Dr. Gurdev Parmar – CCNM

Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO is the co-founder and medical director of the largest Canadian integrated health care facility – Integrated Health Clinic located in Fort Langley, British Columbia. Dr. Parmar is a leader in integrative cancer care, supervisor of a naturopathic oncology residency, and the author of the Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“I wanted to pursue a career as a primary healthcare provider that was knowledgeable in both conventional and natural medicine. Naturopathic medicine fulfilled my scope of practice wishes and desires. I knew it would provide a lifetime of cerebral excitement and learning.”

CCNM as a springboard

“My time at Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) was some of the most memorable and transformative years of my life. I met my life partner Karen Parmar, ND with whom I have had the pleasure and honor of walking this path with. From second year at CCNM until now with 20 years of practice together, I could not have achieved all that I have professionally or personally without her.

Karen and I came out to British Columbia as interns at CCNM and spent three weeks exploring my favorite areas of the province; the lower mainland, Sunshine Coast, Guld Islands, Victoria, Tofino, and the Okanagan Valley. We found Fort Langley and fell in love with it. After graduation we drove across Canada and began preparing for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX). While studying we met with a banker, qualified for a loan, and started construction on our clinic. Daily visits to the construction site motivated us to get back and study as hard as possible. The doors to our clinic opened within a week of receiving our NPLEX results. Integrated Health Clinic is now home to 13 naturopathic doctors, medical doctors and a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

Contributing to naturopathic oncology

While taking a six month sabbatical to recharge from the demands of a booming practice and raising four young boys, Dr. Parmar started writing the Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care.

“I wrote for six months day and night and was not close to being finished. After several years of writing and asking colleagues to write sections for the book, and three distinct rounds of editing – the textbook is done! I truly believe that all ND students, all NDs that treat cancer, all Fellows of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNOs), and all those practicing integrative or conventional oncology will benefit from having this resource that contains has 2,800 references and contributions from almost 40 of our most esteemed colleagues.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“If you are interested in a profession that challenges you daily, gives you a vast toolkit, provides a lifetime of learning, and allows you to dive into the lives and health of your patients, naturopathic medicine is the choice for you!”

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Dr. Meghan Walker – CCNM

Meghan Walker, ND is the ‘Chief Cheerleader’ at Clinician Business Labs – a platform built to empower clinicians and help their businesses thrive. Dr. Walker is an award-winning speaker on topics related to women’s performance medicine, brain health, and her niche – entrepreneurship. She hosts an annual entrepreneurship conference – Impact LIVEs. Dr. Walker shares how she combines her degree in naturopathic medicine with her passion for business.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“I learned about naturopathic medicine while I was in high school. I had been ill for six weeks, and a family friend recommended I see a naturopathic doctor. The first question the ND asked me was: “How has your body historically responded to stress?” It was such a simple question but it made so much sense to me. The quality of care is determined by the quality of the questioning. I was forever enamored by and called to naturopathic medicine.”

CCNM as a springboard

“The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) was a great choice. I had a diverse education and was able to connect with an amazing cohort of people. As a larger school, I was also afforded the opportunity to access a variety of clinical exposures. Seeing diverse groups of patients, especially early in the journey, is critical to sculpting a strong foundation.

Following graduation, I had the privilege of opening an integrative practice with my friend and colleague, Dr. Erin Wiley. Our vision was to build a clinic based on community and conversation. The Integrative Health Institute is still in operation in Toronto with nearly 25 practitioners!”

Finding fulfillment as an ND and an entrepreneur

“Naturopathic medicine not only enables me to help people in a profound way, but it is equally satisfying for my entrepreneurial itch. I believe that when people have their health, they can change the world. My practice caters almost exclusively to the health needs of entrepreneurs. They need their health to support their work.”

Dr. Walker has found “the ultimate opportunity to address the health of the naturopathic profession at a root-cause level” by taking sabbatical from her private practice to focus on supporting colleagues in business development.

“With the onset of COVID-19, there was nearly an overnight shift in the delivery model of care. For some time, I have spoken about the need to transition, at least a portion of practice online. When this became forced upon us, my team was able to rapidly pull together experts and training to assist in the transition through the launch of a toolkit for setting up an online clinic.

I did not want price to be a barrier, so we moved quickly and through the help of industry partners, were able to release it within one week of the lock-down and most importantly, for free. I feel strongly that the health of the naturopathic profession will rely heavily on the speed in which our professionals pivot to telemedicine.

I am grateful to have a career that enables me to have impact and freedom at the same time.  Most of my daily work happens from my home office or traveling and speaking at events. I record several episodes of my podcast each week from my home studio and connect to our coaching groups online. I am also balancing a busy life with three kids under the age of nine.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Get clear on why you want to pursue naturopathic medicine. Your purpose and clarity around your why will see you through the tough times. Succeeding in this, or any career will require that you step outside your comfort zone. If you are not connected to your why, your fear will win.”

