The joint name of Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic reflects the intersection of the two doctors working there. Kimberly Nearpass grew up in the Colorado Rockies, while Justin Pollack knew Oregon as home.
The doctors are currently celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their medical practice in downtown Frisco.
Naturopathy is an alternative approach to medicine based on holistic healing. Nearpass said she couldn’t think of a better place to work.
“Ten years later, we feel very fortunate to be in a community where we’ve been really accepted and become part of the health-care system here,” she said.
Walking into the clinic, the calming trickles of a small water fountain echo off shelves stacked high with dried herbs. A bag of loose-leaf pregnancy tea with red raspberry leaf, lemon balm, peppermint and oat straw rests in a wicker basket next to mother’s milk tea, to promote lactation. Jars of lemon peel, ginkgo leaf, milk thistle seeds, bottles of vitamins and minerals all offer different cures for ailments.
Over their decade of work, both doctors have become more specialized — Pollack focuses on allergies and the correlation with digestive issues, while Nearpass works on women’s health-care issues.
She said when they first arrived in Summit County, it was hard to start a business centered on people when they didn’t really know anyone. But over time the couple established good working relationships with patients and even traditional Western medicine doctors in the area.
Tracie Mears, manager and herbalist for Mountain-River, said more than anything the doctors’ positive reputation is what brings in customers.
“People want more of a natural alternative now,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success with different people in the county.”
Nearpass, petite and charismatic, served in the Peace Corps in Africa and as a naturalist guide in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia before beginning her naturopathic coursework. She graduated in 2003 from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, where Pollack completed his residency.
Pollack, tall with bright blue eyes and a friendly laugh, studied herbalism and volunteered in Central America before touring the United States on bike and working as an outdoor educator. He earned his Doctor of Naturopathy degree in 1999 from Bastyr University in Seattle. He is also a current adjunct faculty member of Colorado Mountain College, where he teaches science classes including anatomy and human nutrition.
“The best education we get is from our patients,” Nearpass said. “I’ve learned more from them than sitting in a classroom. They teach you, and you have to do research. It’s fun when we get something different we don’t usually see.”
The clinic has patients who use Pollack and Nearpass as their only doctors, but the majority of people also have a run-of-the-mill medical doctor. Nearpass said there is a whole range of what people need for when it comes to health, and no one could ever cover it all.
“We feel fortunate to fill one part of that spectrum and be in a community where everyone understands that, for the most part,” she said.
In June 2013, Colorado bill HB 13-111 created the first registration program in the state for naturopathic doctors who hold four-year degrees. Before, there was no registration or path to licensure for naturopathic doctors here. Currently, the couple holds licenses in Utah, but that will hopefully change come January.
“It will protect the public so they know who has the training and who hasn’t,” Nearpass said. “Up until now you could put up a sign that said, ‘naturopathic doctor’ and people would have no way to differentiate.”
The primary therapeutics the doctors use are herbs, nutrients or homeopathic remedies. Pollack said he’s solved a number of cases with just a simple dietary change. He’s helped people go back to eating meat after avoiding it for years, or visit a dude ranch after curing a horse allergy.
“I talk to patients about their lifestyle and educate them about things they could do different — mind body and spirit — to improve their health,” he said.
The two prefer to use local herbs whenever possible. Mears does most of the ordering for the clinic, making the most of her herb school degree.
“For everything we carry, I try to get as close to Colorado as I can,” she said.
While it’s hard to pick favorites, Pollack said he likes using the herb motherwort frequently because it helps calm people’s anxiety and works well for overstressed people. Nearpass said if she had only one herb, she would choose licorice root, because it’s an anti-viral, helps with adrenal glands, give people energy and balances hormones.
“We see amazing things all the time, we see people getting better and people getting healthy,” she said.
Inside Mountain-River, the air is tinted with an earthy quality, the cool blue and brown hues of the back workrooms accentuated by natural clay walls and wool carpets. The couple purchased this new downtown location in April 2012 after nine years of renting another space.
“One of the neat things that’s changed is how the awareness of what we do, and how well we do it, has grown,” Pollack said.
In the last 10 years, both doctors agree they have seen an increase in the growth of their business and desire for more natural medicine.
“There’s such a demand and interest for natural therapeutics,” Nearpass said. “It’s becoming more and more popular, because that’s the way people used to live.”
Nearpass said while there’s a high level of awareness, people often don’t know how to apply the information about natural remedies to their individual situations.
“There’s no one perfect diet or one perfect supplement everyone should be taking,” she said. “We look at the individual person.”
In the future, Nearpass hopes to see a naturopathic school open in Colorado, and Pollack wants the country’s health care system to embrace alternative providers like himself and his wife.
“I hope people have an open mind about what we do here,” Mears said. “It’s not as alternative as people may think, it’s actually the way it’s always been done. In my mind, regular medicine is the alternative.”
Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic is located at 507 C Main St. in Frisco. More information can be found online at www.mountainriverclinic.com.