Dr. Kaley Burns – NUHS

“There is magic in medicine that does not derive solely from technology or diagnostic aptitude; but rather from our interactions with patients.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Like many naturopathic doctors, Dr. Kaley Burns discovered her passion through her own healing journey. After visiting multiple physicians and specialists with no success, Dr. Burns’ mother suggested she see a naturopathic doctor. Accustomed to conventional medicine, she was aware of naturopathic medicine misconceptions, but also believed that medicine could provide more. Naturopathic medicine gave her the healing results that she long desired. A then-physical therapy aide with dreams of becoming a physical therapist, Dr. Burns changed career paths and applied to naturopathic medical school, supported by the mentorship of her naturopathic doctor.

“Naturopathic training has helped me transform into a uniquely talented individual with experience, understanding, and strengths.”

NUHS as a springboard

With roots in Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from Wisconsin, Dr. Burns is a self-proclaimed “Midwest girl at heart.” She was attracted to National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) for its location in Illinois, and the collaborative programs. Throughout her schooling, she worked alongside chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and other health professionals to expand her knowledge and open doors to integrative care.

Since NUHS is in a pre-licensed state, the limitations in the naturopathic medical scope of practice inspire ND students to develop additional skills for patient care. “I sought training in IV and regenerative injection therapy. Additionally, I contacted clinics and medical professionals for preceptor and observation opportunities to gain an understanding of how I wanted to structure my practice. Furthermore, I worked to advocate for myself, my colleagues and the profession as a whole, with intentions to advance our training and opportunities.”

Dr. Burns also participated in a medical brigade to bring the healing power of naturopathic medicine to an underserved population in Nicaragua. Furthermore, she describes her NUHS clinic rotation at the clinic where she is currently practicing as an integral part of her growth as a naturopathic doctor.

“I am fortunate once again to be part of a comprehensive team, who are all dedicated to bringing the utmost care to patients in the community.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Following graduation, Dr. Burns took some time off to reconnect with her loved ones before making the move to her first job at an integrative clinic in Connecticut. Since then, Dr. Burns has moved to Montana and practices full-time at a naturopathic primary care clinic.

“I am passionate about regenerative therapies, specifically injection therapies. As much as we know about the human body, mysteries remain. Moreover, the connections between mind and body become ever more prevalent in medicine. There is vulnerability when someone seeks help. Patients will share things about themselves; as doctors we must listen with open hearts and minds. There is magic in medicine that does not derive solely from technology or diagnostic aptitude; but rather from our interactions with patients.”

Dr. Burns enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as building connections in the community. She also values an active lifestyle and recently summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

Advice for aspiring NDs

Naturopathic medicine is rewarding career with many paths. “I encourage prospective students to embark on this journey because you believe whole-heartedly that there is a better way to help patients, a better method of healthcare. The infinite tools and meticulous training of naturopathic physicians allow us to truly treat each patient uniquely.” To learn more about career paths in naturopathic medicine, click here.

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Blake Langley – ND Student

“NUNM changed my life. The person I was six years ago is very different from the man and clinician that I am today.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Hailing from southeast United States, Blake Langley, Naturopathic Medical Student Association President and ND student, knew medicine was his calling since middle school.

“Realizing there was a significant lack of focus on prevention and chronic disease management other than polypharmacy, I began researching holistic healthcare professions. That’s when naturopathic medicine fell into my lap. At my first site visit, I felt like I was home.”

Blake’s first step to pursuing his naturopathic medical education was meeting with the National University of Natural Medicine admissions team in to discuss his transcript and career goals as they aligned with the science, history, and philosophy of naturopathic medicine. “The pathway to true health and wellness comes from comprehensive care. Naturopathic medicine has a focus on each patient’s whole health, including prevention of disease and minimizing risk factors. The idea of using lower intensity interventions when safe and appropriate was so novel to me compared to the quick administration of drugs and surgery, that I knew I’d never be able to go back.”

