Supporting the Success of Students at CCNM and Beyond

September is always a special time at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). We welcome our brand new first-year students from all over Canada and the U.S. and celebrate the beginning of the school year with a Welcome Back BBQ. Second- and third-year students get deeper into the study and application of naturopathic medicine, while fourth-year students intern at our one of our teaching clinics and work one-on-one with patients and their health care needs.

Journey to China

We offer many externship opportunities at CCNM. In early September, a group of third- and fourth-year students, led by CCNM Clinic Supervisor Amanda Zheng, ND, had the opportunity to intern at the Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, in China. For one month, students shadowed clinical and teaching activities and learned about the way the hospitals treat patients using a blend of traditional Chinese medicine and conventional approaches. And to cap off the trip, the students delivered a presentation on CCNM and naturopathic medicine to the hosting doctors and residents. See the gallery from their visit.

Student-led research

One of the reasons why CCNM is renowned for research is because students and faculty often collaborate on a wide range of studies, helping to further the profession and naturopathic medicine. To support and promote student-led research at CCNM, we established the Student Innovation Fund. The winners of this year’s fund are third-year students Bisleen and Christilynn, who won a grant to investigate naturopathic care for fibromyalgia at CCNM’s on-campus teaching clinic, the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic.

Opportunities for new grads

We had four new clinical residents start with us in August, and all were graduates from the CCNM Class of 2019. They are focused on clinical training and supervising interns at CCNM’s teaching clinics, the Integrative Cancer Centre, or community healthcare clinics.

In the most recent issue of CCNM’s alumni magazine, we featured our new resident, Greg Nasmith, ND, who shares how he prepared himself for residency. In the same issue, Class of 2018 graduate Max Crispo, ND, covered his whirlwind year since graduating, which involved writing licensing exams and a move from Toronto to Hawaii to start a residency position in integrative cancer care.

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Dr. Sean X. Hesler – SCNM

“My awakening to the moral imperative as a privileged global citizen is what drove my focus on global medicine.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“I came into integrative medicine through chiropractic. After a back injury in high school treated with little relief, I was referred to a chiropractor. I decided I wanted to work full-time in global health, and to be a complete physician, able to use a variety of modalities and always with my hands, food, and the plants growing around me to help people heal themselves.”

SCNM as a springboard

“The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) was the right college for me because it had the only chapter of Naturopaths Without Borders (NWB) and the broadest scope of training. SCNM teaches acupuncture in the core curriculum and is the only US naturopathic medical school to do so. Acupuncture is a strong part of our global health repertoire and we have used it not only for one-on-one consults but also to train international health workers in basic treatments to help their own communities.

SCNM trained me to be a well-rounded naturopathic doctor. I gained a school-family I will treasure forever. My work with NWB also set the stage for my future in not-for-profit management and leadership.

In order to prepare myself to succeed in global health, I gained as much experience as I could working in low-resource communities in the US and abroad. Through my shifts as a student in SCNM’s free community clinics around Phoenix, I learned how to apply foundational, root-cause naturopathic care to people who otherwise lack access to care.

After working with Ryan Ferchoff, ND and seeing the naturopathic approach to the patient and how the pieces come together, I knew I wanted to bring this style of medicine to those most in need around the world.”

Global Health

“My wife (Sarah Preston Hesler, ND) and I graduated naturopathic medical school and then we moved to Haiti to not only see patients, but more importantly to open and operate the MamaBaby Haiti birth center in Cap Haitien. It was the first free-standing birth center in northern Haiti.  Afterward we started NWB’s work in Haiti initially three months on, three months off and eventually training and hiring local community health workers to take over the work.

For me, my awakening to the moral imperative as a privileged global citizen is what drove my focus on global medicine. Underserved communities tend to receive sparse and poor-quality care, with a lack of options and cultural disempowerment from the dominant model of medical care and reliance on unaffordable technology and medications. I have the tools to act, and I’m choosing to act.

Naturopaths Without Borders serves the global community through sustainable medicine, but it also promotes best practices in global health within the profession and promotes the profession within the larger global health community. We are focused on evolving integrative approaches to health worldwide through our volunteers and our local community health workers. I’m proud of the organization we have built and for its bright future as a driving force to build #oneworldinhealth!

