Naturopathic doctors are currently regulated in 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. There, the physicians can perform physical exams and order lab work.
Lawmakers in New York are currently discussing legislation that would license naturopathic doctors in the state, provided they have the right training.
Right now, naturopathic doctors in New York, like Amy Cole, can only work as consultants. Cole says as a naturopathic physician, she tries to identify the underlying causes of an illness, often by addressing someone’s diet and using natural substances.
“The example I always give to people, because this is a question that comes up a lot, is if I have someone coming in to me with, let’s say, acid reflux, I’m not saying to them ‘let’s take this herb instead of this acid reflux medication.’ I’m saying ‘why do you have the acid reflux in the first place?’ ” says Cole.
Teresa Figueroa has been a patient of Cole’s for the past several months. The two have been working to address Figueroa’s hot flashes, which she believes have dramatically decreased since seeing Cole.
“I would much rather go to her as my primary doctor than a primary in New York State, but unfortunately, we can’t do that,” says Figueroa.
Cole has been practicing for 11 years. Before that, she went to an accredited naturopathic medical school, where she underwent a national exam. She says being licensed in New York would help her better treat patients and give people a better idea of a doctor’s medical training.
"Right now in the state of New York, anybody can call themselves a naturopath or a naturopathic doctor, and there are some people who may have done a weekend course or a 10-week online course and are using that term,” says Cole, “The problem with that is that there is no distinction between someone who has done that versus someone who has gone to eight years of school and passed national licensing examinations.”
Both the State Senate and Assembly versions of the bill are in committee.