Doctor as Teacher

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 in Blog

Docere’ is a fundamental standard of care in the world of Naturopathic Medicine. This is a Latin word that translates to “Doctor as Teacher”. It’s a philosophy of both medical practice and lifestyle for me, not very different from the way I view my role as a parent, but in a professional context. It is a standard of practice that helps me to empower patients to take control of their own health. Embracing this philosophy stems from both my training as a physician as well as my personal life experience. I grew up in an environment that valued knowledge and the passing of that knowledge to others. My grandfather was a chiropractor in the early days of chiropractic and he was able to help a lot of people recover from serious disability. He also taught his family, patients and even other medical practitioners, to care for themselves and others using natural methods. Much of my everyday clinical work revolves around making the complexities of medical science both understandable and accessible to my patients. This is sometimes done through an electronic medium, such as e-mail, blogs or web postings. I often refer patients to a specific website for more information on a subject, but I also use non-electronic means for teaching my patients who are not internet “savvy.” I have many patients who do not use the internet or electronic media at all, and yet the same needs are present. We give patients printed media as well, handouts on everything from managing the flu to monitoring blood pressure and choosing healthy foods. The right way to communicate with patients is all about meeting them wherever they are. This usually means finding a connection point somewhere in their lifestyle, journey, work, etc., that I can speak to in some way.

In my profession, teaching is seen as a necessary and vital part of the career path. Significant continuing education is a requirement for doctors in every state, (in Oregon, ND’s must have 50 + classroom hours every year). This is important because medical science evolves faster than any one person can keep abreast of, so it is a constant challenge to stay informed and up to date. The subsequent incorporation of that knowledge into clinical practice becomes a kind of a fluid process that involves passing the information on to patients and other medical professionals. Medical procedures have always been taught with the mantra, “Watch one, perform one, teach one…” although the “one” usually means “many.” The requirement to share what we have learned is at the heart of medicine.

Although I confess I came into the electronic age kicking and screaming (as anyone in my family would tell you), despite the shortcomings (and I know them all by heart) I have certainly come to appreciate the advantages of electronic media and the internet as teaching tools, and also the new doors that are open to me and my Docere’ colleagues – doors that open into avenues that simply were not possible in the past. The world is a different place because of these possibilities and these media allow us to exchange information and educate our patients beyond any level that has ever been possible in the past.

Dr. Ellen Sauter is a naturopathic physician at The Benchmark Clinic in NW Portland. She specializes in chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders and balancing brain chemistry. She can be reached at 503-223-7067 or contact us here.