Aspiring doctor takes natural road

Three years into a bachelor of science degree, and with aspirations of becoming a medical doctor, Shane Johnson had a change of heart.

Dr. Shane Johnson of Aspire Natural Medicine in the Creekside Professional Building on Friday. Aspire Natural Medicine opened in the December 2011.

Dr. Shane Johnson of Aspire Natural Medicine in the Creekside Professional Building on Friday. Aspire Natural Medicine opened in the December 2011.

Three years into a bachelor of science degree, and with aspirations of becoming a medical doctor, Shane Johnson had a change of heart.

After shadowing some doctors, the University of Calgary student realized the profession wasn’t what he expected.

“At that point I started researching naturopathic medicine, and shadowed a doctor here in (Red Deer) and realized that’s what I had thought being a doctor was all about.

“I shifted gears and looked into the naturopathic medical schools between Canada and the U.S., and went that direction.”

Johnson officially opened Aspire Natural Medicine in Red Deer last week, although he started seeing patient in late December. A member of the Alberta Association of Naturopathic Practitioners and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Red Deer native said many of the people who visit him have the same problems as those seeing medical doctors — from colds and flus to chronic conditions.

Even his initial assessment is similar to that conducted by his MD counterparts, from history-taking to physical exams.

“The biggest difference is when it comes down to the treatment phase.”

Johnson emphasizes things like clinical nutrition, herbal medicines and intravenous therapy, through which nutrients are infused into the bloodstream. Patients are tested for things like food intolerances, heavy metal toxicity, cortisol levels and adrenal function, and Johnson prescribes appropriate lifestyle changes.

The public is becoming increasingly receptive to such an approach, he said.

“Especially that age range from 25 to 50 — that younger generation is really starting to be more Internet savvy, research savvy on their own.”

The problem is the endless sources of information, many of which are contradictory, which make it difficult for people to know what to do. Often, they spend time and money on dietary supplements and other products that do them no good, said Johnson.

Members of the Alberta Association of Naturopathic Practitioners have a threshold of training, which typically equates to seven or eight years of post-secondary education, said Johnson.

He earned his doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., and then completed a one-year residency at the Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. There, he worked with naturopathic and medical doctors — and learned the value of an integrated approach to medicine.

“It’s not that one-or-the-other situation in my office,” said Johnson. “Most often, it’s integrating current treatments with stuff that (patients) are already doing, from their MD.”

By helping people become proactive with their health, naturopathic doctors help reduce the strain on the traditional medical system, said Johnson, who practised at Docere Wellness Centre in Calgary for 2 1/2 years before he and his wife decided to make Red Deer their home.

There are currently about a half-dozen members of the Alberta Association of Naturopathic Practitioners in Red Deer. That’s not very many, said Johnson, when you consider the population of the city and the outlying area.

When seeing a new patient, he allocates 75 minutes to ensure he gains a good understanding of their history and needs. The cost is $165, which is covered by most workplace health insurance policies, but Johnson also provides a free 15-minute consultation for those wanting to learn more about natural medicine before committing.

Aspire Natural Medicine is located at No. 206, 4320 50th Ave. and its website is

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