Nutrition & Integrative Health Department
What drew you to pursue a degree in naturopathic medicine?
With a background in nutrition, which focuses on prevention and on optimizing health through natural means, it became apparent that my original idea of pursuing conventional medical training was discordant with my philosophical beliefs about illness and healing. Furthermore, my extensive travels in Asia led me to learn more about a variety of ancient medical systems, piquing my interest in learning more about the complex nature of illness and health.
Can you describe your practice and your holistic approach to patient care?
My practice focuses on helping those suffering from mental health conditions and distress to heal, grow, and learn more about themselves with the aid of natural remedies, nutrition, and a biopsychosocial approach to their care. As I do not think that the body (soma), mind (psyche) are separate entities, when I treat a person’s mental health issues, I must address other concomitant health issues if I am to treat in a holistic/integrated manner. In the field of mental health, this often means that I am addressing their gastrointestinal health, sleep, and hormonal balance, among other health symptoms or conditions.
You are an associate professor in MUIH’s nutrition department and on faculty for the doctoral program. Can you speak a bit about your experience teaching at MUIH?
I have taught at several institutions and I must say that students, faculty, and staff at MUIH are like none other. They are passionate, engaged, creative, compassionate, and very bright. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities to develop online curriculum, to teach in both the master’s and doctoral programs and to work with other faculty and staff through teaching and presenting at conferences on behalf of MUIH. I look forward to continuing to teach students, to mentor faculty, and to learn more about both education and nutrition/integrative health in my years ahead at MUIH.
Have you seen the field of nutrition change and evolve as it has started to become more mainstream?
As an undergraduate student in nutrition, my training was focused in conventional nutrition. I had a graduate level course in herbs, supplements, and nutrition in which I had several experienced dieticians and nutritionists as classmates. I learned from them that their clients were hungry to learn more about supplements and ‘alternative’ approaches to nutrition and they wanted to be able to understand more about these approaches and how to utilize them in practice safely and effectively.
Since that time, I have seen a burgeoning interest in nutrition and natural health. Perhaps this is helped by the information age in which we now find ourselves, one in which people are generally more inquisitive and informed about their health, and are more consumers than the classic patient (or client) role of years past. In addition, toxins in our environment, changes to our food supply and agriculture, and the nature of the stressors that we face in modern society, all render conventional medicine less suited to addressing the chronic, and often multifaceted, nature of illness today. I believe that these factors have fueled an interest in integrative nutrition and made programs such as those at MUIH so very popular and clinically relevant.
Can you tell us about some of the creative careers for people who love nutrition? And what you would recommend to people who have an interest in a career in nutrition?
For people who love nutrition, there are a number of avenues that they can pursue, ranging from private practice, practicing in an integrative medical or dental setting or hospital to teaching in a community or academic setting, writing, and/or speaking.
For those with an interest in nutrition, I would recommend seeing a nutritionist yourself and learning firsthand what their practice is like and how you respond to making changes to your diet. This will also help you to have rapport with someone in the field if you wish to explore formal training and licensure in nutrition. I would also recommend reading widely, perhaps attending a conference for nutritionists to meet professionals in the field and to learn about emerging clinical topics and issues in the field.
Finally, to those who are moving into a career in nutrition, I recommend considering starting with a portfolio career if you can (working not only in private practice, but also for an organization, or teaching, or writing for example). This not only keeps your skills current and contributes in a broader way to the field and to the public, but also helps you financially to grow your practice at a pace and in a manner that is sustainable and authentic!
Can you tell us about some of the work you’ve done in the nutrition field?
In my undergraduate training in Nutritional Biochemistry at McGill University, I had the opportunity to take a number of graduate-level courses in metabolism and biochemistry and to work in a lab with doctoral students. This really enhanced my understanding of nutrition and its relationship to medicine, and also made me realize that I was not interested in pursuing a career solely in research.
As a naturopathic medical student, I participated in some administrative data entry work for a study investigating the benefits of selenium for prostate cancer, worked in a whole foods kitchen (following the philosophies put forth by Paul Pitchford), worked as a research assistant to an eminent naturopathic/nutritional author and speaker, and took additional courses in Chinese dietetics.
After studying naturopathic medicine, I had the opportunity to do pursue postdoctoral research funded by the NIH on melatonin and its effects on bipolar disorder. This, coupled with training students on how to custom formulate natural remedies, enhanced my understanding and appreciation of dietary supplements and herbs (which we teach quite in-depth in the nutrition programs) and their impact on health.
Following my research fellowship, I taught a range of nutrition, herbal medicine and homeopathic courses online, developed student materials for nutrition for Wiley Publishing, and developed curriculum for a number of schools, including MUIH. In addition to this work, I have used nutrition extensively in my private practice seeing patients with mental illness over the past 10 years.
What are some good resources for people looking to learn more about naturopathic medicine?
The following books are useful in understanding the history of the naturopathic profession, its scope, and specific interventions and how they are applied:
Nature Doctors: Pioneers in Naturopathic Medicine – 1994
by Friedhelm Kirchfeld & Wade Boyle
Principles & Practices of Naturopathic Medicine - 2008
by Fraser Smith ND
Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Edition -2012
by Joseph E. Pizzorno, Michael T. Murray
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Third Edition - 2012
by Michael T. Murray, Joseph Pizzorno