Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Definition and Description of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct profession of primary health care, emphasizing prevention, treatment and the promotion of optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and modalities that encourage the self-healing process, the vis medicatrix naturae.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines naturopathic physicians as doctors who "diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases using a system of practice that is based on the natural healing capacity of individuals. May use physiological, psychological or mechanical methods. May also use natural medicines, prescription or legend drugs, foods, herbs, or other natural remedies."

Most naturopathic physicians provide natural medicine primary care through office-based, private practice. Many receive additional training in disciplines or modalities such as acupuncture and East Asian medicine.

Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality. Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes assessment are particularly well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both at naturopathic medical schools and in the offices of practicing physicians. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic physicians.

Program Outcomes

A naturopathic medicine graduate of Bastyr University’s School of Naturopathic Medicine will:

  • Demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge in both basic biomedical and clinical sciences.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply clinical skills in the care of patients to the standards of a primary care naturopathic physician as defined by the profession.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply the philosophy and principles of naturopathic medicine in the care of patients.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism by behaving with honesty and integrity in all interactions with patients, their families, other health care professionals, and others they interact with in the course of their professional career.
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply evidence-informed practice efficiently and effectively in patient-care settings.

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

The underpinnings of naturopathic medical practice are embodied in six principles:

  1. First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
  2. The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
  3. Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
  4. Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
  5. The Physician is a Teacher docere
  6. Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire

Scope of Practice

Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles, rather than by methods or modalities. Diagnostic and therapeutic methods are diverse. The current scope of practice for a naturopathic physician varies by jurisdiction. However, the accredited naturopathic programs all train primary care physicians who diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic medical conditions and diagnoses. This may include, but is not limited to: nutritional science, natural hygiene, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine, homeopathy, counseling, spirituality, minor office procedures, and methods of laboratory and clinical diagnosis. The scope of practice is defined by state or provincial statute. The curriculum at Bastyr University matches the requirements listed by the Washington State Department of Health. Students have the responsibility to become informed on licensure and scope of practice in the legal jurisdiction in which they choose to practice.

Legal Status of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic physicians are licensed or registered as health care providers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently underway. Forty-two states and territories in the United States have professional associations for naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine is regulated in the following Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. The Naturopathic Doctors Act of 2008 grants title protection for naturopathic doctors in Nova Scotia. There are 11 provincial and territorial professional associations.

Naturopathic Medicine Licensure Requirements

All states and provinces with naturopathic medicine licensure laws require completion of a residential program of at least four years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Bastyr University's doctoral program in naturopathic medicine is accredited by CNME, and a copy of the CNME Handbook of Accreditation is available in the Bastyr Library and online at

To qualify for a license, applicants must satisfactorily pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which include basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects, and clinical sciences. Applicants must also satisfy all licensing requirements for the state or province in which they wish to practice. Students are responsible for contacting the Department of Health or other governing agency for information regarding requirements for the state in which they are seeking licensure. 

Professional Organizations

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, based in Washington, D.C., represents the interests of the profession of naturopathic medicine in the U.S. The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors is the professional association in Canada. Contact the appropriate national association for further information.

  • American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, 4435 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 403, Washington, D.C., 20016,, (202) 237-8150
  • Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, 20 Holly St., Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4S 3B1,, (416) 496-8633

External Teaching Clinics

External clinical training opportunities have been developed for most clinical programs to provide a broader educational experience for students. Bastyr faculty members supervise student clinicians at each external site. Below is a partial list of current external training sites:

