Mary Ann’s Story: A Veteran’s Journey of Healing

Mary Ann Warren had a successful military career that spanned decades. In retirement, after beloved mother passed, she came face-to-face with underlying anxiety, depression and overwhelm, all worsened by nagging low self-esteem. At her local VA, Mary Ann met licensed naturopathic doctor, Dr. Davis, and others who led her on a path to recovery. Other challenges Mary Ann had included gastroesophageal reflux disease, hip bursitis and osteoporosis. Over the last 10 years under the guidance of Dr. Davis, Mary Ann has been able to gain confidence and peace of mind as well as recover from her physical ailments. Here’s her compelling story.  

Mary Ann Warren’s parents grew up in the Jim Crow South and were adamant their daughters have a better education and a world of opportunities. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley on scholarship in the field of Conservation and Natural Resources, the military offered Mary Ann a chance she could not refuse. It would pay for graduate school in exchange for her service to the country. 

She grabbed the chance, entered the Women’s Army Corp and never looked back. With a Masters in Human Relations and a wide variety of jobs within the military, Mary Ann brought her open nature, desire to help others and keen mind to each position she filled. She loved the creativity and interdisciplinary nature of the work. During and since her military service, Mary Ann was and is a dedicated volunteer, teaching English to soldiers in  Korea, spending time with the elderly, taking part in service missions in Vietnam, India, and Africa and more. 

Mary Ann and her mother

About a decade ago, after the loss of her mother, many of the psychological and physical complaints Mary Ann had been experiencing came to a crescendo. Though she loved her military service, there were enormous stressors in the Army. As an African American woman, Mary Ann encountered both racism, sexism, and humiliation, sometimes less, sometimes more, which left their deep and indelible mark. As part of her healing, Mary Ann journaled about much of the abuse. At her retirement beneficiary committee hearing, she shared some of these experiences and described the PTSD she suffered. At that time, she met several female soldiers who had faced similar challenges.

Mary Ann thought she was doing well enough, going through the day-to-day of life. But at a routine visit at the VA Education Center, Mary Ann broke down. The cumulative impact of grief, the mounting sadness, the ongoing elements of PTSD were taking their toll. 

When Mary Ann was referred to mental health services at the VA, she was introduced to a host of options the VA offered. She also had the good fortune to meet Dr. Teri Davis, who taught many of the integrative medicine approaches that have been true lifesavers for Mary Ann. It was at the VA that Mary Ann first experienced chair yoga, Qi Gong and the MOVE Exercise Program.  She took an Introduction to Whole Health Class where she learned in detail about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet and the relevance of the DASH diet. Dr. Davis taught an extremely beneficial Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course which Mary Ann really enjoyed. She has been able to integrate those skills and mindset, fundamental in her gaining confidence, direction and peace. 

Dr. Davis says about her patient, “Mary Ann is the ideal kind of person to work with at the VA as she is committed to her health and wellbeing and is willing to make lifestyle changes. She is fearless in her self-reflection and her optimism and kindness are infectious.”

Over the course of this last decade, under the supervision of Dr. Davis and others at the VA, Mary Ann was able to discontinue her Omeprazole and no longer has GERD. Naturopathic doctors have many approaches to gastrointestinal illness which for Mary Ann, cured her of this long established problem.

Although surgical intervention was recommended for hip bursitis when more conservative approaches failed, Mary Ann’s bursitis resolved over time with gentle yoga, other exercise routines alongside her anti-inflammatory diet. Mary Ann happily discontinued pain medication as it was no longer needed.

And interestingly, Mary Ann is learning to reverse her osteoporosis with the addition of weight bearing exercise, the appropriate diet and a tailored, individualized plan, including nutritional supplements.

Mary Ann travelling to the Great Wall in China

Mary Ann is considerably less triggered by memories of being harassed and put down during her years in the Army. She has gained tremendous equanimity, a profound quality that enables her to be present to her life at this moment and to find meaning and connection with those she loves. Also feeling better physically has been a wonderful gift.  Mary Ann says, “I wish I had all this knowledge and all these skills when I was in the military. “I would not have wasted so much negative energy which resulted in sickness.”  

Dr. Davis shares, “In Arizona, naturopathic physicians are licensed as primary care doctors. At this time, we are not able to practice to the full extent of our scope within the VA system though the VA does refer to NDs practicing in the community. Our philosophical approach to patient care allows us to model and teach fundamental and foundational aspects of practice: removing obstacles to health by teaching how to make healthy, life-affirming choices including the basics of a healthy diet, mindful awareness practices, acupressure, improving structural integrity, and education about the use of various natural substances such as supplements and herbs.” 

Naturopathic medicine is ideal for the kinds of challenges so many veterans have from diabetes and heart disease, from chronic pain to PTSD and insomnia. Mary Ann is an inspiring example of how using ND approaches can help with both psychological and physical issues. 

We look forward to a day when all veterans, who have served this country so selflessly, will have access to all approaches to healing, including naturopathic medicine, See this FAQ to read more about Naturopathic Medicine and Veterans.

Dr. Rothenberg is a contributor to INM and practicing licensed naturopathic doctor in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Rothenberg is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians 2017 Physician of the Year. Dr. Rothenberg's writing can be found on, Better Nutrition's Naturopathic Health Hub, Medium, Thrive Global, and The Huff Post. She is the proud mother of 3 adult children.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.