Tales from NCNM

photo-4I spent the summer of 2013 preparing to start my first year of naturopathic medical school at NCNM.   By “preparing”, I mean that instead of efficiently packing to move from Honolulu to Portland in an organized fashion, I spent an absurd amount of time pacing back and forth and searching the internet for an article called, “10 ways to ensure that you don’t do anything stupid during your medical education at NCNM.”

I was very upset to find that this article was not available.  I told myself that after I finished my first year, I would try to write it.  Impart my wisdom.  Share the secrets to being prepared.

And here I am.  I took the last final exam and completed my first year yesterday.  I did it.  But as I started thinking about writing my “guide to not messing up at NCNM,” I realized that it can only be written under the basic assumption that I know what I’m doing.  Unfortunately, this automatically disqualifies me from writing such an article.

I was lost, confused and generally one step behind for a good majority of my first year.  In the end, I was successful.  I went to every single class, did well on exams and did it without completely losing my marbles, but I don’t have the audacity to pretend that I can tell anyone how to do it right.

However, I can do what I do best: write stories about stuff that happened to me.  During my time here, I’ve made mistakes.  I’ve felt weak, scared, stupid, inadequate.  I’ve felt confident, happy, excited, important.  I’ll write about these things.  Maybe there will be wisdom in it.  Maybe there will be a few lessons.  That is my hope, anyway.  I’ll do my best to make sure it’s, at least, entertaining.

This is the official introduction to my ongoing project.  I will write and post stories about my  experience at NCNM as I think of them, until I run out of ideas.  Feel free to comment or email me with questions, story ideas or things you’d like me to write about.

Links to the available stories are posted below.


The time I realized that I’m not special. (new student orientation)

The time I thought it was tuberculosis. (speaking up in class)

I’ve reached my academic limit, and it has nothing to do with my brain. (grad school is expensive)

How I learned to turn insecurity into courage. (It’s super easy) (being myself and making friends)

How to study for an immunology exam. (a song about the human immune system)

I guess I write poetry now. (a poem about the doctor’s journey)

The time I forgot why it mattered. (it’s easy to forget what’s really important)

Find the sunflower seed. (a recipe for sunflower seed butter, with a side of personal wisdom)

I fight because I’m broken. (I still have hobbies other than medicine)

The lover and the fighter in me. (balancing my passions)

Hi, I’m James and I suffer from burnout. (I’m tired)

It’s not about being unbreakable. (NPLEX and a broken bone)

A few words on my goals and accomplishments. (I plan on changing the world)

12 thoughts on “Tales from NCNM

  1. Hi James, I just happened to stumble upon your blog. I am applying to NCNM this month, but am about 50/50 on deciding whether to take a year off or not. I want to thank you for your posts because through them I have learned that it IS okay to do a skype interview and consider deferring matriculation. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts!


    1. I’m so happy to hear you got something out of my stories. The Skype interview was great, I didn’t even need to wear pants. Good luck with the application process and make sure you come find me when you get here!


  2. Hi James,

    I am so glad I came across your blog! I am finishing my last year of undergrad and have been researching Naturopathic med schools like crazy. I’ve narrowed it down to NCNM, Bastyr, and Bridgeport. The thought of applying and (hopefully) getting accepted is so nerve-wrecking. After reading your orientation post I am now debating on whether I should go for a Master’s degree before applying or just go straight to NM school with a Bachelor’s degree…? Looking forward to reading more of your posts!


    1. Hi Marilyn!

      I’m glad you came across my blog, too! There is no single, correct way to get to med school. Going for a master’s degree before applying can be a terrible or great decision. It all depends on you. I don’t recommend getting a master’s because you think you should. And definitely don’t do it based on one of my silly stories. You simply have to decide what is the right path for you and confidently go in that direction.

      Good luck during your final year and make sure to let me know if you ever find yourself at NCNM!


  3. Hi James! I happened across your blog a little while ago while I was in the tizzy of suddenly trying to write 4 essays for my NCNM application mid-April (was gonna take the year off but decided not to almost at the last minute). It was super encouraging! I almost considered doing a Skype interview myself since I’m from Barbados but decided to spend the extra moneys and I’m really glad I did! I was also ridiculously relieved when I got accepted for Fall! Yay! Guess I’ll soon have my own NCNM stories to write about. 🙂


  4. Haha, I’m reminded of a time in one of Henry Miller’s books when he complimented himself when a gal (one of his many) praised him on how he just goes out there and writes the stuff he wants to read most. Or something like that. Not that you’re arrogant like Miller can be. I think it’s great that you’re writing the answer to your google search. Thanks for following my blog, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello James
    I just got accepted into naturopathic medicine at Boucher institute of naturopathic medicine. I have read many negative articles and discouraging reason why I should not go into the program and I am so scared of the decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joy! I suggest ignoring all the negative articles and simply do what you want and need to do with your life. There’s a downside to everything but there’s also an upside. It all depends on your attitude towards it. Do what you want to do because you want to do it. Don’t let other people’s opinions guide your life. Good luck with making your decision!


  6. Hi James! So happy I found your blog! Can you help me with a question? NUNM vs NCNM… these are two distinct school in Portland right? I was looking at NUNM and then found your blog 😉 Great stuff, it’s been a pleasure to read about your journey and how you worked through your initial fears! There’s a blogger called naturopathic diaries who rattled me for a moment, so thanks for sharing your experiences.


    1. Hi! My apologies for not responding sooner. I haven’t been paying any attention to this blog recently.

      NUNM and NCNM are the same. They gained university status a few years back and switched from “college” to “university”.

      Good luck with everything!


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