“There is nothing more rewarding than what I do on a daily basis.”
Dr. Jillian Finker always knew she wanted to be a doctor, but finding the right discipline wasn’t so straightforward. She considered osteopathy and chiropractic careers before eventually discovering the perfect fit, thanks to advice from her chiropractor. “He counseled me that I should look into becoming a naturopathic doctor since that would be more in line with my goals,” Dr. Finker recalls. “I had never heard of that profession. This was before Google, and I actually had to go to the library to look up what becoming a naturopathic doctor entailed. I was so excited to find this profession. It was exactly what I was looking for.”
Since she was a child, Dr. Finker wanted to help people with natural medicine. She had asthma at the age of eight, and was prescribed a detrimental treatment by a conventional doctor. This led her parents to turn to an alternative healthcare practitioner, who provided a lasting solution for her condition. She had a similar experience during her pre-med training, when she suffered from severe lower abdominal pain that was alleviated with a holistic approach to health. These two outcomes solidified Dr. Finker’s passion for naturopathic care. “I didn’t choose this path, essentially this path chose me. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
The road to success
Luckily, Dr. Finker had been setting herself up to pursue medicine from the very beginning. “I had already finished all my pre-med requirements,” she explains. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and addressing a few additional prerequisites, she turned her attention to ND school.
“I applied to and visited all the schools at the time. I wrote a checklist of the pros and cons about each school,” she says. “I felt that SCNM was the most progressive school, at the cutting edge of natural medicine. I also really fell in love with Arizona and how everyone seemed so happy all the time—probably due to the camaraderie and the weather. Everyone at the school was so welcoming and I felt at home there.”
Dr. Finker made the most of her time at SCNM by making connections. “I developed friendships that I will have for life,” she says. “I have mentors that I still get help from over fifteen years later.”
Upon graduating, she completed a residency that taught her the ins and outs of running a practice. Then, “[I] found an inexpensive place to practice with other practitioners,” she says. “Eventually, I did set up a healthy, non-toxic environment to help my patients heal.”
Living her passion as an ND
Now, at her own practice, Finker Wellness, Inc., Dr. Finker couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I am able to do what I love every day and see patients consistently get better. There is nothing more rewarding than what I do on a daily basis,” she says.
She keeps very busy with patients and is typically booked two months in advance. However, because of the flexibility of the profession, she still has time for her family and herself. “I enjoy being my own boss. I can plan vacations on my time schedule. I make my own hours so I never drive during rush hour,” she says.
Above all, she finds the patient care to be the most fulfilling. “I enjoy transforming my patient’s lives. I always hear from patients, ‘you are my last hope.’ [During] the first year of practicing, that put a lot of pressure on me,” she says. “After fifteen years of practice, when patients say that now, I am so excited to help them get better. I enjoy seeing them go back to work, be able to spend time at their kid’s baseball game, and be able to dance again.”
Advice for future NDs
“This is a calling,” Dr. Finker says. “If you have an interest in a natural lifestyle, enjoy helping people, and want to be a doctor, then this could be your calling too.”
The profession requires discipline, but it also reaps its own rewards. “You have to be your own motivator,” she says. “Fortunately, my patients inspire me. Every morning, I look forward to hearing their amazing healing journeys.”