Holistic Physician Defined

One of the more confusing aspects of holistic medicine is identifying the doctors and practitioners who deliver it. In the following sections (excerpted from the Appendix of Radical Medicine), Dr. Williams has not only itemized the specific education doctors, dentists and acupuncturists undergo to become licensed, but also the general category of treatment, or domain of expertise, in which each group particularly excels.

Each section provides a brief description of the five primary care physicians – NDs, DCs, DOs, MDs and DDSs, and the chief practitioners – LAcs, licensed in the US. It is important to keep in mind, however, that every doctor and practitioner is unique, and that healing techniques and philosophy within each profession can vary widely. Thus, the summary description of each profession is a general characterization of the majority-but not all-of the doctors and practitioners in each group.
Educational Comparison of the Six Major Healing Professions:
ND Naturopathic Doctor
DC Doctor of Chiropractic
DO Doctor of Osteopathy
MD Medical Doctor
DDS Doctor of Dental Surgery (Dentist)
LAc Licensed Acupuncturist


Naturopathic Doctors (ND)


Broadest Scope In Holistic Medicine
More than any other physician or practitioner, NDs are taught and practice the widest range of holistic therapies in natural medicine. Naturopathic doctors are the only physicians who are taught homeopathy3 and botanical (herbal) medicine as part of their college curriculum. Further, they receive more hours in nutrition than any other physician or practitioner.

Naturopathic Medical Education
Like other doctors, naturopaths must satisfy pre-med science requirements in their undergraduate education, before admission into a naturopathic medical school. Naturopathic students then attend a four year naturopathic college or university where the curriculum includes basic science courses (anatomy with human dissection, pathology, biochemistry, immunology, histology, etc.), as well as comprehensive training in natural therapies (botanical medicine, homeopathy, therapeutic nutrition, counseling, manipulation, hydrotherapy, environmental medicine, physical therapy, natural childbirth, etc.), physical and clinical diagnosis, pharmacology, clinical ecology and minor surgery (suturing, wound infection and burn management, use of local anesthetics, etc.). Like other doctors, naturopathic students also receive extensive clinical experience and training through treating patients under the supervision of naturopathic physicians in their college clinics, as well as in preceptorship programs while interning with naturopathic physicians in their private clinics.

Chiropractic Doctors (DC)


Diagnosis and Treatment Through Reading the Body
DCs are well known for being the most knowledgeable primary care physicians in the treatment of muscle and joint pain and dysfunction. This recognition is well deserved, since chiropractic colleges require more hours in neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment than any other physician or practitioner. In addition, chiropractic physicians receive extensive training in clinical nutrition – both in the classroom and their college outpatient clinics.

Many DCs facilitate their standard diagnostic assessment methods (history, exam, laboratory and x-ray findings) with energetic testing techniques. Although not all DCs use a form of energetic testing, as a group they have a much larger number of practitioners who specialize in this more esoteric diagnostic skill than any of the other healing professions. The majority of chiropractors utilize kinesiology techniques such as Applied Kinesiology (AK), Clinical Kinesiology (CK) and Autonomic Response Testing (ART). However, there are a number of other widely utilized indicator methods that use arm and leg length measurements including the Activator Method, Matrix Response Testing (MRT – formerly AM-FM), Directional Non-Force Technique (DNFT) and Derifield. Finally, some DCs – as well as a number of other holsitic physicians and practitioners – use electroacupuncture techniques that originated in Germany by Doctors’ Voll and Vega.

Chiropractic Education
Like other doctors, chiropractors must satisfy pre-med science requirements in their undergraduate education. Chiropractors then attend four-year post-graduate chiropractic colleges whose curriculum comprises basic and clinical sciences including anatomy with human dissection, neurophysiology, radiology, histology, cellular physiology, immunology, pathology, clinical psychology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and more. Additionally, chiropractic physicians receive over 550 hours in spinal analysis and adjusting techniques, as well as extensive training in differential diagnosis that greatly augments their clinical expertise in distinguishing between somatovisceral (primary musculoskeletal dysfunction that secondarily adversely affects an organ) and viscerosomatic (primary organ dysfunction that secondarily adversely affects the muscles and joints) relationships (as discussed in Chapter VI).

Osteopathic Doctors (DO)


Regaining Loss of Musculoskeletal Roots
Due to considerable harassment and persecution in the early and mid-twentieth century from the allopathic medical profession, osteopathic colleges reduced much of their emphasis on manual manipulation in order to survive as a profession. However, over the last few decades with the rise of holistic medicine, the number of osteopaths practicing spinal manipulation and craniosacral therapy has been increasing. Therefore, newer graduates – as well as older DOs who attended osteopathic college in the mid-twentieth century when spinal manipulation was more respected as a healing art – are more likely to utilize these hands-on therapeutic approaches. In most cases, however, the majority of osteopaths currently practice almost identically to MDs, primarily utilizing the allopathic tools of prescription drugs and surgery as their basic healing modalities.

