Message from the President: National University of Natural Medicine

 In Education

David J. Schleich, PhD


Now into its seventh decade, National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) has been building its brand, building professions, building natural medicine healthcare, building natural medicine research, and building a permanent campus home. The next 5 years are big ones for us. The building continues.

A lot is happening; indeed a lot has to happen. The next 5-year plan is called: A Framework for Action: III (2017-2022).

NUNM Program Expansion & Campus Growth

NUNM is now organized into 2 colleges (National College of Naturopathic Medicine; and National College of Classical Chinese Medicine), 2 schools (School of Graduate Studies; and School of Undergraduate and Part-time Studies), and 7 institutes: the Helfgott Research Institute; the Food As Medicine Institute; the Traditional Roots Institute; the Women in Balance Institute; the Age Wise Institute; and 2 new institutes under development – the Institute of Spirituality and Medicine and the World Medicines Institute. (See Figure 1) Our institutes have been exceptional incubators for new programming, new community education, new continuing medical education, and new research activity.

Figure 1. NUNM Organization

Our School of Undergraduate and Part-Time Studies is developing many new programs which will become part of our mix over the next 60 months. New to the mix this year is our Bachelor of Science in Integrative Therapeutics. Our School of Graduate Studies, which also houses the Helfgott Research Institute, has added a new Master of Science in Sports Medicine and is developing numerous other graduate programs in fields such as clinical nutrition, gerontology, Ayurveda, botanical medicine, homeopathy, expressive arts, and others.

Our Continuing Education Division will keep generating and delivering a wonderful, expanding menu of offerings including monthly symposia, specialty CME weekends, and numerous Community Education events.

At the same time as we begin this extraordinary period of program expansion and campus growth, a number of our longtime colleagues have retired. Laurie McGrath (Director of our Institutional Research, Accreditation and Compliance), Dr Andrea Smith (our former Provost and, most recently, Vice-President of Accreditation, Assessment and Compliance), Susan Hunter (Vice-President of Advancement), and Dr Sandra Snyder (Vice-President of Marketing and Communications) have all retired from the university after long, wonderful service. Dr Tim Irving, DC, has assumed the Dean’s role in the School of Undergraduate and Part-time Studies. And, Dr Shehab El-Hashemy has become Dean of the College of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr Glenn Smith, EdD, is our new, interim Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. Cheryl Miller is our new Associate Vice-President of Institutional Effectiveness, and Brandon Hamilton is now our Associate Vice-President of University Development.

A Growing Landscape

To accommodate this growth and to improve facilities to serve our students, patients, alumni/ae, and teaching and support staff, this year we demolished the “Services” Building” and will soon be erecting a brand new addition to the Lair Hill Health Center. Making new space for those staff displaced by the demolition, we also added new space to our existing administrative building, which we have called the “Stone-Bleything Wing,” in honor of 2 of the original founders of the former NCNM way back in 1956.

In the modernized, upgraded spaces of our upcoming building, we will build our brand new, second teaching/research kitchen (The Barlean Family Kitchen) to support the growth in our nutrition courses, programs, and research. The new building will also house our new Sports Medicine program, as well as feature additional classroom space, academic and administrative office space, a repurposed store and medicinary, and a modest art gallery. The footprint of the former Services Building will add upwards of 2 dozen new parking spaces, as well as become the site of NUNM’s new WHOLE LIFE MARKET, opening in the spring of 2018 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. NUNM’s Upcoming Whole Life Market

Name Changes & New Programs

Back at the beginning of this fiscal year, NCNM became NUNM, in year 60 of our history. Now we’re well into year 61 and the future is friendlier than ever. Tricky, though, to rename a venerable institution, given all the traditions, rituals, and iconography that accrue over time. Back in 2005, when the NCNM board shifted our name from “National College of Naturopathic Medicine” to “National College of Natural Medicine” to reflect the presence of the Classical Chinese Medicine program in the mix, there was consternation among some stakeholders. Even though the acronym stayed the same, the change in centrality of the word “naturopathic” was worrying to some alumni/ae. Happily, the name “National College of Naturopathic Medicine” is back with a flourish, within the larger university structure.

NUNM now has over a dozen programs up and running, with another 10 in the hopper. These latter planned programs, with appropriate approvals by programmatic and regional accreditors, should be in play and all going well, by the end of the next 5-year plan. What is unique about the rollout of these new programs is that they have strong leadership from within the naturopathic community. As well, along with many colleges and universities in the United States, we are carefully building on-line capacity into our delivery approach both for existing and planned programs. NUNM’s strategic plan, which outlines all of these developments and changes, is called The Framework for Action (FFA). There have been 3 iterations of the FFA since 2007. The most recent one contemplates the period 2017-2022.

There’s more. The City of Portland released to us an actual street which is in the center of the campus. That street will soon become a permaculture garden, which will join our already existing Min Zidell Healing Garden and Galen’s Way Community Garden in the evolution of much needed green space in a very urban corner of Portland.

NUNM Mission & Continuing Development

All these material changes reflect the university’s mission to build natural medicine disciplines successfully for the American healthcare and higher education terrains. However, where at one time, academic, degree-granting programs were the key incubators of such growth, NUNM now has 5 institutes (with 2 more on the on ramp). These remarkable divisions of the university are producers and providers of education and training, stimulators of research, and program incubators. Our Food as Medicine Institute, for example, generated the university’s first teaching/research kitchen at the Helfgott Research Institute building, along with our new and very successful master’s program in nutrition. It also has championed ongoing community education, research activity, and a pioneering, nutrition education project with St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas. NUNM’s Traditional Roots Institute, Age-Wise Institute, and Women in Balance Institute have similarly contributed not only abundant CME and community education, but also a steady roster of professional symposia that have accumulated into a regular annual rhythm. There are 2 more institutes being developed: the World Medicines Institute, and the Institute for Spirituality and Medicine.

NUNM Press published its fifteenth title this year. Prominent among the titles have been the latest volumes in the Hevert Collection. The Helfgott Research Institute’s research agenda continues to expand, blending with our graduate research degrees in integrative medicine, nutrition, behavioral health, and more, manifesting in a wide range of studies, big and small.

NUNM’s 2 main Health Centers are now credentialed as PCPCH Tier 4 providers – vital milestones in expanding our patient care reach.

A Long-Range View

As has been our approach for many decades, NUNM continues to take the long view, presenting itself as a repeat destination and confidently place-making in our geographic and digital locations. We’re taking careful note of the rapidly expanding, so-called “integrative medicine” field, knowing full well the complexities of inter-professional competition there. We’re weaving a thriving innovation trailhead in our home here in the Pacific Northwest especially, but also across North America, on-line and with various partners.

These are our core themes: student success, teaching and learning, and professional vitality. Our Framework for Action document is not only an agenda of response to marketplace need, but also a way of sustaining a vision predicated on naturopathic principles.

New program development, human resource capacity growth, program differentiation, the constant buildout of a distinctive physical campus and digital footprint, and the nurturing of relationships in the higher education and healthcare landscape are what NUNM is up to as we move with alacrity, energy, and commitment into 2018.

Figure 3. Lair Hill Health Center & Academic Building

(Lair Hill Health Center in foreground; Lair Hill Academic Building in background)

Figure 4.  NUNM’s Downtown Portland Campus Footprint

NUNM’s downtown Portland campus footprint

David J. Schleich, PhD, is president and CEO of the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), former president of Truestar Health, and former CEO and president of CCNM, where he served from 1996 to 2003. 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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