Why did you choose naturopathic medicine as your career path?
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: I think it was a combination of factors. I grew up in a family that was very health conscious. My mom was an advocate of complementary and alternative medicine, so I had exposure to natural forms of medicine (ie. chiropractic, herbal medicine, nutrition) at a very young age and got to see the benefits. I grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan and we actually didn’t have naturopathic doctors practicing there until 2001, so I found out about the profession when I was travelling in Australia. At that point in time, I knew that I wanted to do something in the healthcare profession, and give back to society in some way, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like for me. When I found naturopathic medicine I realized what an amazing, well-rounded, well-regulated profession it is. I love naturopathic medicine because it combines a wide range of natural forms of therapies with scientific research, and conventional diagnostic work-up. It is truly an integrative form of medicine.
Dr. Carla Cashin: For many reasons. Most people who go to naturopathic medical school come from a science background, but I came from a liberal arts program, a major in political science with a minor in environmental studies from the University of Victoria. In fact, it was my studies of international intellectual property law that first triggered my interest in herbal medicine and ultimately naturopathic medicine. I was studying international laws (the TRIPS agreement) that would protect plants and traditional knowledge of plants from being patented for corporate benefit. From this area of study, I decided I wanted to learn more about traditional use of plant medicines and enrolled in an ethnobotany class taught by UVic’s renowned ethnobotanist, Nancy Turner, which further sparked a passion for herbal medicine. Then, in my third year of university, I decided to travel to South America for four months and learned many more traditional medicines used by local people. For example, I learned of a herb called “pupusa”, which grows at an altitude of 4000 m in the Andean Plateau of Bolivia. I was taught by a guide to use it for altitude sickness, and sure enough it worked marvelously to prevent and treat altitude sickness for my travel partners and myself. This personal experience of a traditional medicine working so effectively demonstrated to me the power of plants as medicine. On my return from my travels, I decided to switch career paths, instead of pursuing law, I decided to look into naturopathic medicine. I had seen a naturopathic doctor as a young child, and remembered my parents high regard for integrative medicine. I interviewed a local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Amy Gilchrist, to learn more. It seemed like such a rewarding profession, one that embraced modern medicine and traditional forms of medicine. In no time, I was taking premed courses as my elective credits and applying for naturopathic medical school the following year.
Tell us how Juniper Family health came to fruition?
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: Carla and I graduated together from The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine and we went our separate ways for a few years. I started practice in the Vancouver area and Carla practiced in Berkeley CA. It just so happened that both Carla and I were drawn to move to Victoria -- both for lifestyle reasons, to be closer to family, and to have a slower paced lifestyle. We both ended up moving to Victoria at similar times and started chatting about how fun and exciting it would be to open up our own clinic together. We both have similar styles of practice and similar interests and knew each other quite well from going to school together for four years so I felt as though it would be a very good fit. And it has been -- it’s been great so far!
Dr. Carla Cashin: After naturopathic medical school, my husband and I moved to Berkeley, California, for him to complete a research fellowship in neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. We loved our time in the San Francisco Bay Area, but ultimately decided to move back to Victoria to set down roots and be closer to our families and friends...and Victoria is so beautiful! Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen and I got in touch shortly after my return and we both jumped at the opportunity to work together. We met in naturopathic school in Vancouver and developed a strong bond as we made our way through the demanding four-year program. I knew that we worked well together, and shared a respect for comprehensive diagnosis, research, and a high standard of care.
Where did you practice before opening Juniper Family Health?
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: I was practicing at a multidisciplinary clinic, Healing Cedar Wellness in Port Moody for the last few years. I worked alongside acupuncturists, RMTs, and clinical counselors and it was a wonderful environment for cross referrals and team building. More recently, prior to my move to Victoria I worked at Restoration Health Clinic in North Vancouver with an exceptional team of naturopathic physicians. This clinic was great because I hadn’t previously worked with other naturopathic doctors so it was amazing to have that camaraderie and the support over the months that I worked with the team.
