While spending several years working as a pharmacy tech, Steven Katz saw too many patients with too many medicines, some even prescribed to counter the effects of others.
So rather than entering pharmacy school as he had planned, Katz decided to take a different approach: naturopathic medicine.
Now a fourth-year student at Tempe’s Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, Katz is joining a growing trend in the health-care world.
“I interviewed here and haven’t looked back,” he said of finding the school. “Our toolbox is large enough here that we can give patients the best care possible.”
This year, the school welcomed 96 new students, bringing enrollment to 411. Last year, there were just 370 students at the school. Only five programs in the country train naturopathic doctors, with this school being the only one in Arizona, said Dr. Paul Mittman, CEO and president of the school.
The school started in 1993, with 42 students.
He pointed out that in Arizona, naturopathic doctors have the largest scope of practice in the country, something that attracted Katz to the program.
“Arizona took a very progressive approach to licensure statute,” Mittman said.
And the students who graduate as doctors of naturopathic medicine, or NDs, are quickly finding work, Mittman said. Of last year’s graduating class, 85 percent had jobs prior to completing their final exams.
Students learn about acupuncture, chiropractic care, hydrotherapy and more. Katz said he’s considering a career in drug rehabilitation after his July graduation.
Mittman attributes some of the school’s growth to public demand for a different approach to health care — one that tries to get to the “root of the problem” by exploring how a person, eats, works, deals with stress and lives, he said.
“The school really focuses on our students,” he said, and introducing them to the most innovative practices available.
In fact, the school recently updated its curriculum to align it with growing trends.
The school operates nine community clinics around the Valley, plus offers a clinic at the school. Patients come in for everything from ear aches to weight loss to diabetes.
Students are required to complete 1,300 hours of clinical practice during their third and fourth year of education, making the clinic valuable to both the school and the community.
More than 170 staff are employed by the school, both full-time and part-time, Mittman said. More than 75 percent of students graduate in five years and the school’s retention rate is 83 percent. More than 90 percent of students apply and receive some type of tuition assistance. Tuition for the four-year program is $103,788.
The public can learn more about the college Saturday during the school’s Discovery Day.
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine is accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Students and graduates are eligible to apply for the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examinations administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.
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