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Dr. Ann Grimwood – A Naturopathic Physician’s Career in Global Health

Ann Grimwood, ND is vice president and president-elect of Natural Doctors International (NDI) – a non-profit organized with the mission of promoting global health and social justice through service, education, policy and research. Learn about her path to practicing naturopathic medicine on a global scale and her work with NDI.

How did you discover your love for global health?

“Prior to starting naturopathic medical school, I worked and volunteered abroad for a few years. My most memorable experience was volunteering for three and a half months in Tanzania. I volunteered at a preschool and primary school, teaching music, art, and sports to children ages 4-10. This instilled in me a passion for learning about other cultures. As a student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, I participated in two brigades to Nicaragua with NDI as well as a one month externship. I fell in love with the culture and the country which further fueled my interest and love for working in resource limited countries. I also participated in a brigade to Haiti with Naturopaths Without Borders.

Naturopathic medicine is preventative healthcare for everyone, and it has the ability to reduce healthcare costs, trips to the hospital, and emergency room wait times. Naturopathic doctors are also teachers who play a vital role in healthy living, longevity and aging well without disease. In resource limited countries, access to clean water and (healthy) food is a luxury afforded to some, and education is absolutely essential.

Since graduating from naturopathic medical school, I have continued to volunteer with NDI. Major health issues addressed include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, parasites (repetitive infections from lack of clean drinking water), dengue, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (from years of cooking over coal), urinary tract infections (from lack of adequate hygiene practices), kidney stones, kidney disease, pregnancy, malnutrition, arthritis, sexually transmitted infections, etc.”

How do patients/the community benefit from NDI?

“Natural Doctors International is a global health organization that promotes holistic healthcare for all by providing free health services to underserved communities by integrative providers such as naturopathic doctors, medical doctors, acupuncturists, and chiropractors. Our organization has been operating on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua since 2005, serving a population of 45,000.

In 2009, NDI created the DIOSA (“goddess” or “beautiful woman” in Spanish) program as a response to the increase in prevalence of cervical cancer on the island, and began providing quality health education to women as well as free gynecological exams (including pap tests). Since DIOSA’s inception, NDI realized a need for more comprehensive psychological care for women and children, and in 2013, we added a full-time Nicaraguan psychologist to our staff. Lic. Lilliam Zacarias expanded the original DIOSA program and provides three essential psychological services to women, children, and families: individual consults, DIOSA group formation and facilitation to women in 10 different communities, and accompaniment services for victims of sexual and domestic violence. Our volunteer doctors provide holistic health services including diet and nutrition counseling, massage and spinal adjustments, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical prescriptions, and acupuncture. We are currently the only free integrative medicine clinic on the island, and the only clinic providing psychological care and a program for victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Since 2005, the NDI Clinic has served more than 25,000 patients, and from 2013 to the present date, 1,746 patients have been treated in the psychology program alone.

The purpose of the DIOSA program is to educate women in a variety of subjects, from healthcare topics such as the importance of nutrition and exercise to osteoporosis and menopause as well as issues pertaining to domestic violence and human rights.

Educational classes about safe sex practices and pregnancy prevention at an early age are offered in secondary schools for young people and adolescents. The Ministry of Health estimates that 40% of pregnant women are adolescents and 12% are cases of sexual abuse (some are not denounced because they have remained with their partners). These presentations are currently being delivered at five secondary schools in the municipality of Moyogalpa with an average annual participation of 300 adolescents.

Charlas or group chats are organized and offered in health centers, and cover various health topics such as maintaining healthy pregnancies and managing chronic illness. In coordination with the Ministry of Health (Moyogalpa Hospital) monthly activities are carried out in each community to address emotional stability and well-being; specifically, with a goal of decreasing the risks for postpartum depression.

Currently, NDI has trained 15 promoters in different communities on the island. These promoters educate women on health topics, issues regarding human rights, and strategies for preventing domestic abuse and violence with an average of 10-15 participants. Participants are provided with travel compensation and refreshments.

Amongst the many activities of the program, one of the most important is crisis care and support in the judicial process for women victims of intra-family violence and sexual abuse. The DIOSA program is currently the only program available on Ometepe that offers comprehensive care, emotional and judicial support in the process of filing a case and going to trial. Many sexual and domestic abuse cases are not reported due to the economic expense involved in traveling off the island to carry out forensic examinations, to initiate trial proceedings, and to see a case through to completion. Providing economic support to the victims and their families is critical in obtaining justice for victims.

