Education: Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (1997)
In practice since: 1997
Clinic: Naturopathic Specialists
Practice setting: Specialty clinic
Location: Scottsdale, Ariz. (licensed state)
Area of focus/specialty: Oncology
Career highlights and contributions:
• Naturopathic oncology practice (board-certified in naturopathic oncology)
• Board of directors, Naturopathic Physicians Board of Medical Examiners, Ariz.
• Founding president, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP),
• Founding vice-chairperson, American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO) Board of Medical Examiners
Other professional achievements:
• Assistant editor, Integrative Cancer Therapies, Sage Publications (peer-reviewed, indexed on MEDLINE and Index Medicus
• Editorial advisory board, Hematology Oncology News and Issues (HONI), Coutts Publishing (peer-reviewed trade journal)
• Associate editor, International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine, oncology division (peer-reviewed journal of the profession
• Adjunct professor, oncology, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Tempe, Ariz.
• Medical consultant, Celebration Hospital (Florida Hospitals Cancer Institute)
• Professional advisory board, The Wellness Community, Arizona Chapter
Favorite quote: “Cancer is a disease that requires individualized treatment that is as physiological as we can attain, with constant reverence for the mystery and beauty of the human body, even in illness.” -Daniel Rubin, ND
Alumni Career Spotlight
Daniel Rubin, ND, FABNO
Dr. Daniel Rubin is a pioneer and innovator in the field of naturopathic oncology. Early in his career, he realized that in order to be as successful as possible in aiding people with cancer, naturopathic oncologists need to work closely with traditional doctors. With this in mind, and in order to promote the benefits of naturopathic medicine, Dr. Rubin became the founding president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. It was from this organization that the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology, the first accreditation association in the field, evolved.
Dr. Rubin has also helped break new ground as one of the few naturopathic oncologists to work in on-site medical peer relationships with traditional oncologists. He continues to contribute to such partnerships in several environments, including serving as a consultant to the Osceola Cancer Center at Celebration Hospital
in Florida. He also activley participates in on-site work at 21st Century Oncology in Arizona
, a truly integrated oncology center with naturopathic, radiation, surgical and medical oncololgy all working in harmony.
Dr. Rubin received his BA in philosophy from University of Iowa
and his naturopathic medicine (ND) degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM)
in Tempe, Ariz., where he also completed his residency and is currently adjunct professor of naturopathic oncology. He also serves as assistant editor of Integrative Cancer Therapies
. Recently, Dr. Rubin found time in his busy schedule to discuss his passions, his groundbreaking work and his field of naturopathic oncology.
AANMC: How would you explain your field’s tremendous growth in popularity?
DR: I think naturopathic oncology is responding to a call from the community. The people are asking for change; demanding less toxicity and more prevention, proactive medicine rather than reactive.
We also have a great history of people who were courageous, who’ve been willing to hang out their shingles in isolation and declare, “I am a naturopath.” I myself was a courageous physician who called out to traditional doctors in order to get a foot in the door. I would literally cold-call traditional physicians and arrange to work with and learn from them. As a result, today I enjoy good standing as an oncologist in the entire spectrum of the oncology community. For example, I have been closely involved with three cancer centers, and invited to participate in tumor boards, alongside a number of doctors who are experts in different disciplines of oncology, to review the medical condition and treatment options of people with cancer. The courage of both patients and traditional doctors has also proven essential to our growth and legitimacy.
One of the best ways to keep a profession growing is to create and maintain standards. I am a member of the Arizona licensing board, and I serve on this board in order to create standards in naturopathic medicine. This is not to dismiss the courage of the naturopath who is working to legitimize our profession in one of the as yet unlicensed states. The bravest are those who go before, preaching the word before it is well known and maintaining that approach. Thanks to such individuals, people are becoming more educated about alternatives and, as a result, the media is giving us more positive attention.
AANMC: What would you say are the most pioneering elements of your work?
DR: That would be the acceptance of my work among the traditional medical establishments and to be the referral physician of Phoenix Children’s Hospital - presenting to their tumor board was a significant accomplishment. One of my loftiest goals is to have board-certified naturopaths in every cancer clinic, which is why I went forward with creating standards. Establishing a specialty practice has also been an important accomplishment.
The development of the board certification track in naturopathic oncology and of standardized and regulated naturopathy, which sets the criterion for the non-treatment-based board specialties, is also very meaningful to me. While other specialties are based on various treatments, we have established the modern standard for our field. It creates legitimacy, validation and safety, and this is a huge step forward for physicians in oncology.
AANMC: Describe the OncANP.
DR: It was founded as a not-for-profit company in April of 2004. The board of directors then created, accepted and submitted our bylaws to the AANP House of Delegates; we gained affiliate status with the AANP at their August 2004 meeting. Then we elected officers. When we developed our vision and mission statements, we came up with the idea of naturopathic oncology. A board of medical examiners was established, and we developed criteria for board certification. We went through the first round of certification in 2006. We now have 100 members.
