WMS people

Alumni Spotlight: Mandy Risley, ’86


Choosing a career in Naturopathic Medicine was not an obvious choice for me at a young age or even as a college student. It wasn’t until a couple of years after graduating from Rollins College in 1994, with a BA in English literature, that I discovered I was interested in medicine. I then returned to school to complete the pre-med requirements for attending Bastyr University’s Naturopathic Doctorate program. There were many aspects of my experience at WMS that helped me in the decision to choose and create a slightly more unconventional career as a Naturopathic Physician.

Naturopathic Medicine is based on the philosophy that the human body has an innate ability to heal itself. It aims to combine the wisdom of nature and cutting edge medical research to create treatment plans for patients. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) strive to identify the root cause of their patient’s illness and treat the cause. They use diet, exercise, lifestyle modifications and natural therapies to enhance the body’s ability to prevent and combat disease. Naturopathic physicians treat many different conditions ranging from allergies, digestive issues and hormonal imbalances to autoimmune diseases and cancer. NDs are currently licensed in 16 states (including CT) and the District of Columbia. They are required to graduate from an accredited 4-year residential medical school and pass an extensive post-doctoral board examination. A Naturopathic Doctor’s scope of practice depends on the state laws in which they choose to practice. In Washington State, we are considered primary care physicians and have broad prescriptive rights. To learn more go to www.naturopathic.org

The foundations of my career in naturopathic medicine took their roots and were nurtured at WMS. Central to the school’s mission to develop a child’s self-esteem, responsibility, and independence, WMS provided an environment and community that encouraged me to cultivate these personal attributes.

WMS helped me to develop confidence at such a delicate age. Despite the inevitable or unpredictable challenges we face in our childhood, the school’s community helped me to have a strong sense of self-esteem. In fact, if you were to ask my teachers in 1986, they may have reported that I had a little too much confidence. It is possible that I spent some time in Pat’s office learning how to redirect that strong sense of self.

The nature of the Montessori philosophy to be supportive and to give to your community in service, are qualities that were modeled by both the faculty and extended family of WMS. The feeling of gratification of helping others that I experienced during my elementary years at WMS, have stayed with me. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to help my patients and my community in the capacity of being a Naturopathic physician.

At WMS you have complete ownership of your education. You choose your path. The educational methodology of Montessori combined with the supportive faculty and community give a student a life-long ability to be a risk-taker, in the best sense of the term. Many of us WMS graduates are not fearful of unconventional views or approaches to life and life’s challenges. This attribute has been a driving force in my ability to choose and create a career as a Naturopathic doctor.  I am forever grateful to WMS for providing me with these fundamental building blocks for which I have built my career.