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Industry, Academia and Clinics Collaborate to Support a Naturopathic Residency Model

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SEATTLE: 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.

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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. However, 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 INM Residency Consortium (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

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 that ensures 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 INM’s President and CEO, Michelle Simon, 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.

IRC residents emerge from this program as stronger naturopathic physicians, geared with knowledge on how to execute naturopathic practice, successfully.

If you are a current or prospective resident or partner clinic please visit our ND Professional website to learn more about the IRC program.

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This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

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

About The Author(s)


Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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INM – NMC profession-wide survey assesses common priorities to drive fundraising.

Results: 1) States licensing 2) Public Awareness 3) Residency Access. INM’s priority areas (access, education, research) and initiatives are defined to match survey results.

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