Tanya Denne – Bastyr ND Student

Hailing from Baker City, Oregon, Tanya Denne is a third-year naturopathic medical student at Bastyr University – Washington. She shares her path to naturopathic medicine and as an ND student with a special interest in Parkinson’s and Mucuna research.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

“In a similar path to how many arrive to here, chronic illness and running into dead ends within conventional medical systems led me to naturopathic medicine. My father worked as a liaison between the Forest Service and tribal populations so I grew up with exposure to Native American medicine. My favorite books as a child were the ones describing how Native Americans used the plants around them to create medicines. Since childhood I was unknowingly searching for this medical system of sustainability and prevention. I was thrilled when I found out there were medical schools and degrees dedicated to treating the whole person, and removing the obstacles to cure!

Field collection, India, 2015

“Being a naturopathic doctor will allow me to bridge the gap between patient care and bench research. I’ve always wanted to use the natural world around me as medicine. Naturopathic medicine allows me to do this. I can focus on researching Mucuna pruriens for Parkinson’s Disease, and develop my skills as a student clinician. Naturopathic medicine inspires hope. I want to be part of this dynamic group of unique forward-thinking individuals that come together to form an eclectic and vibrant healing community.”

How did you prepare for ND school?

Tanya prepared to become a strong candidate for naturopathic medical school by volunteering and working at Oregon Health & Science University. She researched botanical medicine, Parkinson’s Disease and childhood developmental disorders. Before making the decision to become a naturopathic doctor, she shadowed NDs, attended medical conferences, interned with MD and NDs, volunteered in herb shops, and worked as a florist. “These experiences allowed me to sort through what I was really passionate about. I realized a career in naturopathic medicine would give me the freedom to combine all of my interests in a creative way to care for patients.”

“It was important to me to continue my botanical research on Mucuna and attend a school that was open to collaborative research. Being around mentors that were doing what I am interested in was my top priority. When trying to decide on a school, “I listened to a podcast featuring Dr. Laurie Mischley, where she mentioned Mucuna pruriens for Parkinson’s Disease treatment…which was the very plant I was studying at OHSU at the time. I was thrilled to find a like-minded researcher at Bastyr. I interviewed Dr. Mischley and knew Bastyr University was the right fit for me!”

“Bastyr University has been great; we continue to conduct collaborative research with OHSU. We actually just finished a very successful pilot study demonstrating the neurorestorative potential of Mucuna. I am happy to be at school that has supported me through these endeavors.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

Parkinson’s Disease Summer School (PDSS) at Bastyr University is one of my favorite weeks of the year. We spend multiple weekends preparing and getting to know our patients based on their extensive lab tests, and required paperwork. We then get to meet and spend a full week, developing that relationship, facilitating their learning, and fine-tuning treatment plans. The patients leave feeling grateful for all the knowledge and care that has been shared. Translating my research skills to clinical ones, specifically with PDSS, working with patients to help them understand how to implement Mucuna in their PD treatment plan has been very important to me.”

Tanya notes her surprise with enjoying classes that she was hesitant to take. She encourages others to keep an open mind, and to enjoy the adventure.

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“I keep moving! I enjoy hot yoga and running with my dogs that together weigh a total of 200 pounds. It can be hard to stay motivated in the rain in Seattle, but my dogs push me to get outside and we all are better for it. Animals are my balance, and caring for them brings me joy.”

Additionally, “I attend conferences, network, and give poster presentations. These experiences renew me, and I always leave with new collaborations and possibilities. At the most recent Movement Disorder Society Conference in France, I made a connection to the Parkinson’s Institute in Italy. We are now collaborating on a manuscript and Mucuna farming manuals for Indigenous populations in Africa where conventional Parkinson’s medications are expensive and mostly inaccessible.

Poster presentation, Movement Disorder Society Congress, France 2019

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

Tanya encourages future students to seek out mentors who share your passions. Learn about their career paths by taking the time to interview them and build a connection. Networking and mentorship are huge pieces of professional development. Tanya’s mentor is skilled researcher and clinician – Dr. Traci Pantuso. Together, they are conducting QAQC research surrounding Mucuna pruriens. Their plan is to work in the SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell line to expand on what is known about the neurorestorative potential of Mucuna. Click here to learn more about Tanya’s Parkinson’s and Mucuna research campaign.

Dr. Pantuso is living proof of my career aspirations; bridging bench research and clinical practice, I am very grateful our paths have crossed.”

Finally, remember to take time for self-care. Naturopathic medical school will test you in many ways. “Choose a school that resonates with your mission and interests,” to ensure that you have the support that you need to be successful.

Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.

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Anthony Pascucci – UBSNM ND Student

Anthony Pascucci is a third-year naturopathic medical student at the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine. He shares his experience in changing his career to naturopathic medicine and as an ND student.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

Frustrated with not getting the help he needed after seeing multiple specialists and providers for personal health concerns, Anthony thought there had to be another way. In his quest for a more holistic approach to care, he found naturopathic medicine and ultimately, his calling.

