Naturopathic Schools Scrap Merger Plan

After months of deliberation and community feedback, Bastyr University and National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) have decided against moving forward with a proposed merger.

In a joint statement issued on November 7, Drs. Melanie Henriksen & Devin Byrd, the presidents of NUNM and Bastyr, respectively, stated that, “we believe at this time it is in the best interest of both communities to maintain our independent identities.”

Last June, the schools—which are the two oldest naturopathic medical schools in the country—had announced plans to merge and become a single institution. Citing a host of economic and demographic variables that make it increasingly difficult for small institutions like Bastyr and NUNM to remain operational, the leaders of the schools proposed the merger as a solution based on “strength in numbers.”

“Higher education research shows that a lot of things improve when a school has more than 1,000 students,” said NUNM’s Henricksen, in an online “town hall” meeting on the merger last summer. She noted that NUNM currently trains around 360 students at its Portland, Oregon campus, and Bastyr has around 750 between its two campuses.

Among the main goals of the proposed merger were: to create a combined student body of over 1,000, to allow faculty clinicians and students to use a common electronic health record system; to pool data for research projects; to eliminate curriculum redundancies, and provide a wider spectrum of learning opportunities to the combined student population.

“We believe at this time it is in the best interest of both communities to maintain our independent identities.”

When first announced, news of the potential merger surprised many in the naturopathic community, and there were strong voices for and against the plan, which all involved had admitted would be loaded with logistical challenges. In the end, it seems, the critics of the plan won out.

Months of due diligence between the two schools, focused on a thorough review of current and future programming, departmental capacities, academic compatibility, institutional culture, financial status, and long-term strategic goals led to the decision to abandon the merger plan.

In their November 7 statement, Henricksen and Byrd stressed that the decision “was not made lightly and in no way diminishes the strong bond our institutions share.” They state that both schools intend to maintain a collaborative relationship.

“We remain committed to nurturing and strengthening our existing relationship, collaborating on potential shared initiatives, and continuing to rally behind our shared commitment to natural medicine education.”


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