Message from the President: National University of Natural Medicine

 In Autoimmune/Allergy Medicine, Education


David J. Schleich, PhD

A generation ago we were a tiny cohort of naturopathic students learning medicine in a Southeast Portland, OR, storefront. Today, NUNM is living a strategic plan called A Framework for Action, which, now in its third 5-year iteration, has wider horizons in mind and in play. This spring 2019, a great pivot continues for the former NCNM. We continue the transformation from a single-program college into a multi-program university in a dense, urban corner of downtown Portland. The university is an active player in that corner, participating in the new transportation systems planned along the city’s Southwest Corridor, which will transform our neighborhood and our part of the city. Both NUNM’s Lair Hill and Beaverton Health Centers are now designated as Tier 4 Patient-Centered Primary Care Homes – one of the highest levels of care available.

Figure 1. NUNM’s Lair Hill Health Center

Our People & Our Mission

The whole community here has been wonderfully engaged in bringing natural medicine, in its various disciplines and professions, to America and the world. Our steady progress comes at a time when mainstream medicine reels with unsustainable and skewed costs, when the nation endures tragic crises such as the opioid epidemic, and when persistent chronicity levels nationwide afflict millions. Factor in recurring attempts to limit medical freedom, and the terrain is tough. But the NUNM family is undaunted: students, teachers, clinicians, staff, alumni, and over 200 companies and agencies routinely support our mission and purpose.

We have new leadership across the university, manifesting among them decades of senior-level administrative management and academic wisdom. Dr Glenn Smith is our new Provost. Dr Charles Kunert heads up our School of Graduate Studies; Dr Tim Irving is the Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies. Dr Shehab El-Hashemy steers our College of Naturopathic Medicine. Rachael Allen is our new Dean of Student Life. Beth Woodward is our new Vice President for Enrollment Management. Long-serving senior leaders include Cheryl Miller, our Associate-Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, and Dr Laurie Regan, our Dean of the College of Classical Chinese Medicine.

NUNM is pivoting to broader and more comprehensive participation in health education programming and patient care. Last year we graduated our first undergraduate cohort. We added a new Bachelor of Science in Integrative Therapeutics: Massage Therapy (BSiT-MT) to our mix. We also added a new Master’s Degree in Ayurveda – the only Ayurveda program offered by a regionally accredited university in the United States.

Our overall commencing graduates reached a total of 139 in 2018. At the other end of that continuum, our university convenes hundreds of new people every year to build that healthier future, and serves thousands of patients in the process. Now well into year-3 as a university, with naturopathic medicine and Classical Chinese medicine at our core, everyone is zeroed in on refining and improving patient care, adding new programming, expanding our continuing education enterprise, expanding our research agenda, and supporting the growth of natural medicine in every corner of the land.

We celebrate too the steady progress of our research team, led by Dr Ryan Bradley at the Helfgott Research Institute, who was lauded this year by the Portland Business Journal as one of the top Oregon National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant recipients. One of our students in Integrative Medicine Research, Courtney Pickworth, received the Excellent Young Investigator award. Another student, Lita Buttolph, presented her research on Chinese Medicine and qigong at the annual conference of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, held in Nashville this year.

NUNM’s expanding research relationships are exemplified by the recent NIH grant of $1 million – through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) – to the Helfgott Research Institute, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (a US Department of Energy research lab). This grant will fund a much anticipated collaborative clinical research study. As another example of the growing research activity at NUNM, the university is co-sponsoring the upcoming international conference at the State Maharashtra University in Mumbai, India.

NUNM Press released its 15th publication this year, the 12th volume of the Hevert Collection by Dr Sussanna Czeranko – a landmark series restoring the best literature from the formative years of naturopathic medicine in America. NUNM Press’ Food as Medicine Everyday continues brisk sales as a leading textbook on holistic nutrition in the land. And Nature Doctors, the first publication of the Press 2 decades back, continues apace in the natural medicine literature landscape.

NUNM’s conversion rates continue to be excellent, despite the difficult enrollment market. Our new programs in the School of Graduate Studies, such as the new Master’s degree in Ayurveda and our new online nutrition Master’s degree, have encouraging traction. Our 2 medical colleges are stable and strong despite the undulations in the US post-secondary applicant pools nationwide. Our clinic operations are navigating with grit, savvy, and innovation, presenting our students with more opportunities than ever for patient engagement.

NUNM’s Career Services department has been building in recent years a valuable track record of networking with prospective employers and other partners, as well as providing seminars and workshops on important business and career development skills. NUNM students were awarded $250 000 in scholarships from the Oregon Health Authority for its rural care program. Each graduate will provide primary care for Medicaid patients in medically underserved areas of Oregon.

NUNM’s Continuing Education division is now producing 10 monthly symposia for alumni and other interprofessional colleagues, which comprise an astonishing array of health topics, from food as medicine to traditional training in botanicals. For half a decade, NUNM has been pioneering continuing medical education on medical cannabis. As well, NUNM’s SIBO center has been a leader for half a decade in the treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, irritable bowel syndrome, and associated gastrointestinal disorders. Our institutes are thriving too: the Food as Medicine Institute and the Traditional Roots Institute will soon be joined by 2 new institutes – Spirituality in Medicine, and World Medicines. The latter reflects NUNM’s now triumvirate of world medicine offerings: naturopathic medicine, classical Chinese medicine, and now Ayurvedic Medicine. NUNM also launched an educational partnership with Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, MO, called the Food as Medicine Institute Alliance. NUNM nutrition graduate, Lucas Schubert, heads up this program at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

With the creation of a campus-wide program of action committed to diversity and inclusion, NUNM has been busily laying the groundwork for ongoing training across the entire university, including a review of our hiring and recruitment policies and practices to encourage a diverse campus population.

Our campus continues to grow and improve in terms of plant and property too. We secured the lower portion of a city street on our campus for future development as a permaculture garden and food forest. Our old “services” building came down to make way for more campus parking and the development of NUNM’s community-based Whole Life Market, right next to our home-campus Health Center. Our largest-ever State Snap Bond has been making possible numerous building and facilities improvements to support our students, patients, teachers, and support staff.

Altogether Extraordinary

The Dalai Lama once said, “Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.” We so choose because the data show that not only are the graduates of our programs needed more than ever, our footprint in downtown Portland, OR, sends ambassadors everywhere to work hard on a mission of natural medicine for all. An extraordinary community. The pivot continues.

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