Tasneem Pirani-Sheriff, MSc, ND is core academic faculty and Coordinator of Clinical Sciences at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine. She shares her path to naturopathic medicine, passion for teaching future NDs, and advice for prospective students.
Why did you choose to become a naturopathic doctor?
“I have always been fascinated by the human body and an avid scientific learner, so the field of medicine attracted me from the beginning. However, until late in my Masters studies, I had no idea that naturopathic medicine even existed! When a friend enlightened me on the philosophies and principles of naturopathic medicine for the first time, I knew immediately that being a naturopathic doctor was what I was meant to do (and with full confidence, despite having yet applied to any naturopathic schools, cancelled my MCAT registration that very day). I chose naturopathic medicine because I resonated with the spectrum of care used to treat patients: a focus on prevention of disease (most importantly), followed by using the most natural and least invasive methods for less intense conditions, and, intense treatment for more threatening situations. Of course, the wide scope of care to allow for best patient care made most sense to me. In addition, being of Indian decent and having emigrated from East Africa, I grew up using many medicinal herbs not knowing their true value or their mechanism of action in the body. I was intrigued to learn more about medicinal plants and understand the use of traditional medicines – naturopathic medicine was the perfect avenue.”
What can students learn from you?
Dr. Pirani-Sheriff teaches courses in the Clinical Diagnosis department and in the Biomedicine Department as well as co-instructs a Diagnostic Labs & Imaging Course.
“I strive to actively engage students and facilitate their learning by using teaching methods that foster their critical thinking skills. My goal is to always emphasize understanding, rather than memorization so that even when they are in practice several years from now, they’ll have the tools to effectively and efficiently treat their patients. Though I hold both myself and my students to a high standard, I also remind my students that mistakes and some failures will inevitably happen. Being a student allows for this time of trial and error; it’s how they deal with these situations and what they learn from them that truly matters.
When it comes to learning, being curious and open-minded are critically important characteristics to have, not only as a physician, but also as a scientist and researcher. It excites me to engage in thoughtful discussion with my students, as it stimulates ideas and, often, areas for innovation. Not only does it bring me joy to contribute to the profession by educating and igniting passion in the doctors of the future, but being a teacher also keeps me on my toes and at my best in practice and when treating patients. I love learning from my students, as much as I love teaching them.”
What aspects of naturopathic medicine are you passionate about?
“I have an insatiable hunger for learning, a passion to empower my patients on how to find optimal health, and a powerful drive to teach the best naturopathic doctors of the future. I love being part of a diverse and passionate community of naturopathic colleagues who are not only devoted to helping guide their patients, but also bettering this world as a whole.”
Aside from teaching, Dr. Pirani-Sheriff operates a private practice where she occasionally allows fourth-year naturopathic medical students preceptorship opportunities.
“I enjoy the balance between teaching and practice. Teaching keeps me up-to date and fresh on the core foundations and knowledge of medicine, and allows me to provide the best patient care, while practice allows me to put into practice what I teach and share cases and examples with my students to help facilitate their learning. I believe I have the best of both worlds.”
What advice do you have for prospective ND students?
“Being open-minded, curious and ready and willing to learn are imperative qualities, particularly for an ND student. A strong ND student also embodies compassion, gratitude, strength, adaptability, and professionalism. As part of the admissions team, I look for students with a strong academic record, a passion for the field, experience with naturopathic medicine, and for those who have taken the time to reflect on their future endeavors.
Ask questions, reflect, and then ask more questions. The best piece of advice I would give to prospective naturopathic students, and really anyone looking to find the field that would serve them most, is to talk to those in the field and experience naturopathic medicine for themselves. Ask NDs about their likes and their dislikes. Ask what they would do differently if they were to start their career over again. Check out the schools and speak with current students. The more diverse and thorough the inquiry, the better prepared a prospective student will be to make an informed decision. If after this, they feel willing and ready for the journey ahead, I’m sure they won’t regret it – I know I don’t. Naturopathic medicine is an amazing field.”
Learn more about Dr. Tasneem Pirani-Sheriff