Supporting the Success of Students at CCNM and Beyond

September is always a special time at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). We welcome our brand new first-year students from all over Canada and the U.S. and celebrate the beginning of the school year with a Welcome Back BBQ. Second- and third-year students get deeper into the study and application of naturopathic medicine, while fourth-year students intern at our one of our teaching clinics and work one-on-one with patients and their health care needs.

Journey to China

We offer many externship opportunities at CCNM. In early September, a group of third- and fourth-year students, led by CCNM Clinic Supervisor Amanda Zheng, ND, had the opportunity to intern at the Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, in China. For one month, students shadowed clinical and teaching activities and learned about the way the hospitals treat patients using a blend of traditional Chinese medicine and conventional approaches. And to cap off the trip, the students delivered a presentation on CCNM and naturopathic medicine to the hosting doctors and residents. See the gallery from their visit.

Student-led research

One of the reasons why CCNM is renowned for research is because students and faculty often collaborate on a wide range of studies, helping to further the profession and naturopathic medicine. To support and promote student-led research at CCNM, we established the Student Innovation Fund. The winners of this year’s fund are third-year students Bisleen and Christilynn, who won a grant to investigate naturopathic care for fibromyalgia at CCNM’s on-campus teaching clinic, the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic.

Opportunities for new grads

We had four new clinical residents start with us in August, and all were graduates from the CCNM Class of 2019. They are focused on clinical training and supervising interns at CCNM’s teaching clinics, the Integrative Cancer Centre, or community healthcare clinics.

In the most recent issue of CCNM’s alumni magazine, we featured our new resident, Greg Nasmith, ND, who shares how he prepared himself for residency. In the same issue, Class of 2018 graduate Max Crispo, ND, covered his whirlwind year since graduating, which involved writing licensing exams and a move from Toronto to Hawaii to start a residency position in integrative cancer care.

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Dr. Ellen Wong – CCNM

 I help my patients shift perspectives, so they can empower themselves to make the health changes they want to see.

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

After completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, Dr. Wong considered graduate programs in cognitive psychology and molecular genetics until she found naturopathic medicine. “Naturopathic medicine is the perfect blend of concepts I love – how the human body works and how the human mind thinks. So much of what naturopathic medicine is, is to motivate people to change behaviors.”  Dr. Wong loves the opportunity to work one on one with patients to gain an understanding of their health condition and offer individualized treatment plans to support their healing. “I love that naturopathic medicine embodies health as a combination of physical, mental and emotional aspect.” More importantly, the doctor-patient relationship, “allows the patient to feel heard and understood,” explains Dr. Wong, which is a huge component to unveiling the root cause of illness.

CCNM as a springboard

Raised in Toronto, Dr. Wong chose to pursue her naturopathic medical education at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine to stay close to her friends, family and community. She saw opportunity in the teaching clinic and felt an immediate sense of belonging.

“Anytime you pursue something that challenges you, you grow and you learn. At CCNM, I grew as a person and learned a lot – about naturopathic medicine and myself.” The clinical internship offered hands on experience in patient care along with the mentorship of experienced supervisors. “The challenging pace of the curriculum combined with the humbling patient stories, really taught me a lot about empathy and compassion. It put a lot of what I considered to be stressors into perspective.”

“Living the dream” after graduation

Following graduation, Dr. Wong was accepted into CCNM’s two-year clinical residency program. Shortly after graduation from the residency program, she transitioned into a full-time faculty role at CCNM. In addition to serving as a faculty member, Dr. Wong worked at two practices before establishing her own in Whitby, Ontario.

Dr. Wong continues to explore different ways to offer care to a larger audience through group programs and speaking engagements. “I think there are many ways I can improve the health of those around me, not just in a one-on-on setting of a traditional practice. The longer I practice, the more I realize that I need to adapt and learn to a changing environment. That’s not a bad thing at all, I’m quite excited to see where medicine will go in the next 10, 20, 50 years!”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Dr. Wong finds fulfillment in her career through treatment and career options.