  • Ballard NW Senior Activity Center — naturopathic students; senior citizens
  • Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center — naturopathic students; chronic disease and multi-ethnic/low income
  • Cascade Natural Medicine — naturopathic students; pediatrics
  • Chronic Fatigue Clinic at Harborview Medical Center — acupuncture students; chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia
  • Consejo Counseling and Referral Services — naturopathic students; multi-ethnic/low income
  • Country Doctor Community Clinic — naturopathic students; multi-ethnic/sexual orientation, low income
  • Edmonds Senior Center — naturopathic students; senior citizens
  • 45th Street Homeless Youth Clinic — naturopathic students; homeless youth
  • International Clinic at Harborview Medical Center — acupuncture students; U.S. immigrants
  • Madison Clinic at Harborview Medical Center — acupuncture students; HIV/AIDS
  • Mary’s Place — naturopathic students; homeopathy, homeless and formerly homeless women and children
  • Operation Samahan, Inc. — naturopathic students; indigent, low-income, uninsured and underserved individuals and families in the San Diego area 
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Everett — acupuncture students; cancer treatment and pain management
  • Providence Mt. St. Vincent — acupuncture students; geriatric and general community patients
  • Rainier Park Medical Clinic — acupuncture and naturopathic students; multi-ethnic/low income
  • Shoreline/Lake Forest Park Senior Center — naturopathic students; senior citizens 
  • Snohomish Valley Senior Center — naturopathic students; senior citizens
  • West Seattle Teen Health Center — naturopathic students; teens and staff at West Seattle High School
  • YWCA — naturopathic students; homeless women
In addition, students in most clinical programs must fulfill a preceptorship requirement in which they work with a variety of licensed, practicing health care professionals in various community and private practice settings. These placements provide students with valuable clinical experience. The combination of opportunities provided by external training sites, the preceptor experience and clinical rotations at one of the University’s teaching clinics assures diversity in each student’s clinical training and experience.

Naturopathic Medicine Program Admissions

For general information on the admissions process, please refer to the Admissions section in this catalog. The information below refers only to the naturopathic medicine program.

Naturopathic Medicine Prerequisites

In selecting applicants for admission, the Bastyr University naturopathic medicine program seeks those qualities of motivation, intellect and character essential to becoming a physician. Applicants are considered on the basis of academic performance, maturity and demonstrated humanitarian qualities. Work and/or volunteer experience in health care, coupled with a concrete exposure to the field of natural medicine (especially shadowing or interviewing a practicing naturopathic physician) is strongly recommended. The following coursework is the minimum required preparation for the study of naturopathic medicine. Applicants may apply with coursework still in progress, but prerequisites must be completed prior to matriculation.

Please note: If in doubt about a specific prerequisite, contact an admissions advisor before taking the course.

The admissions office may require a course description or course syllabus to verify content. Descriptions may be emailed, faxed or sent by regular mail.

Overall Preparation

Completion of a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college/university is required. No specific major is advised. In addition to a strong preparation in the sciences, a broad background in the humanities and liberal arts is encouraged. Prerequisite coursework is used to determine a student’s preparation for the naturopathic program. No credit is given for prerequisite coursework earning a C- or lower. Students submitting prerequisite coursework with grades of P (passing) may be required to submit additional information to demonstrate their competency in that subject.

Prerequisite Coursework

College-level Algebra 1 course
Chemistry (science-major level)

Must include a minimum of either two sequential courses in organic chemistry or one course in organic chemistry and one course in biochemistry. The chemistry sequence should include an introduction to biological molecules. (The standard prerequisite for science-major level organic chemistry is one year of general chemistry.) Appropriate lab work required.

At least 4 courses
General Biology (science-major level)

Must cover concepts in cellular biology and genetics. Appropriate lab work required. Individual courses in the biological sciences may count if the above competencies are met, i.e., anatomy, physiology, microbiology and botany.

2 semesters or 3 quarters

Course must be algebra-based; calculus-based is also accepted. Lab is not required.

1 college-level course

*Intro/General Psych or Developmental/Lifespan Psych

1 course

Strongly Recommended Courses

Though not required for admission, the faculty recommends that students complete biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and botany coursework in addition to the prerequisite requirements. These courses will substantially enhance students’ ability to master the naturopathic course material.

Other Suggested Courses

Biomedical ethics, philosophy of science, public speaking and English composition.

Age of Course

Required chemistry and biology courses not taken within seven years of matriculation into the program are subject to review by the admissions committee. Additional coursework may be required.

Credit by Examination

Applicants may submit AP, IB and CLEP scores for prerequisite consideration for math, psychology and physics (there is no CLEP exam for Physics). Students who have had prior AP coursework in chemistry and biology may submit AP scores for biology or chemistry exams. Students must submit either the original score received directly from the testing center, or a copy of their high school or college transcripts showing the score results. Since so few high school or college transcripts show score results, it may be most expedient to automatically request test scores be sent from the testing center. Decisions regarding credit are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The admissions committee reviews test scores within the context of an applicant’s academic history. All equivalency decisions made by the admissions committee are final.