Regardless of your future plans, you should register for my webinar to hear how a strong foundation of naturopathic medicine will empower you to serve wherever you go and with whatever you choose to do. Although our philosophy is focused on our relationship with the individual patient, I will illuminate what happens when we apply it to communities and global health. You will learn pearls from my successes and challenges in 13 years of global health work and leadership.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“My favorite thing about being an ND is flexibility – of tools, of the hats I can wear, and of the cultures I work among. Drawing from whatever modality we need makes us so versatile as practitioners . Using chronic pain as an example, we can utilize spinal manipulation and injection techniques, modulate inflammation through nutrition and botanical medicine, perform acupuncture and teach the patient hydrotherapy to use at home. My prescription rights give me respect from, and open opportunities for collaboration with our conventional colleagues abroad. As a physician, I integrate easily into the healthcare team and bridge the gap between doctors and public health.

Dr. Sarah and I balance our work between NWB work administratively and in the field, private practice and teaching.

In my nine  years since graduation I have worked around the world involved in direct patient care and project management, but as we have grown as an organization I have shifted to stepping back and empowering our community of NDs to step into the field work as I work to build NWB and teach students.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Decide what you want to do on a daily basis – if it’s meeting patients, listening to their stories and helping them take their health to a new level, naturopathic medicine might be for you. You need an entrepreneurial spirit in business and beyond – we are a rapidly-growing profession and we need innovators and go-getters!”

Learn more about Dr. Hesler:

Naturopaths Without Borders

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Healthy Halloween Treats

Trick or Treat! Prepare or beware – Halloween will soon be upon us, and with that – parties and sweets, galore! Here are some healthy alternatives to the traditional sugary snacks that will impress parents and children alike!


For an unpeeled banana, use a permanent marker to draw ghost eyes and mouth. For a peeled banana, cut in half and use mini chocolate or carob chips to create ghost eyes and mouth.

Spider Eggs

Wash organic green grapes and add them to small snack size plastic bag.

Mummy Juice

Trade out sugary drinks for healthier options. Mini waters may not be super exciting or environmentally friendly, but they do have practical uses. Juice boxes are another great alternative to sodas, but make sure to keep it natural with only 100% organic juice. For a little more fun, consider covering the juice boxes or water bottles with colored construction paper and create designs such as Frankenstein, ghosts or pumpkins.

Cheesy Ghosts

Simply apply three dots for ghost eyes and mouth with permanent marker to an organic wrapped cheese stick.

Fruity Pumpkins

Peel a clementine and add a small celery stalk piece or small pretzel stick to the middle to create a pumpkin.  For an unpeeled clementine, use a permanent marker to create a Jack-O-Lantern.

Spider Webs

Place mini pretzel rods in a circle on parchment paper and drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top.

Mummy Hands

Add air-popped popcorn to latex-free plastic gloves and tie the end.

Strawberry Ghosts

Stick a long kabob into the tip of the strawberry and push through the middle. Dip the strawberry in white chocolate and set on wax paper to set. Apply mini chocolate chips for ghost eyes and mouth once the chocolate has solidified a bit.

Brain Jello

Organic and preservative-free jello can be added to fun, Halloween themed molds.

Apple Monsters

Cut a wedge halfway across the middle of an apple and line with organic peanut or other nut/seed butter. Add sunflower seeds for teeth and a strawberry slice for a tongue. Feel free to employ the kids in making these as is age appropriate.

Honorable mention: consider passing out pencils, erasers or other small Halloween themed gifts instead of store-bought candy.

With these unique and healthy ideas, your house is sure to be a favorite this Halloween!

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What is Self-Care?

Guest post by JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE

It sounds pretty self-explanatory and simple to think about self-care. Self-care in a nutshell is making sure we recharge our internal battery and don’t let ourselves run on empty.

Early on – during my first week of medical school, I took a course titled “Physician Heal Thyself.” While it seemed like a cool class, at 22, I didn’t fully understand why it was important for me as a future healer to make sure I was mindful, and taking time to ensure I had enough juice and stamina to be of service to others. As clinic and coursework kicked into higher gear, I was thankful for the class and tools. My naturopathic classmates and I were also good monitors of each other and when we needed to take a breather.

Core to self-care is self-awareness. This means being in tune with your body and emotions and staying ahead of issues that may arise. The more hectic life gets, the more important this is to practice.

Some people choose to incorporate self-awareness as part of a meditation/prayer. They check in and scan their emotions and body for anything that is ‘stuck’ or out of synch. While doing this exercise, it is important to do so without judgment. Simply notice the feelings, make note of them and why they may be there. For example, if you are feeling angry or anxious, or in pain – ask yourself why. Symptoms in your body are its way of communicating that something needs attention.

During times of stress, it is even more important to take time to fill your cup. Please accept our version of “Self-Care Bingo” as a fun way to make sure you’re taking time for YOU.

