Supporting Patients During a Global Health Crisis

At National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), supporting our community through medical care and social responsibility is what we do. In fact, the level of community support for our patients is one of the reasons aspiring ND students choose to attend NUNM. Now more than ever, we must dive into new ways of supporting our community, and to that end teach our students by example how to be nimble and socially conscious in their future careers.

Front-line workers and clinic staff make immediate changes.

During this critical time for health care, NUNM has kept its on-campus clinic open and excelled in supporting disadvantaged communities. The clinic serves the most diverse patient population of any naturopathic teaching clinic, with 50% of patients on Medicaid and many of whom have a hard time gaining access to medical services.

Since mid-March, NUNM residents and providers have kept essential services open with four front-line workers each day and 20 telemedicine providers, ensuring our community has access to uninterrupted healthcare services. Hundreds of patients have received individual communications to check on their need to refill prescriptions, order supplements, and address any immediate health concerns that they want to discuss with a provider. Our team continues to be proactive to provide access to care through these uncertain times.

That is why front-line workers doubled down and very quickly transitioned to telemedicine when possible—a huge project for a team who otherwise performed nearly all appointments in-person. Our ND students started telemedicine appointments mid-May, and our patients have felt the support that this brings them in a crucial time.

NUNM researchers continue to ensure the public stays informed with the latest evidence on infectious disease.

Delivering accurate, science-based information to the public is just as crucial as providing medical services. The team at NUNM’s Helfgott Research Institute (Helfgott) has stepped up, from developing a new study about Yoga Nidra’s effect on anxiety, to adding their expert voices to the industry.

PhD Immunologist and Helfgott Researcher, Dr. Heather Zwickey, has been dedicated to answering COVID-19-related questions and appearing as a guest on podcasts. Her career has been devoted to finding and communicating evidence-based research; this information has proven pivotal while so much inaccuracy has made its way to the public.

Dr. Ryan Bradley, director of Helfgott, has also been a big part of helping spread accurate information, and feels that this education supports the community in unique ways. “I think that naturopathic physicians are playing a very important role in primordial, primary and secondary prevention stages, in part by being a part of the public health safety net, helping with disease surveillance [and] helping to do health education related to public health measures…that’s a very, very important contribution.” Dr. Bradley helped develop a clinical case registry for COVID-19, and he and Dr. Zwickey have been reviewing content for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

In the midst of this pandemic, the National Institutes of Health renewed a grant for our BRIDG clinical research training program for the next five years. We are excited to continue Helfgott’s mission of advancing the science of natural medicine, more important now than ever.

Most importantly, supporting our patients.

When the pandemic started making its way down the West Coast, all medical schools knew they would need pivot. At NUNM, there was no question that we would need to continue our commitment to community no matter what changes needed to be made. Our staff, providers and students have always supported the health and well-being of our patients, and that is no different in the time of COVID-19.

Patients have felt supported. Dr. Shehab El-Hashemy, dean of the College of Naturopathic Medicine, has been in touch with NUNM patients. He knows their experiences in the pandemic, has gotten a sense of what they need, and heard their stories of how they have felt supported by NUNM’s providers during this time.

Our mission at NUNM is to educate and train physicians, practitioners and pre-professionals in the art, science and research of natural medicine. Our residents, staff and providers are leading by example to support patients in a time of crisis. We are proud to be educating our students to do the same, long after the pandemic is over.


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