NUNM as a springboard

“NUNM provided a safe space for me to express my opinions, study other healing modalities on top of my naturopathic medical studies, take part in a close-knit community, and live in an area of the country that has a diverse set of natural areas.”

“I discovered a year or two into my education, that the naturopathic profession has varying views on our core identity; however, the diversity of thought at NUNM provided a space for colorful discussion. I found it important to study real primary care medicine while adhering to core naturopathic philosophy and becoming an efficient and competent clinician.”

“NUNM urged me to pursue other areas of study like acupuncture and massage therapy, which will greatly increase my possible future job opportunities. I received my LMT during my time at NUNM, and practiced massage outside of my clinical experience at the school and during preceptorship.”

Furthermore, the NUNM campus’ unique old elementary school setting offered charm that the other schools could not compete with. “With easy public transit and pedestrian access, the urban setting is distinctly offset by stunning views of Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood on sunny days. Within two hours, students can have access to Oregon coastlines, river beaches, mountains, deep forests, and even high desert settings. With much-needed escapes from the didactic settings of medical school, I knew NUNM was the best place for me.”

“There are so many lessons I’ve learned throughout my time at NUNM. In my personal life, I’ve learned how to only bring things into my life that bring me joy; I’ve learned how to recognize when my body, mind, and spirit need restoration; I’ve learned how to communicate better with myself, my peers, my superiors, and those outside of the realm of naturopathic medicine. However, in my professional life, almost everything has changed. I have discovered how to efficiently learn on the fly, how to manage my time and investments, how to respect the interests and approach to medicine that others have, and what it means to provide patient-centered healthcare. NUNM changed my life. The person I was six years ago is very different from the man and clinician that I am today.”

“In school, I probably volunteered a little too much of my time sitting on the Honor Council, serving as Student Ambassador, representing on additional committees, working in multiple capacities with the Naturopathic Medical Student Association, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Integrative Health Policy Consortium, and more. However, it is through my work on these projects that I have found exactly where I will thrive in my future practice.”

Work-Life Balance as an ND student

I have always loved organization and facilitation of others’ clarity and efficiency. Over the last four years, I have invested an average of 30 hours per week into representing students on a national level in advocacy, training, education, and opportunity development through the Naturopathic Medical Student Association. I eat, breathe, and live the NMSA at this point in my life and it augments my clinical and didactic education in a way that keeps me passionate about what we do and teach. From my volunteerism with the other organizations in the profession, I’ve found my niche – as much as I love direct patient care, I know I will continue to be involved in administration throughout my career.

Furthermore, “I find that I have greater career flexibility from adding a second degree, receiving another license (LMT), and gaining training in organizational management from the NMSA. Because my focus remains in areas of high concentration of pre-licensed states, I’m very glad to have included the Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine during my time at NUNM. I can practice in any state in the country with both licenses. Additionally, this gives me the opportunity to influence parts of the healthcare entity that may not be open to NDs right now. Most medical providers have an idea of what acupuncture is and how it works. Using my LAc to work alongside these providers and introducing them to naturopathic medicine over time can build trust, long-standing relationships, and opportunities for future naturopathic doctors to receive gainful employment throughout the levels of the healthcare system in the future.”

Future Goals

“I’m currently working toward a residency; however, my hopes for a paradigm shift in the southeast United States remains a constant urge in the back of my mind. My goals are to move into healthcare administration and use my acupuncture license to move into areas of the healthcare system currently uncharted by naturopathic doctors. There is significant room for development within systems like the Veteran’s Administration where, if people are able to become credentialed, work, and build trust in the systems pre-existing structure, facilitating ND entrance can be more easily conducted.”