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Dr. John Finnell – Bastyr

“As the first naturopathic physician and acupuncturist appointed to lead a Veterans Affairs Whole Health program, I will do my best to represent our professions and medicine in the best way.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Austin College, John S. Finnell, ND, MPH, LAc told the admissions advisors at the allopathic and osteopathic medical schools that he was interested in studying preventative, nutritional, and botanical medicines. Much to his dismay, his advisors informed him that he would have to look elsewhere for preventative healthcare education.

Prior to pursuing his naturopathic medical education, Dr. Finnell completed a Master’s of Science in environmental engineering and sustainable infrastructure at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. His first career was as an environmental engineer and chemist, contracting for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Dallas. Dr. Finnell completed Superfund site assessments and remediation plans, refinery site inspections, and emergency response for the Columbia Space Shuttle accident.

“I knew that I needed to get back on my original path, once my work in the environmental field began to negatively affect my health.”

Bastyr as a springboard

“I had a dejavu moment my first week in Seattle that made me a believer that Bastyr chose me. I was driving around Green Lake and remembered that, ten years before, a dear friend had told me that I should check out this small herbal medicine school, as she drove me to visit the medical school admissions office at the University of Washington, in 1994. Across from the Seattle Zoo, as I reminisced, an oversized pickup truck t-boned my car. The next thing I knew, my car was totaled and I was at the Swedish Hospital, alive and more than a little rattled. You see, I was given another chance to get back on my path. Perhaps whomever was looking out for me decided that I needed a dose of my own medicine. I got it in the form of a full recovery with the help of naturopathic and east Asian medicines at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health.”

While at Bastyr University, “I gained an understanding of the human condition that I could hardly have imagined when I started my first day of class. I learned of the life stories of my patients, classmates, and teachers. I saw healing take place within each of them as we walked the path together. I learned about human anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, and about the diseased state and creating the conditions for healing. I learned how to practice the art of the medicine, and I learned how to simultaneously become a critic and an aficionado of our art.

After I graduated, I completed a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH; previously NCCAM) post-doctoral research fellowship at the Bastyr University Research Institute, under the mentorship of Ryan Bradley, ND, and Leanna Standish, PhD, ND, LAc (5T32AT000815), and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) in epidemiology at the University of Washington. I successfully obtained foundation and faculty seed grants to conduct a clinical trial of the effects of vitamin D supplementation (Traub et al., 2014). I also participated in collaborative studies assessing the patterns of use and safety of CIH interventions (Mischley, Vespignani, & Finnell, 2013; Sexton et al., 2014; Sexton, Cuttler, Finnell, & Mischley, 2016).

I then gained an appointment as director of a postgraduate doctoral program and research at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, a regionally-accredited CIH institution in Austin, Texas. While at AOMA, I became funded by an administrative supplement for a complementary health practitioner research experience (PA-16-013) awarded in support of the parent R01 entitled: Functional Orthopedic Rehab Treatment-Amended (FORT-A) Program (R01AT008422-01). All of this work helped me find my way to the next stage of my career.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

I love my life in San Antonio, in my home state of Texas. Texas, specifically San Antonio, was the home of Herbert Shelton, ND, one of the pioneers of the practice of natural hygiene within the profession. The Stark Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, hosts the Todd-McClean Library with one of the largest naturopathic medicine collections in the world. I am now the Whole Health Program Manager at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, one of 18 Whole Health Flagship sites. As the first naturopathic physician and acupuncturist appointed to lead a Veterans Affairs Whole Health program, I will do my best to represent our professions and medicine in the best way.”

I love my profession and will never get bored. The part that I love the most is the size of our toolbox. What do you do when your patient comes into your acupuncture practice but is afraid of needles? To name a few…diet, exercise, mind-body practices, fasting, mythopoetic exploration, herbal medicine, physical medicine, and homeopathy. What do you do when your patient comes into your acupuncture practice but is not afraid of needles? Well…you do all of the above plus acupuncture.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

When I interviewed at Bastyr, they asked me what I wanted to do with my education. My reply was that I wanted to study naturopathic and Chinese medicine, research to bring this medicine into the mainstream, and move back home, gain licensure and start a school in my home state. Patience – I am working on it!

My plan was to complete the MS in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, in order to be able to practice in Texas, while we gained licensure for naturopathic medicine. I also planned to gain rigorous training in research methodologies in order to create broader acceptance of this medicine in the halls of medicine and in the halls of Congress. I am still walking along that path; it’s my life’s path.

