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Northern Centrefor Integrative Medicine

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February, 2012    |

Rural ND’s embrace role of community primary care provider

Cher Boomhower, ND and Jason Boxtart, ND founded the Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine a decade ago with a vision of delivering top quality healthcare to one of Canada’s many under-serviced rural areas; Prince George, British Columbia. Naturopathic doctors often find the practice management challenges of starting a new practice difficult, and thus the husband and wife team are quick to showcase the need for good quality healthcare in rural settings. “A lot of people in rural settings do not have a family physician, and as a result we enjoyed very rapid practice growth”, describes Jason. “More new grads should seek out opportunities in rural settings… we have found conventional physicians practicing in rural settings to be much more open to integrative practices, if for no other reason out of a need for help in managing the healthcare needs of the community! And with the arrival of broad prescription rights in British Columbia, our role as an important, first-line primary healthcare provider has been solidified”.

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Cher and Jason go on to describe several keys to the success the facility enjoys today. Chief among them was the conscious decision to establish what the team describes as “portals of entry” into the practice. By establishing a broad array of distinct services, patients initially arriving to have a particular concern addressed quickly become patients of the facility as a whole. Initially arriving for help with pain, patients are eager to then enter the weight loss program, investigate their body burden of environmental contaminants, or perhaps seek entry into the preconception/ fertility program.

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The duo has remained true to their professions oath in terms of endless continuing education and training, making possible the immensely broad and diverse array of services offered at the facility. The two ND’s have also selected different avenues of further training along the way, making each an “expert” in quite differing applications of naturopathic medicine. Jason is currently working towards completion of the Fellowship of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO) and the American Association of Anti Aging Medicine (AAAAM) designations, and has completed training in prolotherapy and mesotherapy. Therefore, his areas of specialization in the facility, and thus the programs of the clinic under his direction include cancer management, pain management, weight loss, and health and beauty. Cher completed Dr Crinnion’s three year extended program in environmental medicine, training in integrative approaches for mental health concerns, and expertise in the delivery of colon hydrotherapy. As such, Cher manages programs within the facility that include environmental medicine, mental health, chelation, fertility and preconception, and IV nutrient therapies.

A carefully selected team of associates further expanded the impressive list of services. Sonya Redden is a physiotherapist that has been with the team since the opening of the facility. In addition to conventional physiotherapy services, Sonya has made manual lymphatic drainage an available service. Heidi Kaseweter is a certified counselor who has proven invaluable to the team, responsible for much of the success of the weight management program and mental health program of the facility. Jane Hedges is a registered midwife that joined the team approximately three years ago. She provides an ideal fit for the growing preconception/ fertility program.

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The Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine has also enjoyed the recent collaboration of Dr Shona Imlah, MD. Shona is a family physician with an expertise in OBGYN. Shona works with the team two days a week, with Cher and Jason hoping she will expand her role moving forward. Among the multitude of services Shona offers, her arrival has established the bioidentical hormone therapy program of the facility.

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Cher and Jason showcase the many diverse ways naturopathic doctors are able to impact the healthcare landscape of our country. First and foremost a naturopathic doctor is called upon to deliver their safe and effective system of care to the public, and the team sets an impressive standard in this regard. The Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine boasts over 200 patient visits per week. Beyond practice the team has entrenched themselves in roles that are shaping both the naturopathic and conventional medical fields.

For the past eight years Cher and Jason have served as adjunct faculty for the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). They help deliver a UNBC course in their school of medicine; “Doctor, Patient, and Society”. How the course came about is an interesting story; the Dean of the program was brought in from Scotland and was displeased with the lack of training students were receiving in integrative medicine. Cher and Jason do not deliver a curriculum of naturopathic theraputics, but the Dean realized interaction with two evidence- based ND’s would in-and-of-itself deliver valuable knowledge in the realm of integrative medicine to students. Cher and Jason describe a transformation over the years of students first seeming to not care of anything non- pharmaceutical, to today’s students eager to learn anything they can of application of nonconventional practices. To further deliver knowledge of integrative medicine to aspiring MD’s, Cher and Jason’s private clinic is an optional site for students to conduct a two to four week rotation during their third year.

Jason further places naturopathic medicine in the limelight in a number of ways. He has been the Chair of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors for the past three years, serving as a board member for two years previous. He thus played an important role in witnessing British Columbia securing broad scope of practice and prescription privileges, and likewise helps the process in Ontario, although Ontario does not appear destined for the good fortune our friends to the west achieved.

Left to Right: Jane Hedges, RM; Shona Imlah, MD; Sonja Redden, PT; Heidi Kaseweter, MC., CCC; Cher Boomhower, ND; Jason Boxtart, ND; Kristin Overton, RHN; Regan Mercure; Joanne Headrick.

Jason’s enrollment in the FABNO designation has lead to some impressive aspirations. Jason is in talks with Dr Hal Gunn and the team of Inspire Health to create satellite clinics of the incredibly successful Vancouver model of the concept. Dr Gunn won the Rogers Prize for establishing a truly integrative model of cancer care. We wish Jason much success in creating such a landmark facility. Also, we hope Cher and Jason would then consider serving as a site to accept residents for FABNO training of newly graduated ND’s, relieving some of the burden of the residency program currently principally managed by the Cancer Treatment Centres of America.

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I do not think Cher and Jason envisioned their current position when they opened their doors to the Prince George community a decade ago. First came a dedication to provide excellent care. As is typically the case, the rest snowballs from there. Today they exemplify a quality facility of integrative medicine, while devoting tremendous resources of time to improve the political landscape of the profession moving forward. Reaching aspiring MD’s one at a time through education, reaching politicians through appointment to the Chair of our national association, and aspiring to expand the most recognized integrative cancer facility in the country are a handful of ways Cher and Jason have found to give to the profession as they have given to their community since their opening day.

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