Although she graduated in June 2014 with her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, she's continuing on at Bastyr Center for Natural Health as a student clinician treating acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine patients as she finishes up her Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
She has shared some of her journey on her blog, KrystalPlonski.com, and here she delves deeper into her path to natural medicine that eventually led her to Bastyr University:
What led you to Bastyr University and to study natural medicine?
"A variety of personal experiences brought me to the same endpoint: attending Bastyr University.
"I had always been exposed to various types of natural medicine from an early age. My mother was very interested in complementary and alternative healing methods from when I was a young child. I had a naturopathic physician in Connecticut who helped me overcome some food sensitivities and sleeping problems with homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies and nutritional advice. I also saw a chiropractor and acupuncturist regularly to help with some musculoskeletal complaints that I had, which helped resolve these issues completely.
"Secondly, during high school and college, I had worked at a chiropractor’s office as a front desk receptionist. I also had responsibilities that included putting hot packs onto the patients’ backs before getting an adjustment, helping people on and off certain musculoskeletal machines, and assisting in ultrasound therapies. The part of interacting with the patients in a more clinical setting gave me a lot of satisfaction, which prompted me to go to college for medicine, and eventually find my path to naturopathic medicine.
"Lastly, when I was an undergraduate as a pre-medical student, I was working in a chemical laboratory, I had inhaled a corrosive substance, which resulted in some burning in my lungs whenever I took a breath in. I immediately went to my primary care physician to seek some help with this issue, and I was prescribed a medication for to help with my gastrointestinal reflux symptoms. When I tried to explain to the physician that I was not having any heartburn, but pain when taking a breath in, they interrupted me to tell me that I should remember that I did not have the 'Dr.' in front of my name, and he/she knew what was best for my condition. At this point in time, I had realized that there was a limitation within the conventional system of medicine, and I was determined to find a better philosophy of medicine.
"I was searching for a type of medicine that included the whole person: mind, body, and emotions/spirit. One night a couple months before graduation from my undergraduate school, while I was searching on the internet for what medical schools were in my home state of Connecticut, a Google ad popped up on the sidebar of my search site: 'Bastyr University: a leading university in natural medicine.' Natural medicine — that sounds exactly like something that was fitting my requirement of holistic medicine.
"Previously, I never thought that clicking on a sidebar ad would change my life, but it had, and it was just the beginning to the journey that I have been on for the past five years as a dual-track student, studying to become a naturopathic physician, as well as get my Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine."
What are some of your clinical interests?
"My main clinical interest includes incorporating both Eastern and Western medicines when approaching patient care. Naturopathic medicine, as well as Eastern medicine, is a system of medicine based on the philosophy of treating the interrelationship between mental, physical and emotional health. From working with the supervisors in the Bastyr teaching clinic as well as my preceptorship/internship experience with various physicians within the United States, I have seen a lot of positive results from naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
"As for patient populations, I love working with pediatrics, and particularly adolescent medicine. I love learning what makes a child tick, what their interests are, what they want to be when they get older, and what kind of impact they want to have on the world. If I could influence this patient population in a positive way, and act as a role model to a subset of future adult patients, then this would be my greatest reward as a physician."
You have a blog that shares some of your insights into natural medicine. What do you hope to share with your readers through your posts?
"I originally started my blog, KrystalPlonski.com, in 2010 as a way to overcome my fear of public speaking (which it greatly helped!), to teach others about naturopathic medicine, and to document my time in medical school — which, by reflecting and looking back, has really flown by.
"I used it as an outlet to put into words what I really wanted to say, share information, with still having a humanistic approach to medicine, naturopathic medical school, and my experiences going through this process. I remember blogging about the time I first cried with a patient, the first time a patient made me cry, and everything in between. I look back on my early blog posts and really can reflect how much I have grown, how much I have learned, and how much the experiences that I have had in my life have shaped me into the person and doctor that I am today.
"The blog has really changed me in ways that I never thought could be possible. It has helped me gain a lot of confidence with speaking with patients, with connecting to them on an emotional level, and to making connections with various groups of people across the United States. I was surprised by all of the followers that it had gained within the few short years that I have had it up and running. I have had guest physicians write posts, other websites ask me to write a guest post, writers ask me to review books they have published, and other online bloggers interview me about naturopathic medicine. It is one of my greatest extracurricular accomplishments and achievements that I have done while at Bastyr."
You achieved your Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University this past June. How does that background help you when you’re seeing patients now for acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine? How do the practices overlap?
"There are so many times in the teaching clinic, as well as in internship sites, that I have seen the overlap between naturopathic and East Asian medicine. Topics range from etiology and root cause of disease, interactions between naturopathic herbs, Chinese herbs and pharmaceuticals, or diagnosing a patient from both a Western and Eastern medical perspective. I enjoy acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine when diagnosing and treating patients, because it takes on more of an art form — wind invasion, qi stagnation, yang deficiency, etc. The beauty of also knowing naturopathic medicine is that the translation from East Asian medicine to Western medicine is much easier. Although many times diagnoses overlap, a lot of common conditions can be explained and be complementary for both medical healing practices."
This is your final year at Bastyr Center as a student clinician. What are your plans after graduation in June 2015?
"My plan for after graduation is to pass my board exams, and begin as a first-year resident physician at a pediatric site in Kirkland, Washington. I am so excited to be able to bring all the skills I have learned at Bastyr, including craniosacral therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, and Japanese Shonishin Pediatric non-insertive acupuncture, to my future residency site."