Message From the President

 In Naturopathic News

Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

PAUL Mittman, ND

The African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” aptly describes SCNM’s strategy to advance the college and the success of its students and the naturopathic profession. Transformational endeavors that were once dreams for SCNM students, including a $9 million campus expansion and an SCNM/University of Arizona dual degree option (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine/Masters in Public Health), are now reality. None would be possible on our own, whereas both are happening thanks to the power of partnerships. The stories behind each project are too long to fully explain here, so I will do my best to summarize.

Campus Expansion

Several years ago, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust selected Avein Taffoya (a medical doctor and CEO of the federally-qualified community health centers, Adelante Healthcare), Christine Girard (SCNM’s executive vice president), and me for a 1-year fellowship program. It didn’t take long for us to recognize each other’s love of the healing power of nature and to conspire to integrate naturopathic medicine into Adelante and other community health centers.

After becoming an SCNM trustee, Avein chaired a board task force to explore a campus expansion that was identified as a priority during a 2-year campus master-planning process. In June of 2012, she brought Bryan Mar, her friend and project partner, to visit the college for a tour. Over lunch, Bryan asked, “Would you be open to me donating $250,000 of architectural, design, budgeting, engineering, and other consulting services to develop your campus expansion?” Long story short, 20 months later, here we are (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. SCNM Campus Expansion

The 48 000-sq ft building will open in October, 2014. LGE Design Build, Cawley Architects, Pacific 33 Architects, and Jain Malkin Inc worked with SCNM students, faculty, staff, and trustees to create a stunning, LEED-certified facility. The building will feature an organic café, teaching kitchen, 250-seat auditorium, 4 classrooms, library, fitness rooms, teleconferencing board/meeting room, study spaces, a regenerative healing center, and the natural medicinary. In addition to addressing critical academic needs, it will also become a gateway for the public to visit the campus and join the SCNM community.

We hope to see you for a tour of our newest creation during the AANP Convention this August. As you can see from the architect’s rendering (Figure 2), this will set a new standard for academics and student life in the field of naturopathic medical education.

Mittman_Figure 2_lobby rendering

Figure 2: Preliminary Lobby Rendering

ND/MPH Program

The naturopathic profession planted deep roots in medically-underserved communities many years ago. SCNM’s Community Health department oversees 9 community clinics, and Naturopaths Without Borders sends naturopathic medical students to medical missions in Mexico every month. In addition, the number of graduates working on tribal lands, overseas, and at community health centers continues to grow annually. However, even the best naturopathic care cannot fully address the socioeconomic factors and public health policy issues such as poverty, clean air, and the lack of available healthy food. So, for many years we dreamed of a Naturopathic/Public Health partnership. Enter, Jonathan Weisbuch, MD, MPH.

About 10 years ago, while advocating for the inclusion of naturopathic physicians in a piece of public health legislation, I met Jonathan Weisbuch. As Maricopa County Director of Public Health, Jonathan was a powerful proponent of public health policy and a key individual in the legislative process. Knowing little about naturopathic medicine, he didn’t support our amendment, but he began to understand how much common ground our respective health professions shared. After he retired in 2005, Dr Weisbuch taught epidemiology as an adjunct professor at SCNM, and, in time, he developed a deep bond with many of our students and came to appreciate the natural kinship between naturopathic medicine and public health.

Fast-forward 7 years, and Dr Weisbuch and Dr Cecilia Rosales (director of the University of Arizona School of Public Health in Phoenix), Dr Christine Girard, and I are sitting in my office, following a short campus tour. After exchanging pleasantries, Dr Rosales cuts to the chase: “Would you be open to partnering with the University of Arizona, so naturopathic medical students can pursue a dual, ND/MPH degree?” After Christine and I exchanged glances to make sure we each heard correctly, we agreed to proceed.

After 2 years of planning and curriculum coordination (thank you, Dr Girard and your academic team), we signed the memorandum of understanding between the 2 institutions. This partnership will create new opportunities to expand the role of naturopathic medicine in medically-underserved communities, in public health policy, in leadership, and in research. It will also deepen the ties between 2 professions that emphasize prevention, nutrition, and access to care. The ND/MPH program debuts this coming fall (2014) and will offer those graduates career choices that we previously could only dream about.

At SCNM our primary purpose is to train a new generation of physicians. We care deeply about the future of our students and are always looking for ways to give them the best opportunities for successful careers. SCNM is expanding its campus, its programs and its influence through established relationships and emerging partnerships. I hope this short vignette provides an SCNM update and, more importantly, expresses my gratitude for the many working relationships between and among the SCNM community – students, staff, faculty, trustees, donors – that make these dreams come true.

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