A Brief History of CCNM

 In Education

David Schleich, PhD


Background and Higher Education Context

CCNM was established in 1978 as a single-program institution called the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine (OCNM) in Toronto, achieving accreditation with the CNME in 2000. Meanwhile, in the year 2000 in British Columbia, another new single-program entity called Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) was established and is currently preparing for a CNME site visit this fall subsequent to a self-study for CNME accreditation. In Lombard, Ill., as a faculty within the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), the new naturopathic program also currently has candidacy status. In Connecticut, a similar faculty structure within the University of Bridgeport was established in 1996 and its naturopathic program was accredited in 2001.

CCNM, like BINM, NCNM and SCNM, has naturopathic medical education at its operational core, whereas naturopathic medical education at Bastyr University, NUHS and the University of Bridgeport are programs within small, regional comprehensive universities. The programs within university frameworks have operational and strategic planning challenges and opportunities that differ in context and governance from CCNM, BINM, SCNM and NCNM. NCNM, however, has two graduate medical programs (the other being classical Chinese medicine).

Brief History of CCNM: 1978-Present

In the pivotal year of 1978 when NCNM (which had been operating since 1956) began offering its long awaited, first full-time residential program, the OCNM launched its “accelerated part-time undergraduate program” and John Bastyr College (JBC) opened in Seattle. Significantly, JBC from the outset had a contractual arrangement with Seattle Central Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the state of Washington, accredited by the then Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. The founders of OCNM were watching with attention and envy the immediate progress JBC had in linking up with higher education partners in its jurisdiction.

What began as a part-time program to augment the number of registrants in the naturopathic profession in Ontario and to provide access to naturopathic practice for an increasing number of chiropractors and drugless practitioners who recognized the rising demand for alternative medicine, gradually evolved into an institution aspiring to become a post-secondary, higher education college and university in the Ontario landscape, but incorporated as a nonprofit social enterprise (Alter, 2004). The first classes were held at the Chelsea Inn in Toronto. The first full-time classes were held in 1981 at the short-lived Benton Street campus in Kitchener. As demand for the program and the complexities of delivery and design grew, though, OCNM eventually moved first to Bay Street in Toronto (1984-’85) and then, for a decade, to a rented elementary school in Etobicoke (west Toronto; 1986-’96). Between late 1996 and fall of 1999, OCNM was located in mid-town Toronto and experienced rapid growth and development. In August 1999, CCNM located to its first permanent campus opposite the North York General Hospital in a campus that included dormitory facilities for students, significantly expanded classroom, library and student life facilities, a comprehensive on-campus clinic with more than 40 treatment rooms and a laboratory, as well as a unique instructional and recreational herbal garden. The campus is also located now at a desirable nexus of public and rapid transit, including two subway entrances.

During those development years a broad front of institutional development occurred in the key areas of curriculum development, delivery methodology, accreditation, program growth, staffing, faculty development, inter-institutional development and financing.

In Ontario, only qualified health practitioners initially could take the ND program at the new OCNM. There was no first professional degree or diploma program available even for recent graduates of university science or related programs. The new school had two dimensions: a Toronto-based part-time program with a varying curriculum; and a visionary effort to affiliate the ND diploma program with the University of Waterloo in Kitchener. The first incarnation of OCNM/CCNM was as a private college, owned by what Quarter et al. would have labeled a “nonprofit mutual association” (Quarter et al., 2003). That also long-awaited Ontario initiative, albeit a part-time program, lasted until 1988.

Between 1978 and 1983, however, its only offering was the unaccredited postgraduate program comprised of approximately 850 hours in weekend intensives. Its curriculum was aimed at practitioners already qualified in a primary healthcare occupation such as dentistry, chiropractic and some early “drugless therapists” hoping to upgrade and consolidate their qualifications and skills. A full-time undergraduate stream was finally added in 1983, but only after efforts at a sustainable articulation agreement with the University of Waterloo were abandoned. It took until 1993 for the Ontario incorporated, nonprofit Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research (INER) to stabilize significantly enough for the institution to add depth to its educational systems and clinical resources. During that time INER distanced itself from the direct control of the Ontario Naturopathic Association, a nonprofit that Quarter et al. (2003) might classify as a “nonprofit mutual association” (p. 20). Indeed, INER itself, strongly affiliated in mission and members with the Ontario Naturopathic Association, was itself emerging with more and more of the characteristics of a nonprofit mutual association, blended with what Alter (2004) has classified as a social enterprise.

