Industry, Academia and Private Clinics Come Together in a Model that Could Provide Residencies for All Naturopathic Doctors

By Michelle Simon, PhD ND, President and CEO, Institute for Natural Medicine, Seattle, WA

Residencies for medical doctors, where clinical experience is deepened and formalized, are paid for by the Federal government. This important component of medical education readies providers for successful employment and careers. At this time naturopathic doctors (NDs) are not included in government funded free post graduate residency opportunities.

Funding for MD residencies is through the Federal Medicare program. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is working to have naturopathic doctors included in Medicare, which would rectify the lack of available Federal funding for naturopathic residencies.

To address the inequity of residency funding, a collaborative model has emerged to expand access to funded residencies for primary care naturopathic doctors. The Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) created a unique funding model where an academic partner, industry and private practice clinics come together to provide the funding necessary to cover the expense of employing and training a resident. Entering its fourth year, the INM Residency Consortium (IRC) has proven successful, including twelve multi-practitioner clinics in three states, Washington, California and Vermont. Our academic partner is Bastyr University; industry partners include: RLC Labs, Barleans, Standard Process, Thorne, Integrative Therapeutics, and Seeking Health.

The core of the program is a consortium of successful naturopathic primary care clinics that work together to provide a 2 year residency program. Unique in the approach are quarterly academic seminars that provide continuing education in topics important to primary care naturopathic practice and business skills training. Beyond clinical training, INM recognized that leveraging the residency opportunity to provide business training could help ensure post graduate success as the majority of NDs work in or operate small group practices. Understanding how to run a business is key to success. Clinics involved in the IRC are required to provide three years of financials to ensure that successful, well run businesses are the training environment of the IRC residents. Each clinic receives a quarterly grant that amounts to roughly half the expense of employing and training the residents.

Naturopathic medical education incorporates clinical training beginning the summer after the first year, producing a graduate with competence in clinical practice. But while ND education is designed to produce a well rounded primary care general medicine provider, access to residency for all graduates would deepen clinical skills in a structured and supportive environment. And in the case of this residency program, provide participants with business management skills essential for owning and managing a private practice.

Naturopathic medicine, a profession in existence for over 100 years, is emerging as a leader in whole person health. At this time in healthcare, many are recognizing that our current healthcare system which is incredibly successful in acute ailment situations, has not proven successful in stemming the tide of chronic disease in the US. Naturopathic doctors, whose education is designed to produce whole person health primary care providers, are perfectly poised to help.

INM is in the planning stages of creating an endowment to fund naturopathic primary care residencies. With a fund of $15 million the IRC model will be scaled up to provide residency access for all naturopathic graduates, a timely and worthwhile goal.

If you know of a company, medical practice, clinic, hospital, university or non-profit that would like to support this important work, please contact Michelle Simon, msimon@naturemed.org. Click here for more information on the INM Residency Consortium.

 

The IRC program focuses on training in all aspects of successful naturopathic practice. Features of this model include a focus on:

  • Greater experience interfacing with patients in a primary care setting,
  • Practice using clinical skills and modalities,
  • Robust performance benchmarks,
  • A robust Quarterly Academic Seminar training series to deepen medical knowledge,
  • Skills necessary to start and maintain a thriving clinic, and,
  • A shared funding model with contributions from partner clinics, accredited universities, and corporate or private sponsors.

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This information is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine