When the upcoming academic year begins in September, the Valley’s only school for naturopathic medicine will have a new name to go with its new degree programs.
The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine announced it will now go by Sonoran University of Health Sciences.
The school said the evolution has been taking place internally since 2020, when two new degree programs launched for students interested in plant-based medicine: the fully-online Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition degree program and the Master of Science in Nutrition Business Leadership degree. The newly-named Sonoran University also celebrated the opening of the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research recently, with more changes on the way as the school grows from a college to a university.
That growth warranted a new name, according to Dr. Paul Mittman, the school's president and CEO.
“We started offering more programs, so SCNM didn’t quite capture or wasn’t as inclusive a name given that we were expanding into other disciplines,” he said. “In 2018, we received a large gift to create a research institute. We had done clinical research over history, committed to new research, treatments, cures from medicinal plants and added an expanded portfolio of programmatic offerings. It made the decision to become a university clear to us.”
The university worked with branding company twoxfour to come up with a new name, which included a deep drive into the ethos and values of the school, as well as what it hoped to represent in the future.
“How do you come up with something that isn’t already taken and doesn’t have any baggage, that’s inspiring but not too out there?” Mittman asked.
A survey of 400 students, 140 employees and plenty of alums resulted in the new name, encapsulating the unique desert ecosystem the Tempe-based school calls home. Sonoran has resided on eight acres of land at 2140 E. Broadway Road since 1996.
“Sonoran is the desert where we are,” said Mittman. “It’s pretty unique in the diversity of ecosystems within the desert. Its plants have plenty of medicinal uses and there’s even a medicinal animal, the gila monster, which is the basis for a diabetes drug. There’s beautiful imagery there and we can use that to paint a picture of the university.”
Now that the two new degree programs have been underway for a little while, the school is looking to the future. Mittman said he hopes to implement mental health programs eventually and expand the school’s involvement in Tempe after meeting with Mayor Corey Woods. Sonoran University currently has partnerships with two South Phoenix school districts and hopes to form a similar one with a Tempe school district to help students.
The community can also make appointments or walk into the two clinics on the Tempe campus – the pain center and the nutrition center – for acupuncture and more.
Mittman said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the university and its clinics busier than ever as people focus more on their overall health.
“Our enrollment is at an all-time high,” he said. “People really appreciate how important it is to take care of ourselves and the programs we offer, degrees or the type of care we provide emphasizes empowering the individual to be in control of their health. [The pandemic] drove home the importance of wellness instead of just treating a disease.”