Saturday, June 14, 2008

AANP Response to AMA Resolution 303

The following is an e-mail I received from the AANP. It is in regards to an important issue that I believe all medical practitioners and their patients should be aware of.

The American Medical Association is poised to make a move that could have a huge impact on our ability to call ourselves Naturopathic Doctors.

(Please note: The AANP's formal response to the AMA can be read in full at the bottom of this post)

The AMA House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on Resolution 303 to restrict the use of "Doctor," "Resident," and "Residency" to MDs, DOs and Dentists. The resolution targets the growing number of nurses who are obtaining advanced degrees (including that of Doctor) and specialty training.

Intended or not, resolution 303 clearly excludes naturopathic physicians, along with Doctors of Nursing, from using the title of Doctor, even though they receive their degrees from accredited institutions. It ignores state laws already on the books, discounts federal standards, and ignores a simple and dangerous fact that in unlicensed states anyone can call themselves an ND - regardless of training or a lack thereof.

As many of you know, the AMA is no friend of naturopathic medicine. It has passed previous resolutions opposing licensure of NDs, and the Scope of Practice Policy, which is being used to "evaluate" all state legislation relating to expanding the scope of licensed practitioners - including naturopathic doctors. I think it's fair to say they don't want NDs to be "Doctors" either.

Why is it important for you to know what the AMA is up to? Because the AMA is creating a national agenda to ensure the current hierarchy in health care is maintained - regardless of a shortage of primary care practitioners, the obvious need to transcend from disease management to a wellness-based system, and the rising numbers of consumers who are choosing non-conventional treatment. Our efforts to increase access to naturopathic medicine, delivered by well-trained physicians from accredited institutions is constantly challenged by their well-funded and powerful lobbying efforts. In New York and North Carolina they've actually proposed NDs be redefined and licensed as certified naturopathy practitioners. Enormous personal and financial resources are expended to preserve title and defend the quality of our training. Each and every one of these challenges to our legitimacy from the AMA make our success that much more difficult.

The actions of the AMA are deeply rooted in an old story and worldview that simply does not reflect today's reality. As you know, MDs, NDs and Nurses already work side by side, collaborating on patient care in venues across the country. Several of our professional organizations that share a commitment to a new health care paradigm are engaged in conversation with state and federal policy makers. It's time everyone acknowledges that the key to reform is the consumer. Once the AMA and legislators realize what naturopathic doctors and your colleagues already know - that the patient is primary care give - then we can transform our health care system to one that emphasizes wellness over disease management.
AANP Comments in opposition to AMA Resolution 303 June 11, 2008

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

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
4435 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20016
202.237.8150 phone
866.538.2267 toll-free
202.237.8152 fax
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