Dr. Jenna Baker is the first licensed naturopathic doctor (naturopath) in Slave Lake. She started seeing patients on January 19, 2021.
“We’re still not super mainstream,” says Baker, of naturopathic medicine, which is also called naturopathy medicine. However, it has been regulated in Alberta since 2012. Prior to that there were people with various levels of training claiming to be naturopaths, but the regulatory body has weeded those people out.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) have the same amount of training as medical doctors (MDs), says Baker. She did a bachelor of science at the University of Alberta followed by her four year ND at Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in greater Vancouver. NDs also pass all of the board exams. The only different, time-wise, is that MDs also have a residency, but NDs go straight into practice.
“There’s a lot of overlap,” says Baker, “but there are a few key differences.”
The initial appointment looks very similar no matter which of the two types of doctor one visits. This includes answering medical questions, talking about symptoms, possibly a physical exam, testing, and lab work.
This is “very familiar for patients,” says Baker. The “treatment and philosophy,” however, are different. The goal is “finding and treating the root cause” and this can be done with “a very big tool box.”
This tool box includes vitamins and minerals, herbal medicine, nutrition, lifestyle changes, and injections, and in Baker’s case acupuncture, which she is also trained in.
There’s also some overlap between a chiropractor and an ND, says Baker. “They complement each other nicely.” The philosophy is similar. NDs also learn about manipulation of joints, but “a naturopathic doctor has a lot of tools in their tool boxes,” and will often refer a patient to a chiropractor for joint manipulation as they are the experts on this.
“I treat a lot of chronic stuff,” says Baker. “I see primarily digestive conditions, mental emotional well-being, hormones, insomnia, cardiovascular, and diabetes.”
Provincial health care does not cover naturopathic doctors, but some extended health coverage does.
Baker hopes to add direct billing once she gets established. Her office is in Downtown Physiotherapy and Massage on Main Street in Slave Lake.
“Slave Lake is home for me,” says Baker. She was born in Slave Lake, and raised in Widewater. She’s moved back to be “closer to family, but I also saw Slave Lake as a good opportunity as we don’t have and have never had a naturopathic doctor here.”
Baker believes that Slave Lake is a town “that could support one (a naturopath).”
Baker has practiced medicine in Airdrie for a little over five years.
Last fall, she got married. She and her husband moved to Widewater. He’s retired from the military and working as a heavy equipment operator. Baker took a bit of a break to get settled.
“I’m excited to start again and get back to seeing patients,” she says. So far, the input from the community has been very positive and she has quite a few appointments booked.