Required Abilities/Skills for Naturopathic Medicine Program Admission

Bastyr University is committed to providing equal opportunities for differently abled people. The following policy has been adapted from the American Association of Medical Colleges guidelines to ensure that prospective students have the physical and mental capacities to perform the required duties of a naturopathic physician:

A candidate for the naturopathic medicine degree must be able to demonstrate appropriate observational and communication skills, motor function, intellectual-conceptual, integrative and quantitative abilities, and behavioral and social maturity. Technological compensation can be made for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but a candidate should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner. The use of a trained intermediary means that a candidate’s judgment must be mediated by someone else’s power of selection and observation.

Observation: The candidate must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, including but not limited to microbiologic cultures and microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation necessitates the functional use of the sense of vision and somatic sensation. These are enhanced by the functional use of the sense of smell.

Communication: A candidate must be able to speak, hear and observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive nonverbal communications. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. Communication includes not only speech, but also reading and writing. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in English in oral and written form with all members of the health care team.

Motor: Candidates should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should have the manual dexterity to be able to perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures such as blood draw, urinalysis, read electrocardiograms (ECGs) and X-rays, and be able to reposition a patient.

A candidate should be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment required of physicians are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, application of pressure to stop bleeding, the opening of obstructed airways and the suturing of simple wounds. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis. Problem solving, a critical skill demanded of physicians, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition, the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.

Behavioral and Social Attributes: A candidate must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of her/his intellectual abilities; the exercise of good judgment; the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients; and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admissions and educational processes.

Admissions Criteria

The admissions committee of the naturopathic medicine program determines the processes and procedures that guide the selection of candidates for the naturopathic program. The committee reviews undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) academic records and performance in the required prerequisite courses. The personal statement, references, resumes and in-person interviews are also evaluated for evidence of the abilities and skills required of naturopathic physicians. The interview also explores the candidate’s awareness of the practice of naturopathic medicine. Bastyr University’s naturopathic medicine program is academically challenging. While no minimum GPA is specified, the mean GPA for entering students in the last five years has exceeded 3.3 for both overall GPA and prerequisite course GPA.


Qualified applicants who submit complete applications and meet the prerequisites may be invited to interview. Applicants are expected to interview at the campus to which they apply, either in Kenmore or San Diego. A limited number of exceptions are made to accommodate special circumstances.

Transfer Students

Bastyr University accepts transfer students from naturopathic, medical, osteopathic and chiropractic schools, and other accredited professional programs, on a space-available basis. For transfer consideration, credits must be earned from an institution accredited by a regional accrediting agency or from an institution accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Transfer students are considered for admission in accordance with the following general guidelines:

  • Applicants must meet the same entrance requirements as candidates for the first-year class.
  • Applicants who wish to transfer credits from prior coursework must demonstrate satisfactory completion of courses that are equivalent in content and quality to courses given at the University. Satisfactory completion equals a grade of achieved competency, a C or above, or a 2.0 or above.
  • Applicants must provide an official transcript from the college or program from which the transfer is being requested; the transcript should demonstrate that they are leaving in good academic standing. They should be prepared to submit additional documentation to support a thorough evaluation.
  • Transfer applicants must submit a $150 transfer evaluation fee.

Advanced Standing Status Based on Prior Medical Education

Applicants who have completed professional programs may be considered for advanced standing status. Those applicants who graduated from accredited chiropractic, medical or osteopathic colleges may be eligible for advanced standing in the Bastyr University naturopathic medicine program. All advanced standing students must complete at least two-thirds of the program and do all of their clinical work at Bastyr University. They are eligible for a maximum of 103 credits toward advanced standing. In those instances where the maximum number of advanced standing transfer credits is granted, it will take a minimum of three years (11 quarters) to complete the program. Placement depends upon the amount of coursework completed in the original program, similarity of the course content and credits, age of the courses and performance in these courses. A student must provide documentation that shows the competencies of the Bastyr University course have been met. Course waivers and/or credit transfers are considered only for those courses in which applicants demonstrate a grade of achieved competence, a C or above, or a 2.0 or above. An exam to determine competency may also be required. Advanced standing applicants must complete all of the course and credit requirements in effect at the time of their enrollment in the Bastyr University naturopathic medicine program. Final waiver and/or transfer credit decisions rest with the dean of the school in which the curriculum is taught.