According to reports from the Ministry of Health, Nicaragua has the highest teen pregnancy rate; however, the general population still does not understand that, in most cases, teen pregnancy is synonymous with sexual abuse. On the island of Ometepe, the MINSA Pregnancy Club reports that six to seven out of 10 pregnant women are adolescents including girls 13-14 years of age. These children are treated as adults in the program and do not receive the much-needed attention that should be tailored to teens.

The program begins by providing “accompaniment” support by our team for the victim during their initial filing of a formal complaint to the police, followed by necessary medical examinations and forensic psychiatrist exams needed for a court case (all which occur off the island). Support continues until the conclusion of the trial and the sentencing of the aggressor in the state courts in Rivas, the same place where lawyers and prosecutors represent the victims. DIOSA has maintained an average support of three victims per month, covering expenses for the victims, their support network (usually family members), and any witnesses. NDI psychologist Lic. Lilliam Zacarias has brought an end to five trials in which the perpetrators have been captured and prosecuted in favor of the victim. Both the victims and their families are grateful for the confidence and strength they have found in the DIOSA program. With the program’s growing reputation, more victims are referred every day from other institutions on the island such as the Ministry of Health and the national police.

NDI continues to work with other institutions; namely, the national police, the Ministry of Families, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and has been central to creating stronger institutional relations in matters of solution and support for victims of intra-family violence, establishing a better system regarding transfer of care.”

What can be learned from a global health experience?

“Kindness and hope have been my two biggest take-a-ways. I am privileged. My needs have always been met. For many, my life is not reflective of the norm. Everyone has the ability to be kind. I have been on the receiving end of the most genuine kindness from so many who have been afforded less than I, and in many ways, they are far richer than I will ever be. I have learned that hope is the greatest gift. Hope is imparted in many different ways. Hope is trust and when we strip patients of hope, we inadvertently take everything away from them.

My work in global health has reinforced my understanding of cultural competence and how important culture is in the delivery of healthcare, and the relationship between the patient and healthcare provider. The patients are the most grateful, appreciative, and loving people I have ever met.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Mentally and physically, working in global health is exhausting and burnout is inevitable. Taking good care of yourself is absolutely essential. However, emotionally and spiritually, working in global health is by far the most rewarding experience I have known.”

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Dr. Traci Pantuso – Bastyr

Traci Pantuso, ND, MS is adjunct clinical faculty and research investigator at Bastyr University, Washington. She and her collaborator John Macmillan, PhD – a well-known natural products researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz are the recipients of a Collaboration-Innovation Pilot Award from the National Institute of Health-funded Institute for Translational Health Sciences at the University of Washington. Funding will go towards their research project: Translating High-Throughput Cytological Profiling and FuSiOn Platform Technology Data from the complex Oplopanax horridus extract into Basic Science and Pre-clinical Research Models.

Dr. Pantuso is the first ND in about 10 years to receive a Pilot Award. She shares her path to naturopathic medicine with a focus on research.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“Naturopathic medicine was the right path for me because I am not only interested in medicinal plants, but I am also interested in providing excellent health care. I am passionate about research in botanical medicine and the field of naturopathic medicine as a holistic, multidimensional medical model. The flexibility of being able to work in both clinical medicine and basic lab science is challenging and rewarding.”

Bastyr as a springboard

“I chose Bastyr University because it is a leader in naturopathic medical education and research. During my time as a student, the research department was conducting a number of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded studies. I received a clinical education, and had the opportunity to conduct research with experienced mentors as part of a NIH-funded T32 pre-doctoral program.

As a student, I was focused on continuing with research after graduation; however, in my last year of school I realized that I would need to change my goal as there would not be research funding to continue that path. In my last year, I focused on preceptoring and making myself a competitive candidate for a residency position.

After graduation, I completed a clinical residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. Following residency, I started and operated a naturopathic medical clinic in Bellingham, Washington for four years. During that time, I recognized the opportunity to increase research on dietary supplements and other natural products, and as well as outcome-specific research on naturopathic medicine.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“I am focused on my clinical teaching and research projects. I am conducting research, presenting at conferences and writing grant proposals to further research projects.

In regards to her collaborative research, “Dr. Macmillan and his consortium of laboratories have developed new technologies to assist in better understanding complex medicinal plant extracts. Through this project, we will generate data to design further research experiments that will inform clinical research.”

Aside from research, Dr. Pantuso is proud to provide naturopathic care that is based on education and a strong patient-doctor relationship. She has found work/life balance since the completion of her schooling and residency, and enjoys spending quality time with her family and in nature.