“The parts of naturopathic medicine that I have developed a great passion for are in advocacy and administration. During my time with the NMSA, I’ve learned that, as much as I love providing care to patients, I need a break to work in legislation and organizations that help the background of the profession. Most come into naturopathic medicine to provide for patients, but I’ve learned that I’m a better facilitator. I plan to work on state and federal levels for naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and integrative health and wellness to bring naturopathic physicians into systems throughout the United States for a foundational shift in the wellness of our country.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“The greatest advice I can provide to those considering naturopathic medicine – or medicine in general – is to remain humble and open to other philosophies. In naturopathic medicine, we have the opportunity to learn from an array of lineages to promote diversity of thought and practice. As individual as our patients are, the physicians in our profession are similarly diverse. Even if you don’t agree with or understand certain practices (most commonly homeopathy or vaccination), you should train yourself to think critically for yourself without having to force any belief on another individual. Medical school is a time to explore not only your capability of gaining knowledge, providing patient care, and how you may want to practice in the future; it is also a time to understand how you work best, what your personal limits are, and challenge yourself to understand what you know and what you don’t know. I’ve seen classmates let their ego get ahead of them and create false preconceptions regarding subjects (which naturopathic medicine already has a challenge with to some extent with other parts of the healthcare community) and it has left them cynical and jaded. However, the classmates who challenge themselves to think critically and openly have noted their patient interactions are easier, their ability and willingness to learn is accelerated, and they graduate as healthier, happier individuals.”

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Dr. Carrie Baldwin-Sayre – NUNM

“It just made sense to find the root cause of illness rather than just put a band-aid on it, and use whatever natural means were effective FIRST, before elevating to riskier or side-effect ridden therapies.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Dr. Carrie Baldwin-Sayre knew she wanted to be a doctor since elementary school, but it wasn’t until later in life that she found her calling in naturopathic medicine. As a young student she had never heard of medical systems outside of the conventional, Western model. As a pre-med student, she didn’t enjoy the level of competitiveness among students and what seemed to be financial motivations for pursuing a career in medicine. In an effort to stay true to her values, she changed paths and pursued a bachelor’s degree in sociology at UCLA. After graduation, she developed chronic non-seasonal rhinitis for which she was prescribed a steroid nasal spray with no explanation of the cause of the condition or use of the drug. The steroid spray didn’t work so she began her own research and discovered the now-classic book “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The book contained a full chapter on alternative medicine which covered diet, herbs, and mind-body and referenced National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, OR. Dr. Baldwin-Sayre requested more information and was hooked. “It just made sense to find the root cause of illness rather than just put a band-aid on it, and use whatever natural means were effective FIRST, before elevating to riskier or side-effect ridden therapies.”

With her heart set on becoming a naturopathic doctor, she and her husband packed their bags and moved to Portland. While her husband attended law school, she worked full time and completed her pre-requisites at night. Seven years later, she made the transition from a lucrative career in high-tech public relations to a full-time naturopathic medical student. “As soon as I started studying the physiology, biochemistry, and mechanisms of action of nutrients and herbs, it just made perfect sense.”

NUNM as a springboard

Dr. Baldwin-Sayre describes her time at NUNM as turning point in which she found a community of students and faculty who were dedicated to an alternative healthcare approach. “That passion was important to me, and made me realize that I not only wanted to help individual patients, but also to introduce to a much wider audience the idea that we could do things differently in health care and have great success in the process. We all had different spins on how we wanted to do that, but we were absolutely united in that underlying goal.” Dr. Baldwin-Sayre’s former classmates are now her colleagues with whom she continues to work with, meet up with at conferences and consults regularly about tough patient cases.

“Living the dream” after graduation

After completing her residency in general practice and cardiovascular medicine at the Center for Natural Medicine and the (then) NCNM Health Centers, Dr. Baldwin-Sayre stayed on as an independent contractor at NCNM and then pursued a career in private practice.

“I was motivated to change my focus from private practice because of my work on the Board of Directors at the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OANP) which subtly shifted my perspective from individual patients to naturopathic medicine as a whole. I realized the importance of helping to grow the profession and protect our rights as physicians. As the Associate Dean of Clinical Education at NUNM, I am now in a better position to do that than I ever was before.” Dr. Baldwin-Sayre currently serves as the President of the OANP.

