Dr. Jessalyn Shamess – BINM

Jessalyn Shamess, ND, BSc, BHK shares her path to naturopathic medicine as a recent graduate of the naturopathic medical program at Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM).

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“Before I started naturopathic medical school at BINM, I was working in public health research. I loved the field, but really missed the person-to-person interaction and desired to return to clinical work. I had a deep interest in chronic disease management and felt that naturopathic medicine was well suited in that area. As a perpetually inquisitive individual, I loved the fact that naturopathic medicine figured out why a person was not well, not just what to do for them.

I knew naturopathic medicine was the right path for me for many reasons. I’ve always loved nutrition and biochemistry, and I found naturopathic medicine to be strong in those areas. The principles of holism and the idea of the intrinsic ability of the body to heal also really connected with my personal philosophy on health. Ultimately, working with patients was what really showed me that naturopathic medicine was the right profession for me. I really enjoyed what I could offer my patients, whether that was simply listening or being directly a part of their healing process.”

BINM as a springboard

“I was attracted to BINM for the fact that their students routinely score as one of the highest across all of the accredited schools in board examinations. I also saw the benefits of the small class sizes.

It is impossible to put into words all that I gained while I was at BINM. Aside from the obvious clinical and medical skills, I appreciated that teachers and professors did not just stick to teaching content, but also taught how to expend thinking skills to be better at approaching clinical problems. From a self-development side, I found that the counseling program was also top-notch and encouraged students to continue to develop as a person aside from the development of clinical skills. These skills will continue to help me in my career. BINM really challenged me, but also provided the support, skills, and encouragement to face those challenges.

As a student, Dr. Shamess served as Chapter president of the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA). “I found NMSA to be an extremely positive experience, and learned a great deal about the profession. I was able to connect with so many different types of NDs which really helped me gain a greater perspective on the realm of career possibilities. Being surrounded by so many bright young leaders further ignited my passion and gave me even more tools to reach my goals and dreams as an ND.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Take time to observe and speak to naturopathic physicians! This is a great way to learn about the profession. Even better, go see an ND yourself to get the best idea of what it is like to experience naturopathic holistic care. If you are passionate about health and wanting to give a lot to your patients, this is a great profession to be in.”

Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada, or read other naturopathic doctor success stories.

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Dr. Nicole Redvers – A Leader in Indigenous Health – CCNM

“My training and education have provided a bridge between two divergent worldviews. As an ND, I am not placed in either of these worlds – Indigenous or conventional, which allows me to maintain perspective and consider all angles of a research question, a community problem, or even a patient case.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Raised in a small Indigenous community on the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the Northwest Territories, Nicole Redvers, ND, MPHc did not have access or exposure to naturopathic providers, although she spent much of her early life in nature, using traditional medicines when needed. She still recalls the scent of her grandfather’s bear grease that he used as medicine.

In what may seem as a twist of fate, Dr. Redvers accidentally came across naturopathic medicine while in college studying sports medicine. This lead her on the path to naturopathic medical school, where she then graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

“I was excited to be able to have the opportunity to learn about other traditional medicine systems in addition to more Western ways of knowing. Coming from an Indigenous background, I found that the standard medical system wasn’t addressing my communities’ problems and was too narrow in treatment approaches. I wanted to have the flexibility and freedom like my ancestors did, to do what is right for the patient in front of me at that particular time.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Following graduation, Dr. Redvers returned to the Northern Territories and launched a home-based practice which allowed her to stay with her infant daughter. Soon after, she and a few other local providers began the first integrative medical clinic in the area. Over the nine years that Dr. Redvers operated the clinic, it grew to include 17 providers and staff working out of a 4,000 square foot clinic.

In 2019, Dr. Redvers changed paths and began working at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences as an assistant professor.

“My career has been diverse. I have been able to practice, teach, research and continue my work on the charity I co-founded, the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation. Having a diverse skill set enables me to keep the flexibility for the projects and work that needs to be done in the Indigenous health arena. Moving to an institutional setting has definitely been different than running my own clinic and practice; however, I am still able to keep up with many of the things I love.