From a treatment perspective, naturopathic medicine offers many approaches to patient care guided by the principles of evidence-informed practice. “That means we have to make decisions encompassing best available evidence, our clinical expertise and our patients’ values and beliefs. I firmly believe that no matter what tools we have, the most important one is the ability to help motivate our patients (who are willing) to develop healthy physical, mental and emotional habits. You simply cannot have a patient eat a particular diet, exercise a particular way or take a particular pill and expect to change the way your patient thinks. Our thoughts create our reality so at the absolute core of what I do, I help my patients shift perspectives, so they can empower themselves to make the health changes they want to see.”

Dr. Wong appreciates the flexibility of her career. As newlyweds, Dr. Wong and her husband recently returned from their honeymoon. “Traveling is a huge passion of both mine and my husband’s, so the career I chose had to align with that. The great thing about balancing work at CCNM and my own private practice is that it has allowed me the flexibility to pursue the things that matter to me. In my private practice, I do my best to make sure my patients are equipped with that they need (from a health perspective) while I am away. They know they can receive care, should they need it, from a fellow ND.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

As a student, Dr. Wong reflects, “Sometimes I worked hard, sometimes I worked smart. I think that’s how it has to be – both in school and in life.” She dove into the subjects that she loved and recognized her responsibility for understanding parts of the curriculum that did not come as easy to her. “I stayed physically and socially active; put pressure on myself to study and do reasonably well but also recognized that if I didn’t perform as well, it was my responsibility to figure out how to improve.”

She focused on the end-goal of motivating her patients to better heath and contributing to CCNM. “I stayed curious and was both excited and at peace with the fact that I would never learn all there is to learn about medicine.” Knowledge of how to access resources is a valuable tool for successful naturopathic practice.

“When you first step into the halls of any naturopathic college, understand that you are about to learn the foundations of naturopathic medicine. Once you have experience with it all, you can choose to pursue what you deem as valuable and set up your career the way you want to.”

Dr. Wong encourages prospective students to explore career options. There are so many career paths in the naturopathic medical field. You have the flexibility to be your own boss, set your own hours and determine the work-life balance that is right for your family and lifestyle. Your schooling will teach you the foundations of naturopathic medicine, however a great deal of the learning comes from experience. “Choosing medicine as a career means you are choosing to continue to learn. This applies to both the science and the art of practice.”

Learn more about Dr. Wong:


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Committed to Making a Difference

At CCNM, one thing is for certain – we can always rely on our students and graduates to get involved, both at the school and in the community. Moving the profession forward requires a group effort because it includes many different, but equally important facets. From school events organized by the student body to graduates working in provincial and state regulations, we’re committed to advancing naturopathic medicine at home and beyond.

NDs and careers in public policy

The most recent issue of our alumni magazine, Mind|Body|Spirit, focused on a number of CCNM graduates who are moving the profession forward. All across North America, NDs are using their skills and expertise both at the grassroots stage and with the highest levels of government to ensure the profession’s voice is heard. Read about:

  • Class of 2003 graduate Daphne Jurgens who worked on the federal government’s Cannabis Act in Canada;
  • Nicole Redvers, ND who has worked tirelessly to pass legislation in the Northwest Territories that will change the way NDs practice there;
  • Iva Lloyd ND, who’s ensuring that naturopathic medicine has a global voice through her work with the World Naturopathic Federation.

Mental Health Week

CCNM hosted daily events to mark Mental Health Week (February 4-8) in an effort to get staff and students thinking about how we can boost mental health in positive, beneficial ways. We started with an information session, presented by our chief naturopathic medical officer, Dr. Jonathan Prousky, ND, who spoke about the mental health focus at our teaching clinic.

