There is growing interest in the US Virgin Islands for naturopathic medicine. This is why doctors of naturopathic medicine living in the territory are in support of a recent amendment to create the Board of Naturopathic Physicians to define naturopathic medicine and modalities used by naturopathic doctors and continue to regulate natural medicine in the US Virgin Islands. The amendment has been forwarded to the full body by senators on the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, according to news sources.
The Virgin Islands of the United States is a licensed territory for naturopathic medicine; however, a board has never materialized since the bill passed in December of 2001. Justa Encarnacion, the US Virgin Islands Health Commissioner testified to the fact that there is no active board to approve naturopathic applications. At present all naturopathic doctors apply for a business license and are cleared by the Department of Health.
Naturopathic doctors call for greater cooperation to regulate natural medicine in the US Virgin Islands
Two of the three naturopathic physicians living in the territory testified before the committee in favor of legislation, though they were not included to provide any input. They expressed opinions that their experience could have added significant clarity and changed some of the outcomes.
Born and raised in the US Virgin Islands, Wendy Coram-Vialet, ND, was a pioneer in bringing naturopathic medicine to the territory. In addition to her undergraduate education, she has a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and a certificate in naturopathic midwifery. She brought naturopathic medicine to the territory and advocated for licensure of naturopathic medicine.
“In 2001, I had the distinct privilege of working with naturopathic physicians, attorneys, and legislators to create a bill that licensed naturopathic physicians in the territory,” said Dr. Coram-Vialet. “Upon my return home, the board of medical examiners had not developed rules and regulations for naturopathic physicians since 1974. Act no. 6492 made provisions for the governor to make the initial appointment of members to the board with advice and consent of the legislature within 60 days after the passage of the bill. However, this has not been fully realized as of today. Applications were submitted to the department of health as requested but no action was ever taken during that administration and others that followed,” she said.
Amendment to regulate natural medicine moves to the USVI Senate
According to news sources, during the discussion about the amendments, Senators recognized that many Virgin Islanders believe in and rely on natural medicine for health care. Inquiries have asked about forming a board or having another medical board oversee the naturopathic rules and regulations.
“I look forward to having more in-depth conversations with the stakeholders when it comes to naturopathic medicine because what was done here, we were never consulted on,” said Dr. Coram-Vialet. “I hope that moving forward, when the community or organizations are making decisions about our profession, that we are included in the conversation because we were not and I think if we did, we would have had a different outcome here,” she said.
At the discussion on Aug. 25, 2022, the group could not reach consensus on the amendment to change the composition of the board, so it was held in committee. Senators Genevieve Whitaker and Marvin Blyden said the current “law doesn’t outline skills or experience to qualify as a naturopath*. Nor does it prescribe the numbers or qualifications of board members.”
Encarnacion suggested rather than form a separate board, applications could be approved or denied by the Board of Medical Examiners or another health-related licensing agency. However, there was no agreement on this suggestion.
To move this along, Whitaker amended Bill 34-0244 to expand and clarify the definition of naturopathic medicine and the physical modalities used in the practice of naturopathy. This includes definitions of modalities used by naturopathic physicians, including electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, ultraviolet light, and medicines using dilutions of herbs and animal products. The amendment was approved unanimously by Senators Milton Potter, Novelle Francis, Kenneth Gittens, Franklin Johnson, Carla Joseph, Genevieve Whitaker, and Angel Bolques Jr and will now be forwarded to the full Senate for approval.
Wendy Coram-Vialet, ND, was a pioneer in bringing naturopathic medicine to the territory.
*It should be noted that ‘naturopath’ is sometimes used interchangeably in select jurisdictions, but should not be assumed as equivalent. In this instance, we recognize naturopath implies licensed naturopathic doctors. This is not always the case, see more on the differences here.
This article 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
Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).