Education: Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (2001)
- European biological medicine
- Esogetic colorpuncture
Years in practice: 3
Location: Plainview, New York
Practice setting: Private practice, Naturopathic Solutions, Inc.
Areas of focus/specialties:
- Cancer treatment
- European biological medicine
- Bio-identical hormone replacement
Career highlights and contributions:
- Founded successful clinic in an unlicensed state.
- Studies with European physicians to bring European medicine to the States.
- Continually educates herself in order to provide top quality, cutting-edge naturopathic medicine to the public.
- National lecturer and medical consultant.
Current professional endeavors:To operate a successfully functioning, multi-disciplinary clinic here in the States.
Personal passions: Hanging out with her two awesome sons, Ben (age 16) and Dylan (age 14).
Favorite quote: “Leap ... and the net will appear.”
– traditional Zen saying.
Alumni Career Spotlight
Sharon Stills, ND, LMT
Dr. Sharon Stills truly is a walking inspiration. As a naturopathic doctor and a mother, she has taken on tremendous challenges. She has established a successful practice in the unlicensed state of New York, bringing naturopathic medicine – and European medicine – to a community that had, for the most part, never heard about it before. All while raising two teenaged sons on her own.
But it helps that she’s a bit of a fireball. For more than a decade, Dr. Stills has been on the go – working her way through undergraduate school and then medical school. After graduating from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in 2001, Dr. Stills opened her solo practice, Naturopathic Solutions, Inc., in Plainview, New York. Three years later, she has found success professionally, personally, as well as financially. And she also keeps up on the latest in medicine, often traveling to Europe to study with physicians there. Find out about her 10-year journey to becoming a naturopathic physician and achieving successful work-life balance in this interview ...
AANMC: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. How did you come to choose naturopathic medicine?
SS: I suffered from a lot of allergies and asthma growing up and was generally very sick. So when I had a child, I wanted to make sure my son didn’t suffer like I did. I became very interested in nutrition and began exploring different health options. After I got divorced, I decided that I needed to create a career for myself. At that point I had two children, and I had gotten very into nutrition and health and had heard about naturopathic medicine. So I took a journey up to Canada, because I was living in Buffalo at the time, to see a naturopathic doctor and to see what it was like. I visited his office, walked out and said to myself, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’
I became a massage therapist first, so that I had a means of supporting myself while in medical school. I completed my undergraduate work in Arizona and went on to medical school. It was about a 10-year journey.
AANMC: With such a vast and varied background, what element of your training have you found to be most beneficial in your career?
SS: I had a lot of training in holistic medicine and health care in general, as I was practicing both nutrition and massage therapy. I also had a lot of training in detox, colon hydrotherapy and iridology. I studied with Bernard Jensen International, for example. I really felt that I was helping people, but not to the degree that I wanted to. Becoming a naturopathic physician has enabled me to reach a level where I feel I really am helping people and making an impact on their lives. I really wanted to become a doctor so I could understand the science behind mainstream medicine. Some alternative health care people kind of shun mainstream medicine altogether, but I wanted to be able to integrate different medical philosophies, and in order to integrate them I had to become educated myself, and become a doctor who actually knew what was happening in the various medical disciplines.
AANMC: Why did you opt to start in a solo practice as opposed to a clinic with multiple practitioners?
SS: I think that’s my personality. I mean, when I think back to what I originally wanted to do … I wanted to have just a few rooms and to start out small. I also wanted to be my own boss because I was a single mom and needed to have a high degree of flexibility. I’m also a leader and very outgoing, and I saw that I needed to just jump in and do things myself. That’s how I learn. So I just decided to open my own clinic.
AANMC: So you can do it your own way …
SS: (Laughs) I need to do things my own way. Now my practice has grown and it’s just bursting at the seams. When I first took this place over I thought, ‘Oh my god! How am I going to fill this place with patients? Am I jumping in too fast?’ Now, three years later, my office manager and I were just saying, ‘Where are we going to put all this stuff?’ We don’t have room for anything. So I’m actually considering opening a larger clinic where I can be the medical director and have other people practicing with me.
AANMC: When you start your own practice, the medicine is only part of it. How did you deal with the business end of it?
SS: The business aspect takes up a ton of time. When I first opened the practice, I thought nothing of working 14-hour days, and that wasn’t just seeing patients. It was also getting everything set up. So, business-wise, I’ve kind of also learned on the job how to run a business. And I’m still refining it. I have a marketing firm that I’m working with and I’m thinking of hiring a business manager. It is overwhelming to be a new doctor and to be a new business owner. So I put a lot of time and energy into it.
AANMC: If you were speaking to a group of students considering entering this field, what advice would you give them?