On Tuesday, we held a panel discussion with NDs who focus on mental health in clinical practice. The student-run Botanical Medicine Club led us through a make-your-own-tincture workshop on Wednesday. We practiced our downward dogs during a yoga and reiki class on Thursday, and concluded the week by learning about the benefits of gardening for our mental health.

Mental Health Week was an initiative of Thrive, a program run by the college to demystify mental health, encourage community building, and facilitate opportunities for students to support their own overall health and wellness.

NMSA representation from CCNM

In November, CCNM third-year student Valerie Gettings was selected to be president-elect for the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA), an organization which advocates for naturopathic medical students by providing support, tools, and the necessary expertise and connections to help them become successful NDs. Congratulations, Valerie!

Since I have been passionate about the importance of naturopathic students having a voice in their profession since day one of school at CCNM, I am so glad I get to be in this role in order to help students have a seat at the table.

Valerie A. Gettings, CNHP

NMSA president-elect, 3rd year naturopathic medical student, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

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The Future is Bright for Naturopathic Medical Students

Guest post by Valerie A. Gettings, CNHP, NMSA president-elect, 3rd year naturopathic medical student, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto, Ontario

Naturopathic medical students across North America came together earlier this month in Austin, Texas, for the annual Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) winter workshop. During this event, student NMSA leaders representing nine schools across North America, met to conduct strategic planning, find common solutions, conduct conference planning, and further community building for the upcoming year.

“I am incredibly proud of my amazing board of directors this year,” said Blake Langley, NMSA President, and 6th-year naturopathic and Chinese medicine student, National University of Natural Medicine, Portland, OR. “Their drive and motivation to organize impactful events for naturopathic medical students at each of their schools is astounding. I am proud to say that, as an organization, we have recently increased the number of travel grants to 72 annual travel grants (over $14,000 in value), over four competitive fellowships (over $10,000 in value), and have put forth further investment into a truly collaborative environment with other organizations in the naturopathic profession. The future is bright!”

During the three-day event, students shared their chapter updates, helped each other to find solutions at each of their schools, and were able to gain additional leadership training. The team also worked diligently on conference planning for the upcoming American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)/NMSA co-located conference in Portland, OR, August 15-17, 2019 at the Oregon Convention Center.

This year’s NMSA Winter Workshop also allowed students to see the oldest naturopathic depository of books in the United States, housed in Austin, TX, at the Stark Center Library.

“I was so incredibly inspired and motivated after attending this year’s NMSA winter workshop,” said Sydney Freggiaro, NMSA VP communications, 4th year naturopathic medical student, Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA. “It’s been such a fulfilling experience to get to mentor each chapter president, watch them step into their roles, and be the voice of other naturopathic medical students at their schools.”

The NMSA international executive board, supported by executive director, Stephanie Fogelson, is made up of 16 student leaders, including nine chapter presidents, who oversee NMSA local boards at each school. The local boards put on local and community events and foster personal and professional development for students at each school.

The NMSA is a 501(c)3 non-profit that is a unified, sustainable, ethical and professional voice for naturopathic medical students across North America. The NMSA advocates for naturopathic physicians-in-training, and inspires educational and community building initiatives that prepare naturopathic medical students with tools, experiences and connections necessary to become successful physicians. The NMSA operates on the core values of empowerment, community, impact, and integrity. The NMSA serves to create opportunity, support, and represent the diversity of naturopathic medical students.

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MD to ND: Changing Careers From One Rich Medical Paradigm to Another

MD to ND: Changing Careers From One Rich Medical Paradigm to Another


Are you considering a career switch to naturopathic medicine? Join the AANMC, Drs. Shehab El-Hashemy and Dohn Kruschwitz to hear about the journey two MDs chose to follow their passion and become successful naturopathic doctors.
Watch this enlightening webinar to:
– Learn how they blend their conventional and naturopathic degrees
– Hear about advanced standing options and how to change careers
– Understand how conventional and naturopathic medicine complement each other
– Gather advice on implementing a career change

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