The late Bill Mitchell, ND, said in class one day that: ‘The truth will bubble up!’ Those who know me know the turtle mantra: ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ Be true to the medicine and steadfast in your calling. Along your path, you are the holder of the medicine of the past and the medicine of the future.”

Learn more about Dr. Finnell

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Dr. JoAnn Yanez on KCAA 09/11/19

Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss the importance of getting to the root cause of pain whenever possible, before treating with opioids.






Full Transcript of Interview Below.

Topics Include:

  • Understanding and addressing the root cause of pain
  • The financial and intangible costs of pain
  • Personal and health expenditures of pain
  • Pain as a leading cause of disability
  • Pain as a symptom
  • Natural approaches to pain
  • And more…

Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA and I’m so excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She’s the Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. She joins us once a month to talk about health and wellness and just overall positive living from a naturopathic physician’s perspective. Dr. Yanez, welcome back to the show.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you. Good morning.

Erin Brinker: Good morning. So, are you a betting person?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I am not.

Erin Brinker: I’m not either. I’m just kidding. I don’t even play the nickel slots or whatever.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah, no. “Not I,” said the fly. No, I am not, but I understand that lots of folks are and it can cause people pain. I think that was what we were here to talk about today.

Erin Brinker: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: How’s that for a segue?

Erin Brinker: There you go. That’s perfect. So how do you … We all hear about this, the opioid crisis, and certainly there have been deaths nationwide from people who’ve become addicted to opioids and then find themselves taking off the shelf stuff, heroin, fentanyl, and it’s been devastating for families.

Todd Brinker: What shelf is that on?

Erin Brinker: Yeah. Well exactly. That’s my point.

Todd Brinker: Street drugs.

Erin Brinker: Street drugs, thank you. I was trying to … I don’t know what I was trying to do. Anyway …

Todd Brinker:  I know. I’m teasing.

Erin Brinker: But people who deal with chronic pain, they’re still left, having to deal with that pain. So how are they supposed to function?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Well, I think that we have to look at pain from a number of different factors in this country. I believe we’ve talked about this maybe in different tangents before, but pain was classified essentially as the fifth vital sign, and so in addition to heart rate, blood pressure, et cetera, pain was also assessed at patient visits. And what happened, this is a good thing, because pain had been being undertreated, but it turned pain into, okay, well somebody reports something, now we have to do something for it.

I don’t have any problem with the fact that we were uncovering and addressing pain, but the key issue is that we really didn’t look at … in naturopathic medicine, we follow the therapeutic order, and I know I’ve talked about this before. The therapeutic order basically dictates that you start with the lowest hanging fruits first, the easiest interventions, the safest, the gentlest ones first, and then you go up in severity from there. For naturopathic doctors, we’ll focus on addressing the root cause and we’ll try and do it as naturally as possible. So, if you’re going straight to an opiate or straight to something very strong for pain without number one, finding out why the pain is there, and then number two, finding out if there’s a gentler approach, we’re doing patients a disservice.

And so fundamentally, I think that the system in some factions is broken and we really need to be looking at addressing the root cause of why someone is in pain and then helping them to understand the triggers for the pain, what they can do for pain naturally, and then there’s always medication. You can always go there. Nobody likes to see anyone in pain. In fact, yesterday I got the dreaded call from school to come get my son. He was at lunch crying in the corner, apparently teething, and his mouth was hurting him really bad, and so nobody wants to see anyone in pain. It kind of breaks your heart. The whole staff is sitting there like, “We wanted to cry. He looked so sad.”

Erin Brinker: Poor little guy.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It doesn’t do anyone’s heart good to see anybody in pain, and so it’s very common in medicine. You want to take that away, “Okay, well I’ve got a way to make your pain go away. Let me do that for you.” Because it’s hard. It’s really hard to watch people in pain. However, we’re not, as you mentioned with the opiate epidemic, deaths by opiates, and the subsequent sequelae that happens with addiction, we’re dealing with a crisis and so we have to look pain in the face and say, “How do we do this better?” because I think as a country we can do better.

And so I’m part of a number of academic initiatives that look at pain, that look at the integrative approaches to pain. There are a number of different ways that medical professionals can work with pain patients, and obviously pain is a big bucket. There are so many different things that will fall in there. There’s acute pain, chronic pain, neurologic pain, things like fibromyalgia, which are a different beast. There are so many different diseases that manifest in pain symptoms: chronic headaches, migraines, GI complaints, back pain. Overall in this country, we spend, and this is a conservative estimate, between $560 billion and $635 billion on pain.

Todd Brinker:  Wow.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: In addition to all the personal and health expenditures, chronic pain really impacts the physical and mental functioning of people, quality of life, work productivity, and relationships, personal relationships. When you’re in pain, most folks are not too pleasant to be around.

