September 2011: What's in a Name?

By Gene McGill, Director of State Government Relations

In a recent meeting with a representative of a state medical society, the concerns of a newly introduced naturopathic licensure bill were addressed. Typically you would expect to hear scope of practice or prescriptive rights issues. Not this time. The major concern was that we call NDs “physicians” in the bill. Don’t take this to mean that the elimination of the term physician in our bill will immediately move it to the front of the line for the medical society, followed by smooth sailing on to licensure. That will never be the case. But the term “physician” has distinct and valuable meaning to the medical society that they were willing to fight to protect. 
An essential part of any legislation that the AANP suggests being included in bill for licensure of naturopathic doctors includes Title and Designation protection. Here is a sample:
Title and Designation: Practice of Naturopathic Medicine and use of the title “Naturopathic doctor”. Only a person licensed or otherwise authorized under this article shall practice naturopathic medicine or use the title “Naturopath”, “Doctor of Naturopathy”, “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine”, or use the initials “ND”, or “NMD” or hold him or herself out to the public that they practice naturopathy in any of its forms. The naturopathic doctor is prohibited from implying they are a “Physician and Surgeon” unless they meet the other licensing requirements under those articles.
We are steadfast in protecting title, education, and "diagnose and treat" in any legislation. We immediately push back when advised that unlicensable practitioners are upset that they will lose the ability to call themselves naturopaths. After all, they did not earn the title simply because they purchased it.  
So what would you advise? As we move forward with a new emphasis on “branding” of our profession, do we limit what we call ourselves? Do we continue the way we are? What is critical, and what can we let go? Your input over the next few years is critical as ever more doctors graduate from our naturopathic schools and additional states become licensed.