Pina LoGiudice on Promoting Natural Medicine to Large Audiences

Couric and Dr. LoGiudice on TV with herbal teas

Bastyr University alumna Pina LoGiudice, ND ('03), MSA ('03), LAc, has had larger platforms than most for promoting natural medicine. She has appeared as a guest on The Dr. Oz Show and Katie Couric's show more than a dozen times, seeking creative ways to introduce natural therapies (she and Couric wore pajamas to talk about natural sleep aids).

Together with her husband, Peter Bongiorno, ND ('03), MSA ('03), LAc, she founded Inner Source Health in New York City and Long Island, N.Y. In 2013 they added two more associate naturopathic doctors (NDs). As past vice president of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Dr. LoGiudice has helped New York NDs pursue state licensure, currently has a book in the works, and is a frequent speaker on natural health.

She spoke with Bastyr recently about her personal health journey and communicating about natural medicine.

You've had significant opportunities for talking about health on network television. What have you learned about introducing natural medicine to national audiences?

Honestly, it was never part of my life plan. As someone who never sought out television, I've found it extremely exciting. The first time I was on Dr. Oz was one of the first times a naturopathic physician had appeared on major media. To be able to help put naturopathic medicine further on the map, and show people that they have options in their health care – it has been a tremendous honor and thrill.

How can the natural-medicine world do better in communicating to the public?

We can be better at stressing our value and our necessity. I don’t think we talk about that enough. How is it that the United States ranks 37th in the world in health care, between Costa Rica and Slovenia? When it comes to emergency care, the U.S. ranks No. 1. So, if you get hit by a bus, this is the place to get care. But when it comes to chronic disease and prevention, we’re way behind. Yet we spend more per person than any other country on health care. Naturopathic medicine has the answers to these chronic issues – and we need to get the word out.

I think it is a necessity for people to look at naturopathic medicine as part of their health journey. It’s not about one medicine being better than the other, it’s about having your conventional physician but also your naturopathic doctor to talk to. An ND can help you discover the root causes to whatever's going on with you. They can help you find natural therapeutics to optimize health. Again, conventional medicine has its place, but when it comes to disease prevention and long-term care, this is one place where naturopathic medicine excels.

Tell us about your path into naturopathic medicine.

Like many naturopathic physicians, my own health journey brought me to the medicine. I always wanted to be a physician. I thought I would be a pediatrician, and I was pre-med through college. After I graduated, I received a pre-doctoral fellowship to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I studied the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, the area where our thoughts meet our immune, nervous and hormonal systems. It was really at the core of mind-body medicine.

At the time, I had no knowledge of natural medicine, but did I have a lot of digestive problems and hormone-balancing issues. I wasn’t getting better through conventional medicine. I was told I would have these problems for the rest of my life and that this is just what my body does. But I’m a stubborn Sicilian and I figured there had to be a better way.

When I moved down to D.C., I first met my husband, Peter. In the lab there, he told me about naturopathic medicine and encouraged me to see my first naturopath. It was life-changing on multiple levels.

Through Peter, I was introduced to natural nutrition therapies and supplements. I felt markedly better. Then I learned there is a whole profession of people who do this. That changed my life. Here I am 100 percent better after understanding how my diet, my stress and my lifestyle affect my health. I realized this is the type of medicine I wanted to study.

How did Bastyr compare to your time as a pre-med student and your time at NIH?

At Bastyr, it was wonderful being a part of a community of people who are like-minded, supportive and have great intentions.It was a great environment.What Bastyr provided with regard to my education made me feel very equipped to start a practice. You still get nervous being on your own, but at the same time I felt very confident with the training I received.

And it's not just about the four or five years you spend in school. After you graduate, you have friendships that will last a lifetime. You can always reach out to your colleagues regarding a difficult case, and they are there to help you. My friends from Bastyr are still my greatest resources.

What’s new with your practice?

We’ve taken on two more naturopathic physician associates, Dr. Siobhan Hanlon, who is a Bridgeport graduate, and Dr. Anne Williams, a graduate from the Bastyr class of 2012. Siobhan practices directly with me in the Long Island office, and Anne works with Peter in the NYC office. I’m in the process of writing a book and Peter’s in the process of writing his third book. While most of our lecturing has been to fellow physicians or the public, we are speaking more and more at corporate functions. Most recently at Barclays Bank and Baron’s Financial Services. This underscores how naturopathic medicine is wanted and needed in every arena. Whatever your occupation is, you can benefit from our therapeutics.

We’re constantly lecturing and doing media work because once the community understands the necessity of having a naturopathic physician in their health care team, we can create an even stronger movement for licensure.

We’re always doing different types of health programs here in our offices – detox, weight loss, etc. After practicing for 10 years, it is still a fantastic profession.

What are you learning about yourself through your work as a healer?

I think I’ve learned a lot more patience. I’ve learned more about my capabilities not only as a physician but also as a business owner.

Also, I'm learning that patients can be teachers. Like your children, patients are wonderful mirrors. You hear your recommendations for yourself, or they provide insights that you didn’t think about. It is a wonderful dynamic that is very fulfilling.

See Dr. LoGiudice's recipe for coconut pancakes.

And watch her talk natural sleep aids on the Katie Couric show: