In this interview with naturopathic resident Logan Rost, ND, MPH, CHES and INM’s editor-at-large Griffin McMath, ND, you will learn the role of naturopathic medicine in primary care settings. Dr. Rost is a bright and shining example in Washington state for naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians.
Finding the right primary care doctor makes such a difference to one’s overall health. Naturopathic doctors are ideally trained to address the wide breadth of health needs for adults and children, however, access to naturopathic medicine can be difficult to obtain for rural communities who need it most.
The Institute for Natural Medicine’s editor-at-large, Griffin McMath, ND interviews Dr. Logan Rost, a second-year resident naturopathic doctor and public-health professional at Family Health Centers community health center in Okanogan County, WA. In this interview, both doctors talk about the importance of naturopathic medicine in primary care in rural settings and the role of INM’s Primary Task Force in expanding care to communities. The following is an edited and excerpted version of the audio interview.
An interview with Dr. Logan Rost about naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians
Dr. Griffin McMath: Tell us a little about yourself and your work in family medicine in Washington.
Dr. Logan Rost: I am currently working as a naturopathic resident at family health centers Community Health Center in Okanogan County, Washington. I say the county because I am rotating through multiple different clinics and the towns in the area. So, I don’t have a single practice location. Okanagan county is in North Central Washington for those not familiar with Washington State. I am originally from Tennessee, but naturopathic medical school brought me out to the northwest.
Dr. GM: Residencies are pretty competitive. Can you tell us a little bit more about your path to naturopathic medicine?
Dr. LR: Absolutely. So, I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor and that has always been typically in primary care. I’ve wanted to do primary care since I was young. And when it came time at the end of undergrad to start, and I was considering taking the MCAT and applying to medical school, something in my gut told me to just take a moment and consider my options. And at that point, I only knew about medical school for a medical doctor (MD) and a doctor of osteopathy (DO).
Those were the only two considerations. Instead of immediately going to medical school after undergrad, I decided to take time and get my Master’s in medical anthropology, which was something that I was also passionate about and felt like it would really be able to impact how I was able to care for patients. I moved to Denver, Colorado for that degree. And while I was in that program, a good friend said, it sounds like you want to do naturopathic medicine. I was like, ‘I don’t know what that is. Can you tell me more?’ She shared her experience with naturopathic medicine and then told me to look at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, which is the naturopathic school that I ended up going to. As soon as I started researching Bastyr and naturopathic medicine, I realized immediately that was what I wanted to do. Through that journey, I found myself studying naturopathic medicine.
Dr. GM: Oh, that’s great. Also, I love that you studied medical anthropology, my undergrad degree was in anthropology. And that was my gateway to naturopathic medicine, too – so cool. I remember you being pretty involved in naturopathic medical school and volunteering in different areas.
Dr. LR: Yeah, I tried to be involved with things specifically with trying to bring more awareness to underserved and marginalized populations. I was really involved with Trans Health Awareness Week that developed into Trans Health Awareness Month at school. And then also trying to, especially in my later years, after starting the master’s in public health program, trying to be pretty involved in the creation of a community health track. And, that was in coordination with the INM Primary Care Task Force as well. I wanted naturopathic students who wanted experience in community health to be able to choose their track or have a second track for them to be able to prepare themselves as best they could to go into those environments.
Dr. GM: You get to the end of naturopathic medical school, you finish your Masters in Public Health (MPH), and you specifically have this interest in providing primary care, especially within these specific communities. What was it like to pick the path for your next step in your career after graduating? Wait, before you answer that, I need you to explain for those who don’t know what the IMM primary care Task Force is about and why it is so important in providing support to the primary care medical community…
Dr. LR: It’s a group of naturopathic doctors and professionals who are working to get more NDs into community health and rural primary care settings. There has been a lot of networking, behind-the-scenes work to create documents, and standard operating procedures (SOPs). But most of all, the task force informs others that we (NDs) exist and letting them know, this is how you hire us and onboard us and this is what we can bring to your clinic setting.
