Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Tori Hudson


Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Tori Hudson

Dr. Tori Hudson was awarded the 1990 President’s award from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) for her research in Women’s health, the 1999 Naturopathic Physician of the Year award, and in 2012 was inducted into the NCNM Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Dr. Tori Hudson co-founded NERC - the Naturopathic Education and Residency Consortium, with Dr. Margaret Beeson- to address a glaring need in the integrative healthcare field: many naturopaths struggle to find an accredited residency program when they are finished with school. Those that do find a residency

Question: What was the impetus in deciding to co-found NERC?

Dr. Hudson:Dr. Tori Hudson specialize in women's health including gynecology and primary care. It's two-parted. The main gaping hole was that there was not enough accredited residency opportunities for graduates. If you added up how many residency programs could be available on site at all the schools,it's not that many, I'm guessing right now probably not more than 30. The schools and the CME have added the ability to have affiliated sites... which is where NERC comes in. Still as of the 2015 year, the total residency positions are less than 60. But how many students are graduating per year? Several hundred.

The other part of the gaping hole is more philosophical: How does a naturopath function in the modern era of medicine? Which is competitive, as well as sophisticated… sophisticated diseases, competitive economically, so how do we expand when we are only accredited in less than half of the states?

In your own words, what service does NERC provide?

NERC provides ‘community-based accredited residency programs’ hosted in clinics or doctors offices, which have been vetted and approved to meet certain criteria. The programs have to be affiliated with the residency directors at  residency approved naturopathic colleges and approved by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education, or CNME. So these are conducted outside of the schools, versus school-based residencies, which was the only option available for many years.

What types of mentors do you target when searching for residency program locations?

The NERC mentors that we seek out are the practitioners or clinics that have a more integrative naturopathic model. Their practice is eclectic and their philosophy is collaborative and integrative. That doesn’t fit the bill for every naturopath, but increasingly that is the case due to the expanding naturopathic college education that is mindful of preparing their students for diverse work settings and increasing demands for medical competency.

What does the average NERC program look like?

Some of our NERC sites have collaborations with local hospitals, and our NERC resident must actually work at the hospital for part of their residency work week. And even in one case at least, the hospital participates in the paying for the residents. So it's not just a sit there and listen, watch and learn, but the resident is participating in the care and collaborating with the conventional medical practitioner.

At all NERC sites, part of the integrative medicine philosophy of NERC is that the resident does clinical rotations one half day a week with conventional practitioners.  This might be a rheumatologist, or a cardiologist, or a gynecologist, or oncologist, etc. NERC residents are required to work with a conventional practitioner a minimum of a half day per week. There is also a maximum amount that any ND resident can work under or with an MD—first and foremost, this is a naturopathic medicine residency.

What inherent struggles have you faced along the way?

Part of the evolution of our profession is communicating who we are, communicating what we do, doing a good job at what we do, and working with being part of the healthcare system, not some tangent extreme out on the wing.

When I was in school, there was minimal published research and scattered nutritional elements. It was more of a challenge to prove to doubters that we were science-based and more of a challenge to practice anything but naturopathic medicine based on historical and anecdotal information.

In the last two plus decades, the explosion of research in botanicals and nutraceuticals, as well as specific nutritional diets, has really come to influence how naturopathic medicine is practiced. Our medicine has evolved from empirical historical evidence, to that, plus science/evidence based.

What is the barrier preventing NERC from reaching all students in need of residencies?

The organization’s main obstacle is money. We have more clinic sites that are interested than we have funds to support.  And the profession has more graduating students who want accredited residencies, than we have residency sites to provide. Not to mention, funding for all naturopathic residencies is completely private funding, versus conventional residencies, which are funded by the federal government and the hospital system. Unfortunately, we don’t have either of those sources at this time.

NERC is completely operating based on the generosity of select nutritional/botanical and laboratory companies, a small handful of individual donors, and the bravery and generosity of the doctors who are deciding to be a NERC site to train a resident.

How has the rapidly changing healthcare environment challenged graduates?

In today's modern world and healthcare environment there is just a lot more to learn, to be honest with you. When I was first in practice, you learned from your teachers, you read about diet, lifestyle, herbs, nutrients, homeopathy, and physical medicine that had predominantly historically longstanding traditions and kind of called it a day. Frankly, that helped a lot, but limited amount of people. Far fewer that we can help now.

The rigor and sophistication of our education needs to continue. Until we have enough other things in place in our profession, like far more licensed states, legislative changes, and robust funding, residencies are not going to be required, so they will still be optional. Post graduate opportunities that then leads to expanded job opportunities and income levels all need to improve in our profession


For more from Dr. Hudson, visit her profile page on Integrative Wisdom.

Personal Insights is a series of profiles on the people and institutions leading the movement forward, breaking down the barriers between integrative care and everyone who needs it. Integrative Therapeutics is committed to supporting these initiatives, because we believe everyone deserves options to choose their ideal path to health and happiness.

ll opinions expressed are those of our subjects.


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