Noelle’s path to becoming a naturopathic doctor was heavily influenced by family experiences that, without her knowing it at the time, guided her toward the unique work she does today.
Early Seeds Planted
When Noelle’s father, Hank, was in his early twenties, his mother was diagnosed with leukemia. After a long fight, she passed away. Hank had been on his way to medical school, but when his mother passed, he dropped out to help with the family office supply business. Seven years later, Hank’s father also passed away from a rare form of eye and liver cancer.
Although Noelle was only two years old when her grandfather died, the effects of her grandparents passing were ever-present in her family as she grew up. Even though Noelle’s father never went back to med school, medicine remained a lifelong interest for him. He would constantly devour articles in medical journals about all kinds of subjects, but the death of his parents had left him particularly intrigued by cancer treatment.
As Noelle got older, it became apparent that she too had a natural interest in health. And so the two of them would find themselves having long discussions about the material Hank was reading. He would use her as a sounding board for the medical topics he was fascinated by but never pursued as a career. And she was a willing sounding board, soaking up and enjoying these heady conversations from a very young age.
Discovering Naturopathic Medicine
When Noelle was in her late twenties, she started experiencing some challenging digestive health issues. She was diagnosed with IBS and remembers leaving the doctor’s office with little more than a not very helpful brochure and sense of confusion. She had no answers and no idea what to do. Then someone recommended a book to her called Eat Right for Your Blood Type. Once she started the first chapter, she couldn’t put it down, and she spent an entire day staying home in bed reading it straight through.
The next day she started putting the principles of the book into practice and dove headfirst into a whole new world of eating. She was so unfamiliar with many of the ingredients called for in the book, she had no idea where to buy them. After looking up the nearest health food store and driving 45 minutes to get there, she came home with armloads of groceries and embarked on an exploration of food that would have dramatic impacts on her personal well-being. In fact, through changing her diet, she was able to completely resolve her digestive problems.
The book was written by a naturopathic doctor, which intrigued her because at that time she was also contemplating a career change. She had originally gone into graphic design, but she couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that her true passion, and the area she was meant to work in, was healthcare. And the more she researched naturopathic medicine, the more she was completely hooked. It wasn’t long before she and her husband Michael both quit their jobs and moved across the country so she could attend Bastyr University and begin her own path to becoming an ND.
At Bastyr, Noelle knew she had found her calling. What she didn’t know right away was exactly which direction she would go within naturopathic medicine. Then, during her last two years of school, two key pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
The first was getting introduced to cranio-sacral therapy. It started with a short elective class, but she immediately resonated with cranio’s focus on the direct connection between mind and body. She started assistant-teaching classes, trained with an MD whose practice in Seattle focused on cranio, and continued to be amazed by the dramatic and tangible results it was able to achieve with patients.
The second piece was discovering her passion for oncology. She loved working with cancer patients from day one. It inspired her. Maybe it was because it felt so familiar. Since her dad had always talked with her about his interests in medicine, the conversations naturally continued when Noelle entered medical school. He would mail her medical articles (many about cancer), and the two would chat on the phone about them just like when Noelle was a kid. According to Noelle, her dad was really hoping to see tremendous strides in cancer treatment in his lifetime. He would say to her, only half joking, “OK, Noelle, you’re in med school now. You’ve got to find a cure for cancer.”
After graduating from Bastyr University with her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, she and Michael relocated to Bozeman. Noelle was only a few months into her new private practice when a chance encounter at the top of the M gave her the opportunity to bring together her passions to create the integrative practice she had been dreaming of.
She and Michael had hiked to the top on a gorgeous Saturday and struck up a conversation with a woman who turned out to be a radiation oncology nurse at the hospital. The woman lit up when Noelle mentioned she was interested in working with cancer patients, and explained there was a huge need for an ND in the oncology community. Before they parted ways to head back down the trail, she told Noelle exactly who to get in touch with in order to get connected to the hospital cancer center.
From there, her connections with the cancer community in Bozeman grew, and many years of hard work developing inroads with the conventional medical system paid off with her becoming credentialed by Bozeman Health. Today, she works closely with the oncologists there to offer a truly integrative team-based approach to cancer treatment. She uses cranio-sacral therapy in every single visit, and has developed innovative ways to combine it with more classic naturopathic modalities in order to provide life-changing support not just to cancer patients but also to patients dealing with a wide variety of chronic health challenges.
When Noelle isn’t working, she loves grocery shopping, cooking food, spending time with her husband, Michael, and dancing to music with her two kids (Jackson and Davis).