Dr. Carla Cashin: For the last three years, I was practicing in Berkeley, California at the East Bay Naturopathic Clinic. My time in Berkeley was very special, as I had an opportunity to receive excellent mentorship from Dr. Karen Peters, ND. During my time at this clinic, I really got to learn the classical forms of naturopathic medicine - herbal medicine, nutrition, and hydrotherapy. Ironically, out of naturopathic school, I was confident in diagnosis and pharmaceutical prescribing but didn’t yet feel confident in naturopathic treatments. Under Dr. Peters’ guidance, I learned effective traditional naturopathic treatments, and rediscovered a confidence and respect for traditional forms of medicine. Berkeley is also the epicenter of the Slow Food movement, with Alice Waters and Michael Pollan as local leaders. I was able to enjoy amazing seasonal farmers markets and access quality whole foods. My passion grew for cooking and nutrition as I learned more from these exposures. Before working in Berkeley, I practiced in Vancouver for a year.
What are your special interests in practice?
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: Over the last few years I’ve really dedicated my practice to the care of women and children. My special interests revolve around female hormones, including preconception care, infertility, pregnancy support, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, menstrual irregularities, and menopause. I also have an interest in chronic digestive concerns, like IBS, as well as mental/emotional concerns such as depression and anxiety. For my pediatric practice, I work with children from infancy to adolescence, and in the first two years of life I offer developmental milestone checks at key developmental stages in a child’s life. I also work with children to provide nutritional support, digestive support, treatment for skin issues, behavioural issues such as ADHD, allergies, and common infections like colds and flus, ear infections and bronchitis. The main modalities that I use in my practice are nutritional medicine (including dietary interventions, and vitamin and mineral supplementation), herbal medicine, acupuncture, intravenous nutrient therapy, and bioidentical hormone therapy.
Dr. Carla Cashin: I have such a passion for herbal medicine and nutrition because I have seen great results with these treatment modalities in clinical practice. I use bio-identical hormones and prescriptions, but the core of my practice is focused on preventing and treating chronic diseases with herbal medicine and nutrition. I am particularly interested in thyroid health. The number one cause of hypothyroidism in North America is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own thyroid gland. Yet, in conventional medicine, treatments are focused solely on thyroid replacement without addressing the underlying autoimmune process. Many people who suffer from hypothyroidism still feel unwell on thyroid replacement, and naturopathic medicine has great treatment options in these cases. I also have a special interest in treating those who are suffering from burnout or chronic fatigue, I’ve been there and understand what’s required for recovery. Other areas of special interest include: addressing hormonal imbalances, from PMS to menopause; longstanding digestive issues, (many chronic diseases stem from poor digestion and imbalances of gut flora); and immune illnesses, ranging from frequent colds and flus to allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease.
What do naturopathic doctors like yourselves eat for lunch?
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: I love a Mediterranean type of salad with fresh crisp butter lettuce, bright green olives, goat cheese, some sort of protein (either chicken or fish), avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and a vinaigrette dressing.
Dr. Carla Cashin: For lunch, I always pack dinner leftovers. This is my strategy because it lessens my workload. I make a double batch of dinner, and pack leftovers for lunch. Today, I had lamb meatballs with fava beans and fresh herbs alongside a salad --- it’s an Israeli dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook.
Describe your perfect day off.
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen: My perfect day off would start with a slow morning sitting on the back deck with my dog and husband while sipping on an americano or tea. Then it would include getting out in nature whether it’s a hike around Thetis Lake or up Mount Doug, or a walk down to Willow’s beach. The evening would be spent making delicious food while hanging out with family and friends.
Dr. Carla Cashin: I always enjoy a beautiful walk or hike in nature, maybe along Dallas Road or up Mt. Doug, and spending time in the garden. At the end of the day, I would be making a lovely dinner to enjoy with friends and family.