Advanced standing is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on the type of degree program completed, the courses taken and the number of years in practice.

Applicants who are eligible for advanced standing must submit a $150 advanced standing evaluation fee.

Applicants must submit a catalog of course descriptions for the years they attended their professional program and should be prepared to submit additional documentation to support a thorough evaluation. Additionally, advanced standing students should submit a copy of their medical license and a copy of their medical board exam scores/certificates (if applicable). If an advanced standing student is found to be deficient in some area(s) of study, s/he may be required to complete additional courses at Bastyr University. For more information on advanced standing status admission policies and procedures, contact the admissions office.

Integrated Curriculum Design

The naturopathic medicine program at Bastyr University is taught in a systems-based approach designed to provide integration across scientific disciplines and between biomedical and clinical sciences. This approach fosters the development of critical clinical reasoning through an active learning environment. Naturopathic medical students are expected to be able to preview learning materials and gain a basic understanding before coming to class to apply the information (the “flipped classroom”). The integrated curriculum also takes advantage of hybrid learning in which online educational technology is paired with face-to-face learning, to provide the student with flexible learning time and varied methods of instruction to support different types of learners.

Students entering this program should be comfortable with computer technologies and programs. It is strongly advised that students have a personal computing device with Internet access and the common word processing and associated programs in order to fully participate in hybrid learning.

Basic Sciences Curriculum within Naturopathic Medicine

Basic and biomedical science modules within the naturopathic medicine program provide integration across science disciplines and with clinical coursework. First-year basic science modules provide a foundation of core principles in anatomy, histology, embryology, biochemistry and physiology that are integrated in the context of body systems. Second-year modules use the systems approach to integrate the principles of pathology, immunology and infectious diseases. Throughout the curriculum, science concepts are applied to clinical situations through integrated case discussions.

The basic science faculty encourages and expects students to advance beyond the simple learning of scientific facts and to integrate systematically the information from basic science disciplines into a unified model of human organization and function. This educational scheme requires students to assume an active role in the learning process and encourages them to adopt this inquisitive behavior for a lifetime. Problem solving, clinical cases and examples are an integral part of the basic science curriculum. This educational process is an expression of Bastyr University’s basic philosophy of a holistic approach to human behavior, health and therapeutics. The basic science faculty encourages students to become totally absorbed in an integrated approach to learning and understanding. Instructors are readily available to facilitate this process on an individual basis.

The department also offers science courses that satisfy prerequisite requirements, including courses in General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

Counseling and Health Psychology Curriculum within Naturopathic Medicine

The counseling and health psychology curriculum serves naturopathic medical students in understanding and effecting change in the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of human functioning.

The naturopathic medicine program includes six core counseling and health psychology courses. These courses are designed to build the following competencies:

  • Study of the nature and process of healing
  • Development of therapeutic counselor characteristics and communication skills
  • Development of comfort in the role of counseling physician and a sense of counseling style and skill
  • Ability to select and implement holistic counseling interventions and strategies
  • Ability to assess and stimulate psychological wellness
  • Ability to understand and utilize the body/mind/spirit interaction in the healing process
  • Ability to assess psychological functioning and make clinical judgments regarding the appropriateness of treating individuals in naturopathic practice
  • Ability to make appropriate psychological referrals

Naturopathic principles and cross-cultural perspectives are woven throughout all counseling and health psychology courses in the naturopathic medicine program.

For additional counseling and health psychology courses available as electives to matriculated students, please see the course listings in this catalog or the current quarterly schedule of classes.

Note: The scope of practice for NDs in California does not allow for therapeutic counseling that is within the scope of licensed counselors. However, the skills and techniques needed for motivating life style change and supporting mind/body wellness are within the California ND scope.