SS: Going back to when you asked me why I do so well and why I’m so busy – I think it’s because of my passion and because I practice what I preach. I really believe in this. I’m not the naturopathic doctor who says, ‘Don’t do this,’ and then gets a headache and takes a Tylenol. I live and have lived the naturopathic lifestyle for many, many years. So I think that’s really important. I think this kind of medicine needs to really be embodied and you really need to believe in it. I think that’s crucial. It’s a profession, but you’re really getting the opportunity and the gift and the invitation to step into your patient’s life in a very private, personal way – and I think that really needs to be honored and taken seriously.
AANMC: I understand you’ve studied a lot with doctors in Europe and that one of your goals is to bring what you’ve learned back to the States. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how you incorporate what you learn into your practice?
SS: I’ve studied a lot with Dr. Rau’s Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland – I actually just returned from there last week, and I incorporate it by mixing naturopathic medicine principles with what they’re practicing in Europe. I integrate a lot of European diagnostics, CRT, which is thermography, and I use a lot of German homeopathic remedies that are hard to come by and learn about here in the States. I also use heart rate analysis, and I just embody their whole mindset of treating the milieu. It’s very similar to naturopathic medicine.
AANMC: It seems as if you’re continually educating yourself and seeing how you can incorporate practices from around the world …
SS: I think it’s crucial to continually educate myself and just to see what’s going on out there. I mean, with naturopathic medicine we’re treating the whole mind-body complex, and I think anyone who thinks that they’ve got it and can stop learning is mistaken.
AANMC: You’re relatively new to the profession and yet you’ve reached a high level of success. To what do you attribute your success?
SS: When I ask other people, they say that it’s just me. That it’s because of the way I am with patients and what I do and who I am that people want to come and see me. I really care a lot. I’m an intelligent doctor and I do go to great lengths – travel to different countries and attend the best seminars and further my education so I can really offer what no one else is offering to these patients. Then they tell their friends and family. So my practice has mainly been built by word of mouth. Somewhat through advertising, but mostly through word of mouth. I’m also in an unlicensed state, so I’m kind of like a pioneer, bringing to people things that haven’t been available to them.
AANMC: So how do you do that – how to you educate a community that probably has a lot of misconceptions – or doesn’t even know what naturopathic medicine is about?
SS: Honestly, when I first came here I thought that I would go around and lecture and write articles, but I just haven’t had the time to do that. So basically all the education happens one-on-one when I’m seeing patients. I’m working to get more active in the community, though, and I just joined a women’s association. Today I attended the first meeting of their health care committee and I would like to start lecturing, to educate the women in the community. But it’s taken me three years to find time to do that. And I really don’t have time, but I’m just going to do it anyway.
AANMC: How do you balance working in such a demanding career and raising two teenaged boys?
SS: I’ve been a single mom since my youngest was only one year old. I put myself through medical school raising them. I’ve always done everything, so it’s kind of like, that’s all you know. That’s how you do it. We’re a close family and the kids help out. They were here when the clinic first opened – helping and working, doing inventory, making it work. I live right around the corner so it’s close and they can come here whenever they need to.
AANMC: So, looking at how you’ve made it work, what words of wisdom would you offer another single parent – or any parent – considering this profession?
SS: Well, I think being your own boss, for me is important. If my son has a big thing, say on a Wednesday, I just tell my office manager to switch the schedule because I’m not working on Wednesday. If you’re working for someone you can’t do that. So that’s been really important to me. If my son calls me sick from school, he comes and we put him in a treatment room and he gets treated while I’m working. So they’re kind of a part of the practice. My patients know my kids and they’re very welcome around here and part of it.
AANMC: You say it’s been a long journey getting to this point in your life and your career. So what’s next? What are your goals?
SS: My personal goal is to watch my kids get off to college, which will happen within the next two and four years. Then I really plan to be able to dedicate myself even more to my profession. I’d like to do more lecturing, write a book, open a larger clinic in the New York area, and a satellite clinic in the Caribbean. That’s the long-term plan. And of course I’ll be back and forth to Europe, studying there and so forth.
AANMC: When your kids talk about you, what do you hope they say?
SS: Well, I know what they do say – that they’re very proud of me, that they really see me making a difference in the world, helping people. Sometimes they say I’m a little crazy and I should let them eat what they want! We’re wheat-free, dairy-free, we only eat organic, and we shop at the health food store. So my son and I had a nice, loud argument in the store the other day about him needing some bagels for lunch!
When it comes to her sons, Dr. Stills says the rebellion seems to be limited to the bagel variety. The key, if Dr. Stills’ model is to be used, appears not to be how to balance work and family as separate entities, but rather allowing them to live together in harmony. Much like the medicine she practices, Dr. Stills treats her life as a whole. Her career, her family, and her personal life meld together – and the results speak for themselves.
Of course, this balanced lifestyle comes with a lot of hard work, and, as Dr. Stills emphasized, continual study. In addition to her education at SCNM and in Europe, she is trained in a variety of traditional natural therapeutics including botanical medicine, homeopathy, lifestyle counseling, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and other complementary therapies. things in my life.”