Erin Brinker: No.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Pain is also the leading cause of disability. So, I think we have to look this in the face. This is the leading cause of disability. What do we need to do differently? When I was in practice, I saw chronic back pain patients, folks with sciatica, things like plantar fasciitis and different types of nerve pain and migraines, and there are so many alternatives that can be offered in addition to medication or in lieu of medication that often aren’t fully explored before medication is offered.

And so that is just kind of my soapbox. It’s, “Okay, medication is there, but before we go there, have we exhausted the other options? Have we looked at everything else? Is that all off the table?” And if it is, sure, absolutely, go to the meds. But let’s check out some of the alternatives that do have data and that do have science behind them. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has significant research behind it for the use in pain, relaxation and mind-body techniques, massage, physical medicine also are strong depending on the presentation.

I remember a number of years back, actually all the newborn pictures I have with my son, my husband was wearing a neck brace, and it turned out it was his glasses. He was having to tilt his head down with glasses that weren’t quite fit appropriately and was getting this chronic neck pain because he was on the computer all day long. And so it wasn’t until we tweaked his working environment, he tweaked his working environment, and got an ergonomic person at work to come in and help him out that the neck pain went away.

Erin Brinker: Interesting.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: They were already saying, “Hey, maybe you should go to surgery,” and all that kind of stuff. I’m like, “Hold the phone. Wait a second.” So, I think we really can do a better job at uncovering all of those other lifestyle factors, things that we can do from a preventative standpoint, to look at and address pain holistically before going to those harder, more life-altering interventions.

Erin Brinker: And all of those, the … I 100% agree with you. I’m baffled. I’m just shocked at this, the glasses and that figured out that his neck pain was caused by that and you were able to fix it. That’s just … It’s wonderful. But one of the challenges I think that doctors face with their patients is that the patient is in pain right now. Give me something that’ll fix it right now. And the expectation that it’ll be taken care of, and I understand why they expect it. Pain hurts. I mean, that’s what pain is, and perhaps we need to kind of …

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Pain is a sign. Pain is a signal. Pain is a symptom. When you have your car, I just had the little check tire pressure light went off this week, and you can pay attention to that signal and go take your car in and go get it checked, or you could unplug the light, and I think in some aspects, and I’m not saying that anything is wrong. There are times where pain is 10 out of 10 and you can’t function and you need to unplug that light. But you have to recognize that hey, maybe you’re driving with a nail in your tire.

Erin Brinker: Yeah. That’s a great analogy. Maybe you are driving with a nail in your tire.

Todd Brinker: Or in your back.

Erin Brinker: Or in your back.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You can take that pain med. You could do all of that, but hey, let’s get the nail out of the tire.

Erin Brinker:  Yeah. So yeah. I …

Todd Brinker: Which seems perfectly obvious, but not, as you said, always the first choice.

Erin Brinker: Exactly. And I’m sorry. I know I’m having … I’m getting over a cold. I’m having a hard time getting questions out of my head, so I apologize. So, the key that is finding a practitioner, finding a physician, a naturopathic physician, or just an MD or DO that will take the time to sit with you and kind of figure out what’s behind the pain that you’re feeling.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Is it the glasses? Okay. Sometimes it’s crazy, like let’s get to the root cause. Let’s address what is really the cause of this. I’ve seen patients over the years, avid cyclists with sciatica, folks with just bad body posture, bones that are not quite aligned well, things that stressors, food even that is triggering abdominal pain and all of that. You’ve got to find the root cause, and once you can, there are times where the root cause may be structural and maybe somebody has to live with something chronic. But there are still ways of managing chronic issues that don’t always resort to opiates and very strong medications with strong side effects. That’s the key. They’re there when we need them. Thank goodness they are, but let’s not turn to that first if we can avoid it.

Erin Brinker: Wonderful. So how do people find out more information about you, about the AANMC and about naturopathic medicine in general?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. We are all on the interweb, We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram handles. Come check us out. Next week we’re hosting a webinar with Dr. Casey Seenauth, of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine’s Neil Riordan Regenerative Medicine Center, and he’s going to be hosting a webinar on integrative approaches to pain management. I hope that if this is something that is interesting for folks, they can come and check it out and learn about the emerging field of regenerative medicine.

Erin Brinker: Well Dr. Yanez, it’s always enlightening to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Awesome. Thanks folks. Have a great one.

Erin Brinker: Thank you, you too. So with that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker:  And I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We will be right back.

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