Carrie Louise Daenell, ND
Education: Bastyr University (1998, first graduation class)
In practice since: 1998
Clinic: Natural Health & Science, Inc.
Practice setting: Private practice
Location: Denver, Colorado (unlicensed state)
Area of focus/specialty: Digestive issues, auto-immune disorders, menopause, bio-identical hormone replacements, hepatitis C
Career highlights and contributions
• Founder of medical practice with revenue on top 1% nationwide
• Public lecturer/educator for community and continuing education
• Frequent contributor to professional and consumer naturopathic medicine periodicals
• Former managing editor, Journal of Naturopathic Physicians
• Former president, Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians (CANP)
• Former director, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)
Current professional endeavors
• Authoring book on women's health — a personal mission to save women from the fate of conventional menopause interventions.
• Developing own line of formulas.
Personal passions: Her son first, her work second; also enjoys snowboarding and two-step dancing.
Favorite quote: "Self-actualizing people must be what they can be." - Abraham Maslow
It seems that Dr. Carrie Louise Daenell was destined to become a naturopathic doctor (ND) and public lecturer on natural medicine. At age 12, Dr. Daenell was feverishly reading Prevention magazine and spending her allowance at the local health food store. Later, she developed a friendship with a woman who had conquered crippling rheumatoid arthritis and regained her ability to walk by taking nutritional supplements. This experience solidified Daenell's desire to study nutrition and naturopathic medicine.
Daenell has watched others heal from natural therapies; and she has experienced it herself. She became quite ill while attending Bastyr University, and was able to fully recover by using natural medicine. "When I got well, I was more than just well — I was vibrant," she says. We recently interviewed Dr. Daenell to learn more about what drives her, and how she runs such a successful practice ...
Why naturopathic medicine?
AANMC: Why did you become an ND?
CLD: I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but that I wanted to do things differently. Then one day a friend handed me a brochure for a naturopathic medical school. I read the brochure and it was one of those life-changing moments. If I could have invented a career, this would have been it. I knew finally I had the answer to that burning question that drove me nuts: "Why am I here?"
AANMC: What is the best part of your job?
CLD: It is such an honor and privilege to sit with people who are struggling, sometimes to the core of their being, and to be permitted to be part of the struggle and therefore part of the solution. I feel very confident as a clinician because naturopathic medicine for me is not a theory. I don't wonder if it works. It gave me my life back. I love working with people who suffer the most because I know I can help them. And that is one of the most satisfying feelings of all.
AANMC: What does being a successful ND mean to you?
CLD:I am a success because I get to do exciting, fascinating, interesting core-level work. And I get to make a good living doing it.
AANMC: What is your message to someone considering becoming an ND?
CLD: I truly don't know anyone who loves what they do as much as I and my colleagues do. Yes, it might take years and a lot of borrowed money to get there, but you're going to be 8-10 years older anyway. You're going to struggle and commit to something anyway. Why not focus the struggles and commitments upon something that has meaning for you? We spend a huge amount of time at work. And I love what I do! I bounce out of bed, and I am not a morning person! I absolutely acknowledge that it is a big commitment, but it is so worth it.
Passion fuels success
AANMC: In our recent e-newsletter about the naturopathic medical profession, the section on income satisfaction received the most interest from our readers. How heavily did you weigh the financial aspects in your decision to become an ND?
CLD: I know that most people do weigh that, and I think they are right to do so. However I didn't weigh it at all. I had zero income expectations for financial return on my investment. I live my life very passionately. I make my decisions from my gut and my heart. I embarked on this journey not knowing if or how I was going to be able to pay those loans back, truthfully. My greatest concern was wanting to do what I was born to do. I wanted to make that contribution that I came here to make before I died. Everything else I trusted would work itself out. And it just so happens that I do very well financially.
AANMC: Didn't you set a record for the most money borrowed to attend Bastyr University?
CLD: I did. But I've been told very recently that my record has been broken. I truly started with nothing, so I needed so much. I have successfully been making those loan payments, and I live very well at the same time. I am the sole provider and my family lives in the home we want to live in, drive the cars we want to drive, take vacations, and my son has the security and comforts I want him to have.
AANMC: You are rated in the top one percent of income nationally for a one-doctor holistic practitioner's office.* How have you accomplished that feat in just seven years of working part time?
CLD: I'm not a business person, but I am driven. I'm a type A from the Midwest with a strong work ethic. I think outside the box and I value simplicity. My overhead is low and I deliver very powerful clinical results. I started my office with two desks, two chairs, two bookshelves and some borrowed supplements. I didn't need a fancy office and I didn't have a staff. Now I have a few more bookshelves, two computers, and two part-time staff members.
