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Industry, Academia and Private Clinics Come Together to Provide a Naturopathic Residency Model

naturopathic residency model

Residencies for medical doctors, where clinical experience is deepened and formalized, are paid for by the Federal government. This important component of medical education readies providers for successful employment and careers. At this time, naturopathic doctors (NDs) are not included in government funded free post-graduate residency opportunities. The Institute for Natural Medicine is pleased to report that the integrative medicine industry, universities and private clinics are coming together to provide a naturopathic residency model that is poised to grow with continued support.

Funding for MD residencies is through the Federal Medicare program.  The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is working to have naturopathic doctors included in Medicare, which would rectify the lack of available Federal funding for naturopathic residencies.

naturopathic residency model

While this work is ongoing, to address the inequity of residency funding, a collaborative model has emerged to expand access to funded residencies for primary-care naturopathic doctors.  Many independent and group residency models do already exist in the profession. To expand residency access further The Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) created a unique funding model, for the INM Residency Consortium (IRC), where academic partners, integrative industry members and private practice clinics come together to provide standardized  funding necessary to cover the expense of employing and training a resident. Entering its fourth year, the IRC has proven successful, and now includes twelve multi-practitioner clinics in three states, Washington, California and Vermont. The Institute for Natural Medicine’s academic partner is Bastyr University; industry partners include: RLC Labs, Barlean’s, Standard Process, Thorne, Integrative Therapeutics, and Seeking Health

What is a Naturopathic Residency Model?

The core of the program is a consortium of successful naturopathic primary care clinics that work together to provide 2-year residencies. The program is unique in that it includes quarterly academic seminars that provide continuing education in topics important to primary-care naturopathic practice and business-training skills.. Beyond clinical training, INM recognizes that leveraging the residency opportunity to provide business training could help ensure post graduate success as the majority of NDs work in or operate small group practices. Understanding how to run a business is key to their success. Clinics involved in the IRC are required to provide three years of financials to ensure that successful, well-run businesses are the training environment of the IRC residents.Each clinic receives a quarterly grant that amounts to roughly half the expense of employing and training the residents. 

Naturopathic medical education incorporates clinical training beginning the summer after the first year of medical school, which leads to a graduate with core competence in clinical practice.  But while ND education is designed to produce a well-rounded, primary-care general medicine provider, access to residency for all graduates would deepen clinical skills in a structured and supportive environment. And in the case of this residency program, by providing participants with business management skills, the program can assert a higher level of success among its graduates in owning and managing a private practice.

Naturopathic medicine, a profession in existence for over 100 years, is emerging as a leader in whole person health.  At this  moment in healthcare, many are recognizing that our current healthcare system, which is incredibly successful in acute ailment situations, has not proven successful in stemming the tide of chronic disease in the US. Naturopathic doctors, whose education is designed to produce whole-person,  primary-care health providers, are perfectly poised to help fill this important gap. .

Demand for inclusion in the IRC is strong with 13 clinics poised to join when funding allows.  This would more than double the existing consortium.  INM is in the planning stages of creating an endowment to fund more naturopathic primary-care residencies.  With a funding target of $115 million, the IRC model could be scaled up to provide residency access for  all naturopathic graduates, a timely and worthwhile goal. 

If your company, medical practice, clinic, hospital, university or non-profit would like to support this important work, please contact Michelle Simon, [email protected]. Click here for more information on the INM Residency Consortium.

The IRC program focuses on training in all aspects of successful naturopathic practice.  Features of this model include a focus on:

  • Greater experience interfacing with patients in a primary care setting,
  • Practice using clinical skills and modalities,
  • Robust performance benchmarks,
  • A robust Quarterly Academic Seminar training series to deepen medical knowledge,
  • Skills necessary to start and maintain a thriving clinic, and
  • A shared funding model with contributions from partner clinics, accredited universities, and corporate or private sponsors.

This information is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following  initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine


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