I am very excited to be helping to develop the very first PhD in Indigenous Health in North America. Dr. Donald Warne, MD, MPH spear-headed this initiative and has brought together an amazing team of five Indigenous scholars to develop the curriculum for the program. I will be teaching two courses in the PhD program, two courses in the Master’s of Public Health Indigenous Health specialization, as well as supervising and mentoring students. It is somewhat sad that this is the first of its kind in North America; however, I am very proud of the University of North Dakota for taking leadership on this important endeavor. It is a post-master’s PhD that can be done from anywhere in the world with two onsite visits per year.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Redvers encourages prospective students to think outside of the box. “There are many roles that NDs can play in society outside of clinical practice, so don’t feel pigeonholed to a specific path. Diversification can be a strength in this profession both financially, personally and professionally.”

Finally, remember your roots and the people who helped you along the way. “I would not be where I am today without the amazing support of family, friends, colleagues, and my communities. I especially wouldn’t be where I am today without the helpful guidance of my elders helping to set me on a path to support our Indigenous communities.”

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Dr. Cory Szybala – NUNM

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Born and raised in the Midwest, Cory Szybala, ND was always interested in healthcare but did not have much exposure to it outside of the conventional model. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Indiana University, working as a nursing assistant at a local hospital, and shadowing a number of different providers in the area, he decided to relocate to Portland, Oregon to pursue research.

“After working with so many amazing practitioners in multiple disciplines of medicine, I felt there was a ‘gap’ in what I consider true primary care medicine. It wasn’t until I moved to the West Coast that I heard about naturopathic medicine, and once I did, I felt as though I had found true primary care medicine – medicine that works on a preventative, holistic, and integrative level.”

NUNM as a springboard

While living in Portland, Dr. Szybala visited the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) campus, shadowed students, and spoke with administrators before deciding to enroll in the naturopathic medical program. “Each school has its very own unique personality and I felt like NUNM fit mine. Not only did I graduate with the information and skills necessary to help patients, but I was also able to make lasting friendships with colleagues, professors, advocates of the medicine, and more.”

As a student, Dr. Szybala was a member of the acclaimed Food as Medicine Everyday series, and the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA). His experience working with NMSA allowed him to stay up to date with state licensure and scope initiatives, which helped him gauge where he wanted to set up his future practice.

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“Since graduating I have worked as a consultant, a researcher, adjunct faculty member, as part of a team dedicated to sharing the knowledge of healthier food choices through the Food as Medicine Institute (FAMI), a public speaker, and now private practice owner. The wealth of knowledge that you learn while going through naturopathic school and thereafter is more powerful than you think.”

Dr. Szybala enjoys providing an individualized holistic/integrative approach to each of his patients. “I am passionate about discovering the reason(s) behind a particular issue and working with a patient to come up with the best solution(s) for them. To be able to truly deliver primary care to those who need it is not only rewarding but absolutely necessary.”

Dr. Szybala and his wife – Mollie Parker Szybala, ND operate Sun Valley Natural Medicine in Ketchum, Idaho. They each work part-time at the clinic while pursuing other interests. Their work outside the clinic has helped establish themselves in the community, and has doubled as a marketing outlet.

The Szybalas enjoy spending time in nature, hiking, skiing, and attending young professional outings.

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Szybala encourages prospective students to shadow multiple NDs, and to experience different models of practice, business, and naturopathic specialties. “The flexibility is one of the most appealing parts of the naturopathic profession.” It’s up to you to determine how you want to use your degree. What career path will you take?

Join Dr. Szybala for a free webinar – Food as Medicine

“During my time shadowing, preceptoring, working with FAMI, and now working in my own practice, I have seen food be a huge factor in the health and well-being of my patients. It is often a first-line defense, as well as a great way to empower your patients to take their health back into their own hands.” Dr. Szybala’s webinar will cover how to use food as medicine in a naturopathic family practice, what to consider when prescribing a healthy diet or lifestyle, how to prepare your clients for success, how to troubleshoot, and when to follow-up. Click here to register for the Food as Medicine webinar.