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“I love supporting the profession in its growth and evolution. I am passionate about educating the community about naturopathic medicine and how it is changing the healthcare landscape. I really love introducing and advocating for our medicine to legislators, insurers, researchers, policymakers, other healthcare providers and just about anyone who could advance the profession and help open up opportunities for our graduates. “

Advice for aspiring NDs

Reflecting on her success, Dr. Baldwin-Sayre recalls the significance of residency in offering better opportunities for practice. Furthermore, she credits external preceptorships that helped her network with NDs in the Portland community. Many of those physicians remain important mentors in her life today.

Dr. Baldwin-Sayre advises prospective naturopathic medical students to *visit a local ND to gain a better understanding of naturopathic practice. **There is diversity in the practice of naturopathic medicine so it is important to keep an open mind with others’ approaches to treatment. She also encourages prospective students to establish a financial plan and take out the minimum student loans that you need to pursue your education. Work hard and set up opportunities to expose yourself to different types of practices to set yourself up to be the best doctor you can be!

*Find a naturopathic doctor near you in the United States and Canada.

**The scope of naturopathic medicine varies by state. To learn about the scope of practice in your state or province, visit the state affiliates of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website or the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

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Dr. Chris Habib – CCNM

“When you become an ND, you are automatically an entrepreneur. That means you can start any business that interests you and nurture it into something that can make a real impact for others.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Prior to pursuing naturopathic medicine, Dr. Habib completed an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto, with a double major in Life Sciences and Psychology. “I knew I wanted to be working in medicine so that I could do something meaningful and connect with people. I also wanted to implement improvements to the way healthcare was being provided to Canadians through the conventional medical system.” Naturopathic medicine seemed to bridge the gap.

Dr. Habib openly admits that at first, he didn’t know naturopathic medicine was the right path for him. “I jumped in without knowing what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be a fantastic learning experience in an industry ripe with diverse business opportunities.”

CCNM as a springboard

Dr. Habib chose to pursue his naturopathic medical education at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine because of its location in Toronto, where he lives. He also saw that CCNM was the largest naturopathic institution in Canada and thus would include a high-quality curriculum.

“My experience at CCNM was pivotal to my development into a professional, as well as helping me becoming a better version of myself. In hindsight, the ability to complete such a meaningful stepping stone in my education was a huge personal achievement.” Dr. Habib found that the immense amount of learning was motivating and provided an ongoing source of intellectual stimulation.

“Living the dream” after graduation

“Planning for success is difficult when you don’t know what you don’t know. We all try our best. I typically think I want something, go and try to achieve it, only to leave me wanting more when I succeed. I’m on a path of continual self-discovery.” After graduation, Dr. Habib became the first naturopathic research resident in Canada, working at CCNM. He wanted to be a teacher and went on to become an academic instructor and clinic supervisor.

After completing his residency, Dr. Habib discovered his love of business. “Aside from teaching, I opened a clinic, worked for a naturopathic publication, built online courses, saw patients in private practice, started an herb company, bought and sold various businesses, I couldn’t get enough!” Dr. Habib currently spends most of his time as the CFO of the herb company he founded, Perfect Herbs. What started as a side hustle has grown and developed into a fulfilling full-time role, in which he happily serves the naturopathic community.

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Dr. Habib loves the diversity of career options in naturopathic medicine. “When you become an ND, you are automatically an entrepreneur. That means you can start any business that interests you and nurture it into something that can make a real impact for others.” Dr. Habib found that private practice was rewarding, but not ideally suited for his skills. He wanted to help others on a larger scale, which is why he runs companies that help optimize the work and lives of other NDs.

The flexibility of naturopathic medicine allows Dr. Habib to work remotely. He’s able to manage his business on his preferred schedule and has also developed passive business income streams so that he can generate revenue even when he’s not directly putting in hours. It took a lot of work, and a lot of trial and error to get to where he is now.

