Dr. Mitchell Hubsher – UBSNM

Mitchell Hubsher, DC, CCSP, DABCO, ND is a senior lecturer and supervising clinician at the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

After practicing as a chiropractor for 15 years, Dr. Hubsher suffered a back injury that forced him to close his practice. He went to law school (which he loved) but found that a career in law would not fulfill him. With a yearning to return to healthcare, Dr. Hubsher began looking into programs. In doing so, he came across the University of Bridgeport and the world of naturopathic medicine.

Holding a natural and preventative health philosophy as an integral part of practice, Dr. Hubsher describes the career change from chiropractic medicine to naturopathic medicine as easy. In fact, he discovered that he had been incorporating naturopathic tenets into his practice all along.

In 2005, the University of Bridgeport offered Dr. Hubsher an opportunity to teach physical medicine. “I never thought in a million years that I would be teaching nor that it would have a passion for it. But my alma mater needed some help, and I was willing to give it a try. I found out that I love teaching! I love the interaction with my students and being on a college campus. I love being at the heart and soul of naturopathic medicine.”

What can students learn from you?

“I currently teach orthopedic assessment, therapeutic exercise and sports medicine, physiotherapeutics, jurisprudence, outreach medicine, and general life experience. I also supervise an in-house drug and alcohol rehab clinic and a community-based HIV clinic. In addition, our outreach clinics are open to the general public. Students learn how to provide quality medical care in underserved and underfinanced communities, with an emphasis on HIV and drug addicted populations.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND and educator

“As a naturopathic educator, I am passionate about my interactions with my students and my patients. I have developed a specialty in educating students in outreach practices to underserved communities. I love working with naturopathic students because they have a tendency to think outside of the box and are passionate in their approach to naturopathy.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Have a passion. If you’re not passionate about naturopathic medicine, if you don’t have a strong philosophy and a strong love of the medicine, then you’re not ready to practice the medicine. Strong naturopathic students tend to have excellent critical thinking skills, a thought process based in a strong philosophical understanding of their profession, and they are people who tend to be very well researched in their studies. They are also greatly aided in their endeavors if they can learn to think outside of the box.”

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Dr. Nicole Redvers – A Leader in Indigenous Health – CCNM

“My training and education have provided a bridge between two divergent worldviews. As an ND, I am not placed in either of these worlds – Indigenous or conventional, which allows me to maintain perspective and consider all angles of a research question, a community problem, or even a patient case.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Raised in a small Indigenous community on the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the Northwest Territories, Nicole Redvers, ND, MPHc did not have access or exposure to naturopathic providers, although she spent much of her early life in nature, using traditional medicines when needed. She still recalls the scent of her grandfather’s bear grease that he used as medicine.

In what may seem as a twist of fate, Dr. Redvers accidentally came across naturopathic medicine while in college studying sports medicine. This lead her on the path to naturopathic medical school, where she then graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

“I was excited to be able to have the opportunity to learn about other traditional medicine systems in addition to more Western ways of knowing. Coming from an Indigenous background, I found that the standard medical system wasn’t addressing my communities’ problems and was too narrow in treatment approaches. I wanted to have the flexibility and freedom like my ancestors did, to do what is right for the patient in front of me at that particular time.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

Following graduation, Dr. Redvers returned to the Northern Territories and launched a home-based practice which allowed her to stay with her infant daughter. Soon after, she and a few other local providers began the first integrative medical clinic in the area. Over the nine years that Dr. Redvers operated the clinic, it grew to include 17 providers and staff working out of a 4,000 square foot clinic.

In 2019, Dr. Redvers changed paths and began working at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences as an assistant professor.

“My career has been diverse. I have been able to practice, teach, research and continue my work on the charity I co-founded, the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation. Having a diverse skill set enables me to keep the flexibility for the projects and work that needs to be done in the Indigenous health arena. Moving to an institutional setting has definitely been different than running my own clinic and practice; however, I am still able to keep up with many of the things I love.

I am very excited to be helping to develop the very first PhD in Indigenous Health in North America. Dr. Donald Warne, MD, MPH spear-headed this initiative and has brought together an amazing team of five Indigenous scholars to develop the curriculum for the program. I will be teaching two courses in the PhD program, two courses in the Master’s of Public Health Indigenous Health specialization, as well as supervising and mentoring students. It is somewhat sad that this is the first of its kind in North America; however, I am very proud of the University of North Dakota for taking leadership on this important endeavor. It is a post-master’s PhD that can be done from anywhere in the world with two onsite visits per year.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Redvers encourages prospective students to think outside of the box. “There are many roles that NDs can play in society outside of clinical practice, so don’t feel pigeonholed to a specific path. Diversification can be a strength in this profession both financially, personally and professionally.”

Finally, remember your roots and the people who helped you along the way. “I would not be where I am today without the amazing support of family, friends, colleagues, and my communities. I especially wouldn’t be where I am today without the helpful guidance of my elders helping to set me on a path to support our Indigenous communities.”

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Dr. Tasneem Pirani-Sheriff – BINM

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.”

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Tanelle Westgard – BINM ND Student

Tanelle Westgard is a third-year naturopathic medical student at Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM). She shares her experience both in starting her journey into a career in naturopathic medicine, and as an ND student. Tanelle aspires to empower her patients through education and healing.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that understood the importance of naturopathic
medicine. I had been to many different NDs that were able to help me and my family, and
always appreciated their alternative approaches. These experiences helped me realize that
naturopathic medicine was exactly the type of medicine that I wanted to go into – holistic, individualized, proactive, preventative, and integrative.”