I always knew that I wanted to do a residency. It was really important that I have a rigorous learning environment by being challenged in seeing lots of patients. But also, I wanted an ongoing mentorship from someone to help me with a particularly challenging case and take any clinical pearls from their years of experience being in the field and working in primary care. And so, I think part of that is because being part of a team, a clinical team of people working towards our patient’s best interest, is really important to me. It is pretty critical and integral to how I want to practice primary care. And so, a residency was sort of a natural way for me to be able to do that, okay. And it’s this is a great moment to kind of fill in the gaps of knowledge that may be raising some questions in the background.
Dr. GM: So we can help people understand, you work in a Federally Qualified Health Center, an FQHC. What does that mean in terms of how people access care in their community?
Dr. LR: A Federally Qualified Health Center, or FQHC, is a community health center or community clinic that has met certain federal standards that have been set out so that they can receive federal funding in order to provide care for populations or communities that don’t have good access to health care… There are multiple clinics that Family Health Centers owns and operates across the county. I’m really at what we call the south clinics, and they’re in the southern border of the county in the towns of Brewster and Bridgeport. There are two clinics in Brewster and one clinic in Bridgeport. Right now, I’m pretty much joined at the hip with Dr. Sarah Acosta Smith, who is one of the naturopathic primary care doctors who’s been working for Family Health Centers for about five years now and who has been integral in both the IMM primary care Task Force and as well as the creation of this residency at family health centers.
Currently, there are three of us who are naturopathic doctors who are employed by Family Health Centers, and we rotate through different clinics in order to be able to give naturopathic primary care services to as many people and as many communities in the county as possible. In terms of residency, it’s all part of the learning process, it definitely took a little bit of getting used to being onboarded to multiple clinics at the same time versus just one. But this way, I get to work with so many different care teams, which has been a great experience. I get to see a lot of different patients. Depending on where I am in the county, I see different demographics of patients, and I see different things that the communities are struggling with… My public health brain is also very excited to be able to see trends in the county, depending on what community I’m working with, and see what’s coming into the clinic. I use that knowledge to try to make community change on a larger level.
Dr. GM: On that note, with your “public health brain” what is it like being in a Community Health Care during the pandemic?
Dr. LR: It’s been such an interesting experiment being both a newly graduated primary care doctor and a public health student, I’m in the midst of a pandemic. But I feel like it really has appealed to my public health brain, in many ways. And I will say that, like my public health degree, a focus on social justice and community health education and being able to work in a community health center with people who are very invested in caring for their community and doing as much as they can during this pandemic, has been really wonderful. It definitely has allowed me to get a lot of practice with community health, education, and public health sort of right out the door, which I’ve been very grateful for.
Dr. GM: Lastly, let’s shift a little bit to what it’s like for a patient to work with a naturopathic medical resident in a clinic like yours?
Dr. LR: One thing that can be different being in an outpatient clinic setting is that I, as a naturopathic resident, can see patients without an attending physician present and so it can be very much like a normal primary care visit. … It’s a pretty straightforward primary care visit because I’m a primary care provider, that’s typically what I’m doing. But there are also instances where people are coming to me or the other naturopathic primary care providers here for more sort of specialized naturopathic services. And so, it really depends on what the patient’s coming in for and how we’re seeing them.
Dr. GM: Any last things that you like to tell the public about what it’s like to be a naturopathic medical resident or any other last thoughts?
Dr. LR: Yeah, I’m just really excited. I’m at a place in my budding career where I’m very excited to be a naturopathic doctor that also has a degree in public health and a background in medical anthropology. I feel like those things have been the perfect trifecta to get me to where I can truly serve populations that don’t have good access to quality medical care. And I feel very excited to be able to bring naturopathic medicine to those communities and be working in a more rural area.