“I decided to go back to the basics – I changed the way I thought about nutrition, exercise, and the mind-body connection. This new routine helped me feel significantly better than I had with the medications I was prescribed. As a result, I had an epiphany. I wanted to go back to school for medicine, but a different type of medicine than I was used to seeing. I wondered if there was a type of doctor who spent more quality time focusing on the whole person, teaching patients how to make changes in their nutrition and lifestyle so that they don’t need to rely on medications. I wondered if there was a type of doctor who made the types of connections that eluded the scattered array of specialists patients often saw, who focus only on one symptom or one aspect of the patient. To my amazement, I discovered a profession and community that I was previously unaware of, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world… that of naturopathic medicine.”

How did you prepare for ND school?

Anthony did his homework before applying to naturopathic medical school. He reached out to local NDs and naturopaths, visited accredited schools, attended health fairs, and read about naturopathic research.

“I got to know a traditional naturopath whose practice was largely an extension of their Native American traditions, practicing natural medicine on sacred land that had been protected, preserved, and passed down over hundreds of years by generations of healers since before the Europeans arrived on this continent. I also got to know a naturopathic physician who graduated from an accredited medical school. They were different experiences from different tracks in naturopathic medicine, but both were linked by the same principles.

I took it as a very positive and encouraging sign that within months of being accepted into the ND program, Pennsylvania (my home state) became a registered state for naturopathic physicians. Hopefully the step to becoming a licensed state is soon to follow.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

“I never expected all of the memorable and remarkable life experiences, or the chances they provide to connect so profoundly with so many admirable people. UBSNM has an incredible team of teachers and clinical supervisors, who bring such eclectic and impressive medical and life experience to the table. It’s such an honor and pleasure to learn from this group of people. They’re true mentors in medicine, and in life. They inspire and teach me so much. The same is true for the students in the program. I could have never predicted meeting so many amazingly talented and skilled people, and getting the chance to forge such close relationships. You can’t help but become a family with your classmates. Getting our white coats together was a true highlight of my life. Upperclassmen have taken me under their wings and encouraged my development in the clinic.

Additionally, Anthony has found the Bridgeport community to be vibrant and full of opportunities.

Every year we hike to the Leatherman’s Cave, cook food, and make tea from the plants over a fire. We spend the evening playing songs, reading poems, and marveling at the stars and moon as the fire casts our celebratory shadows onto the cave walls.

Another tradition is the Polar Plunge into the Long Island Sound which is a great way to keep the traditions and philosophy of hydrotherapy alive. It is an unbelievable bonding experience to run into the frigid water, while others cheer us on from the beach.

Every year I look forward to the DC Federal Legislative Initiative (FLI) where we meet with other colleges to make a positive impact on the future of healthcare in our nation’s capital. The DC FLI has been the best introduction into the larger world of naturopathic medicine.”

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“Returning to school as an adult has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Balancing school and work while living alone and paying bills has tested my fortitude, and the unwavering drive that made me know this was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Anthony serves as treasurer for his class and the student government, and recently became the student government president, as well as president of the Garden Club. He is a Pathfinder at the Center of Excellence in Generative Medicine, a mentorship program with Dr. Peter D’Adamo. Additionally, he works at a health food and natural supplement store.

Anthony makes time to be with his friends, enjoying nature, art, museums, and trying new foods. He prioritizes self-care by practicing mindfulness, meditation, and hydrotherapy.

What advice do you have for future ND students?

“My advice is deceptively simple: be open, teachable, and trust yourself and the process. The opportunity to practice naturopathic medicine is an honor and privilege worthy of gratitude. Let that gratitude fuel you. Remember why you love naturopathic medicine, and the reason why you pursued it, and never lose sight of that passion.

A career in naturopathic medicine will bring you fulfillment, satisfaction, and purpose. Naturopathic medical school is a transformative experience in every sense of the word. You will face and overcome challenges that will leave you with a deep sense of accomplishment. You can then use those experiences to provide that transformational experience for your patients on their journey to health.”

Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.

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Tanelle Westgard – BINM ND Student

Tanelle Westgard is a third-year naturopathic medical student at Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM). She shares her experience both in starting her journey into a career in naturopathic medicine, and as an ND student. Tanelle aspires to empower her patients through education and healing.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that understood the importance of naturopathic
medicine. I had been to many different NDs that were able to help me and my family, and
always appreciated their alternative approaches. These experiences helped me realize that
naturopathic medicine was exactly the type of medicine that I wanted to go into – holistic, individualized, proactive, preventative, and integrative.”

How did you prepare for ND school?

“I worked hard and remained focused in order to achieve top grades. I always took a full schedule, sometimes more, to ensure I had completed all of the prerequisites. Outside of school, I immersed myself in a variety of extracurriculars such as volunteering for non-profit organizations, in hospitals, senior homes, and coaching special Olympics teams. These experiences provided me with growth which ultimately led me to Boucher.”

“My top priority for selecting a school was based on the community and culture. Boucher is a very small school with a unique community feel among students, professors, doctors, and staff. This extends to the naturopathic community within British Columbia as well. BC is my home and I could not think of a better place to learn and practice naturopathic medicine.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

“My classmates have become family; we have a bond that will last a lifetime. The professors and supervisors’ passion remind us of why we are working so hard every day.

