Wisconsin is in the early stages of integrating naturopathic medicine into the health care safety net.
Governor Tony Evers signed a bill earlier this year that would allow naturopathic physicians to be licensed, joining 22 other US states. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes preventive and natural techniques, including herbal therapies, massage, acupuncture, and more.
In July, Evers set up a Natural Medicine Examination Board to regulate the practice. The members of the board include Dr. David Kiefer, medical director of UW Health’s Integrative Health Consult Clinic, who said he looks forward to the day when medical and naturopathic physicians have integrated practices.
“The more health care providers we have working on prevention and helping people stay healthy rather than allow disease to progress, the better,” Kiefer said in a February interview with Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.” “The more of us working together on this in a collaborative way, I think it will help the people of Wisconsin.”
Some naturopathic doctors insist on herbal remedies, exercise, or nutrition for the body. In other states, naturopathic physicians attend accredited naturopathic medical schools and specialize in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, and counseling.
Creating regulations on naturopathic medicine will take at least two years, said Jill Crista, a member of the naturopathic medicine examining board and past president of the Wisconsin Naturopathic Doctors Association. The timeline includes the drafting of rules, taking a licensing exam, and continuing education requirements.
Naturopathic physicians licensed in other states are allowed to practice in Wisconsin, but with restrictions. The new law allows them to diagnose and treat patients, perform minor procedures and order lab tests and imaging studies. They cannot prescribe drugs.
According to the Wisconsin Naturopathic Doctors Association, there are at least 16 naturopathic clinics in the state.
Katarina Meister is a naturopathic physician who works at Lakeside Natural Medicine in the Shorewood neighborhood of Milwaukee. She is licensed in Washington and moved to Wisconsin in October to practice.
“The license allows me to fully function as a primary provider,” Meister told WPR’s “The Morning Show.” “(Patients will) be able to see a healthcare provider who has medical training and has a holistic background and expertise in naturopathic medicine.”
Lakeside Natural Medicine opened in 2011 and has multiple naturopathic doctors. Meister said she can now provide nutritional and lifestyle advice to patients, but looks forward to expanding her duties further. It is encouraged by the state that sets standards and regulations around naturopathic medicine.
“For that license, people will have to take a national licensing exam, they will have to apply for a license, and they will have to continue studying,” she said. “It will be safer for patients to seek naturopathic care.”