office has really changed my daily experience for the better, and I believe also that of everyone who calls or comes into the office.
“The doctor of last resort” I recall one of my professors at Bastyr saying about our profession. Many times people who come in have been to every other possible doctor to try to get some relief for their illness. So by the time they get to me they are exhausted and frustrated by the whole situation. I happily take on this challenge, because I believe that naturopathic medicine is the most profound and powerful healing system. I am forever grateful to my undergraduate advisor for giving me that incorrect information.