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Dr. Lily Stokely – Bastyr

“Before discovering naturopathic medicine, I felt a hunger for more information about the human body in both physical and emotional states. I felt torn between more mental/emotional healthcare fields and the physical. It seemed confusing that they were separated in conventional medicine. Naturopathic medicine is the only healthcare profession that I know of that has the ability to fully support all aspects of health. I wanted a profession that I knew I wouldn’t be bored with. I wanted to feel inspired and to have a foundation of tools that I could continue to learn from.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“I always had an interest in health and medicine. Much of my life I knew I wanted to become a doctor. In college at the University of California, Berkeley, I studied dietetics hoping it would provide a more comprehensive view of health than simply diagnosing and prescribing medications. I knew I wanted to support people from a more holistic perspective and I didn’t feel that medical doctors had all the information. After studying dietetics, I graduated and was reminded again that this field also was only one piece to the holistic health puzzle. I wanted to support people with all determinants of health, not just one through nutrition. At this time, I didn’t know naturopathic medicine existed. I took two gap years and lived in Australia and South East Asia studying and teaching yoga while waitressing and deciding my next career moves. I found naturopathic medicine through the yoga community. After learning more about the naturopathic medical field it felt like everything that had been lacking in other health professions was miraculously combined in one provider. I applied to Bastyr from a beach in Thailand and quickly returned home to interview.”

Bastyr as a springboard

“After traveling through many countries, living in the Bay Area, and growing up in Northern California, I felt slightly ungrounded from a sense of where ‘home’ was. Seattle and the surrounding areas of Bastyr felt like home before I even moved there. In touring the school, the idea of taking breaks to walk on trails and being surrounded by gardens and fresh air felt supportive and needed amongst the intense course load I was about to embark on. The emphasis on research-based medicine and Bastyr’s reputation within the natural healthcare field was also important in my decision. Bastyr was the foundation to the therapeutic tools and philosophy that inspire me in practice. I gained a solid science background and exposure to many healing therapies.

After graduating I finished a two-year naturopathic residency with Emerald City Clinic in Seattle with an emphasis in primary care. In the last six months of residency, I started the process of starting my own clinic, opening a week after finishing my residency. I was fortunate to be able to have the majority of my patients have continuity of care from residency to private practice and opened my doors with a full schedule.

My private practice got busier than expected in the first year. I hired a full-time resident to join me one year into practice with two administrative staff. My husband also joined the practice as a naturopathic doctor. I leave work most days feeling fulfilled. Work days are long, however I’m working with a personal coach to find ways to improve work-life balance and walk the talk of foundations of health.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“Life is full, busy, wonderful, and challenging. The aspects I love most about being a naturopathic doctor are the vast amount of tools we have to support individuals. We never have to practice by a ‘one size fits all model.’ Bodies are diverse and naturopathic medicine provides tools to support and respect this diversity. One of my favorite experiences as an ND is when a patient may not tolerate or like the original suggestion of treatment that I provide and I then get to use creativity to provide an option that feels supportive to them individually. I am passionate about supporting people who are underserved in healthcare and providing a compassionate approach to aid in both physical healing, but also trust in the healthcare field.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“It is important to go in clear on why you are choosing naturopathic medicine. The training and practice is hard, but it is rewarding work. If you are not connected with the why of what you are doing, it will lead to burn out.

I attribute much of my career success to developing skills to remain adaptable, while finding the aspects of the profession that allowed my innate skills to shine. I found a few skills that I knew I wanted to hone in on including eating disorder treatment and physical medicine early in my learning at Bastyr. At the time I may not have known that these would be my ‘specialties’ however in hindsight getting specific with skill development helped me develop a niche that has allowed my practice to thrive. I practice from a concept of Health at Every Size with all of my patients which embraces the idea that people’s bodies can be healthy at any size if given the support needed to respect hunger/fullness cues and step away from a diet centered approach to health. This concept partners with intuitive eating and includes dismantling of weight bias amongst individuals and our culture. These concepts are also the foundation of eating disorder prevention and treatment that I provide in my practice.”

Join Dr. Stokely for a free webinar – Eating Disorders, Naturopathic Care Can Help

“Naturopathic medicine matches every aspect of care that someone with an eating disorder may need such as counseling, nutritional support, treating digestive sequelae, lab analysis, and elongated visits. Although naturopathic doctors are well suited to provide eating disorder care, direct training in eating disorder treatment is limited in the medical field as a whole.”

Join Dr. Stokely for an informative webinar to learn about the need for eating disorder professionals, where to start if interested in becoming an eating disorder provider, and how the support of naturopathic physicians can be essential in eating disorder care. Click here to register.

Learn more about Dr. Stokely:

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Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Bodypersonal excerpts about body image

Continued education courses on eating disorder treatment

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Dr. Tracy Wooten – SCNM

“I encourage you not to chase after money or fame, but after a respectable reputation. When you provide the best care to your patients, your reward will soon follow.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Born and raised in New Orleans, Dr. Tracy Wooten developed a true passion in naturopathic medicine. “I wanted to help people achieve optimal health using holistic and healthy lifestyle therapies.” Dr. Wooten loves her career in naturopathic medicine and applies the principles to her personal life as well.

