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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lucas MacMillan, ND

Why Did I Choose to Become a Naturopathic Physician?

I have been asked numerous times why I chose to become a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND). Friends and family members seem the most comfortable with asking, while those I meet in day-to-day life sometimes aren’t – even though I can see the question burning in them. I felt this was an opportunity to write out the answer for all to see (while making my first ever online post).


Out of high school, my goal was to become a medical doctor (MD). Their job sounded fun, complex, and satisfying. I started to pursue this with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree as it was a well respected program that offered health-science courses

 and hands-on experience. Through this I was on my way to healthcare, hospitals, and community-care settings. This is where I got my first taste of real healthcare; it is also where my direction changed.

One man I was caring for during a mental health rotation helped lead me to my turning point. Although he was in and out of being fully conscious and aware, his lucid moments revealed a very likeable man who greatly reminded me of my grandpa. During one of his better days, as I handed him his lunchtime medications, he asked me: “ Is this the best thing I can do for my health?” I inwardly considered outdoor exercise, nutrition beyond what the hospital budget allows, and freedom – none of which was reasonably within his grasp. I very clearly remember this moment. I remember becoming acutely aware of the distance between what I wanted to offer, and what I could offer; I couldn't help but feel that there were better options for him somewhere out there. I finally cut the silence with: “the doctor is smarter than me, and he believes this is best,” because I simply couldn’t come up with a better answer. I thought about this moment many times, and I finally realized that something needed to change.

Just to clarify, I loved being in the hospital, and I especially enjoyed my interactions with patients from many different rotations. I didn’t feel that healthcare was broken, or that it was somehow wrong. I simply realized that it wasn’t a good place for me, and that my calling was elsewhere. Although the hospital setting literally saves lives on a daily basis, this somehow wasn't enough. I needed to see people before they were hospitalized, and I needed to be able to offer a wider variety of treatment options. This led to a quarter-life crisis, and a period of some uncertainty as to who and what I would become. 

I was dating a Nursing Student at the time (Brittany MacMillan – now my wife, a Registered Nurse currently working in intensive care); she helped me wade through the options and pointed me toward the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in New Westminster, BC. I remember browsing their website, learning what an ND really does, and feeling like I’d found a path that was too good to be true. This surprised me, as I expected Naturopathic Medicine to be something else entirely. 

Naturopathic Medicine blends everything that I liked about various healthcare professions, plus bits and pieces from some I knew nothing about. I learned that we can perform physical medicine and manipulation similar to chiropractors, prescribe medications and fully diagnose similar to MD’s, prescribe botanical (plant) medicines that affect the body similar to medications but are often gentler on the body, and even do acupuncture. Entry into this program required the completion a 4-year Bachelor’s degree including a number of basic sciences and other pre-requisite courses, which put my BScN degree to good work. The ND program itself (that I am currently in) is another 4 years with an optional year of residency at the end. 

I am currently in the last week of my third year; if all goes as planned I will be a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in one year, from which I will be able to offer the full breadth of ND tools to my patients. I have learned so much, and I have seen numerous patients improve using Naturopathic treatments. I can't wait for the next step! 

So why become a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine? I chose this because I will have the freedom and the treatment options to provide my patients with uniquely effective care, while staying true to my personal beliefs, values, and individuality. I love the eclectic approach, and I know it works. My goal is to draw from my education as a Registered Nurse, plus my training to become a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine to offer patients more choices, and better results. 

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