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As a naturopathic doctor, I feel privileged and blessed to be able to work with my patients.  They come in search of relief from pain, in search of health. Most often they are looking for solutions outside of themselves, magic pills to ward off symptoms and suffering. As a doctor I know that the path to health begins inside. And it is a life long path.


My Brother, My Teacher, My Reason for Being a Doctor

Before enrolling to study medicine, my life was turned upside down when I received a phone call notifying me that my younger brother had been badly injured in an industrial accident. He was left as a paraplegic at age 19 with his whole life before him.

In the ensuing months and years I was witness to the unconscious disregard by the mainstream medical profession of my brother’s plight.  Whether it was because those doctors were numb because they had seen too much, or whether they were disinterested and often uninterested (the difference between those two words is important) because they felt powerless, I don’t know. What I do know is that they systematically ignored my brother as a whole human being with feelings, desires, dreams (broken or not) and settled for experiencing him only through the lens of a man in a wheelchair.

The number of surgeries and loss of body parts my kid brother has endured in the last forty years makes my head spin and my heart ache. Even so, my brother is a gem; he has that special gift of perpetual optimism. When the world bruises his soul or beats him down with pain and dark skies, he rallies time and time again. Every brush with death is followed by a conscious gratitude and a surprising alacrity. He takes action. He builds from where he is. He teaches me, his older sister doctor, how to reach higher is what counts, because he knows what is enduring and valuable: patience, joy, love, acceptance and gratitude. His life is a model for me of my own responsibility as a healer, as a doctor, to reach inside and to use every healing tool I know of to guide those who seek my help back to health.

Hot Lake Springs: A Recipe for Healing for the Veterans Restorative Care Center

I witness the hardships of patients who have tried everything. Often, I am their last resort, their last hope for restoring their health. Naturopathy’s roots derive from the tenacious sanctity of Nature and her gifts of pure water and air, sunshine, wholesome food, and beautiful Mother Earth. Her healing skies, plants, trees, sounds, colors and infinite textures are expressions of life yearning for itself, of living beings and the living planet always defaulting to balance. We have bodies meant to move without pain and discomfort. As a naturopathic doctor, my job is to use herbal remedies, breathing exercises, food, meditative self-reflection, and much more from the natural realm to help alleviate pain, anxiety, breathing disorders, sleep problems, mobility issues and more, by recognizing and utilizing the rich gifts of Mother Earth which are all around us and have been since the beginning of time. For example, richness of health, such as the minerals found at Hot Lake Springs. Here in Eastern Oregon, we have a crucible, a sacred location for healing and community.

The Veterans Restorative Care Center (VRCC) will be a powerful and enduring enhancement in health care for our veterans and an enriching educational venue for naturopathic medical students. American veterans present with a large number of health issues, ranging from physical injury, chronic disease, through to treatment for related chronic pain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, TBI, PTSD, suicide prevention, IPV, and more are part of this equation of suffering.  As a result, 22 of them die every day from suicide, with another 75 failed attempts. This has to stop. We must help them.

The VRCC is worthy and important to manifest. What makes this project essential is the healing that our Veterans will have access to natural therapies that are designed to treat the whole person without the harmful side effects they have had to endure for so long.


                              Images of the VRCC Pilot Program – essential ingredients to NUNM’s philosophy of healing: Left: NUNM providing QiGong exercises. Center: Veterans being in nature on hike. Right: NUNM teaching breathing techniques.


At the VRCC, they will come into a community of healing where the causes of disease, not just its symptoms are addressed. Healing occurs in an environment conducive to healing. Hot Lake has the beauty of the land, water, and sky which not only promotes the healing of our bodies, but also of our spirit. Another key ingredient to healing is Naturopathic doctors have been trained to listen and be fully present.  This strong commitment to listen and help others is what makes Naturopaths so successful in helping when all the odds seemed stacked against us.

I am extremely excited that this opportunity to work with Veterans and their families can bring healing to not just to the families, but also to our communities.

~ Sussanna Czeranko, ND