Advice for aspiring NDs

“My advice to prospective students has changed over the years as I’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many graduates through my work. Here’s what I’ve found: Those who work hard will be successful no matter what they do and those who love their work will be successful no matter what they do. So, my largest piece of advice is to first realize that you will be an entrepreneur and second that you need to have one of those things going for you.”

Dr. Habib encourages prospective students to spend time exploring what they might like doing for work, or to shadow NDs to find out what the day-to-day is like. “The more you can find out about what you’re getting into, the more you can be sure it’s right for you. I wish you the utmost success in your journey.”

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Dr. Ellen Wong – CCNM

 I help my patients shift perspectives, so they can empower themselves to make the health changes they want to see.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

After completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, Dr. Wong considered graduate programs in cognitive psychology and molecular genetics until she found naturopathic medicine. “Naturopathic medicine is the perfect blend of concepts I love – how the human body works and how the human mind thinks. So much of what naturopathic medicine is, is to motivate people to change behaviors.”  Dr. Wong loves the opportunity to work one on one with patients to gain an understanding of their health condition and offer individualized treatment plans to support their healing. “I love that naturopathic medicine embodies health as a combination of physical, mental and emotional aspect.” More importantly, the doctor-patient relationship, “allows the patient to feel heard and understood,” explains Dr. Wong, which is a huge component to unveiling the root cause of illness.

CCNM as a springboard

Raised in Toronto, Dr. Wong chose to pursue her naturopathic medical education at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine to stay close to her friends, family and community. She saw opportunity in the teaching clinic and felt an immediate sense of belonging.

“Anytime you pursue something that challenges you, you grow and you learn. At CCNM, I grew as a person and learned a lot – about naturopathic medicine and myself.” The clinical internship offered hands on experience in patient care along with the mentorship of experienced supervisors. “The challenging pace of the curriculum combined with the humbling patient stories, really taught me a lot about empathy and compassion. It put a lot of what I considered to be stressors into perspective.”

“Living the dream” after graduation

Following graduation, Dr. Wong was accepted into CCNM’s two-year clinical residency program. Shortly after graduation from the residency program, she transitioned into a full-time faculty role at CCNM. In addition to serving as a faculty member, Dr. Wong worked at two practices before establishing her own in Whitby, Ontario.

Dr. Wong continues to explore different ways to offer care to a larger audience through group programs and speaking engagements. “I think there are many ways I can improve the health of those around me, not just in a one-on-on setting of a traditional practice. The longer I practice, the more I realize that I need to adapt and learn to a changing environment. That’s not a bad thing at all, I’m quite excited to see where medicine will go in the next 10, 20, 50 years!”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Dr. Wong finds fulfillment in her career through treatment and career options.

From a treatment perspective, naturopathic medicine offers many approaches to patient care guided by the principles of evidence-informed practice. “That means we have to make decisions encompassing best available evidence, our clinical expertise and our patients’ values and beliefs. I firmly believe that no matter what tools we have, the most important one is the ability to help motivate our patients (who are willing) to develop healthy physical, mental and emotional habits. You simply cannot have a patient eat a particular diet, exercise a particular way or take a particular pill and expect to change the way your patient thinks. Our thoughts create our reality so at the absolute core of what I do, I help my patients shift perspectives, so they can empower themselves to make the health changes they want to see.”

Dr. Wong appreciates the flexibility of her career. As newlyweds, Dr. Wong and her husband recently returned from their honeymoon. “Traveling is a huge passion of both mine and my husband’s, so the career I chose had to align with that. The great thing about balancing work at CCNM and my own private practice is that it has allowed me the flexibility to pursue the things that matter to me. In my private practice, I do my best to make sure my patients are equipped with that they need (from a health perspective) while I am away. They know they can receive care, should they need it, from a fellow ND.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

As a student, Dr. Wong reflects, “Sometimes I worked hard, sometimes I worked smart. I think that’s how it has to be – both in school and in life.” She dove into the subjects that she loved and recognized her responsibility for understanding parts of the curriculum that did not come as easy to her. “I stayed physically and socially active; put pressure on myself to study and do reasonably well but also recognized that if I didn’t perform as well, it was my responsibility to figure out how to improve.”

