A bill that seeks the licensure and regulation of naturopathic doctors in New Mexico just passed the Senate with a unanimous vote, and is moving on to the House! SB 135 seeks to join the growing number of states that allow licensure and regulation for naturopathic doctors in their states. Right now, New Mexico is the only state in the four corners area that does not license naturopathic doctors.
The bill has received widespread support. It is sponsored by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, and has gained a lot of recent attention through a recent event called The Run. Created by Dr. Dennis Godby, a practicing naturopathic physician from Sacramento, The Run was orchestrated to promote and bring awareness to naturopathic medicine. In order to qualify, each run must be 50 miles or longer. In New Mexico, The Run took place from February 10-12, beginning in Albuquerque and ending on the State Capital steps in Santa Fe. It coincided with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review of SB 135, in which many naturopathic doctors spoke. The bill passed unanimously on February 11th.
“What differentiates New Mexico from other states that are in the process of getting licensed or moving towards that”, explained Dr. Juliette Sweet, president of the New Mexico Association of Naturopathic Physicians and a naturopathic adviser for Rebel Herbs, “is that we have support from the New Mexico Medical Society and the New Mexico Medical Board. That has been huge for our success”.
Most naturopaths are highly trained. First, naturopaths obtain their undergraduate degree, which consists of pre-med requirements, and pass the basic science board exam. Next, they study Western treatments such as pharmacology alongside alternative treatments such as herbal medicine and nutrition. Although naturopaths are not required to complete a residency, they must pass exams at the end of their program, which takes three days to complete.
“New Mexico is a place that is very rich in culture and natural feeling as a part of the different ethnicities of individuals who [live there]”. The Unlicensed Practitioner Healthcare Act, passed in 2009, allows people to practice medicine unimpeded. This allows people who have had cultural traditions for a long time to be able to be protected and carry on those traditions. SB 135 would build off of the Unlicensed Practitioner Act. Naturopathic doctors walk both worlds, incorporating both traditional and Western practices and philosophies in order to provide the best care for their patients.
Although many naturopaths are well trained, New Mexican law currently does not allow them to diagnose or treat patients. “If [naturopathic doctors] are able to be licensed, we can do all the things we’ve been trained to do, such as lab work and perform physical exams,” said Dr. Sweet, “It’s a public safety issue as well- this bill would allow New Mexicans to be able to differentiate between those who have gone through all that training, and those who’ve maybe just completed an online course”. In addition, the bill would be important “in rural communities because just access to healthcare in general can be very challenging here”.
Originally from Phoenix, Dr. Sweet received her Masters of Ayurvedic Sciences and became a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Washington state. She moved to New Mexico and became part of the New Mexican community. She was drawn to Ayurveda and the idea that humans are inseparable from nature. “We are all different”, Dr. Sweet continued, “We each have a unique makeup, and our needs and tendencies are different. Ayurveda teaches us not to compare ourselves with others. It encourages a greater tolerance of others by bringing acceptance and love during challenging times. Naturopathic medicine and Ayurveda is a beautiful dance, and we weave them seamlessly in treatment”.
The SB 135 will soon be presented to the New Mexican House. If you’d like to show support for this bill and you live in New Mexico, you can complete this form, which asks your senator and state representative to support the bill. You can also donate to the New Mexico Association of Naturopathic Physicians here. All money donated goes towards marketing, lobbying efforts, and applications.