As a teaching clinic, Bastyr Center for Natural Health provides health services to our community and hands-on clinical training to future health care providers. If you have visited Bastyr Center, you know that student clinicians play a key role in your care.
Kristen Spitz recently earned her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Bastyr University and is now nearing completion of her Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. When she finds the time away from her clinical training, she heads outdoors to hike with her two mountain dogs, explore Washington with her husband and practice stand-up paddle boarding.
Learn more about Kristen and her drive to be on the leading edge of health and medicine:
On why she chose a career in medicine
“Growing up in Kentucky, I used to accompany my mother on her visits to one of the only chiropractor/acupuncturists in the area. I remember my fascination with acupuncture and to my young mind it seemed almost magical. Throughout high school I continued to explore areas of alternative medicine and felt that the treatments and ideas behind alternative medicine were truly on the cutting edge of health and medicine. This interest started me on a path that eventually led me to Bastyr, which I believe is at the forefront of the natural medicine revolution.”
On her particular clinical interests
“One of the aspects that I love about naturopathic medicine is that the patient is not defined by their diagnosis. Instead of looking at a person as their disease, we look at a person in the entire context of their experience. In this manner, the disease process is simply one piece to the puzzle. In that same way, traditional Chinese medicine fascinates me because two people may both come to the clinic separately for something such as low back pain, but their treatment will most likely be quite different as it is based upon the overall constitution of the patient. That being said, what truly interests me is the person themselves — their story, their lifestyle and the conditions that may have predisposed them to whatever condition they may be struggling with.”
On especially challenging clinical cases
“I have to smile, because as a novice practitioner, it’s hard to imagine a time when there will be any cases that aren’t challenging! But the beauty of our training is that, now having finished my naturopathic studies and in my final quarter of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, there are many cases and conditions that I feel well-prepared for and confident to successfully take on. I think the most rewarding types of cases that I have seen are patients whom I term “Alternative Medicine Rookies.” These are people who have never consulted or seen anyone outside of the traditional medical system. It is incredibly rewarding to discuss the many possibilities for treatment and healing offered by our clinic. Often their eyes light up when learning about therapies such as acupuncture and physical medicine that have little-to-no side effects, versus their daily prescription medications that may have undesirable side effects.”
On combining naturopathic medicine with acupuncture and Oriental medicine
“The foundation and overarching goal of naturopathic medicine is to strategically clear obstacles that may be interfering with the innate process of healing. There are various modalities and therapies that can be used to achieve this goal. In this regard, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be additional useful tools to directly access and stimulate the “qi” of the body. In more chronic conditions where the initial goal of therapy is to treat and address symptoms such as pain, insomnia, depression, etc., the combination of naturopathic lifestyle interventions — such as balancing diet, exercise and a few specific herbs or supplements — combines effectively with treatments of acupuncture for direct and often immediate decrease in symptoms. In my experience, almost every patient I see could benefit from a fusion of acupuncture and naturopathic therapies to further address the foundational causes of why they began having symptoms in the first place.”
On her plans for the future
“Right now I’m feeling very lucky to be able to start the first step of my career goals this fall, when I begin a two-year combined naturopathic medicine and acupuncture residency at Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Through this opportunity I will further develop my skills and knowledge regarding the fusion of these modalities in a busy, well-established clinic. Future goals include eventually running my own clinic, lecturing and teaching on various topics in the field, and becoming even more involved with the critical political work that is constantly needed in these professions.”