Dr. Elizabeth Rice – Sonoran University

Elizabeth Rice, ND is an assistant professor at Sonoran University of Health Sciences (Sonoran University). Dr. Rice teaches Hahnemannian homeopathy and is a visionary of online education at Sonoran University. She shares her path to naturopathic medicine, focus on mental health and self-care, and advice for future ND students.

Why did you choose to become a naturopathic doctor?

“Around the time I became interested in naturopathy, I was teaching yoga and could not fathom raising my hand in a conventional medical school classroom stating I knew a yoga pose to help with whatever condition we would be discussing.  I felt like the square peg attempting to fit in the round hole.  When I discovered naturopathic medical school and realized the first two years were founded in the basic science medical education, I was so impressed how the curriculum blended the hard sciences with a natural medicinal approach.  It was a perfect fit.”

How has class delivery changed with COVID-19? What can students learn from you?

“I have been an educator for 10 years with an emphasis in online education prior to teaching at Sonoran University.  Before the Coronavirus mandated online education and physical distancing, my students enjoyed learning in a hybrid, flipped classroom; listening to my recorded lectures online at their convenience and participating in active learning exercises during class time.  I have always loved active learning and felt it really enhances the didactic classroom environment which is why all the homeopathy classes at Sonoran University are delivered using the Team Based Learning pedagogy.  Now that my classes are exclusively online, I continue with the Team Based Learning strategy in an effort maintain the collaborative learning environment.  I commend our academic and clinical departments on their success with maintaining such a high degree of integrity with our current online education. It was no easy task and Sonoran University is excelling in its standards for online education.

My students can expect to learn about the clinical application of homeopathy in a real-world setting.  I spend a lot of time reviewing general medicine because my students have learned that to be an excellent homeopath, you must first be an excellent physician.  They love hearing my clinical stories about patients’ reactions to homeopathic medicines and appreciate reviewing general medicine in the process. Additionally, I spend a great deal of time discussing mental health, stress-management and the first tier or the therapeutic order, ‘establish the foundations for health’, since all patients are in desperate need of this.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND and educator

“There are so many phenomenal career paths in naturopathic medicine, and I feel fortunate enough to have sampled a few.” Dr. Rice began her career in a two-year residency – one year in general medicine, and the second in homeopathy with Dr. Stephen Messer. She went on to work in a large group naturopathic medical center and opened a private clinic from her home before returning to Sonoran University (her alma mater) to teach naturopathic medical students.

“Students are so passionate about naturopathic medicine, it is infectious! I love to engage them in talks of naturopathic philosophy and my approach to my patients.  Naturopathic medical students are truly some of the most open-minded people, they are loving and care deeply for humanity and our planet. Who wouldn’t want to spend their days teaching and educating these brilliant minds? I love watching students grow and evolve to become impressive future doctors ready to take on the world with naturopathic medicine.”

In regards to practicing, “I love the amount of time I am able to spend with my patients and how well I know them as people and not just patients. There are intimate details about my patients’ lives that I, alone, am honored to know and understand.  The level of trust and transparency between us is unique. My patients love this and realize how unattainable this is in a conventional medical setting, and, sometimes, even in a naturopathic medical setting.”

Dr. Rice is also active in the naturopathic medical community. “I have spoken at numerous naturopathic and homeopathic conferences and was involved in the start of Naturopaths Without Borders.  I am currently working on elevating the homeopathic curriculum within the naturopathic medical school program with the Diplomate of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (DHANP).”

A focus on mental health and self-care

“I am passionate about mental health and self-care.  There is a great deal of vulnerability and self-awareness required to care for oneself mentally and emotionally. I love diving deep with my patients in this arena. Every patient that walks through my door has some degree of anxiety or depression.  I was once naïve in believing physical and mental health were separate entities, but I now appreciate the interconnectedness between our physical and mental health.  They cannot exist alone but are interdependently related, a complex mesh of physiology, mentality and emotionality.  The beauty of naturopathic medicine and specifically, homeopathy, is treating the whole person, or tolle totum, as our naturopathic principles state.  I can use one single medicine to stimulate my patient’s body’s innate healing ability and affect change in their postmenopausal symptoms, lifelong depression and cognitive decline, it is truly amazing.  I also love that I have a large array of other modalities at my fingertips to assist my patients in their healing…from dietary counseling and lifestyle management to botanicals, the options are almost endless for helping patients.  One of the neatest things about our profession is rarely are there two naturopaths who practice medicine identically. I love to consult with my colleagues on complicated cases to see my patient through their eyes as well as my own.”

What qualities make a strong ND student?

“Determination.  Naturopathic medical school is not an easy ride but as long as you keep your focus and determination set on your end goal, you will attain it.  Flexibility.  I was once told by an upperclassman during my first quarter in naturopathic medical school that there are a lot of hoops to jump through over the next four years, stay focused and keep jumping.  This resonated with me and maintaining flexibility while hoop-jumping has been extremely helpful.  Be passionate.  Whatever intrinsic motivating factor propels you forward in life, nurture that and allow it to grow during your naturopathic medical school career. It exists for a reason and that reason will become evident with time.”

What advice do you have for future ND students?

“Come and experience naturopathic medicine and naturopathic medical school for yourself.  As unlikely as it is, if you have not been a patient of naturopathic medicine, find an ND and start the healing process as quickly as possible. Next, visit the naturopathic medical school campuses and be a student for a day, be sure to sit in on at least a couple clinical rotations, and observe the students and faculty in their normal routines.  You will surely understand if this is a good fit for you with keen observation.”

Dr. Rice’s Publications

Integrative Treatment of Chronic Abdominal Bloating and Pain Associated With Overgrowth of Small Intestinal Bacteria: A Case Report. Kwiatkowski L, Rice E, Langland J. Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Jul;23(4):56-61. PMID: 28646815

Resolution of Chronically Fissured Feet in a Pediatric Patient Using Homeopathic Petroleum Oleum: A Case Report.  Langland J, Rice E, Jonas M (2017) Curr Res Complement Altern Med: CRCAM-120. DOI: 10.29011/CRCAM-120/100020


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