Message from the President: Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

 In Association Spotlight


Like a swell in the ocean, the COVID-19 pandemic felt distant throughout the winter. It broke on SCNM’s shores as the winter quarter neared its conclusion, requiring all final exams to be hastily moved online. 

Since then, the SCNM Community’s daily activities have changed radically. Throughout it all, however, SCNM’s mission has remained rock steady. 

Adapting to the Times 

Since early spring, an enormous number of businesses, educational institutions, and clinics in North America have risen to the challenge of moving their operations online. SCNM is among them. The following is a sampling of what we have accomplished in a remarkably short period of time. 


With COVID-19 cases on the rise, our #1 priority was to ensure everyone’s safety. Toward that end, standard operating procedures were drafted, refined, and updated to address COVID-19-positive cases among students and faculty. We have also conducted 2 Arizona Department of Health on-campus virus testing blitzes. 

Receiving CARES Act Payroll Protection Program funding was a financial lifesaver. In short order, we established a process and distributed CARES Act grants to students; 171 students applied – nearly half of the SCNM student population. Internally, our Dean, Learning Specialist, and Student Engagement Manager have provided technical and emotional support to 344 students dealing not only with pandemic-induced stress, but also – for many – the added stress of social injustice, racism, and inequity.  

Online Learning 

A major adjustment was the massive shift from classroom learning to online learning. As mentioned above, the faculty spun on a dime to move winter finals to an online platform, before then switching all classes to an online format. During this period, our IT department has done a wonderful job of supporting faculty, the majority of whom had never taught online. Similarly, most of our 344 students had never learned online.  

It’s been a steep learning curve. 

Research Night was cancelled, but then the decision was made to hold it online. To our surprise, attendance doubled: over 500 attendees across 2 sessions. 

Despite the pandemic, SCNM keeps growing. We launched the (online) Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, with the entire staff working from home. We developed a Virtual Health Center for the School of Nutrition. And we leveraged SCNM’s 3-year investment in developing the MS in Nutrition to improve online education in the ND program, including a course in online pedagogy developed for faculty. 

The Admissions Department moved all prospective student interviews online. 

We created an online Graduation Week experience for 32 students, which included photos and a modified version of SCNM’s traditional gong ceremony. Initially, we switched from an in-person commencement to an online version, but then switched back to a highly modified and restricted in-person ceremony. However, as the pandemic progressed in Arizona, we moved the commencement back online again. 


Everyone is learning the ins and outs of telemedicine these days, including SCNM. With the exception of necessary physical exams, routine patient visits are now routinely conducted via telemedicine. Students are also being provided quality clinical education via telemedicine. 

Our Medicinary had to close its doors to in-person traffic. Until further notice, curbside-only service is being offered. 


Despite all of these necessary adjustments, SCNM continues to expand. We began construction on 3 new laboratories for the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research, albeit with some unanticipated precautions in place. For example, the construction is subject to a host of new safety regulations, and the project developer is operating from Calgary, Alberta, possibly for the duration of construction.  

We also recruited for, interviewed, and hired the Scalzo Institute’s Vice President for Strategic Partnerships – all via Zoom. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic has inspired some new directions. The Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research began a study of 36 plants to assess their antiviral potential against SARS-CoV-2, at Arizona State University (ASU) Biodesign Institute. We are also collaborating with ASU on a clinical trial of vitamin D in the treatment of COVID-19. 

Moving Forward 

SCNM created an elaborate schedule that incorporated social distancing, PPE, and special cleaning designed to facilitate the return of students to campus for Lab sections on July 6th. However, as the number of COVID cases in Arizona climbed upward, we have had to push that date back to August 17th. This date could change as well, depending on the state’s situation.  

The SCNM Community – its students, staff, faculty, and board – stepped up to overcome these challenges. Our goal across the enterprise is to finish the academic and fiscal year strong, and stride into 2021 with momentum, determination, and resilience. Thank you to everyone for this extraordinary work. 

Yours in health, 

Paul Mittman, ND, EdD 
President & CEO 
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences 

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