Education: National College of Natural Medicine (1968); Western States Chiropractic College (1967)
In practice since: 1971
Practice setting: Private in-home practice (semi-retired)
Location: Beaverton, Oregon
Areas of focus/specialties:
- Touch for Health
- Prevention: diet and exercise
Career highlights and contributions:
- Oldest practicing naturopathic physician in Oregon
Current professional endeavors:
- Writing a book: Antidotes and Anecdotes
- Giving lectures on healthy living, diet and exercise
- Lives next door to her church, where she's very active
- Works at keeping healthy
Alumni Career Spotlight
Betty Jo Radelet, DC, ND
Betty Jo Radelet faced a big challenge in 1961: When her husband died of cancer, she was left with seven children to raise on her own. Not an easy task. In her forties, she went to work and eventually ended up in a chiropractic office. Watching a patient arrive with a severe migraine headache and leave with a smile on her face intrigued Radelet. So she asked her employer, "Can a woman do this?"
His answer was yes. And Dr. Radelet's career began.
Dr. Radelet graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 1967, then later became the first female graduate of National College of Natural Medicine (NCCM) in 1968. Nearly four decades later, she is the oldest practicing naturopathic physician in Oregon and still believes her profession is the best in the world.
We spoke with Dr. Radelet about her long and rewarding career …
An integrative approach
Antidotes and anecdotes
Advice for the up-and-comers
An integrative approach
AANMC: Did being a chiropractor make it easier to become a naturopathic doctor?
BJR: I think so. I think I was indoctrinated into the chiropractic field first. I've been happy being what I call a chiropractic, naturopathic physician.
AANMC: How do you integrate the two in your practice?
BJR: I think they go arm in arm and one just augments the other. I still give people a thorough treatment, a chiropractic treatment. I explain it to people, and I've not really had that much trouble combining the two, either from my perspective or my patients' perspectives.
When I started practicing, most of my patients were, of course, referrals. I always tried to give them their money's worth and I gradually built up a clientele.
AANMC: What is your specialty?
BJR: I work with a lot of women, practicing gynecology. But I have a lot of male patients too. I work a lot with prevention and diet, and I give lectures on diet and exercise and lifestyle issues like that.
AANMC: How has the naturopathic field changed since you began practicing?
BJR: Well of course, the biggest change I've seen in the naturopathic profession was getting prescription drug rights. But even though pharmaceutical drugs were made available, I never chose to begin using them in my practice.
AANMC: Do you feel more accepted by society now?
BJR: Yes. I think that there has been so much success in our profession, and there are many more naturopathic doctors (NDs) available now. There is also a lot more coverage in the media these days on natural living and good health. It just fits right in with what I do, with the way I've always practiced.
AANMC: How did you come to be a naturopathic doctor?
BJR: I went to chiropractic college for four years in Portland, Ore., at Western States Chiropractic College (WSCC). Then I pursued my naturopathic medicine degree at the only school on the West Coast, National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), then located in Seattle, Wash. I still lived in Portland at the time, so another lady and I drove from Portland to Seattle early every Thursday morning. We worked our clinic hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and we attended class on Thursday and Friday nights.
I received my naturopathic medicine diploma in 1968, took the board exam and became licensed in Washington state. When I finally opened my office in Washougal, Wash., I still commuted from Portland for eight and a half years. Then after taking classes at some of the local colleges to meet some state-specific licensure requirements, I took the Oregon board exam and obtained my Oregon license. So I’ve been a practicing physician in Oregon since 1980.
AANMC: Being a woman practicing as a naturopathic doctor and a chiropractor was pretty unusual at that time. What kind of challenges did you face?
BJR: Of course, naturopaths were not as well known as chiropractors anyway. And in the town I practiced in, Washougal, there were several chiropractors, but no naturopaths. People didn’t know what a naturopath was. So it took a while to build up a clientele. It just took time, but I practiced in Washougal for eight and a half years and I did well.
AANMC: How did you balance working as a doctor and raising seven children?
BJR: When I graduated, the older ones were working or going to college and the younger ones were still in school. I think I still had three in school. The older ones took care of the younger ones. Everybody helped. They were quite proud of Mom and what she was doing, and they were very supportive.
Antidotes and anecdotes
AANMC: After 35 years in practice, I imagine you have some wonderful memories.
BJR: Many. One patient, who died a few weeks ago, was 95 – almost 96 – years old. She had been a patient of mine for five years, and she just was very special to me. I think we helped her live a better life those five years.
I used to deliver babies. I am still friends with a lot of the ladies who I delivered babies for. I have even delivered babies for babies that I delivered!
AANMC: I understand you’ve written a book about your experiences.
BJR: Yes, it’s called Antidotes and Anecdotes. It draws upon 35-plus years as a chiropractic, naturopathic physician. The writing is mostly complete. Now I’m working on the table of contents, a bibliography and those kinds of things. It has a lot of helpful health information. It also contains several interesting and amusing anecdotes from different patients. I think it would be very readable for naturopaths, chiropractors, students studying these disciplines, colleges, Christians … it has a Christian appeal. And, of course, the patients of chiropractors and naturopaths.
AANMC: Will you share one of the anecdotes?
BJR: One I like to tell is: This 12-year-old girl came to see me. The girl had fallen off her horse, landed on her head and shoulder, and had a brain concussion, skull fracture, and stiff neck. She’d been in the hospital for 10 days and when her mother brought her to me, she was sleeping 22 out of 24 hours and the mother couldn’t get her to eat. So I performed the nasal specific technique, which is where you use the balloon and insert it into the nasal passages and inflate it. I told her I would just do one inflation on each side and that she should keep track of any changes whatsoever, good or bad. So, two days later she just comes bounding into the office and her mother comes panting after her and she says, “I don’t know what you did to my girl, but I can’t get her to go to bed! And I can’t fill her up with enough food now.” You see, there had been a blockage, and the nasal specific had just unblocked it and allowed things to function the way they should.
Advice for the up-and-comers
AANMC: After 35 years in practice, do you still love it?
BJR: Oh yes!
BJR: Well, I don’t know. I think it’s the contact with people and the feeling that you’re helping them. That’s more of a reward than any of the money.
AANMC: You’re 85 years old. Do you think you will retire?
BJR: Probably not for two or three more years. I’m now the oldest practicing naturopath in Oregon!
AANMC: What advice would you give to a student considering going into naturopathic medicine?
BJR: I think it’s a wonderful profession and I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m just always pleased when I go to conventions and can be a part of the group. I think they’re high-caliber people. And I really enjoyed my job when I was delivering babies. It was a very satisfying part of my practice.
I really think it’s the leading health profession. Even the medics are now paying attention to the diet program. The difference is that they don’t have the philosophy of the true naturopaths.
It’s so worthwhile, so satisfying, so rewarding. I think it’s the best profession in the world!
Dr. Radelet says her rewards have not only been financial, but emotional and spiritual as well. She truly feels that she was called to her career – that becoming a chiropractor and naturopathic doctor is what God wanted her to do, and she credits her Christian faith for guiding and strengthening her throughout the years.
She continues to work, although she’s slowed down a bit – some weeks seeing eight or ten patients, other weeks seeing two or three. Her book, Antidotes and Anecdotes, is expected to be published within a year.
A freelance writer and copyeditor, author Tami Kegley has written numerous articles for print and the Web. She has also produced daily health segments, special reports and documentaries as a producer at KOMO TV in Seattle, Washington.