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January 29, 2012
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Aerial view of Bastyr campus

Founding of Bastyr University

In 1978 when Bastyr University was founded, the political and social climate for natural medicine was challenging. The Naturopathic Practice Act had been amended to place more restrictions on naturopathic doctors, and naturopathic licensure in the state of Washington was hanging in the balance.

National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM), formerly located in Seattle, had just moved to Portland, Oregon. As a result, Washington state legislators threatened removing naturopathic licensure from the state since no new graduates were applying for licensure in Washington.

These challenges were no match for the strong beliefs and perseverance of recent NCNM graduates Drs. Les Griffith, William A. Mitchell, Jr., and Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr. These naturopathic physicians considered it an opportunity to create a new naturopathic school in Seattle that would not only save licensure in Washington, but also create a resurgence of respect for the naturopathic field by building the school on a science-based foundation.

"Bastyr University has played a bigger role within medicine than any other non-allopathic institution, bringing scientific legitimacy to natural medicine."

- James Wharton, PhD, professor
of medical history and ethics,
University of Washington
School of Medicine

"We decided to make it absolutely the best institution of learning we possibly could even imagine: the Harvard of naturopathic medicine, if you will," said cofounder Dr. Mitchell. "It was built on the best visions of what a really high-quality naturopathic institution could be."

The three men literally sat around a kitchen table and started creating the school of their dreams with a start-up sum of $200, a gift from one of their relatives. "We dreamed of what the perfect naturopathic institution would look like — what it would need, what its focus would be," said Dr. Griffith. "We had already decided on the basic foundation — science-based and accredited."

When it came to naming the school, there was no argument: they unanimously agreed to name it John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine after their beloved instructor Dr. John Bartholomew Bastyr. Dr. Bastyr was an early champion of science-based natural medicine and a popular Seattle-area naturopathic physician and midwife.

The men's next decision — one of their smartest, they've said — was hiring Sheila Quinn, a medical administrator at the University of Washington. Quinn served as the school's administrator for more than 10 years. As the fourth and final cofounder, she contributed to an endeavor that succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings in spite of all odds. "The belief was so strong it overcame all the obstacles," said Dr. Griffith.

"In many ways I consider this University to be blessed," said Dr. Pizzorno, who served as president for the first 22 years. Helping hands appeared at every turn to assist the founders in securing classroom space, accreditation, allies and advocates. By 1989, the cofounders had achieved every one of their initial goals: accreditation (becoming the first naturopathic school to be accredited), international recognition as the leading institution of science-based natural medicine, publication of the widely acclaimed Textbook of Natural Medicine, the development of a core of highly skilled faculty and strong community respect for the medicine.

Dr. Pizzorno summarized Bastyr's achievements: "We have demonstrated that science-based natural medicine is achievable and successful in helping people. By doing it right, Bastyr has been a catalyst for the resurgence of public interest in natural medicine. So many of our graduates are actively treating people, writing good books and lecturing. We have made the world realize that natural medicine offers great value."

L to R: Pizzorno, Griffith, Mitchell and Quinn
Founders left to right: Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr., Dr. Les Griffith, Dr. William A. Mitchell, Jr. and Sheila Quinn


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