I Want to Be in the Olympics

Amy Rothenberg ND
4 min readJul 1, 2021

As we head into this summer 2021, I have the Olympics on my mind. I think back to a sultry day in 1972, sitting spellbound in front of a Magnavox TV. Wide-eyed on the cool linoleum floor, I am riveted to the screen where Olga Korbut, the spritely Belarusian gymnast, strikes a pose. With her twinkling eyes and pixie grin, she zips along her floor exercise routine, performing her heart out, ending, her jaw jutted out in triumph. I have a distinct thought: I want to be in the Olympics.

Instead, I become a naturopathic doctor.

Not exactly the same thing, but I think for health care providers across the medical landscape, there are parallels with many aspects of athletics, gaining expertise and helping patients.

Although a far cry from a floor exercise mat or baseball diamond, when I am in the clinic, work takes on the feeling of an athletic pursuit. Listening to patients’ stories requires a kind of endurance. Like any athlete, I need to be comfortable in my body, undistracted by surroundings; I need to be in the zone. For a naturopathic doctor, this means knowing the routine of taking a patient history and performing a physical exam. It means understanding the patient’s lifestyle and stressors in their life. I need natural medicine strategies for all manner of diagnoses or need to know how to access such information. And I need to be able to do all that in a timely fashion and with confidence.

I need to know my teammates — who is the best referral for this patient for further diagnostic workup or for natural medicine or allopathic treatment modalities I do not offer. Like a teammate, I need to remember I have colleagues I can call upon. I need to be able to keep in the game even in the face of setbacks, whether it’s a non-compliant patient or someone for whom my approaches fall short. I need to be resilient when a patient passes away. When things are going well, I need to focus on what’s working and try to do more of it. If I am not doing well with a patient, I need to work harder and smarter, both in my own analysis of the patient and in my using available resources.

Like any athlete who develops field awareness, I need all my senses to observe my patient and to react with both subtle and larger adjustments to things I perceive. Most pitchers have all kinds of pitches they…

Amy Rothenberg ND

American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s 2017 Physician of the Year. Teacher, writer and advocate for healthy living. www.nhcmed.com