“Before discovering naturopathic medicine, I felt a hunger for more information about the human body in both physical and emotional states. I felt torn between more mental/emotional healthcare fields and the physical. It seemed confusing that they were separated in conventional medicine. Naturopathic medicine is the only healthcare profession that I know of that has the ability to fully support all aspects of health. I wanted a profession that I knew I wouldn’t be bored with. I wanted to feel inspired and to have a foundation of tools that I could continue to learn from.”
Laying the groundwork to become an ND
“I always had an interest in health and medicine. Much of my life I knew I wanted to become a doctor. In college at the University of California, Berkeley, I studied dietetics hoping it would provide a more comprehensive view of health than simply diagnosing and prescribing medications. I knew I wanted to support people from a more holistic perspective and I didn’t feel that medical doctors had all the information. After studying dietetics, I graduated and was reminded again that this field also was only one piece to the holistic health puzzle. I wanted to support people with all determinants of health, not just one through nutrition. At this time, I didn’t know naturopathic medicine existed. I took two gap years and lived in Australia and South East Asia studying and teaching yoga while waitressing and deciding my next career moves. I found naturopathic medicine through the yoga community. After learning more about the naturopathic medical field it felt like everything that had been lacking in other health professions was miraculously combined in one provider. I applied to Bastyr from a beach in Thailand and quickly returned home to interview.”
Bastyr as a springboard
“After traveling through many countries, living in the Bay Area, and growing up in Northern California, I felt slightly ungrounded from a sense of where ‘home’ was. Seattle and the surrounding areas of Bastyr felt like home before I even moved there. In touring the school, the idea of taking breaks to walk on trails and being surrounded by gardens and fresh air felt supportive and needed amongst the intense course load I was about to embark on. The emphasis on research-based medicine and Bastyr’s reputation within the natural healthcare field was also important in my decision. Bastyr was the foundation to the therapeutic tools and philosophy that inspire me in practice. I gained a solid science background and exposure to many healing therapies.
After graduating I finished a two-year naturopathic residency with Emerald City Clinic in Seattle with an emphasis in primary care. In the last six months of residency, I started the process of starting my own clinic, opening a week after finishing my residency. I was fortunate to be able to have the majority of my patients have continuity of care from residency to private practice and opened my doors with a full schedule.
My private practice got busier than expected in the first year. I hired a full-time resident to join me one year into practice with two administrative staff. My husband also joined the practice as a naturopathic doctor. I leave work most days feeling fulfilled. Work days are long, however I’m working with a personal coach to find ways to improve work-life balance and walk the talk of foundations of health.”
Finding fulfillment as an ND
“Life is full, busy, wonderful, and challenging. The aspects I love most about being a naturopathic doctor are the vast amount of tools we have to support individuals. We never have to practice by a ‘one size fits all model.’ Bodies are diverse and naturopathic medicine provides tools to support and respect this diversity. One of my favorite experiences as an ND is when a patient may not tolerate or like the original suggestion of treatment that I provide and I then get to use creativity to provide an option that feels supportive to them individually. I am passionate about supporting people who are underserved in healthcare and providing a compassionate approach to aid in both physical healing, but also trust in the healthcare field.”
Advice for aspiring NDs
“It is important to go in clear on why you are choosing naturopathic medicine. The training and practice is hard, but it is rewarding work. If you are not connected with the why of what you are doing, it will lead to burn out.
I attribute much of my career success to developing skills to remain adaptable, while finding the aspects of the profession that allowed my innate skills to shine. I found a few skills that I knew I wanted to hone in on including eating disorder treatment and physical medicine early in my learning at Bastyr. At the time I may not have known that these would be my ‘specialties’ however in hindsight getting specific with skill development helped me develop a niche that has allowed my practice to thrive. I practice from a concept of Health at Every Size with all of my patients which embraces the idea that people’s bodies can be healthy at any size if given the support needed to respect hunger/fullness cues and step away from a diet centered approach to health. This concept partners with intuitive eating and includes dismantling of weight bias amongst individuals and our culture. These concepts are also the foundation of eating disorder prevention and treatment that I provide in my practice.”
Join Dr. Stokely for a free webinar – Eating Disorders, Naturopathic Care Can Help
“Naturopathic medicine matches every aspect of care that someone with an eating disorder may need such as counseling, nutritional support, treating digestive sequelae, lab analysis, and elongated visits. Although naturopathic doctors are well suited to provide eating disorder care, direct training in eating disorder treatment is limited in the medical field as a whole.”
Join Dr. Stokely for an informative webinar to learn about the need for eating disorder professionals, where to start if interested in becoming an eating disorder provider, and how the support of naturopathic physicians can be essential in eating disorder care. Click here to register.
Learn more about Dr. Stokely:
Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body – personal excerpts about body image