Letter to the Editor: OncANP

 In Editorial / Opinion

Letter to the Editor
Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

I am writing in response to the Letter to the Editor printed in the April, 2013 issue of NDNR. The writer of that letter expressed misgivings about the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP) and the influence this association might have on our profession as a whole. He seemed exceedingly confused about the association, and I am writing to set the record straight.

The OncANP has a simple mission, which is to help people with cancer. We know that naturopathic medicine is of great value to this patient population and want to make our knowledge and skills available to as many people as possible. Simple. Everything we do grows from this mission.

OncANP is a nonprofit organization and is recognized as an affiliate of the AANP. As of May, 2013, OncANP has 413 members.

Our primary focus is to provide quality education on naturopathic oncology to our profession. We have 3 target audiences: General practitioners who want to stay current in general topics in oncology; NDs who wish to focus their practice on naturopathic oncology and thus need more in-depth training; and third, physicians who have become experts in oncology but still benefit from ongoing continuing education.

We have organized and taught Oncology Tracks at AANP conferences, as well as produced special issues and monthly features focused on oncology for NDNR, all for the general benefit of our profession. For OncANP members, we have coordinated regular conference-call lectures, written bimonthly literature reviews and, to date, have held 2 well-received specialty conferences on advanced topics in oncology.

For those within our membership with high levels of knowledge and experience in the field, we have devised a testing and credentialing process similar in rigor to other board specialties. This is the Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology, the FABNO designation that appears to have irked the author of the NDNR letter. Setting a standard credential like this, that can reflect a level of competence, has a purpose. It is not to ‘segregate’ our profession, as the writer claimed. Rather, our goal is to open a path so members of our profession can be employed in medical settings where they can practice naturopathic medicine for the benefit of cancer patients.

To the average oncology patient, their course of treatment will be among the most medically invasive and intensely pharmaceutical experiences of their lives. Most would welcome the option of bringing nature back into their lives and into their care.

There appears to be some confusion as to the training requirements for those applying to take the FABNO exam. We require a fair degree of experience prior to taking the FABNO exam. There are 2 ways to fulfill the experience requirement. One way is to complete a 2-year CNME-accredited naturopathic oncology residency. Clinical experience gained from practice can be substituted for this residency requirement. Hence, instead of a residency, applicants may substitute 5 years in a clinical practice focused on oncology, or a similar amount of time doing oncology research, teaching oncology, or directing an oncology residency.

As of May 1, 2013, there are 84 NDs who have been board-certified in naturopathic oncology (FABNO). Of these, 32 (38%) qualified, based on completion of a 2-year residency, and 52 (62%) qualified by fulfilling the experience requirements. So, nearly two-thirds of current FABNOs have qualified for the credential based on experience rather than residency training.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) seems to have been another source of confusion for the letter writer, who apparently practices in Canada. CTCA is a private corporation, as are a great many hospitals in the United States. He is correct in stating that CTCA employs NDs who are not FABNOs. Remember that completion of a 2-year residency is required to even apply to take the FABNO test. CTCA residents have obviously not met the FABNO experience criteria when they are hired.

While CTCA’s residency program is the largest, it is not the only CNME-accredited residency in naturopathic oncology. Applications have been accepted from physicians who have completed residencies at Indiana University Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care, Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic and Ho’o Lokahi Integrative Residency. Other residency programs in both the United States and Canada have reached out to OncANP to determine the requirements necessary for their programs to qualify.

In our opinion, the practice of naturopathic oncology generally requires specific knowledge. We provide this knowledge as best we can—to our profession, in general, and to our membership, in particular.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion.

OncANP welcomes all licensed naturopathic physicians who are interested in learning more about working with cancer patients to join our organization. Our next scheduled conference will be held in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day weekend, 2014.  We hope to see many of you there.


Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
President, OncANP


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