*This figure includes MDs and osteopaths practicing natural medicine, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and NDs.
Valuing the medicine
AANMC: You have developed an online seminar on practice management, is that right?
CLD: Yes, it's called the "Working Doctors Seminar Series" for Integrative Therapeutics, Inc. The seminar is a way for licensed clinical practitioners to achieve continuing education credits by teleconference.
AANMC: What's the main focal point you discuss in that seminar?
CLD: I've found that as soon as you square it away in your head that your health care services are valuable and that you need to adequately charge for them, everything shifts. Ultimately, yes that's better for the doctor. But it's amazing how profoundly supportive that is for your patients. Because it touches the way they see you, therefore it touches they way they see your work and it enforces their ability to be compliant with your protocols. And they get what they came for. It's truly win-win.
AANMC: Can you talk about your networking strategies?
CLD: I like to spend time developing real relationships with credentialed health care providers: MDs — gynecologists and surgeons especially — osteopaths, and acupuncturists. When somebody with that kind of authority says, "You need to see Dr. Daenell," the patient goes to see Dr. Daenell. It's different than if a neighbor says it. So every time I have an opportunity to interact with another clinician, I take it. A patient will tell me that her gynecologist didn't react negatively to the fact that she's taking natural hormones through me. "Aha!" I think. "A friend in the making!" The fact that the gynecologist didn't discount it is good enough for me. I ask for a name, try to get a phone number, then call them and offer to have lunch. During our meeting, they realize that I am competent, have solid training and education, and am licensed somewhere (if not here). They learn that I don't compete with them — I don't do that patient's pap or physical exam. They discover that I can talk their language and I can co-treat and co-manage patients, and then they become truly wonderful referral sources.
AANMC: Your lectures are primarily intended to educate people, but do the lectures also serve the purpose of building your business?
CLD: Yes, those who attend know they've met someone who can do the kind of work they might be interested in, and they know my phone number. And they do absolutely call. It's a very powerful tool. I actually doubled my practice after my first public speaking engagement. Still, when I lecture locally to the public, my lectures are educational and not very promotional. People leave with information that empowers them to make good choices on their own behalf, whether they ever call me or not.
AANMC: To what types of audiences do you typically lecture?
CLD: I have lectured for an older-adult organization, a local health-food grocery chain, the health department of [a network of] college campuses, and for a hospital.
AANMC: How important of a role do supplements play in your practice?
CLD: Offering a dispensary allows me to fulfill a strong demand in the community, because the nutraceuticals many of my patients use are not as readily available in the Denver area as they may be in most of the licensed states.
I'm very particular about the product lines that I use, because I believe the clinical interventions must be potent and effective. I like to err on side of companies that have the highest manufacturing standards. My clinical problem solving is very science based. When you take enough biochemistry — like I did because I didn't pass it right away — you really learn it and begin to appreciate how useful it can be.
The lowdown on licensure
AANMC: How does practicing in an unlicensed state make your experience different from that of an ND working in a licensed state?
CLD: My patients don't ever get insurance coverage for the care that I provide. Sadly, it makes my medicine available to fewer people. But on the positive side, the people who do come to me are investing in their own health so they take it very seriously and they do follow my recommendations closely. When they are compliant, they get what they came for. This insurance situation limits my patient population to a group of people who are seriously invested in their own health, which is an ideal fit for a naturopathic physician.
AANMC: At the same time, you do advocate licensing in Colorado, correct?
CLD: Absolutely. I think it's important to expand the licensing of our profession. We work hard to earn the credentials that we have and I think that consumers deserve the right to have it regulated and defined.
As she discusses her work, Daenell is both inspired and inspiring. She has a very tight focus on what she does and doesn't do — she understands the wisdom of simplicity and is quick to delegate. She is adamant about the value of her practice, charging on the higher end of the scale at about $300 an hour. By making such a successful living at her ND practice, Daenell is able to give back. In addition to offering numerous educational lectures within her own community, she also contributes to scholarship and alumni funds at two of the AANMC naturopathic medical colleges.
Finally, Daenell is very clear about the importance of balancing work with family life. She recently told her 2-year old son, "You're the best idea I ever had, and I have a lot of great ideas!"
Author Patty Bates-Ballard is a mother and freelance writer-advocate of inclusion and wholeness. Patty's articles have appeared on the Environmental News Network and in Environmental Design + Construction Magazine. She has guest lectured at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, Sherman's Austin College and El Centro College in Dallas. She works from her home in Dallas, Texas, where she raises her son, Kory.