‘I See That as Sacred Ground’: Canby Clinic Has Grown through Patient-Centered Approach to Health Care

This article originally appeared in the December 2019 edition of Canby Living Magazine.

Smoking piles of incense and clusters of dried herbs hanging from the ceiling. Wood shelves lined with tiny bottles of essential oils and glass jars full of acupuncture needles.

Thick, dark tapestries, ancient scrolls of mysterious knowledge and bead curtains. Lots and lots of bead curtains.

These are some of the misconceived images Dr. Erin Walker, of the Canby Clinic, said the term “naturopathic medicine” may bring to mind.

And…no. It’s not like that. (Sorry to disappoint.)

“In the state of Oregon, naturopathic physicians are primary care providers,” Dr. Walker explained. “So, I’m licensed and practice as a primary care provider.”

Dr. Walker said naturopathic doctors, or NDs, share a set of foundational tenets similar to those of traditional medicine, including the familiar preset “First, do no harm.” In naturopathic terms, this also tends to mean favoring the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.

But they also follow some principals that are more unique to naturopathic medicine, including docere, or “doctor as teacher.”

“That means that naturopathic physicians take time to educate patients on their basic physiology and biochemistry, explaining why they have the symptoms that they have, how the body heals, what a healing therapy is vs. a palliative therapy, and so on,” she said. “So, there’s a lot of instruction and teaching that I do with patients, helping them get to know their bodies.”

She said another core principle of naturopathic medicine is to identify and treat the root causes of patient’s ailments, rather than focusing on the symptoms.

“We’re very much detectives,” she said. “We like to find the cause of the disease or disease state. We do a lot of investigating to find the cause, when we can.”

Dr. Walker first discovered natural medicine while working with her aunt, a chiropractor in Minnesota. She says she knew “instantly” that natural medicine was her calling.

She moved to Portland to attend the National College of Natural Medicine, earning her doctorate in 2007. She completed her residency at Salem Naturopathic Clinic in 2009.

The following year, she founded the Canby Clinic with her husband, Brant. She had been offered a permanent position with the Salem clinic following her residency, but she was interested in something closer to home, and a more community-centered approach to care.

A bit of a callback to the trusted country doctor, making house calls and knowing the whole family by name.

“That therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient, I see that as sacred ground,” she said. “In the modern medical landscape, the way things are now, we’re really losing that in many communities.”

Word of mouth spread, and it is wont to do in small towns, and the Canby Clinic soon grew. Today, it’s a full-time and full-service clinic serving many patients with a variety of conditions, and hosting multiple physicians.

In addition to Dr. Walker, who still practices at the clinics and serves as its medical director, one of the clinic’s primary providers is Dr. Harris Waters, a traditionally trained practitioner with a doctorate in medicine from UCLA.

Dr. Waters was in practice for 30 years as a general and vascular surgeon when he began to notice a disturbing trend: the overall health of his patients was worsening. Conventional medicine, to him, had become “sick care,” rather than health care, more about managing symptoms than truly achieving wellness.

Dr. Waters began investigating complementary, integrative medicine, incorporating a wellness/health care philosophy into his own life and his patients’ lives—with amazing results.

Ultimately, he received a Master of Science in nutritional and metabolic medicine from the University of South Florida School of Medicine, and also completed a fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He joined the team at the Canby Clinic in 2017.

As the Canby Clinic looks forward to celebrating its 10th anniversary in June, they continue to adapt to serve their patients as best they can in an ever-changing medical and economic environment.

One of the biggest developments is their pivot to a membership-based, non-insurance practice, a model that has been successfully adopted by medical clinics across the United States, but which the Canby Clinic was the first to offer in Oregon.

For more information, check out the Canby Clinic online at canbyclinic.com, or call them at 503-266-7443. Or, hear more from Dr. Walker on Episode 138 of the Canby Now Podcast: “Natural.”

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