Clara Sage Sartor – Sonoran University Student Spotlight

What year are you in ND school?

I’m in my 3rd year of ND school.

Why do you want to be a naturopathic doctor?

I am becoming a naturopathic doctor because I believe that care should be individualized, that natural treatments should always be presented as an option when safe and appropriate, and that an integrative and holistic approach is the highest form of care.  I have seen conventional medicine fail those I love and me personally in many ways, thus I am aspiring to be the physician that I believe my family, myself, and all patients truly deserve. 

How did you prepare to be a strong candidate for ND school?

I was originally considering going into conventional or osteopathic medical school, so I was pre-med in undergrad; that made me a candidate for medical school but it was everything else that shaped me and helped me to stand out.  I was a computational and applied mathematics and statistics major with a concentration in mathematical biology and a minor in French and Francophone studies.  I love music, mainly jazz and the blues, and so I also took music courses and ended up hosting my own jazz recital at the school.  

I was also deeply involved in my community, creating an organization called SCOPE: STEM-Created Opportunities to Promote Empowerment which focuses on providing opportunities to underrepresented and underserved persons who are interested in the STEM fields with an emphasis on those interested in medicine.  While my pre-med focus prepared me academically, it was the rigor of my math major, the cultural immersion of studying French for 10+ years, my passion for community, diversity, and serving the underserved and underrepresented, and my curiosity and creativity from my love of jazz which truly shaped me into a strong candidate for life.

What was important to you in selecting a school?

In addition to selecting an accredited school with a strong program, I was sold on Sonoran University because when I visited the campus, the students there looked happier than any other school I’d visited.  To top it off, I also met one amazing doctor on my interview day who sat down with me and talked person-to-person instead of as if we were in an interview.  The community atmosphere and attitude of the student body and faculty said a lot to me about the program which I felt would reflect how my own experience would be.

Now that you are in school, what have you learned/experienced that you didn’t expect?

Truthfully, I didn’t expect to like all of the modalities as much as I do.  I knew I’d like acupuncture since it’s helped me personally and botanical medicine since my first and middle name are practically an herb, but I didn’t realize I would grow to appreciate nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, or even physical medicine as much as I do.  

I also thought that having all of these modalities in my back pocket would be overwhelming and cause choice fatigue leading me to never know what to pick to prescribe to a patient.  However, I learned that is not the case!  Instead, I feel overly equipped and empowered to help people and give them more individualized care than I ever thought was possible.  I think this is incredibly important because for some people, a painkiller or other pharmaceutical/conventional intervention may work so much better than an herb or other natural treatment and vice versa, so I love naturopathic medicine because its integrative nature lets me have both options to present to my patient and have many alternatives should one fail.

What is your favorite thing about school so far?

We have six core principles of naturopathic medicine, but my favorite is:

Docere: doctor as teacher.  

I love teaching patients why we are giving this treatment, why it should work, and how we’re going to get them on the path of healing.  To do this, it often takes an intake and patient preparation that involves really getting to know the condition, how it’s presenting, and the person’s whole picture.  

Prior to undergrad, throughout undergrad, and even now in graduate college, I have worked in customer service in various jobs including as sales supervisor at Yankee Candle Village.  My favorite part of any job has always been connecting with the client, finding what they need, solving that problem/fulfilling that need and educating them on how to keep that need fulfilled.  I love that I now get the chance to do this in the field of health which is, in my opinion, one of the highest forms of customer service.

I also love teaching students.  In high school, I was a French teaching assistant (TA) and my teacher had so much faith in my abilities that he would let me teach classes completely by myself in his absence.  I love the look on someone’s face – including my own! – when they’ve just made that connection in their brain and the light bulb comes on!   I was a tennis instructor in high school for children of all ages, and in undergrad, I was a tutor for my favorite class – calculus – so I love that I get to continue this passion at Sonoran University as a TA for physiology, pharmacology, and my favorite – genetics.  

What advice do you have to offer future students?

Community is everything; find yours.  Don’t try to do this alone.  You may have to build your own support system, but it’s always worth it.

Embrace your struggles.  Don’t let failure define you but do let it shape you.  It’s through adversity that we grow stronger and are shaped into the person we are meant to become. 

How did you learn about naturopathic medicine?

I learned about naturopathic medicine when I was preparing for the MCATs.  Something in my gut told me that wasn’t the right path.  I was already enrolled in an online wellness and health program after my undergrad as I was looking for more holistic ways to be a health provider.  Somewhere along the way, I found a naturopathic school which led me to naturopathic medicine and ultimately brought me to the biggest move of my life from the East Coast where I’d been my entire life all the way to the Southwest.

What steps did you take to ensure naturopathic medicine was the right fit for you? Did you attend an AANMC virtual fair, watch a webinar, visit school(s), or shadow an ND?

Truthfully, I just knew naturopathic medicine was right for me.  Before I knew what naturopathic medicine was, I was already healing myself with some of our modalities, mainly botanical medicine at the time.  I believe conventional/allopathic medicine can be life-saving and is an incredibly valuable resource, but after working in the Emergency Department for a year as a scribe, I didn’t feel it was the right form of medicine for me to practice.  I visited MD schools, but it never felt like the right fit; I visited Sonoran University and I knew that was the one. 

How do you maintain school/life balance? Please note other activities you may be involved with on campus or in the community.

This is one of my favorite questions, as I love to stay busy!  In addition to being full-time enrolled at Sonoran University, I am dual enrolled at Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture for my Doctorate in Acupuncture to pursue my acupuncture license.  

Additionally, I am a student intern for an online dispensary for supplements, and an integrative platform for providers and patients, where I write articles, conduct research, and get to work in the business aspect of the integrative world.  

I work in multiple departments at Sonoran University as a federal work study teaching and research assistant, and serve my student body as the president of our student government association (SGA).  I have been on the board of Natural Speakers, which is a club at Sonoran University, and a division of Toastmasters International, since I began my Sonoran University career, which is around the same time I founded MOSAIC.  MOSAIC stands for Medicine Optimized to Serve and Ameliorate Intersectionality via Culture and serves a great need in our school’s community in diversity and inclusion, all of which are core principles in my initiatives as SGA president.

I wish I had a better answer for how anyone maintains school/work/life balance in medical school, but my best answer is that people will always make time for what’s important.  And to me, all of these things and my home life, family, and friends are incredibly important.  I apply for every opportunity that comes my way and when offered a position, I ask myself one question: “if I don’t do this, will I regret it?”  If the answer is yes, then I always take the job while ensuring I make plans and allot time for those that are closest to me.

Anything else you wish to share?

I don’t know if I would be where I am without the love and support of my family, so I just want to thank them for always having faith in me.  I am from Ashburn, VA (northern Virginia AKA NOVA)

**Several of these pictures were taken pre-COVID-19 precautions


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