Carl Hangee Bauer

A History of Naturopathic Medicine in California

By Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
San Francisco, CA

Here is my story:


In 1985, at 32 years of age and upon finishing my 1st year residency at Bastyr, my wife Michele and I moved to San Francisco. I had kept in touch with Dr. David Field, my friend from Pacific College of Naturopathic Medicine. He had moved on to Portland and NCNM after PCNM folded to complete his education, and moved to San Francisco the year before. We both wanted to be licensed but in those days California had no licensing for Naturopathic Doctors. The best path at that time was to complete additional training to gain a license in acupuncture which would permit one to diagnose and treat, order labs, recommend herbal, nutritional and homeopathic medicine and, of course, practice acupuncture. It was as close as we could get to practice naturopathic medicine in a limited but legal way. I followed his lead and started acupuncture school in SF. During that time, David and I got together with a few other NDs here in California and decided to found an association to bring together the 50 or so NDs in the state and organize to build community and to promote naturopathic medicine. That was the birth of the California Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In November 1985, we had the first meeting in my home; 17 people attended, and the main topic of interest was getting NDs licensed in California. It was the beginning of a movement and a friendship, both professional and personal that has persisted to this day. In 1989 I graduated and was licensed as an acupuncturist, and founded the SOMA Acupuncture and Natural Health Clinic in San Francisco. It was a one-person operation at first, and I built my practice slowly and gradually in the South of Market district of San Francisco over the next 9 years.

Michele came on in the early 90’s after ending her job as a CFO for a corporate communications company and took over administrative functions, which encouraged growth. In those days the AIDS epidemic was a huge issue in SF, and I joined the SF City Health Plan and treated many people with HIV. I also joined the Immune Enhancement Project as a board member. IEP provided low to no cost health care to patients with HIV/AIDS. During this time my practice grew rapidly, but I was still confined to the limits of the acupuncture scope of practice. That was OK for the most part. I learned the amazing power of acupuncture and professionally grew and gained experience. Meanwhile, the CANP continued to grow and move toward the time we could educate the legislature and the public as to the benefits of naturopathic medicine. I was, at times, CANP President, Secretary, Treasurer, and newsletter publisher. The CANP was well organized and began initial legislative efforts in Sacramento, hiring our first lobbyist, organizing lobby days, and the like. We learned a lot during this period of growth, organizational maturity and legislative savvy—when to move forward, when to pull back and hold so our bill wouldn’t be defeated, how to build coalitions and meet with stakeholders who shared our goals, opposed our goals, or just were ignorant as to what we represented. That year I also found a larger brick and mortar clinic site two blocks from my Potrero Hill home and moved the practice there where it remains today, 21 years later. I brought on another LAc, a massage therapist and a number of allied health care practitioners into the Potrero Hill practice.

The early 2000s was a major time of activity with naturopathic licensure. The CANP had a strong and growing membership, and many people and groups engaged in our licensing efforts. Dr Sally LaMont, Dr Beth Pimental Wotton, Dr Harry Swope and Dr Tara Levy, as well as others, stepped into leadership roles, and the pace of licensure accelerated. We engaged new lobbyists including Don Brown and Chuck Cole who had deep ties in Sacramento and who guided our organization well on our path to licensure. The entire naturopathic community stepped in to provide aid and support, and in particular David Matteson and Sandy Cutler from Bastyr University. Senator John Burton, the Senate Pro Tem, authored our bill and at one point ordered the California Medical Association who opposed us (of course) to visit Bastyr where they learned about naturopathic education. They returned very impressed which in part softened CMA opposition. Finally, in 2003, our bill passed through the California legislature, and Governor Gray Davis, in one of his last actions as California Governor, signed our licensing bill into law. With the stroke of a pen, California licensing allowed over 37 million people access to licensed naturopathic medical care.
This development, of course, changed my San Francisco practice considerably. We decided to incorporate, changed our clinic name to San Francisco Natural Medicine (SFNM), and positioned the clinic as the premier naturopathic medical clinic in San Francisco. We hired or contracted with a number of naturopathic doctors over the past 14 years. The clinic became credentialed as a CNME residency site through Bastyr University, and to date we have hosted six 1st year residents. In this time we have had many years of growth and harmony and a tough year or two as well. I have come to realize that for long term businesses there are cycles, which can challenge, enlighten and test those who own and manage them.

While I have continued to practice acupuncture, I do less of that now and more treatment of chronic disease, in particular chronic digestive issues, integrative cancer therapies, and immune system imbalances. I have found my 60’s to be my busiest time of practice.
The scope of practice of naturopathic medicine has greatly increased the modalities and approaches offered by myself as well as my associate doctors. We onboarded IV therapies about 10 years ago that we use on many of our patients, and SFNM is currently building a regenerative medicine department. SFNM currently has 3 NDs and 3 administrative staff, and the business grows most years. Statewide there are over 900 licensed NDs. Many are thriving in their practices and bringing our medicine to millions in California.
In 2019, SFNM celebrates our 30th year providing naturopathic care to people all over the Bay Area and beyond.

Naturopathic Advocates

The CNDA is working to educate state legislative and insurance agencies as well as the public on the benefits of naturopathic medicine. We will continue to build relationships in the naturopathic community in an effort to optimize the impact of the naturopathic doctors in our state.