The second “arm” of INER became the Naturopathic College Clinic. Thus, the recognition formally of a classroom operation and a clinic operation, as integrated but separate entities, marked an important change in the college’s operational strategy. INER, the paying membership body of the “shareholders” of the Institute, recognized the primacy of clinical applications and a direct link with the clinical professionals whom their proposed program was to serve. Within INER there is provision for professional members and non-professional members, but it took until 1991 for those distinctions to be clarified and well communicated to the profession. The Institute was incorporated under the Corporations Act of the Province of Ontario and registered as a charitable organization under the Income Tax Act and, as such, not subject to income taxes. It began to operate outside the mainstream of professional education virtually from its inception. Another of its key challenges was to move away from direct control by the professional association that spawned it, while at the same time maintaining strong links to that same group.

Meanwhile, just as CCNM was learning gradually how to hover between being a social enterprise and a nonprofit mutual association, its higher education characteristics were also growing. For example, although not the case in the earliest years, CCNM graduates who completed the naturopathic licensing exams (board exams) were eligible for registration in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and early in the new century also in Alberta. As well, a shift of a regulatory umbrella from the Drugless Practitioners Act to the Regulated Health Professions Act in Ontario in 2007 was the culmination of efforts by the ND profession, conjugated through various proposals and lobbying efforts since the 1950s when the Health Professionals Legislative Review committee in that province began its work.

While the eyes of naturopathic leaders were trained on professional formation and making sure that as many graduates as possible could make it into and through the training program, one eye was certainly on the survival of naturopathic medicine as a distinct group. The other eye, though, was on how to generate the educational platform necessary to accomplish that mission. As well, there was the matter of determining what legal form the college would take and the parallel question of where the new institution would be located in the social economy (Alter, 2004; Quarter et al., 2003; Salamon, 1997). Eventually this focus would center on governance and diversity issues (Huisman, 1998; Skolnik, 1986; Birnbaum, 1983; Jones, 1996; Carver, 1997). However, as mentioned above, long before serious thought was given to a governance structure that departed from strict control by the profession “over its school,” a strategy for creating and governing a Canadian school had been suggested.

As the complexities of administering both full and part-time programs emerged, the institution learned not only how to overcome operational difficulties related to staffing, budget, curriculum evaluation and learning resources acquisition and deployment, but also how to maneuver through the dangerous waters of political conflict. Financial irregularities and the gradual evolution of a nonprofit governance model led to a crisis within the umbrella organization of the college, the INER. From its inception in 1984 to its transformation in 1991, INER attracted the energy, interest and ideas of naturopathic doctors seeking to shape “their college” to meet the perceived needs of professional formation.

The support of an Ontario industrialist, Mr. Robert Schad, coupled with a redefined INER organization in the first years of the ’90s under the leadership of Dr. Don Warren led to the establishment of a renewed institution, CCNM, committed not only to fiscal and governance accountability but also to a higher education pathway for its development and destiny. In 1995 the new college achieved candidacy for accreditation and by 2000 achieved full status with the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), the non-profit, 501c3 American programmatic accreditor affiliated with the federal Department of Education in Washington, D.C. and empowered to accredit naturopathic medical education programs.

During this period, too, as described above, CCNM shifted to its first permanent full-service college campus. By 2003, in its 25th year of operation, CCNM had applied for degree granting status from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, confident that its resources, programming and vision were consistent with the requirements for admission to the world of higher education in Ontario and Canada.

David_Schleich_Headshot-248x300David Schleich, PhD is president and CEO of NCNM, former president of Truestar Health, and former CEO and president of CCNM, where he served from 1996 to 2003. Other previous posts have included appointments as vice president academic of Niagara College, and administrative and teaching positions at St. Lawrence College, Swinburne University (Australia) and the University of Alberta. His academic credentials have been earned from the University of Western Ontario (BA), the University of Alberta (MA), Queen’s University (BEd) and the University of Toronto (PhD).


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Birnbaum R: Maintaining Diversity in Higher Education. San Francisco, 1983, Jossey-Bass.

Carver J: Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations. San Francisco, 1997, Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Huisman J: Differentiation and diversity in higher education systems. In JC Smart (ed): Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (vol. XIII). New York, 1998, Agathon Press, 75-109.

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Quarter J et al: What Counts: Social Accounting for Nonprofits and Cooperatives. Upper Saddle River, 2003, Prentice-Hall.

Salamon L: The International Guide to Nonprofit Law. New York, 1997, John Wiley & Sons.

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