Leadership Blog Series: Naturopathic Doctors & The Veteran Population: A Natural Partnership

This month, Brian Trainor, chapter president of the NMSA at Bastyr University, California discusses the important relationship between Naturopathic Doctors and Military Veterans.

Naturopathic Doctors & The Veteran Population: A Natural Partnership

Hello Everyone, Happy New Year, and New Decade!  As 2020 begins, one of the most exciting recent developments in the world of Naturopathic Medicine are updates related to Naturopathic Doctors and the Veteran Health Administration (VHA).

Veterans are often ideal candidates for Naturopathic medicine, because rarely do veterans present with a single ‘chief concern’ but instead have a seemingly complex combination for physical, mental, emotional and other symptoms that are often best addressed through the more comprehensive view that Naturopathic medicine provides.  With this in mind, although many NDs are already having great success treating individual veterans in private practices across the country, The Veterans Health Administration has rolled out an initiative called The Whole Health Program, which put the veteran at the center of their own health, and instead of only asking “what is the matter with you?” this program instead starts by asking veterans “What matters to you?”  In essence, the Whole Health Program is Naturopathic Medicine 101, with a strong emphasis on the determinants of health, on addressing the whole person, and on working on modifiable lifestyle factors to improve the overall health & well-being of Veterans across the country.

This is all significant, because of the current 18 Flagship sites for the Whole Health Program, 2 of these sites have hired Naturopathic Doctors to serve as their Whole Health Program Coordinators! Bastyr University alum Dr John Finnell, ND LAc MPH was the first ND to be hired by the VA, and is currently leading the program at the South Texas VA, and NUNM alum Dr Teri Davis ND is serving as Whole Health Program coordinator at the Tucson, AZ VA.  While both of these NDs have unique stories of how they ended up where they are currently, and 2 doctors in a system that employs over 11,000 doctors may not seem like much, but this development is HUGE for our profession!  Opportunities within the VHA not only offer us an amazing chance to serve a population that truly needs us, but also represents our most legitimate shot at Federal licensure.  There are over 150 VA medical centers, with over 1,100 outpatient facilities across the United States, operating in every state, so as progress is made towards writing an employment code for NDs in the VA, which is already in the works, we could be on the verge of major changes in our role in this nation’s healthcare!

While what is going on within the VA is exciting, as students, there are many exciting things that can be done at the student & school level in regards to advancing opportunities to work with the Military & Veteran populations. Each local VA medical facility is required to offer “Intro to Whole Health” classes & other associated offerings, such as community acupunture, yoga, tai chi, etc, and many locations are accepting volunteers!  The easiest way is to contact your local VA’s Volunteer Services office, and let them know you are interested in serving as a volunteer for the Whole Health Program (feel free to reach out for more details; I am currently volunteering at the VA, including things ranging from facilitating classes to shadowing in the Emergency Department, and have found this experience to be invaluable to supplement my clinical education, so I highly recommend going through the volunteer application process!).

Additionally, If you have or are currently treating a military member or veteran as a student clinician, either at school or at a preceptor location, one big thing we need are patient testimonials! The easiest way to compile these is to ask patients to fill out the testimonial form on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s (INM) website [consider sharing this with ANY grateful patient, not just veterans!]:


We are working on connecting those of us in Naturopathic Medical School & in the ND community that served in the military, so if this applies to you, or a friend, please get added to the ‘Military Veterans of Naturopathic Medicine” Facebook page:


And regardless of your status, if you are interested in getting more involved with our nation-wide efforts as a profession, as of August 2019, at the AANP Convention, we stood up the AANP’s VA Task Force, as a subcommittee of the State & Federal Affairs Committee, and we would LOVE to have representation from every school! If you, or any of your professors would be interested in joining our monthly calls & getting more involved, please fill out this Google Form:


Lastly, if you have any questions about how else you may be able to get involved, there is not many things I enjoy more than discussing & brainstorming ways of advancing naturopathic medicine, particularly in populations such as that of the military & veterans, so please feel free email me personally to connect: brian.trainor@bastyr.edu.

Let’s Do This Together!

Author: Brian Trainor

Growing up in Upstate New York, Brian was first introduced to concepts of naturopathic medicine by his Irish Granny, who taught him simple, natural ways to address just about every common ailment. Brian went on to become a Division 1 athlete, and was recruited to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he majored in kinesiology, became a 3x USA Triathlon All-American, and won the 2012 USAT Collegiate Half-Ironman National Championship.

While serving as an Army officer, multiple health challenges, including a TBI, fractured femur and being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis introduced Brian to his own need for approaches beyond conventional medicine. Brian met a Naturopathic Doctor outside of the military medical system that was able to help him begin his healing journey. 

Brian is currently a 4th year at Bastyr University California. As his own health has improved, he has have become passionate about helping others diagnosed with autoimmune conditions, and other military members or veterans diagnosed with unseen illnesses. Brian’s aim is to offer others the same hope that Naturopathic medicine has offered him.  

Brian is currently serving as the 2019-20 NMSA Public Policy Fellow, and through this is helping to lead the AANP’s Task Force for Veterans affairs and is volunteering as a Whole Health Facilitator for veterans at the San Diego VA. Brian is active in a faith-based organization called the Navigators, and enjoys hiking, spike ball, ultimate frisbee, line dancing and participating in NMSA board meetings in his free time. 


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