Bastyr University California students met with state lawmakers and their aides in Sacramento this month, making the case that naturopathic medicine offers an effective and affordable answer to the state's health care woes.
First-year naturopathic students Terra Winston, Michael Palladino and Adam Silberman joined naturopathic doctors (NDs) from the California Naturopathic Doctors Association (CNDA) on the annual lobbying trip March 6. They each attended a series of informal meetings with members of the California State Assembly and their legislative aides.
"We wanted to promote the fact that California now has a naturopathic medicine school, which is huge for the state," says Winston. "Not only are there some 500 licensed providers in the state, but now we can tell legislators that we're students who are going to practice here in the future, and we need their support.”
Lawmakers and aids were interested in learning more about the field, says Winston, particularly its focus on preventive medicine and addressing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
California has licensed NDs to practice as primary care doctors since 2004. Last year the state granted NDs increased authority to deliver intravenous (IV) therapies. Looking forward, California NDs hope to gain increased prescription rights and stronger insurance coverage.
The CNDA is not involved in any bills this year, and the lobbying trip focused on developing long-term relationships in Sacramento. Bastyr University's leadership in Washington state, which offers some of the broadest ND rights in the nation, shows in the influence a school can have, says Palladino.
"The presence of a naturopathic university in the state of California can have a profound effect on the medicine, as Washington has experienced," he said. "That's what we hope to do here."
Palladino says the trip gave him a clearer sense of the pace of political change and the importance of building connections.
"I plan on practicing in California, and being involved in health policy will be a part of my practice," he says. "This was a good start."
Next year, Palladino hopes even more classmates will join.
It's a crucial year for NDs in the political world, as the rollout of the Affordable Care Act could significantly expand insurance coverage for naturopathic medicine. This May, Bastyr students from both the San Diego and Seattle campuses will attend the DC Federal Legislative Initiative in Washington, D.C., building federal support for the field.