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From philosophy to medicine to philosophy
AANMC: What was your path to naturopathic medicine?
DR: My path started in 1991 while I was a sprint and distance triathlete in Iowa City, Iowa. I was working at a natural food store, and as I became increasingly interested in health and health issues, I started looking into why and how taking dietary supplements helped people. I became friendly with a holistic medical doctor, who worked next door to the store. One day we went for a long walk in the woods, and he said that I really should go to medical school and then head in the naturopathic direction. But I decided to study naturopathy immediately even though, as a philosophy major with no foundation in biology, I faced 18 months of prerequisites.
AANMC: When and why did you decide to specialize in oncology?
DR: I actually don’t know where my interest in oncology came from, but I do recall that it began around my junior year at SCNM
. So I started doing all these oncology rotations and gathering the information for myself, because there was no established naturopathic oncology program at the time. Perhaps the reason the subject fascinated me, and continues to do so, is because I believe oncology represents one of the persistent and great mysteries of modern medicine. The field leaves room for medical philosophy and creativity because we still know so little about the subject matter. I have always been very interested in biochemical pathways, and oncology fascinates me because you have to understand every facet of the human body and psyche; you must maintain constant reverence for the body and the beauty of the body’s mechanisms.
AANMC: How do you view the traditional practice of oncology?
DR: There are so many aspects where we as naturopathic oncologists can help, where we can decrease chemo resistance, reduce the number of breaks that patients have to take between chemotherapy sessions. Understanding the nature of oncology from diagnosis to treatment, from patient to caregiver perspective – truly realizing what people are going through is paramount to being an oncologist.
In addition, I believe communication is a modality that naturopathy addresses very well. To give a patient a treatment plan will create efficacy, but not whole efficacy. However, when I communicate fully with a patient, he or she achieves a total perspective from which the best decisions can be made. Well-informed patients can work with their doctors to do the job of managing or curing their disease. As in any job, you have to communicate with the people you work with. Oncology remains a wonderful platform for the inclusion of naturopathic medicine because naturopaths have so much to offer.
Practice, challenges and the future
AANMC: Describe your practice from diagnosis through treatment.
DR: The majority of my patients are already diagnosed or already receiving medication. They have either already gone through treatment, or their treatment is not doing so well and so they come to see me. When I see a patient, we discuss the situation; I draw up a treatment plan and then we go forward.
Some people only come to me when they have exhausted all other resources. In such cases, it being so late, we try to create a comfortable life for them. Then there are patients who come to see me because they seek another perspective. I act as a consultant, offering them information to help them make more informed decision.
There is a spectrum of people looking for alternatives. There are also people with no alternatives who say, “Well, why not try that?” There are people who look to alternative medicine at the get go, people who are information seekers, though they may not be ready to jump into a full treatment plan.
There are other examples worth mentioning. A potential patient's wife calls and says her husband has cancer but he doesn’t want any conventional therapy. He’s been through conventional medicine diagnoses and was told he needed surgery immediately! I looked at his case and said, 'you are going to need a lot of treatment – I am confident in my ability to prescribe what is appropriate but I am not confident that it will act quickly enough.' He wants to go forward so I suggest we try for two weeks and reassess. Basically, three months later the symptoms are gone and there are no real signs of disease. We will know exactly what is going on as he receives an MRI shortly to determine the status of his cancer.
The most important methodology is for the naturopathic oncologist to discover where the patient is at in his or her treatment. You don’t want to set your patient or your practice up for failure, so you must pay close attention and be very careful about how you proceed and treat.
AANMC: What is the biggest challenge in your work?
DR: The disease, to put it bluntly. We remain somewhat limited by the scope of our practice, and we must continue to work toward national acceptance of our practice as a valid system of medicine. I also think that one of the greatest challenges we face is the widespread public belief in the scientific method. Medicine cannot create success exclusively through clinical trials. We’re too reliant on the scientific method, and it stands in our way of forging ahead.
AANMC: What excites you most about your work?
DR: What excites me most is the potential of this work, the ability to create better quality and quantity of life for people living with cancer. I am also excited about the ability to use my skills as a naturopathic physician and philosopher, to provide global education about and growth in my field. These advances can and will happen. I know the day will come soon when we routinely see naturopathic physicians working side by side with traditional oncologists on an ongoing basis. This validation of my profession will be very exciting.
Doctor Rubin continues to work tirelessly to increase the prestige of naturopathy, specifically in the specialty of oncology. He is a consulting physician in several hospitals and clinics, as well as within his own thriving clinic. He remains devoted to the study of cancer as an adjunct professor at Southwest College and as a frequently published author. Dr. Rubin believes board-certified naturopathic oncologists will become the majority within the next few years – that the specialty will become standard throughout naturopathic medical programs, and that eventually, naturopathic doctors will become standard participants alongside traditional medicine’s quest to treat this disease. Students of this field should be very excited to have Dr. Rubin among their mentors and as one of their pioneers.
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