How did you prepare for ND school?

“I worked hard and remained focused in order to achieve top grades. I always took a full schedule, sometimes more, to ensure I had completed all of the prerequisites. Outside of school, I immersed myself in a variety of extracurriculars such as volunteering for non-profit organizations, in hospitals, senior homes, and coaching special Olympics teams. These experiences provided me with growth which ultimately led me to Boucher.”

“My top priority for selecting a school was based on the community and culture. Boucher is a very small school with a unique community feel among students, professors, doctors, and staff. This extends to the naturopathic community within British Columbia as well. BC is my home and I could not think of a better place to learn and practice naturopathic medicine.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

“My classmates have become family; we have a bond that will last a lifetime. The professors and supervisors’ passion remind us of why we are working so hard every day.

As a class, we often reflect on how far we have come in the last few years. As new students, we thought we knew what we were in for. We were right in some ways, and wrong in others. The amount of information we have managed to learn, and knowledge we have gained is remarkable… but it is so much more than that.

What I didn’t expect were the non-academic lessons. Becoming a naturopathic doctor isn’t just a career, it is a way of being. Throughout the program we grow as students and as people. We learn determination, resiliency, adversity, empathy, courage, compassion, patience, and so much more. We have learned more about ourselves than we probably ever knew we could, and are just getting started!”

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“During my first year at Boucher, a group of fourth-year students spoke to our class. One of the quotes really stuck with me: ‘Boucher isn’t your whole life, it’s just a part of it.’

Recognizing the importance of work-life balance, Tanelle immersed herself in opportunities to build relationships in the Boucher community. While serving as an academic curriculum representative and as Co-President of the Boucher Naturopathic Students Association (BNSA), she established her connections with fellow students and staff and helped maintain community.

Boucher naturopathic medical students practicing yoga together.

Currently, Tanelle is a student representative for a supplement company and works at Rize Fitness with her mentor and BINM alumna Dr. Aubrey Shannon.

“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue to learn from Dr. Shannon on a weekly basis. I hope to one day do the same for a future student.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Entering the program to become a naturopathic doctor was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although challenging, it is a profession with so much potential.” Tanelle encourages prospective students to work hard and persevere through the challenges. Look for ways to keep yourself motivated by getting involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, continuously learning, and finding a solid mentor.

“School can get busy, life can get even busier, but it is important to make time for the people who love and support you, and the things that make you happy.”

Click here to learn about other naturopathic doctors’ paths to naturopathic medicine.

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Dr. Cory Szybala – NUNM

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Born and raised in the Midwest, Cory Szybala, ND was always interested in healthcare but did not have much exposure to it outside of the conventional model. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Indiana University, working as a nursing assistant at a local hospital, and shadowing a number of different providers in the area, he decided to relocate to Portland, Oregon to pursue research.

https://aanmc.org/videos/webinar/food-as-medicine-szybala/”After working with so many amazing practitioners in multiple disciplines of medicine, I felt there was a ‘gap’ in what I consider true primary care medicine. It wasn’t until I moved to the West Coast that I heard about naturopathic medicine, and once I did, I felt as though I had found true primary care medicine – medicine that works on a preventative, holistic, and integrative level.”

NUNM as a springboard

While living in Portland, Dr. Szybala visited the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) campus, shadowed students, and spoke with administrators before deciding to enroll in the naturopathic medical program. “Each school has its very own unique personality and I felt like NUNM fit mine. Not only did I graduate with the information and skills necessary to help patients, but I was also able to make lasting friendships with colleagues, professors, advocates of the medicine, and more.”

As a student, Dr. Szybala was a member of the acclaimed Food as Medicine Everyday series, and the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA). His experience working with NMSA allowed him to stay up to date with state licensure and scope initiatives, which helped him gauge where he wanted to set up his future practice.

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“Since graduating I have worked as a consultant, a researcher, adjunct faculty member, as part of a team dedicated to sharing the knowledge of healthier food choices through the Food as Medicine Institute (FAMI), a public speaker, and now private practice owner. The wealth of knowledge that you learn while going through naturopathic school and thereafter is more powerful than you think.”

Dr. Szybala enjoys providing an individualized holistic/integrative approach to each of his patients. “I am passionate about discovering the reason(s) behind a particular issue and working with a patient to come up with the best solution(s) for them. To be able to truly deliver primary care to those who need it is not only rewarding but absolutely necessary.”

Dr. Szybala and his wife – Mollie Parker Szybala, ND operate Sun Valley Natural Medicine in Ketchum, Idaho. They each work part-time at the clinic while pursuing other interests. Their work outside the clinic has helped establish themselves in the community, and has doubled as a marketing outlet.

The Szybalas enjoy spending time in nature, hiking, skiing, and attending young professional outings.

Advice for aspiring NDs

Dr. Szybala encourages prospective students to shadow multiple NDs, and to experience different models of practice, business, and naturopathic specialties. “The flexibility is one of the most appealing parts of the naturopathic profession.” It’s up to you to determine how you want to use your degree. What career path will you take?

Join Dr. Szybala for a free webinar – Food as Medicine

“During my time shadowing, preceptoring, working with FAMI, and now working in my own practice, I have seen food be a huge factor in the health and well-being of my patients. It is often a first-line defense, as well as a great way to empower your patients to take their health back into their own hands.” Dr. Szybala’s webinar will cover how to use food as medicine in a naturopathic family practice, what to consider when prescribing a healthy diet or lifestyle, how to prepare your clients for success, how to troubleshoot, and when to follow-up. Click here to watch the Food as Medicine webinar.

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