Osteopathic Medical Education
Like other physicians, osteopaths must satisfy pre-med admission requirements before attending four-year osteopathic medical colleges and universities. And, also like other physicians, an osteopath’s medical education includes the basic and clinical sciences (anatomy with human dissection, pathology, histology, radiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physical and clinical diagnosis, etc.), as well as extensive training through treating patients under the supervision of osteopathic physicians in the college clinics and hospitals. After graduation, DOs, like MDs, can then practice as “GPs” (General Practitioners), or go on to specialize in a particular field (e.g., dermatology, gynecology, neurology, etc.) through (an average) three-year post-graduate residency program.

Medical Doctors (MD)


Post-graduate Seminars in Holistic Medicine
Due to the major influence pharmaceutical companies have had on modern medical teaching, medical schools have offered no courses in botanical (herbal) medicine or homeopathy, and have averaged only two hours of course work in nutrition throughout most of the twentieth century. Based on this strong allopathic orientation, the vast majority of medical doctors only utilize two major methods of healing – prescription drugs and surgery.

However, due to the increasing popularity of alternative medicine the past few decades, some MDs have endeavored to shore up their lack of holistic medical training through taking post-graduate seminars. These courageous few – often attacked by their allopathic colleagues and state boards – are fortunately growing in number.

Medical School

Like other physicians, prospective medical students must satisfy pre-med requirements in undergraduate colleges and universities, before being accepted into four-year medical schools. An MDs education is also similar to other physicians, and includes the basic and clinical sciences (anatomy with human dissection, pathology, histology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physical and clinical diagnosis, etc.), as well as extensive training through treating patients under the supervision of MDs in medical school clinics and hospitals. After graduation, MDs may then work as “GPs” (general practitioners), or go on to specialize in a particular field (e.g., pediatrics, psychiatry, orthopedics, etc.) through (on average) three-year post-graduate residency programs.

Doctors of Dental Surgery (DDS)


The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Presently, there exists three types of dental physicians in the world: the good – those who keep abreast of the current research that incontrovertibly proves the toxic and debilitating effects of mercury amalgam fillings and therefore no longer use it; the bad – those who don’t keep up with the current research or continue to believe the American Dental Association’s (ADA) unscientific stance that mercury is stable and non-toxic; and the ugly – those dentists who are aware of the current research and yet continue – out of fear or just a general lack of caring – to place it in their patients’ mouths.

Holistic, or “biological,” dentists are frequently attacked by their non-holistic colleagues and state boards, and daily risk losing their license and livelihood, simply for practicing in accordance with the prevailing scientific evidence on the toxicity of mercury amalgam (and other toxic metals) – as well as their own courage and integrity.

Dental Schools
Like other physicians, prospective dental students must satisfy basic science and other pre-med requirements in undergraduate colleges and universities, before being accepted into four-year dental schools. Further, similar to other doctors, a dentist’s education includes the basic and clinical sciences (anatomy with human dissection, pathology, histology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physical and clinical diagnosis, etc.), as well as extensive training through treating patients (history and exam, placing fillings and crowns, surgery, etc.) under the supervision of dental physicians in dental school clinics. Dentists may work as “general practitioners” after graduation, or go on to specialize in a particular field (e.g., oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatrics, periodontology, etc.) through continuing their training in two to six-year post-graduate residency programs.

Acupuncturists (LAc)


Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine
Acupuncture practitioners learn and practice all aspects of Chinese medicine, but are most well known for treating acupuncture points with needles and prescribing Chinese herbal medicines. In the past few decades, scientific research studies have proven what acupuncturists have known for millennia – that Chinese medicine can be effective in the treatment of all types of disease and dysfunction. In fact, Chinese medicine, as well as Ayurvedic medicine from India, can be considered to be the original systems of holistic medicine since they both view a patients’ symptoms in relationship to their whole body functioning, and further, they use natural non-synthetic medicines and healing methods

Acupuncture Education
Acupuncture and oriental medicine colleges require a minimum of two years in undergraduate school before admission into their three-year program. An acupuncturist’s education consists of studying Western medicine (anatomy and physiology, biology, pathophysiology, etc.) as well as Chinese medicine (oriental medicine diagnosis, five-element diagnosis, acupuncture meridians, Chinese herbal medicines, Qigong energetics, etc.). Students additionally receive supervised clinical instruction in needling techniques, using moxibustion, prescribing Chinese herbs, and so forth, in their college clinics and in preceptorship programs with licensed acupuncture practitioners.