“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!
**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.