Sojourner Center in Phoenix does more than support thousands of women and children affected by domestic violence—it also refines the skills of advanced naturopathic medical students by exposing them to some of the Valley’s most physically and emotionally battered patients.
Wendy Dickerson (pictured right), ND, a recent graduate from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine(SCNM), took on the role of naturopathic student clinician at Sojourner Center from January 2015 to April 2016. Sojourner houses one of eight community clinics funded by the SCNM Sage Foundation.
Wendy said a passion for community health fueled her excitement to start at the clinic, but she didn’t expect the level of personal and professional growth she would achieve through the experience.
“There is never a dull moment at Sojourner, with a wide variety of acute and chronic concerns being treated each day,” Wendy said. “I have gained experience [with] patient intakes, [particularly] when a woman’s past may be filled with abusers, drug use and emotional trauma. I have grown in my confidence in all aspects of patient interaction skills, and I have enjoyed forming relationships with my patients over time.”
During her time at Sojourner, Wendy used many aspects of naturopathic medicine to treat her patients, including acupuncture, homeopathy, botanical medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, dietary counseling and nutritional supplementation, in addition to prescription writing, ordering labs and making referrals for specialists and imaging. Because the students and doctors work with limited supplies at the clinic, Wendy said she learned to think more creatively when choosing patient treatments, utilizing many therapeutic approaches she learned at SCNM.
It all pays off in the end, as women served at the clinic show their appreciation for the compassionate naturopathic care they receive, Wendy added.
“Many [patients] will just stop by to say ‘hello’ and give us hugs on the days the clinic is open,” Wendy said. “Seeing a patient’s health improve and trust being established has given me immense pride and personal satisfaction.”
Wendy also said that the doctors who oversee students at Sojourner demonstrate a deep commitment to these vulnerable populations. Their inspiring leadership and teaching made Wendy’s Sojourner shifts the highlight of her clinical training.
“I feel the skills I have learned at Sojourner will enable me to care for almost anyone in a wide range of circumstances,” Wendy said. “I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity.”