SCNM as a springboard

Dr. Wooten chose Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) after hearing the passion that the college President had for the school and naturopathic medicine during an open house.

“SCNM provided a great foundation for my career and practice. I was supervised by highly educated doctors and was able to work with different demographics of patients,” says Dr. Wooten.

As a student, Dr. Wooten began saving money to help with the start-up cost of opening her own business. Throughout school she worked a couple part-time jobs that provided not only financial gain, but also personal growth. As a personal trainer, she learned how to work one on one with clients to develop and pursue their personalized fitness plan. Dr. Wooten learned how to coach her clients through their successes and struggles on the path to achieving their goals. Additionally, she worked in a bookstore where she learned how to manage customer feedback. Both of these part-time positions contributed to her education and helped her set the stage for opening her own business.

Following graduation, Dr. Wooten looked for advice on deciding to open her own practice or work under another doctor. After an encouraging conversation with Joanna Hagan – Director of Career Services at SCNM, she took the leap and opened her own practice – Wooten Naturopathic.

 

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Dr. Wooten is in her 13th year of practice and is proud of her steadily growing business. A humble spirit, she credits the advice of business experts and mentors who have helped her along her entrepreneurial path. Wooten Naturopathic has recently relocated to a commercial building and has added staff to assist with the workload. Dr. Wooten enjoys the work-life balance of being able to maintain a healthy work environment and being able to spend quality time with her family.

“I love being a naturopathic doctor because I get to help my patients achieve their health goals as well as a healthy mind body lifestyle. I am able to spend time with each patient, cultivating a patient-doctor relationship, getting to know their full story, and providing a comfortable and caring environment for their needs,” says Dr. Wooten.

The naturopathic profession has so many modalities and therapies to offer. Being able to educate patients on the options so they may choose the therapy which resonates with them is a vital component of naturopathic medicine.

Advice for aspiring NDs

Additionally, Dr. Wooten shares, “If you are considering a career in naturopathic medicine, you need to have a true desire and passion for the medicine. You need to believe in the medicine and incorporate it into your life. You choose this career for the benefit of servicing others, not for the fame or money. Success will come. You need to be strong, diligent and humble. You will have to overcome naysayers at times from other medical professions and even patients. You will have put in a lot of work to grow and to sustain your business/career, but it will be well worth it and very fulfilling.

Once you become successful, it’s important to remain true to your purpose and mission. There are many times when success draws people off track and greed and pride sets in. They lose focus on their core principles and destruction soon follows. I encourage you not to chase after money or fame, but after a respectable reputation. When you provide the best care to your patients, your reward will soon follow.”

Learn more about Dr. Wooten:

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Dr. Miranda LaBant – NUHS

“I always thought I knew what the term ‘doctor’ meant, but it wasn’t until I started seeing patients on my own, that I really understood the true meaning of docere – to instruct or teach. Behind the doors of the patient-doctor relationship is where the healing begins.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Becoming a naturopathic doctor was not always a part of Dr. Miranda LaBant’s career goals. “During my undergraduate and graduate school training I met several influential people who directed me towards becoming a doctor. As a graduate student, I had an incredible opportunity to study in Belize. During my time there I developed my Master’s thesis on the traditional medicine practices of the indigenous Mayan tribe, the Q’eqchi. My mind was opened to the possibility of what I consider traditional medicine. I remember sitting in the jungle around a fire with another graduate student and my mentor interviewing the shaman and their patients. The healing journey they experienced through the use of traditional and sacred herbs, teas, along with spiritual practices reversed conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, and mood disorders.

There was a point during my schooling where I wished to pursue a career in conventional medicine. After my experience in Belize, I began researching other avenues of alternative medicine, this is when I discovered naturopathic medicine. The principles of naturopathic medicine resonated with me. To be a naturopath you have to believe that the human body has an innate healing process, the vis as we call it. You have to believe that there is another option outside of the conventional medical paradigm that can heal people regardless of their disease process, and this is what I found to be true.

The human body operates as a whole, and naturopathic medicine treats each person as a whole – tolle totum. The training of a naturopathic doctor provides the skill set and tools to not only assess symptoms, but to dig deeper – looking at all factors influencing patient health (environment, emotional, mental, physical).”

