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Natural Medicine is the Best Medicine: My story...

Monday, April 18, 2011

My story...

I have had several requests to speak a little about myself and how I came to Bastyr and the ND program.  I would love to share with you my journey to naturopathic medicine...

I was born and raised in a Swedish-American family in the Pacific Northwest.  My relationship with nature grew at an early age, and thanks to the encouragement of my parents much of my childhood took place outdoors.  I spent my summers picking blueberries and wild strawberries in Sweden, swimming and playing in Lake Washington and hiking to alpine lakes in the Cascade mountain range.  Winters were dominated by my love of snow, with plenty of adventures by skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.  These activities laid the foundation for my appreciation of nature, and eventually led to my decision to become a naturopathic physician.

As a right-brained child, I gravitated to various art and music classes.  At age 6 I joined an internationally touring children’s choir, and at age 8 I began learning classical piano.  I took drawing, painting and ceramics classes throughout my youth to feed my desire for creativity. 
Music and art became my therapy during adolescence, a healing power that I still value.

As a teenager I retained my love of the arts but also discovered the pleasure of solving puzzles, especially in math and science.  I followed both of these passions throughout my undergraduate education at Gonzaga University where I finished my bachelor’s degree with a double major in visual arts and biology.  Originally I planned to become a medical illustrator but soon realized that a career in an isolated cadaver lab was not for me. I realized that I love people and that I thrive in an environment where I can develop relationships with others.  Because my biology degree closely mirrored the premedical curriculum, I started thinking about attending medical school to pursue a field where I could help and heal others.  Taking some time off of school, I moved to Nashville after graduation to participate in an AmeriCorps program in a low-income health clinic.

In 2005 my family and I had our lives dramatically changed when my father had a major stroke.  After weeks of hospitalization and months of physical therapy, his insurance stopped paying for rehabilitation.  At this point my parents turned to several alternative therapies, including acupuncture, warm-water physical therapy and Feldenkrais.  On one weekend home I had the opportunity to take my father to his acupuncture appointment with Dr. Yuanming Lu, who also happened to be a professor at Bastyr University.  My parents, wanting me to move back home to Seattle, encouraged me to check out the naturopathic medicine program at Bastyr.  In 2006 I visited Bastyr and immediately fell in love with the campus, the community, and the philosophy of naturopathic medicine.  My eyes were opened to a completely new type of medicine - a natural, holistic and truly patient-centered model of practice. 

At the same time it was becoming apparent that I had my own health issues that were getting progressively worse.  After multiple rounds of imaging and medication trials to find the cause of my stomach pain, I was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and was told by my medical doctor that there was nothing more I could do.  Being a motivated patient, I searched for answers on my own, and learned of the link between food sensitivities and IBS.  After my doctor refused to do the testing, I called the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, and the year before I began the ND program I had my first experience as a naturopathic patient.  I learned that I had multiple food sensitivities, including gluten, soy and dairy.  Eliminating these foods from my diet, in addition to other naturopathic therapies, changed my health and changed my life.  I am happy to report that I am now 99% symptom-free, and my health continues to improve year after year. 

In 2007 I began my education at Bastyr University in their Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program. The journey continues to amaze me, and every day that I am in school I fall more deeply in love with this incredible medicine.  I am excited to become a Physician, a Counselor and a Healer, and I am honored to be a part of the lives of patients as they are transformed.

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At October 18, 2011 at 8:09 AM , Blogger Emily Harnett said...

Hi Erika,

Archer Atkins is one of my friends from her days at PSU. I have been doing a lot of research on gluten intolerance, celiac disease and the gluten-free diet recently, as a result of a pile of symptoms that have gotten worse with time. I have been in and out of the doctor this past Summer with inconclusive diagnostic tests and diagnoses of IBS and GERD. The more I research, the more I'm convinced that I can cure my symptoms with a gluten-free diet. Reading your story helped me, and I chose to follow your blog. Thanks!



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