25 Faces: Michele Burklund
Last October I was thousands of miles from home in New York City, attending Lucky Magazine’s Lucky FABB conference. A group of fashion bloggers in one of the breakout sessions passed around business cards and I stumbled upon a fellow Seattleite and fashion blogger, Michele Burklund of The Healthy Fashionista.
Michele’s blog is a place where natural health and fashion merge. She strives to create a place where natural health can be chic, fun, and accessible. And on top of it all, she’s a medical student on a journey to becoming a naturopathic doctor.
Kate: Tell me about the experiences that got you interested in Naturopathic Medicine.
Michele: The first time I saw a Naturopathic Doctor was when I was 16 and was suffering from acne. My doctor was amazing… she talked to me about food, hormone fluctuations, exercise, and really found the causes of the symptoms. My first instinct has always been to turn to a less invasive form of medicine first but the life changing experience that really got me interested in natural medicine was when my father was diagnosed with cancer. It was very inspiring to see how powerful natural medicine is through my father’s experience and my own.
K: What is your training?
M: Thanks for asking that Kate! A lot of people get confused about the training of a naturopathic doctor but like any other doctor we need an undergraduate degree in premed, and it’s a 5 year program in all the basic sciences (anatomy, cadaver lab, biochemistry, physiology, histology, pathology, pharmacology) along with natural treatments such as botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, counseling, nutrition, and nutraceuticals. The last 3 years of our training takes place in a clinical setting where we learn all the specialties (dermatology, family medicine, cardiology, psychiatry…) but the way treat the patients is much different than an MD. We are taught to look at the body in whole rather than it’s parts and focus on treating the root cause instead of treating the symptoms. For example, if a patient comes in with acne instead of giving them a topical cream or antibiotic we would look at liver function, hormones, food allergies, stressors and other areas to find the root of the issue while giving a topical cream to soothe the skin.
K: Why Naturopathic Medicine?
M: I feel that natural medicine should become mainstream as a first line medicine for many treatments before more invasive approaches are tried. The healing power of nature is really amazing and I’m lucky enough to see the effects it has everyday.
K: How did you get involved in studying the brain?
M: I started studying the brain 11 years ago when my father was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. It was more out of necessity to find treatments for my father but I soon learned how little resources are out there for that population and have dedicated much of practice to brain health.
K: What has been the hardest part of being a medical student?
M: The hardest part is the long hours and endless studying on the weekends. I haven’t felt like I’ve had a day off in 5 years! It’s a very long educational road but it’s so worth it in the end!
K: It takes a long time to reach and complete medical school. Did it ever feel like your dream was incredibly far out of reach? How do you stay motivated?
M: Yes! My road was even longer than most people because my first undergraduate degree was in business and I even went on to get my MBA before I realized how much I wanted to be a doctor. At 26 I went back to undergrad to complete all the premed requirements for 2 years before I could even apply to med schools! The first year of med school was the hardest and I felt like being a doctor was so far away. I stayed motivated by keeping my end goal in sight, which is to help others with neurological issues and teach them all the amazing resources we do have out there.
K: What is your advice to other women out there who are considering a career in medicine?
M: Go for it! Follow your dreams no matter how far away them seem because you will get there if you are focuses and consistent.