“It is an honor to witness someone’s journey, and to support that journey. Whether we are supporting with conversation to give someone a safe space to speak, or using a food, or an herb, or an acupuncture needle, we are allowed to enter a person’s life and walk with them on the toughest roads and most intimate of places.”
Husband and wife team, Dr. Peter Bongiorno and Dr. Pina LoGiudice both came to naturopathic medicine after seeing it in action in their own lives. Dr. LoGiudice’s experience was personal. “I was a pretty sick teenager, with irritable bowel syndrome, to the point where I couldn’t go out socially for fear of not being a few steps from a bathroom,” she says. Her parents took her to doctor after doctor, but none had any answers. They offered drugs for stress and bowel function, but nothing worked. Doctors said “you have to live with it,” Dr. LoGiudice recalls.
“Fed up, and not knowing what else to do, my mom took me to a naturopathic doctor, who spoke to me, looked at my diet and what I was eating. In two weeks, it radically changed my life and I knew this was the medicine I wanted to study and learn more about.”
Dr. Bongiorno watched the effects of naturopathic treatment help a friend diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 24. His friend didn’t benefit from conventional care, so she decided to visit a naturopath. “I had never heard of that kind of doctor before, and frankly, didn’t believe in that kind of healing,” Dr. Bongiorno says.
“I was astounded as I saw her improve, and that was my ‘ah-hah’ moment. I decided to skip conventional school for naturopathic medical school.”
These powerful examples led both doctors to leave their positions at the National Institutes of Health to attend Bastyr University to study naturopathic medicine.
Bastyr’s lasting influence
Dr. Bongiorno says he was still very conventionally minded when he began his studies at Bastyr. “I remember the first day of classes, I thought to myself ‘if this isn’t a ‘real’ medical program, I will leave and go back to conventional school.’ I didn’t leave – Bastyr kept me plenty busy.”
Both Dr. Bongiorno and Dr. LoGiudice were right at home at Bastyr. Dr. Bongiorno counts the lifelong friends he made at Bastyr as one of the biggest benefits. “For those who are reading this, I want to thank you for enriching my life exponentially,” he says. “They are still changing my life today. We couldn’t be thankful enough for our amazing friends.”
Bastyr also molded their mindsets as naturopathic physicians.
“Bastyr really formed the way I think – to look at an issue and search for the underlying cause. This thought not only pertains to medicine, but to life: politics, environment, social issues – everything, really,” Dr. Bongiorno says.
Finding their way
After graduating, the two decided to build upon their time together as students and go into practice in New York. It wasn’t easy at first. “We had no connections – we lectured everywhere we could and started in the smallest rent-by-the-hour spots we could find. We lived out of our car, staying at either my parents’ or Pina’s. Sure enough, in about a year, we were getting busy and on our feet. That was 12 years ago,” says Dr. Bongiorno.
A busy and fulfilling practice
Today, Dr. Bongiorno and Dr. LoGiudice stay busy managing their practice, Inner Source Health, which is a family care practice for everyone from young children to seniors. “It is interesting to see naturopathic medicine help one person, and then you, as the doctor, become a resource for the whole family, for so many things. It is the greatest honor,” says Dr. Bongiorno.
The couple also juggles writing books about naturopathic medicine, volunteering their time with the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians – where Dr. Bongiorno currently serves as president, lecturing, doing media appearances, and caring for their daughter.
Dr. Bongiorno practices six days a week and travels frequently to lecture. His most recent books focus on mental health. Put Anxiety Behind You is geared towards patients, while Holistic Solutions to Anxiety and Depression is geared towards practitioners. “It is interesting to see how people respond to this information. Mental health is a big challenge today, and people are looking for the solutions naturopathic doctors have,” Dr. Bongiorno says.
Dr. LoGiudice practices a few days a week and does regular radio and television appearances. Her 21st appearance on “Dr. Oz” was recently broadcasted. “I’m proud of representing naturopathic medicine to a large audience,” she says. She also published a book called The Little Book of Healthy Beauty.
Advice for prospective students
Now a successful ND, Dr. Bongiorno has one regret about the path he took to start his practice: not learning about the business side of medicine sooner. “Many students graduate as great docs, but have no idea how to create a successful business,” he says. “Spend time learning about business and seek a mentor if possible.”
For those considering the field of naturopathic medicine, Dr. Bongiorno recommends getting a feel for the field first. “Spend time with a naturopathic doctor – shadow a doc. Maybe a few if you can, and get a sense of what a practice is like,” he says.
Dr. LoGiudice feels her education in naturopathic medicine was invaluable. “It is humbling, for everything I learned, everything we learned, is really just what we learned at Bastyr about medicine and life,” she says.
Learn more about Dr. Peter Bongiorno and Dr. Pina LoGiudice:
Inner Source Health’s website