Traci Pantuso, ND, MS is adjunct clinical faculty and research investigator at Bastyr University, Washington. She and her collaborator John Macmillan, PhD – a well-known natural products researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz are the recipients of a Collaboration-Innovation Pilot Award from the National Institute of Health-funded Institute for Translational Health Sciences at the University of Washington. Funding will go towards their research project: Translating High-Throughput Cytological Profiling and FuSiOn Platform Technology Data from the complex Oplopanax horridus extract into Basic Science and Pre-clinical Research Models.

Dr. Pantuso is the first ND in about 10 years to receive a Pilot Award. She shares her path to naturopathic medicine with a focus on research.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“Naturopathic medicine was the right path for me because I am not only interested in medicinal plants, but I am also interested in providing excellent health care. I am passionate about research in botanical medicine and the field of naturopathic medicine as a holistic, multidimensional medical model. The flexibility of being able to work in both clinical medicine and basic lab science is challenging and rewarding.”

Bastyr as a springboard

“I chose Bastyr University because it is a leader in naturopathic medical education and research. During my time as a student, the research department was conducting a number of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded studies. I received a clinical education, and had the opportunity to conduct research with experienced mentors as part of a NIH-funded T32 pre-doctoral program.

As a student, I was focused on continuing with research after graduation; however, in my last year of school I realized that I would need to change my goal as there would not be research funding to continue that path. In my last year, I focused on preceptoring and making myself a competitive candidate for a residency position.

After graduation, I completed a clinical residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. Following residency, I started and operated a naturopathic medical clinic in Bellingham, Washington for four years. During that time, I recognized the opportunity to increase research on dietary supplements and other natural products, and as well as outcome-specific research on naturopathic medicine.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“I am focused on my clinical teaching and research projects. I am conducting research, presenting at conferences and writing grant proposals to further research projects.

In regards to her collaborative research, “Dr. Macmillan and his consortium of laboratories have developed new technologies to assist in better understanding complex medicinal plant extracts. Through this project, we will generate data to design further research experiments that will inform clinical research.”

Aside from research, Dr. Pantuso is proud to provide naturopathic care that is based on education and a strong patient-doctor relationship. She has found work/life balance since the completion of her schooling and residency, and enjoys spending quality time with her family and in nature.

Advice for aspiring NDs

“I recommend working and/or volunteering in a naturopathic clinic to get an idea of what naturopathic medicine is like. I developed a wonderful relationship with a mentor, and started volunteering in her office, and eventually worked for her during naturopathic medical school. This experience was invaluable and helped me to have a better understanding of what life would be like as a naturopathic doctor. I recommend that all students and recent graduates find a mentor.”

To read more about other naturopathic doctors’ success stories, click here.

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