NUHS as a springboard

“I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. The proximity of National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) along with the possibility to pursue a chiropractic degree was appealing to me. One of the advantages at NUHS is the ability to study alongside chiropractic students as well as develop a strong foundation for physical medicine and diagnosis. Even though I value the incorporation of physical medicine, I decided that naturopathic medicine was the correct path for me during my first year of study. I quickly fell in love with herbal medicine, homeopathy, and the biochemical impact of nutrition. This is where I was meant to be.

After graduation, I completed a CNME accredited residency program in Kailua Kona, Hawaii under the direction of Michael Traub, ND. The focus of my residency was integrative cancer care. It was during the course of this program that I truly learned the value of our medicine. I developed the skills to safely and confidently integrate evidence-based naturopathic therapies with conventional therapies for patients with a cancer diagnosis. My program also included training in regenerative injection therapy, intravenous therapy, integration of pharmaceuticals, minor surgery, and integrative dermatology – it was a truly well-rounded experience, and I am forever thankful for the wisdom, patience experiences, and growth as a doctor and person I gained during my time with Dr. Traub.

After my residency I joined a premier clinic in Portsmouth, NH where I worked among several Lyme literate naturopaths, I soon learned the complexity of patients with tick-borne infection as well as the complexity of treatment. Providing integrative support to these patients has been rewarding.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“I always thought I knew what the term ‘doctor’ meant, but it wasn’t until I started seeing patients on my own, that I really understood the true meaning of docere – to instruct or teach. Behind the doors of the patient-doctor relationship is where the healing begins. NDs are trained to spend quality time with patients, providing ample opportunity to explain their symptoms and health journey. This time also allows for a great deal of teaching and empowerment – ND patients are drawn to this aspect of our care.

Naturopathic thinking is beautiful; we are health detectives. It’s a humbling and fascinating process to be a part of someone’s health journey. From the initial visit with patients, gathering all of the information about a person’s well-being, mental, emotional, physical, social aspects, as well as deciphering how all of their symptoms relate. It has been my experience that very complex patients seek out the guidance and support of a naturopathic physician at some point on their journey back to health. This doesn’t surprise me. It’s often that a patient will tell me, ‘You know…this is the first time I feel like I have been heard by a healthcare provider.’ To be able to provide that space for patients is gratifying. The time that NDs spend with patients allows for truly individualized and comprehensive care. I believe this is where our medicine truly shines.”

Naturopathic medicine offers patients the best of both Eastern and Western medicine. My practice is truly integrative, and my areas of focus are integrative oncology, hormonal balance and digestive health. I currently practice in the state of New Hampshire, where the scope for naturopathic doctors is quite broad. This offers lots of flexibility when creating a treatment plan, and providing the best care possible for my patients. I utilize intravenous nutrient therapy and pharmaceuticals in addition to herbal medicine.

I practice in two integrative clinics in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire. At Family Acupuncture and Wellness I am part of a functional medicine team comprised of several practitioners that provide naturopathic medicine, and an intimately guided diet and lifestyle program that transform people’s health. At the Sante Center I have a general practice as well as an integrative oncology practice. Working with cancer patients is a great challenge but a true joy when you can see how naturopathic medicine can improve their quality of life, mitigate symptoms from chemotherapy and radiation, and provide a more favorable outcome in many cases for patients dealing with this difficult diagnosis.

One additional area of passion is hormonal balance. I particularly love working with women transitioning or going through menopause. I utilize bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in many of these patients, but this is one area where I have seen the power of herbal medicine. Let me give a shout out to one herb—Vitex (all my women’s health naturopathic doctors know what I am talking about). I have seen this herb alone move mountains for patients.”

Dr. LaBant is a contributor for the Natural Medicine Journal on a variety of topics that range from fish oil used in conjunction with chemotherapy to supplements for reducing peripheral neuropathy, and exercise for cognitive function. She has also co-authored an article for the Townsend Letter with her mentor Michael Traub, ND on the use of medicinal mushrooms in cancer.

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Passion drives the field of naturopathic medicine, and it absolutely drives the excellence that I see in my colleagues every day. I have never been a part of a cohort of individuals more passionate about making an impact in people’s lives, and at the same time creating positive change in our broken health care system. In order to provide patients with the best care possible, you need to truly be enamored by the innate healing processes of the body, and to believe that a return to health is possible.

My residency was the most valuable of all of my training. I would recommend anyone pursuing naturopathic medicine to consider completing a residency after graduation.”

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