Sixteen years after competing in high school cheer competitions, including cradle catches on the sideline of Durango High School football games, Hailee Dover and Maly Strietzel have returned to Durango to open a naturopathic doctor’s office, Animas Natural Health.
Strietzel graduated from DHS in 2003, and Dover in 2004. Dover always knew she wanted to be a doctor, and, after graduation, she attended college in Seattle with an eye toward medical school. However, once she was on campus, her interest in medical school waned and she instead earned her undergraduate degree in anthropology.
In her third year, Dover learned about naturopathic medicine. As she learned more about it, she “felt it was my calling” because she enjoyed the sciences associated with medicine, but also felt a large part of her – the nurturing, healing side of her – would have gone overlooked had she pursued a traditional medical degree. Dover graduated from Bastyr University, one of five accredited naturopathic medical schools in the United States, in 2016 with her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine.
Strietzel also did not learn about naturopathic medicine until later in life. While studying at Fort Lewis College and pursuing a public health degree, Strietzel worked at Mercy Regional Medical Center. But she worried about the lack of preventive care in the medical system and knew something “just didn’t feel right” for her.
She found out about naturopathic medicine through her father-in-law, a holistic dentist in town. It immediately felt like a fit, and after graduating from FLC, Strietzel pursued and obtained her own doctorate in 2018 at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona.
Dover and Strietzel lost touch after high school, but they reconnected once they learned about their shared pursuit of naturopathic medical degrees. Coincidentally, they both moved back to Durango after medical school to raise families. Dover, who was already trying to start a practice, approached Strietzel about becoming partners and the two opened Animas Natural Health this fall in its new location in the Purple Cliffs building at 1305 Escalante Drive, Unit No. 206, behind Home Depot.
“It just seemed like serendipity that we both moved back and were looking to practice,” Dover said.
The practiceBoth Dover and Strietzel said the move back to Durango has felt like a homecoming. They have found the community, and its other naturopathic practitioners, welcoming. For Dover, the goal is “help keep our hometown healthy.”
In their minds, there are a couple of key differences that help naturopathic medicine stand out from general medical care. To start, naturopathic medicine does not perform emergent care. The emphasis is on identifying healthy lifestyle choices that will prevent future health problems. Additionally, Dover and Strietzel stressed how individualized the care is. A first-time patient meeting lasts 90 minutes, which allows the doctor to create an individualized health plan to support the patient’s mind, body and spirit.
Dover and Strietzel said naturopathic medicine is not intended to supplant the traditional medical system; rather, when used properly, naturopathic medicine works in conjunction and fills the gaps of the medical system. Strietzel said naturopathic medicine is particularly adept at handling issues related to mental health and chronic pain.
Dover provided an example of how naturopathic doctors might approach a patient issue. The mission of naturopathic medicine is to find the root of the problem, so, if a patient comes in with high blood pressure, Dover and Strietzel first try to identify why. Rather than jumping to a pill or other artificial means, a patient might be advised to exercise, start taking certain herbs or alter other parts of their lifestyle.
“We try to find ways to allow the body to heal itself,” Dover said.
Strietzel acknowledged naturopathic medicine can seem like an investment up front, but she said it saves patients money in the long run because it helps prevent disease and injury.
In Colorado, naturopathic doctors are not licensed to prescribe medication even though they are trained in pharmacology. Dover said the training in pharmacology helps her and Strietzel help their patients understand how medications they may be taking can affect their diet and nutrition. Additionally, patients are not guaranteed coverage by their insurance plans. Coverage depends on patients’ individual plans.
Dover said it has been “really daunting to start a business,” especially during a global pandemic, but it has been nice “to be able to lean on each other.” It helps that both Strietzel and Dover are moms and are particularly interested in women’s health and fertility issues.
Dover and Strietzel are not the only practitioners in Animas Natural Health. Within the practice there is also a nurse practitioner and two estheticians. There is a sauna that patients can make appointments for and a room for rent that Dover and Strietzel are hoping to fill with either an acupuncturist or a massage therapist. Additionally, Dover and Strietzel offer hands-on treatments like hydrotherapy and craniosacral.
Dover hopes to create an environment that is approachable for any kind of patient. She said she is aware there is a stereotype about the kind of person who usually seeks out naturopathic medicine, but one of the missions of Animas Natural Health is to offer services to everyone, “no matter how ‘natural’ they are in their everyday life.”