Advice for aspiring NDs

“I recommend working and/or volunteering in a naturopathic clinic to get an idea of what naturopathic medicine is like. I developed a wonderful relationship with a mentor, and started volunteering in her office, and eventually worked for her during naturopathic medical school. This experience was invaluable and helped me to have a better understanding of what life would be like as a naturopathic doctor. I recommend that all students and recent graduates find a mentor.”

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Dr. Robert Kachko – UBSNM

“NDs are the professional voice of every patient who wishes to get well and stay well through a sustainable and comprehensive approach that honors them and their unique story.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

An arrhythmia first led Robert Kachko, ND, LAc into the world of natural medicine. Desperate to find answers, he sought the care of a Chinese medicine specialist. The result was a clean bill of health at his cardiology follow up.

His personal health and professional experience as an emergency medical technician, led Dr. Kachko to explore career options in healthcare. Knowing that he wanted to offer patient-centered care, he found his calling in naturopathic medicine.

“Naturopathic medicine has always been the original inspiration for the Integrative and Functional Medicine movements. What sets naturopathic doctors apart, is that the core tenets of our medical philosophy are infused throughout every interaction we have with a patient. Rather than thinking about how to replace medications with otherwise more “natural” substances, we approach each case with an understanding that our primary role as physicians is to work with the body’s complex adaptive capacity for self-healing. As NDs who work in the realm of integrative medicine advocacy, it is essential that we have a seat at every table when it comes to healthcare reform. NDs are the professional voice of every patient who wishes to get well and stay well through a sustainable and comprehensive approach that honors them and their unique story.”

UBSNM as a springboard

Dr. Kachko pursued his education at the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine and a master’s in acupuncture. Dr. Kachko was the class president during his first year of school, and the founding president of the University of Bridgeport chapter of Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA). He was a student representative on the House of Delegates for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).

Since graduation, Dr. Kachko has remained an advocate and leader in the naturopathic profession. He currently serves as the President of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is also a past board member and legislative chair of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicans‘ Legislative Team. Dr. Kachko practices at Inner Source Natural Health and Acupuncture in New York City and is the co-founder and CEO of TribeRx.

“While I see patients, I’ve also spent much of my time since graduation working toward reaching a larger audience. Through advocacy with the AANP, I’m able to work toward ensuring that every American has the option to choose an ND as part of their healthcare team. I’ve also worked in healthcare technology, developing a start-up that aims to resolve the social determinants of health for people living with chronic disease. We help patients get the support and understanding they need, which is very much aligned with the naturopathic medical philosophy. Finally, our knowledge as NDs is highly valued – this has allowed me to advise multiple non-profit and for-profit organizations hoping to bring the naturopathic medical perspective to their own work.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“In my opinion, there are two types of people who see naturopathic doctors: those who are proactive about their health and view NDs as an integral part that, and those who see NDs as a last resort, because nothing else has worked for them.”

Dr. Kachko is passionate about helping both groups, and is thankful for the tools he has acquired in his education and years of clinical practice to help his patients prevent ailments. He also finds considerable joy when those who come in as a last resort benefit from naturopathic medicine.

“It sets a lightbulb off in them, and that’s really rewarding. The physician-patient relationship is sacred, and we have an opportunity to spend time with people and share in their journey.” Dr. Kachko sees the naturopathic profession’s biggest strengths in “the eclectic, individual nature of how of how NDs practice.”

“The most rewarding part of my time with patients is the fact that I really do get to spend time with patients. First visits are usually 1.5 hours, follow-ups often an hour. Patients come to understand that their healing comes from them, and these thorough visits give them the confidence and understanding they need to take better care of themselves and their families. In spending time and digging deep to understand the root cause of each patient’s suffering, I have the honor of hearing their stories of healing unfold.”

In his free time Dr. Kachko says, “You can usually find me at the park with my dog Maya, exploring Brooklyn with a good audiobook, at the gym, reading or spending time with family and friends.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Kachko has never lost sight of why he chose naturopathic medicine – not just to help people, but to become a part of their lives. Through the rigors of school, and the demands of practice, Dr. Kachko believes it’s vital that young NDs and future students never lose sight of their why.

In order to stay rooted to his why, Dr. Kachko stays actively involved, and recommends others do the same. “It wasn’t enough for me to say I want things to change. I encourage current and prospective students to make the changes they want to see happen. Naturopathic Medicine is a profession that will ask a lot of you, but will usually give you so much more in return. I’m grateful and proud to be part of a community of doctors who are working hard to change medicine, one patient visit at a time.”

Pursuing your passion is possible at any age. “I had classmates who had either just started their first career, or were way into their original careers, who took the leap and made the change to a new profession. I think it’s a testament to the strength of naturopathic medicine that people are willing to take this leap and make that change.” Click here to learn more about three professionals who changed careers to naturopathic medicine.

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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.”

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