She focused on the end-goal of motivating her patients to better heath and contributing to CCNM. “I stayed curious and was both excited and at peace with the fact that I would never learn all there is to learn about medicine.” Knowledge of how to access resources is a valuable tool for successful naturopathic practice.

“When you first step into the halls of any naturopathic college, understand that you are about to learn the foundations of naturopathic medicine. Once you have experience with it all, you can choose to pursue what you deem as valuable and set up your career the way you want to.”

Dr. Wong encourages prospective students to explore career options. There are so many career paths in the naturopathic medical field. You have the flexibility to be your own boss, set your own hours and determine the work-life balance that is right for your family and lifestyle. Your schooling will teach you the foundations of naturopathic medicine, however a great deal of the learning comes from experience. “Choosing medicine as a career means you are choosing to continue to learn. This applies to both the science and the art of practice.”

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Dr. Eric Secor – Bastyr

 

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Eric R. Secor Jr, ND, PhD, MPH, MS, LAc, Dipl Ac., NCCAOM

Dr. Eric  Secor sought out naturopathic medicine when standard medical approaches alone were not treating his chronic ear infections, skin inflammation and acne. He and his naturopathic doctor reviewed his diet and lifestyle with a common sense approach that lead to a rapid improvement in symptom management. The naturopathic approach resonated with Dr. Secor and his then girlfriend, Mary Markow, ND, MS, LAc, and together they began their exploration into the field of naturopathic medicine.

Bastyr as a springboard

With family recently settled in Seattle and an interest in the acupuncture program, Drs. Secor and Markow decided Bastyr University was the naturopathic medical school for them. “Bastyr provided an incredibly strong foundation in the fundamentals of naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and the application of wellness and lifestyle interventions.” Furthermore, the clinical rotations gave them the opportunity to experience a wide variety of approaches to private and group practice.

“Living the dream” after graduation

Immediately following graduation and the completion of the ND licensing boards, Drs. Secor and Markow packed up and started their lives together. They traveled to the Czech Republic and spent time in the medical spas and in Slovakia and Vienna. Once they returned to Connecticut, Dr. Secor pursued his interest in research at the Hospital for Special Care which had opened one of the first multi-disciplinary integrative medicine clinics. This experience led to publications and a transition to the University Connecticut School of Medicine, where he successfully competed for an NIH/NCCIH F32 and K08, venture capital funding and MPH and PHD in occupational and environmental health. His research was focused on evaluating the role and impact of botanicals such as ananas comosus and their extracts as immune-modulators.

Finding fulfillment as an ND

As the proud father of two teenage daughters, Dr. Secor will see his oldest off to culinary school this fall and his youngest will enter high school.  He currently oversees and advocates on behalf of integrative medicine within Hartford HealthCare and its Cancer Institute. Dr. Markow works for the same system as an Integrative Medicine Physician and acupuncturist.

Dr. Secor describes his role as “a challenge and blessing being one of the only NDs directing and growing a multi-site hospital-based IM program.” He enjoys the opportunity to work with an integrative team of health care providers to offer the best care possible.

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Secor encourages prospective students to “visit and explore as many practices and professional areas as possible throughout your formal education. You will likely find a practice or professional model similar to your interests which you can emulate.”

Find a mentor. “Having a mentor or several mentors in a variety of key areas is critical to both long term personal and professional success especially in naturopathic medicine.”

As with any career, there are challenges that you may face in naturopathic medicine such as state licensure, variations of scope of practice and pay. “If you resonate with the philosophy and lifestyle of the naturopathic profession, go for it.” The naturopathic medical field is a viable career path with flexibility to pursue opportunities in many different fields such as academia, government, administration and media to name a few. “Tremendous opportunities exist nationally and internationally.”

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