As a class, we often reflect on how far we have come in the last few years. As new students, we thought we knew what we were in for. We were right in some ways, and wrong in others. The amount of information we have managed to learn, and knowledge we have gained is remarkable… but it is so much more than that.

What I didn’t expect were the non-academic lessons. Becoming a naturopathic doctor isn’t just a career, it is a way of being. Throughout the program we grow as students and as people. We learn determination, resiliency, adversity, empathy, courage, compassion, patience, and so much more. We have learned more about ourselves than we probably ever knew we could, and are just getting started!”

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“During my first year at Boucher, a group of fourth-year students spoke to our class. One of the quotes really stuck with me: ‘Boucher isn’t your whole life, it’s just a part of it.’

Recognizing the importance of work-life balance, Tanelle immersed herself in opportunities to build relationships in the Boucher community. While serving as an academic curriculum representative and as Co-President of the Boucher Naturopathic Students Association (BNSA), she established her connections with fellow students and staff and helped maintain community.

Boucher naturopathic medical students practicing yoga together.

Currently, Tanelle is a student representative for a supplement company and works at Rize Fitness with her mentor and BINM alumna Dr. Aubrey Shannon.

“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue to learn from Dr. Shannon on a weekly basis. I hope to one day do the same for a future student.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Entering the program to become a naturopathic doctor was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although challenging, it is a profession with so much potential.” Tanelle encourages prospective students to work hard and persevere through the challenges. Look for ways to keep yourself motivated by getting involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, continuously learning, and finding a solid mentor.

“School can get busy, life can get even busier, but it is important to make time for the people who love and support you, and the things that make you happy.”

Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.

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Taylor Goodwin – SCNM ND Student

Hailing from Provo, UT, Taylor Goodwin is a second-year naturopathic medical student at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). He shares his experience leading up to starting his journey in naturopathic medicine, and as an ND student.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

Taylor recognized the need for wellness and preventative care and felt a true calling in healthcare. His curiosity in how things work, including all things science, technology, engineering, and mathematics made naturopathic medicine a natural fit.

How did you prepare for ND school?

“I picked up classes outside my major when they interested me, and generally let curiosity be a guide. I participated in extracurricular activities such as being a teacher’s assistant, volunteering at my church, and interning as a doula with midwife Heather Shelley for two months in Utah.

There were four major factors in my consideration of a naturopathic medical school: the level and quality of research on the campus, that the material being taught is not based solely on someone’s opinion or tradition, the feeling/atmosphere of the campus, and the approval of the school by my mentor. After hearing Dr. Jeffrey Langland – SCNM’s Research Department Chair speak, I felt SCNM had everything I was looking for. Dr. Langland played a large role in raising SCNM’s credibility with me, while also remaining open minded and true to the naturopathic principles. I also liked the open atmosphere on campus.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

“One of my favorite things in school has been tutoring. I love to see people make connections, to see their eyes light up with curiosity’s spark, and feeling the desire to learn for the sake of discovery. Seeing that kindles my own spark, and drives me further.

The most surprising thing that I have learned hasn’t been academic, but about myself. I am much more capable in certain areas than I expected. I have also found that I am much more vulnerable to positive peer opinions than I am to negative ones. I’ve learned a new skill set in dealing with that. I also found it surprising how quickly a close ‘family’ vibe formed in our class.”

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“At first I was doing well and wasn’t stressed about school. Then I allowed myself get sidetracked by personal issues which led to poor academic focus. I had to take a break for a while. However, I have since found that pushing up to my real breaking point, and beyond, has helped my perspective and self-understanding. I am stronger for it.

Several habits have helped: only using high density study methods, making sleep a priority, and finding things that get my mind away from school such as learning to play the guitar and playing games with friends. I have also had to learn when to say ‘no’ to activities and opportunities.”

Taylor is pictured in teal with a group he led at the Arizona Desert Botanical Garden.

Taylor’s extracurricular activities include: teaching and participating in religion classes, tutoring (view a tutoring video that he made on reflex physiology), serving as a teacher’s assistant, working on research projects (current topics include kennel cough as well as others), making home botanical medicines, leading local plant identification walks, botanical medicine gathering trips to Colorado, and mission trips with Naturopaths Without Borders to Mexico. He also teaches religion at his church, and participates in a weekly religion class at Arizona State University.

Taylor is pictured with his Naturopaths Without Borders team in Rocky Point, Mexico. He says, “By the time we return, we look exhausted and a bit rough around the edges, but are more satisfied than ever, knowing we truly made a difference.  Medically, we know more, and are more confident in our skills, as they are forged in fire through hands-on practice.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Learn how to learn before starting naturopathic medical school. I would recommend a free online course – Learning How to Learn  by Barbra Oakley. I strongly encourage you to have a solid idea of why you are coming and why you are learning at the school you choose. Figure out how to hold on to it because when it gets hard, you need to be able to remember why you are there and why you are doing what you are doing. Feed that daily, and you’ll have the emotional fortitude and motivation to solve all the more direct problems as they arise.”

Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.

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