Dear Surly Amy,
I have a problem that I’m not certain how to respond to. A dear friend and occasional lover has recently been accepted into the Doctorate of Naturopathy program at the National College of Natural Medicine, and is proudly telling everyone that she’s going to “be a doctor” in 5 years. I want to be a supportive part of her life, but I think that naturopathy is complete and utter nonsense. I have encouraged her to apply to an actual medical school, but she has replied that it is too expensive. How do I support her without supporting fallacious beliefs?
This is heartbreaking because I understand how expensive school can be and it sounds like your friend has a real desire to do some good in the world as well as a genuine desire to learn, which should be commended.
This question also does a great job of illustrating the heart of the problem with healthcare, especially in the United States. It’s a class issue. We want health care for ourselves and our families, and we want doctors who will take the time to listen to our problems and will care about our well-being, but most average people simply can not afford that. Even with insurance I often hear people feeling hopeless when it comes to their health. I myself have felt more like a number than a human being when visiting a doctor and rushed through an office visit. And I know a lot of intelligent people who have turned to alternative medicine because they couldn’t afford a regular doctor visit or because they too felt rushed or dismissed or misunderstood by their primary care providers. Legitimate healthcare, with the emphasis in care and science, in today’s market has become a luxury that is placed upon a pedestal for the wealthy.
Higher education can also seem like an unattainable luxury for the average person.
We have here what seems to be a genuinely, kind person, who wants to help other people, but the only way they think they can afford to do that is by taking a lesser or alternative path. Alternative medicine schools are obviously more welcoming to students in terms of accessibility than an accredited medical college. Just as alternative medicine practices are often times more welcoming to patients. In similar ways these establishments target people in need of hope but what they provide it lesser than what is deserved. People desever quality healthcare, quality education and at the very least, the truth.
My advice in this situation is to be supportive but to also point your friend in the direction of science based medicine. Perhaps with some gentle encouragement you can counter some of what is being taught in your friend’s new school and convince them to transfer into a legitimate science-based medical college after some time. Let your friend know that there are always options. A person can go to a less expensive community college for basic classes and then transfer to a different school later, or opt for school loans. I realize how difficult it can be when you don’t have any money for education, but it can be done. And remind your friend that the school they have enrolled in is not free either. There is certainly some money being spent, and ultimately in the end you get what you pay for. Hopefully, with some positive encouragement your friend will see that putting money towards a quality education, even though the path to get there might be harder and much slower, will ultimately pay off twice as much in the end.
Might I also suggest a legitimate science-based medical textbook as a back to school gift? It can’t hurt to have that information at hand.
*photos by me, Amy Davis Roth
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