On September 17th 2001, I was late for my first day of school. I came straight from Ground Zero in New York City, my clothes still dusty, my heart and throat raw. I had spent 4 days volunteering with the Salvation Army; passing out water and food to the firemen, policemen, and construction workers from all over the country.
I came to the National University of Natural Medicine (NCNM) disoriented, confused and grieving the destruction of my city. I found incredible comfort in those first days, people who wanted to hear my story and share my pain, a dean who had also lived in Brooklyn and who made time for me every time I stopped in to find solace. My first weekend at med school – I discovered the labyrinth walk, and realized an ancient therapy for healing the mind and healing the heart. I was beginning med school in a changed world and I couldn’t have found a better place to heal.
It did take me a minute to overcome my own sense of self-importance. I entered NCNM wondering if the ‘naturopathic’ medical education was going to be serious or academic enough for me. My background, I thought, entitled me to think of myself as a scientist, a researcher, and an academic who wanted to be taken seriously by the greater medical profession, and by my friends and family. I had a prestigious college education, a degree in neuroscience, not to mention a high score on my medical school entrance. I came to school with lofty ideas of who I was and who I was going to be in this medicine.
Was I humbled.
The most difficult lessons for me were not about the volumes of information I needed to absorb. I had to learn how to listen, to take a step back and throw away my preconceptions, judgements and expectations.
I began to encounter and understand an intelligence that was not driven by intellect, but inspired by intuition. Knowledge of plants, of nature, of how to work with the body, of how to see what was going on with a patient: these were all new concepts for me. I had incredible teachers, angels really, who were so dedicated to their students that they could tolerate frequent administrative bureaucracy.
I made incredible friends from all different paths who had so much to teach me about humility, about caring, and about patience. I found my world view beginning to soften and shift – I no longer needed everything "proven by science" but instead could rely on a greater knowing that would guide me through difficulty.
I no longer felt alone in the world – and at some point in my time at NCNM I realized I had joined a great tribe of healers. I couldn’t have made a better decision and that decision has made all the difference. I now live a life, as a mother, naturopathic physician, chinese medicine and Qi Gong practitioner, business woman, lover and friend, that is far better than I ever could have dreamed of. I am part of a profession that daily makes the world a better place in which to live.