AANP Annual Conference kicks off grassroots summit for naturopathic profession

The inaugural Naturopathic Medicine Collaborative (NMC) Summit on the Future of Naturopathic Medicine kicked off earlier this week.

Housed by the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM), the NMC is a stakeholder collection across naturopathic medicine that aims to be a unifying voice for educating the general public and advancing the profession. The group invites students, educators, professional and specialty organizations, practicing naturopathic doctors, and other interested parties that have an interest in seeing naturopathic medicine advance or improve. Currently, the NMC is comprised of 76 organizations, and they open it up to anyone who wants to get involved, according to INM president and CEO Michelle Simon, PhD, ND.

The NMC, with the help of INM’s non-profit arm, does extensive surveys and research to understand funding priorities across the naturopathic profession, and develops projects based on those results, says Simon. The initiative is a united effort for the profession and further helps to understand what will propel naturopathic medicine forward.

While the NMC is a year-round initiative, the summit will kick off some important discussions and allow key stakeholders to interact in person.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is currently hosting their annual conference in San Diego. The NMC kicked off the event on Wednesday, which will wrap up tomorrow afternoon.

We sat down with Michelle Simon, for an exclusive interview, available only on Integrative Practitioner, to discuss the NMC Summit and year-round initiatives supporting the naturopathic profession.

Integrative Practitioner: What is the goal of the NMC Summit?

Simon: The goal is really to create a culture of collaboration for the profession. We’ve got a lot of activity happening in a lot of different areas, and I think sometimes because there is so much energy, we sometimes lose the connection to the unity of the profession. We have folks that are really interested in doing full-scope, integrative naturopathic medicine including primary care and using all of the modalities and tools available to a graduate of naturopathic medicine. Then we have folks who are interested in practicing more traditional naturopathic medicine, which really highly utilizes therapeutic order approaches that have been long practiced in our profession, and are still part of the profession, but aren’t the only tools available to us any longer. Integrating all of that together, and understanding that we have so much commonality in how we approach patients, it’s just a matter of which tools you utilize and they may be different, but the root of our practice through the therapeutic order is consistent.

At this time in healthcare, there is so much opportunity to recognize that medicine should be patient-centered and individualized, and I think that’s one of the things that naturopathic medicine does do very well. There’s a lot of opportunity to integrate naturopathic medicine in to conventional medicine, so I think we as a profession need to come together and make sure we are all pulling together in the same direction and really harnessing the energy, education, and potential of naturopathic medicine to change outcomes in health in America. Perhaps that will be one big project that we all rally around, I’m not really sure. The idea is to get us pulling together in the same direction.

Integrative Practitioner: You said that this is going to be a watershed moment—what do you mean by that?

Simon: We’re poised to make a large contribution to the nation’s healthcare. You see it from the interest of the consumer to this type of medicine, they want natural approaches, non-pharmaceutical interventions, and there’s so much demand, but folks don’t necessarily know where to go for answers. That’s what I believe the naturopathic profession can help provide, not only individually but as part of integrative medicine teams. Positioning ourselves as leaders in this type of medicine—natural, non-pharmaceutical interventions, low cost and high efficacy—can help push the needle on the healthcare outcomes in this country. Once we position ourselves correctly and start to get integrated in to those areas of influence, in policy making, in decision making, and on healthcare teams for natural care delivery, I think we’ll start to see some changes in healthcare outcomes. That’s the exciting part of all of this.

Integrative Practitioner: What do you think is the future of naturopathic medicine?

Simon: The future is extremely bright. I reference back to the demand from consumers, and that also means that practitioners are starting to desire these types of trainings that are different from conventional medical doctorates. You see the rise of functional medicine and integrative medicine; practitioners are seeking out alternative ways of interacting with their patients that provide a broader array of treatment options as well as ways for them to actually meet the patient—longer appointments, they can have a deeper therapeutic relationship with that patient, which is more satisfying not only for the patient but for the practitioner. The naturopathic medicine profession is a viable profession, so letting students know will increase the number of students in school and then increase the number of naturopathic care providers as well.

While the future is bright, we have some challenges ahead. I think it’s important to get licensing in all 50 states, and have the concept of integrative care be the dominant paradigm so we have other licensed professionals who are supportive of our licensure efforts. There are way more folks that need healthcare in this country for any one provider group. If we all work together, there is plenty of work to be done. I am not of the mind that any one provider group has all of the answers. I think it is a team-based approach that really is the future. It’s all about the patient; it isn’t about any one group. So, I think the future is very bright as long as we do the education for consumers and the other professions correctly so we aren’t trying to compete with each other, but instead are working collaboratively.

Integrative Practitioner: How can NDs and supporting voices get involved with this initiative?

Simon: Right now, this is a year-long conversation and there will be stakeholder groups that are formed that can provide perspective externally to the conversation and those haven’t been developed yet. For anyone who is interested, please be in touch with me and I will make sure that you are included when that outreach happens.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited and condensed.