June 2011: Being Ready to Respond to Tough Questions

By Gene McGill, Director of State Government Relations

“I just don’t think your education standards are up to that of an MD.”

Have you ever heard that assertion? It is enough to stop a naturopathic doctor mid-speech when discussing licensure with a State Senate or House member. Complicated explanations about the comparable content of ND and MD education will always put you on the defensive and rarely move your agenda forward.
That assertion about naturopathic education was made to me just recently when I was working with a group of NDs in a northeastern state on their lobby day. My response was simply: “Is that your opinion or what someone in the state medical society told you?” Before he could answer or politely thank me for my time and show me the door, I suggested he look to higher authorities. Who might that be, he asked? There are two: The U.S. Department of Education and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).
The U.S. Department of Education has adopted demanding regulations for the accreditors it recognizes, and it engages in careful oversight of these accreditors to ensure compliance. The ASPA is the only organization whose members are specialized and professional accreditors, and ASPA-member accreditors set national educational standards for entry into nearly 60 specialized disciplines or defined professions. The ASPA also works with higher education and government officials to enhance education and accreditation, and functions as the only national voice for this important constituency.
We have all heard of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME)—the accrediting agency that sets the educational standards for NDs; but how about Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation? All three accrediting agencies are regulated by the U.S. Department of Education and all three are members of the ASPA. The accreditation standards for the education of NDs, MDs, and DOs are all looked at under the same microscope by the U.S. Department of Education, and all three accreditors operate in accordance with ASPA guidelines for effective practice. The simple fact is that the standards that naturopathic medical programs must meet are equivalent in rigor to those of MD and DO programs. State medical societies typically backtrack when confronted with these facts.
Many unlicensed states have made great strides toward licensure this year. It is clear their hard work is beginning to pay off. Knowing what questions to expect and having the answers ready before you go is key to a successful meeting. Do not allow your next visit to your state Senate or House member be derailed by a comment like this. The more prepared we are, the better our chances for licensure.