Jennifer Johnson, ND, recently joined Bastyr University as associate dean for clinical education and she is an associate professor in the School of Naturopathic Medicine. She also sees patients at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Team Care, where she supervises naturopathic medicine visits. She spoke to us about why she’s passionate about women’s wellness and teaching students.
How did you become a naturopathic doctor?
When I started at The Evergreen State College, I thought I was going to become an environmental studies educator because of my passion for biology. But then I was exposed to human biology and really found my love there. So I ended up on the premed track and became a medical assistant. I had a really wonderful mentor who highly recommended naturopathic medicine.
One of the guiding naturopathic tenets is “doctor as teacher.” When I discovered this, I realized that this profession was a perfect match for me because I would be able to blend my interest in teaching with my passion for medicine.
Working in the student health center and then as a medical assistant for Planned Parenthood, I became interested in women’s health. So in addition to pursuing my Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, I completed the midwifery program at National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland. After graduating, I opened up my own private practice in Bangor, Maine, offering general family medicine while assisting a homebirth midwife.
What are some of your clinical specialties and why are they so important to you?
Most of my interests are tied to women’s health. Helping women through the hormonal challenges that can take place throughout their lifespan can be pretty difficult to manage. That is something I saw throughout all of my education and into my years of practice. And not just reproductive hormones, but also thyroid hormones can be tied to that hormone management.
What does your job as associate dean for clinical education entail?
My job is to oversee the clinical education. Clinical education is the culmination of classroom learning, where the students get to “practice” what they have learned in their years of book learning. Their time spent with patients is always supervised by a licensed provider, usually a naturopathic doctor, who mentors them while they develop new skills. I help to ensure that our students are learning to provide excellent patient care that they will later use in their own practices.
How do you feel you can make a difference as the associate dean for clinical education at Bastyr University?
In addition to my roles as associate dean for clinical education at Bastyr and at the University of Bridgeport, I spent five years exclusively teaching and supervising as a clinical faculty member. That gave me the opportunity to see firsthand the challenges students face applying what they learn in the classroom to their clinical education, and I want to help them bridge any gaps there. I am also familiar with the challenges students face as they graduate, and I hope to help ease this transition.
My goal is to help our students feel confident walking out the door, ready for primary care practice, while at the same time providing excellent patient care within our teaching clinic.