As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, Live Well Clinic is proud to support the growth of the naturopathic profession by providing medical residencies. This year, we welcome our second active resident, Dr. Annissa Ceja, a graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, Oregon. We would like to share Dr. Ceja’s unique path to naturopathic medicine through her own story:
As a recent graduate of naturopathic medicine and a new resident at Live Well Clinic, I feel fortunate to be able to embark on a journey that weaves together the threads of my own life experiences, a passion for healing and a commitment to naturopathic oncology.
My voyage into natural medicine began with my encounter with cancer. As a 20-year-old nursing student, I received a diagnosis that abruptly illuminated my mortality and unveiled the intricate tapestry of holistic health. Growing up with the conventional medical system, it took enduring chemotherapy to truly appreciate the healing power of nature. This newfound appreciation was the most significant gift cancer provided me. Beyond the confines of conventional medicine, I discovered the significance of emotional, mental and spiritual facets of well-being in the healing process.
A central aspect of my path to naturopathic medicine is my cultural connection to natural medicine. As a Spanish-speaking Mexican American (Chicana), I was fortunate to have a Mexican mother who carried the ancient practices of natural healing with her. Her unwavering belief in natural medicine made her my biggest advocate, even when the oncologist advised us otherwise. Her innate wisdom and my healthy skepticism and research became anchors in navigating the complexities of cancer care.
Amidst my pursuit of healing, I saw a disconnect: the array of therapies beyond the standard of care often remained out of reach for many, including myself. Even when I witnessed the benefits firsthand and found evidence supporting the use, my oncologist discouraged using natural therapies despite his limited awareness of their potential. With my then limited knowledge, I had to make difficult decisions about what would be effective and safe during my treatment. This revelation ignited a fire within me—a desire to become a naturopathic physician and advocate for integrative oncology, making it more accessible and inclusive.
Now, as a naturopathic doctor, I’ve chosen to specialize in naturopathic oncology—a realm where I can provide the support I yearned for during my cancer journey.
My dedication to this path transcends the walls of the clinic. I aim to embody the principles of wellness in my life; with constant effort, I strive to eat nourishing food, engage in invigorating movement, and find serenity amidst life’s storms by connecting to the present moment. I have personally confronted the challenges of leading a healthy life and often need to remotivate myself. Thankfully, in my personal and professional practice, I am constantly reminded of the importance of the foundations of health, particularly for those who want to thrive after cancer.
I am not just a practitioner; I am living testament to the profound transformation holistic healing can bring. My goal is to empower individuals to find their motivation for health, offering them the wisdom and guidance that I receive from my esteemed residency director, Dr. Fung, who has dedicated over 15 years to supporting healing in those with cancer.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained at four-year, post-graduate, accredited medical institutions. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, NDs are required to complete four years of training in holistic and nontoxic approaches to treatment with a strong emphasis on disease prevention, such as nutrition and lifestyle modifications, and in-depth lab testing and diagnosis. After licensure, NDs can choose to apply for the small number of residency positions available, typically, a 1-3-year family medicine training at an approved out-patient clinic or hospital residency sites. However, due to the lack of funding, there is a lack of available residency positions for all students.
Through a partnership with Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) Residency Consortium under The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), Live Well Clinic was approved as a residency site and started accepting resident doctors in 2018. Because naturopathic residencies are not funded by Medicare/Medicaid dollars like conventional medical residencies, this limits the availability of these positions, as many small clinics are not able to afford the cost associated with training and paying a resident.
We are so blessed to nurture the next generation of naturopathic doctors through residency opportunities made possible through the support of our strong, health-minded community. Live Well Clinic is honored to be the first ND residency site in the Coachella Valley, giving new medical students the opportunity to further their training as integrative primary care doctors to serve our community.
Dr. Fung is a primary care naturopathic doctor with a focus on integrative cancer care and PRP regenerative joint injections at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. Now accepting new patients. For more information, call (760) 771.5970 or visit www.livewellclinic.org.
Sources: 1) https://aanmc.org/naturopathic-residencies/; 2) https://www.naturemedpro.org/project-2; 3) www.naturopathic.org; 4) www.calnd.org; 5) https://cnme.org/; 6) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/who-pays-for-resident-sal_b_12967008