Can’t get into med school? Legislate your own doctorate!

I guess it’s not just doctors watching this one—an alert reader and a fellow SciBling both picked up on this one. Apparently, in my neighboring state of Minnesota (really, check the map), home to Greg Laden, PZ Myers, and lutefisk, doctor wannabes have legislated themselves into “doctorhood”. You see, there is this entity called a “naturopath”, or “naturopathic doctor”, which is some sort of shaman that likes to think that if you study woo long enough, it becomes science.

OK, OK, I’ll settle down, but let’s examine this “naturopath” thing. You see, to be a real doctor, you must attend a medical school that is certified by a national organization, and to be licensed to practice, you must finish an accredited residency program and apply to the state for a license. Medical schools and residencies are very closely monitored and must meet exacting (and consistent) standards. There are a few associations for naturopaths, but no requirements equivalent to say, being a certified master plumber. For example, the American Naturopathic Certification Board, one of the entities that “certifies” naturopaths, states:

The preferred credential for taking the examination in Nutritional Wellness is a masters level degree in nutrition, while the preferred credential for taking the examination in Traditional Naturopathy is a doctoral degree, either N.D. or Ph.D.

However, recognizing that education can be a combination of formal education, practical experience, apprenticeships or other modes of experiential learning, applications from individuals with such education will be evaluated.

In other words, they prefer education, but, hey, if you can’t manage that, just make sure you’ve been an uncertified practitioner for a while.

They claim to have a science-base education but teach such ridiculous and disproved ideas as homeopathy.

Naturopathic “medicine” is a funny idea. It is, according to one organization (and they all pretty much say the same thing):

… a system of medicine that assists in the restoration of health by following a set of specific rules. A basic assumption is that nature is orderly, and this orderliness is designed to result in ongoing life and well being. This dependable orderliness is believed to be guided by a kind of inner wisdom that everyone has. This inner wisdom can be assisted to return a person to their best balance by naturopathic treatments.

“Inner wisdom”? Excuse me, but WTF?!? Science-based medicine is all about learning to avoid reliance on “inner wisdom” and common sense, as these tend to be poor guides as to what treatments are and are not effective.

Minnesota is in trouble. Arizona has gone down a similar road with homeopaths and other non-doctors, and they’ve had some serious problems. The reason we have a consistent and regulated system of bestowing the title of “doctor” and the license to practice is that we, as doctors, have a unique ability to heal and to harm. Having a consistent and well-regulated system takes out some of the guess-work. Even if we cannot be sure of the excellence of every licensed physician, we at least know that they have received the same or similar education and training as their peers. Real doctors receive a proven, science- and evidence-based education. All the others are just wannabes.

Look, if naturopathic school is so rigorous, just go to medical school. We can always use compassionate, intelligent primary care physicians, and we promise to give you an education in the real science of healing.

Sorry, but we don’t teach inner wisdom. We gave that up a few decades ago when we realized it didn’t work.