Medical School Curricula: Traditional...

Medical School Curricula: Traditional Medicine Vs. Naturopathic Medicine

by Jingwei Chen
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Did you know that there are actually two types of medical schools in Canada? You are probably very familiar with medical schools, such as the schools at the University of Toronto or the University of Alberta, that teach traditional medicine. The other type of medical school teaches their students naturopathic medicine.

This article gives you an overview of some similarities and differences between the two medical school curricula. They are general because even schools offering the same degree may have different curricula. If you are interested in a specific school, you are encouraged to research that specific school.


  1. Length of schooling

Both conventional medical schools and naturopathic medical schools have a four-year-long program.

  1. How the first and last two years are structured

The first two years for both types of curricula focus on teaching the student biomedical knowledge, with courses in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, immunology, pharmacology, and microbiology. Note that in addition to this, naturopathic medical students are also exposed to courses specific to naturopathic medicine: these include homeopathy, nutrition, and botanical medicine.

Years 3 and 4 in medical schools introduce students to patient care. The students are now focused on learning clinical skills in real patient care settings. In the traditional medical school curriculum, the students apply what they learned in years 1 and 2. In the naturopathic medical school curriculum, in addition to practicing clinical skills, the last two years include studying lifestyle counselling, nutrition, and health promotion.


  1. Emphasis

What distinguishes naturopathic medicine from traditional medicine is the emphasis on preventing disease and optimizing wellness using holistic means. Naturopathic medical students are taught to become experts in clinical nutrition, lifestyle management, traditional Asian medicine and acupuncture, botanical medicine, and physical medicine. These topics are not considered part of traditional medicine and thus are not taught in their curriculum.

  1. The degree earned

Graduates of either school are addressed as Doctor, but their specific degrees are different. Conventional medical school graduates earn an MD degree; naturopathic medical school graduates earn an ND degree.

  1. Practicing after graduation

Naturopathic medical school graduates may immediately start practicing and treating patients. However, traditional medical school graduates receive further training in a chosen medical specialty. These are called residencies. They may last three to seven years, depending on the specialty, and are usually completed in teaching hospitals. In general, from starting medical school to practicing, naturopathic doctors’ training is shorter.

If you are interested in becoming a doctor in Canada, you need to decide whether you want to become a traditional or naturopathic doctor. The kind of medicine practiced by MDs and NDs is different, so their training will be different. This article summarized some of the general similarities and differences.


  1. https://aanmc.org/resources/comparing-nd-md-curricula/
  2. http://www.ccnm.edu/future-students/doctor-of-naturopathy
  3. https://nunm.edu/academics/school-of-naturopathic-medicine/doctor-of-naturopathic-medicine-degree/
  4. http://www.md.utoronto.ca/curriculum
  5. https://www.ualberta.ca/medicine/programs/md/curriculum
  6. http://study.com/steps_to_become_a_doctor.html

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