Dr. Deborah Lightstone, ND

Class of 2004, CCNM - Toronto

Pushing for change at the state – or school – level makes naturopathic medicine stronger

We all recognize the importance of licensing for our profession; as regulated NDs we can then fully utilize our rigorous training to diagnose and treat patients, providing all the benefits naturopathic medicine has to offer.
The battle for licensure is still being fought in the state of Indiana, where a few of CCNM’s graduates happen to be working diligently to educate and lobby the government for the right to be able to fully practice their craft.
In fact, these Canadian expats were instrumental in starting the Indiana Association of Naturopathic Physicians (INANP) in 2005 when they moved to the state for various personal reasons and established their practices.

Dr. Deborah Lightstone, ND (Class of 2004) one of INANP’s founding members recalls, “When I first moved to Indiana in 2004 there was no state association and only five NDs practising (including myself ) who had graduated from accredited schools and held licenses elsewhere.” Although Indiana does not license naturopathic doctors, all of INANP’s professional members maintain a license as a naturopathic doctor from another U.S. state or Canadian province.

Another CCNM graduate, Dr. Amy Tweedle, ND (Class of 2005) currently serves as INANP’s president. “One of the biggest challenges to not having licensure in Indiana is that we cannot practice to our full scope of training. NDs cannot do physical exams or any hands-on techniques with patients.”

Deborah definitely sees a need in her community for naturopathic medicine.
“There is very little offered in terms of complementary or integrative forms of medicine. People are looking for it and seeking it out. Protecting our ND title with licensure is so important as there are unaccredited schools (including one in Indiana) where graduates use the same ND title without the same level of education. This is problematic and creates confusion for both the consumer and other medical professionals.”

When recent graduate Dr. Katelin Parkinson, ND (Class of 2014) also moved to Indiana, she at first missed practising in Ontario. “I was fearful of what my future held practicing in an unlicensed state. I was the only practising board-certified and therefore ‘licensable’ ND in the city I moved to and just one of fewer than ten NDs in the entire state.” She quickly assumed the role of secretary for INANP, thereby joining forces with Deborah and Amy to advocate for licensing in the state.

Inspiring women towards wellness
Not surprisingly, advocacy work takes time and financial resources. So, in 2018, these CCNM graduates worked together and launched Nourish, a women’s health conference created for women interested in natural health and healthy living. An annual event, it provides an avenue to promote naturopathic medicine, while also raising awareness of the importance of licensure in Indiana.
Nourish also acts as a fundraiser for the INANP with proceeds put toward its legislative efforts and to support paying a lobbyist for all the work that goes into moving this important item forward. While this year’s event has been postponed until April 2021, their work will continue.
“Progress is being made and our lobbyist helps ensure we get our information in front of the legislators who really count,” Amy added. “We are making a lot of connections with individuals on health committees while increasing awareness of the importance of naturopathic medicine and what our education and training includes.”
U.S. Student Advocates in Canada
This year’s Naturopathic Students Association (NSA) president, Sonia Drouin, chose to study at CCNM because of its focus towards evidence-based medicine and research. Hailing from New York state, Sonia is the first U.S. student to serve as NSA president and will graduate with the Class of 2021.
“CCNM puts forth a great deal of effort to graduate knowledgeable doctors who are able to treat patients competently with high standards of practice. With students from all over the world, it is essential for the environment and culture at CCNM to be supportive towards students as they learn to balance the rigors of the program.”
When asked about her involvement with the NSA, she commented, “As the NSA president, I feel a sense of duty to connect each student to the ever growing and changing tapestry at CCNM. If you’re a student reading these words, you have something to give and something to glean, so we can be strengthened together through this time of change.”
More NSA supports for students
Last year, in her role as student governor for NSA, Sonia was instrumental in focusing on improving mental health supports for students, something that has proven to be even more necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of her efforts, a new initiative called Empower Me has been launched to provide students with 24/7 access to mental health practitioners via telemedicine. CCNM empowered its student body by providing this resource and launching it free to its students. “This is an example of how unifying voices in a professional manner can result in progress,” Sonia adds. “I hope students know that the NSA is here to serve them in so many capacities.”
Sonia cites an African proverb to illustrate her perspective on the NSA’s role, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Let’s learn to go farther than we thought possible. You can lean on us. We are here for you.”
Taken together, these four individuals are connected by CCNM and their individual dedication to promoting the benefits of the naturopathic education they diligently pursued.
No doubt the future for naturopathic medicine will be brighter because of the efforts of these four advocates.
For more information about INANP or to support its licensing efforts:
For more information about INANP or to support its licensing efforts:
This article was originally published in issue #27, Mind|Body|Spirit, Summer 2020, page 34
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