Response to AMA
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) strongly opposes the American Medical Association House of Delegates Resolution 303, Protection of the Titles "Doctor," "Resident," and "Residency." Naturopathic physicians are currently licensed as physicians and/or doctors in 15 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Our graduates obtain their Doctorate of Naturopathy from four-year, graduate-level, residential programs that are approved by both programmatic and regional accreditors who are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The Council for Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), the approved programmatic accreditor for naturopathic medicine, also approves naturopathic residencies.
The Department of Education, all licensed jurisdictions, the private sector and consumers across the country recognize the Doctorate of Naturopathy as a degree on par with that of a conventional medical doctor. The Department of Education, through its new degree categories, will now include naturopathic degrees as "Doctor's degree - professional practice." Naturopathic medical students are entitled to the same federal loans as their colleagues in conventional medical school, as evidenced in May of 2005 when the Department of Education expanded access to unsubsidized federal loans to students at CNME approved schools, on par with medical schools. The Princeton Review Best Medical Colleges of 2007 includes the six accredited naturopathic medical schools. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools, whose membership is restricted to CNME-approved schools, actively participates on the Advisory Council of the National Association of Health Professions Advisors, and the AANP is an affiliate member of the American Medical Student Association. In fact, the AMA itself stands in recognition of the quality of training afforded the profession. In September 2007, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians joined the AMA, the American Association of Medical Colleges, and more than 50 other physician specialty groups and health care associations to petition the Secretary of Education for an increase in the Stafford Loan limits to ensure a "sufficient supply of well educated and trained health professionals to provide quality care for all Americans."
Resolution 303 indicates that title protection is necessary to prevent confusion amongst patients. During the past 88 years of regulation, in any of the states that regulate naturopathic doctors, there is no record of public confusion, or a documented pattern of public harm caused by naturopathic doctors. As opposed to creating confusion, recognition and regulation of naturopathic doctors is absolutely essential for the protection of the public, particularly in unlicensed states where thousands of individuals are able to proclaim the title of Naturopathic Doctor legally despite the fact they are informally trained, obtain degrees from diploma mills, and/or have absolutely no supervised clinical training. The AANP contends that any health care professional who has achieved the highest degree awarded by an accredited institution has the right to utilize the title conferred, in this case "doctor," regardless of medical specialty. Similarly, the naturopathic profession does not own the terms "resident" and "residency" any more than nurses or conventional doctors do. We contend that consumer protection will be achieved through continued demarcation of qualified health care professionals with doctorate-level education and training as determined by the authorized agencies of the U.S. Department of Education. Resolution 303 will only serve to unfairly penalize legitimately trained providers of primary care services from practicing their trades and in so doing deprive consumers of obtaining qualified naturopathic health care. The AANP recommends withdrawal or unfavorable consideration of this resolution.
Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
President, Board of Directors
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians