Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Acrobat Walks Into a Medical School

Learn how Becky Meldrum leapt from Cirque du Soleil to Bastyr's naturopathic medicine program — and how they're alike.

Meldrum in campus hallway
Becky Meldrum says acrobatics taught her to reconsider what is "impossible."

Becky Meldrum came to Bastyr University after performing in Cirque du Soleil, competing in Ironman-length triathlons, and cycling across the country visiting small family farms. We asked her to tell us about her adventures, and she kindly agreed.

Five years ago I was living in Las Vegas, performing as an acrobat in the Cirque du Soleil show "KÀ." Twice a night, five nights a week, I would help tell a story of good versus evil alongside 80 other performers and 120 technicians in a $260 million theatre.

I have been asked how I found my way to Bastyr from the circus. My interest in medicine has grown over time as a progression of my learning and understanding of health. I believe my transition to naturopathic medical school is a continuation of my ongoing quest and fascination with the human spirit, mind and body.

Growing up, I spent 18 years as a gymnast, including four years competing for Stanford while studying human biology with a focus on biophysical wellness in aging. After college, it was an adjustment not doing gymnastics, so I filled my need for physical activity working as the sports manager for Special Olympics Nevada and developing a new passion completing my first full-distance triathlon.

I still missed acrobatics, though, and found myself frequenting Cirque shows, one of the few places an acrobat can work professionally. Having never been much of a performer, I was afraid to audition. The athletes of all abilities at Special Olympics and their propensity to train and compete without inhibition, however, finally inspired me to send an audition video to Cirque. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meldrum doing handstand in campus gardenI have always been amazed with the human body and what it can do. It fascinates me how changing one's perspective allows something that first appeared impossible to become within your ability. My first day at the "KÀ" theatre, I was up on the grid, walking the equivalent of a thin catwalk, hands sweating as I could barely look down 120 feet to the cement basement below. How was I ever going to perform at this height in front of 2,000 people?

Looking back now, I miss performing “last peg,” the climax of a chase scene that takes place on a spinning 80,000-pound stage that tilts until it's nearly vertical. By the end of the scene, I was the only performer left on the cliff, hanging by one arm on one peg. I would save up all my stress from the week, face the audience, realize my impending "doom," and plunge 60 feet into the basement, landing on the world’s largest airbag, screaming all the way. This was my stress release!

I continued to learn about the human body and explore the art of the impossible as I evolved as a performer and triathlete. I would run, bike and/or swim before going to work to train and then perform two shows later that night. In all, I have completed five Ironman distance triathlons — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run — that have taught me to appreciate the power of the mind.

During this time I also had my first introduction to naturopathic medicine. I was frustrated with doctors and searching for alternative guidance. I happened to make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor, a Bastyr graduate. I had a long, enlightening appointment and left feeling excited about what health care could be. Later, a cross-country bike trip with my husband visiting small, organic and family farms reinforced my belief that individual health is intricately connected to the health of our communities and the health of our planet. I applied to Bastyr knowing my passion for prevention and sharing energy can grow into a role in a highly needed health profession.

Being a naturopathic medical student is much like being an acrobat or triathlete. At times it may seem improbable studying and practicing a form of medicine that is so beautiful and natural, but so far from the current medical system ingrained in our culture. However, naturopaths believe profoundly in the healing power of nature and by doing so, reach beyond what seems possible. Just as acrobats literally look at the world from a different perspective and push their bodies toward seemingly inhuman feats, naturopathic doctors look at what health care can be from a very different perspective by treating the whole person and treating the cause, not just managing symptoms.

Doing full-distance triathlons, I learned it is more about the process than the finish line. It is the same for earning a naturopathic degree and educating the public about our medicine. Much has to be studied and learned before crossing a finish line. I do not expect to always have smooth water or the wind at my back. But I know that for those times I feel lost or off course, I can always, always take one more stroke, one more pedal, or one more step, and I can find myself back on a course to find that finish line.

Here at Bastyr, I am so excited to be part of a community in which we push ourselves physically and mentally. Yes, naturopathic medical school is hard, but so are Ironman races and so is performing for Cirque du Soleil! We have all had challenging experiences leading us to where we are, and it is from these experiences that we grow and learn the most. As naturopathic students, we have arrived on this common path from very diverse pasts. And from these unique journeys, we create a new beginning.

—By Becky Meldrum, naturopathic medicine student

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Learn more about seeing the world from a new perspective through Bastyr's Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program. Back flips not included.

FALL 2015
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