Michelle Qaqundah, ND, FABNO is a naturopathic oncology specialist and Italian-trained chef, currently practicing in Lucca, Italy. She is the founder of Mediterranean Life Wellness™, an organization focused on education regarding the Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle through international lecturing, medical journal articles and hands-on experience during a week-long Tuscan retreat. Participants have the opportunity to learn how to cook the Mediterranean Diet with her while enjoying excursions to the major sites of Tuscany. Dr. Qaqundah is the past director of naturopathic medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and the past president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP). She graduated from NCNM 2002, completed a CTCA residency, and joined the OncANP Board from 2006-2010 serving as Treasurer, Vice President, and then President. Dr. Qaqundah was part of a small team and the sole clinician in implementing the start up of a new cancer treatment hospital in Philadelphia (CTCA) which eventually grew to include 9 naturopathic physicians and trained over 10 naturopathic oncology residents. Dr. Qaqundah is a well-loved teacher and mentor to many naturopathic doctors and patients.
Of note: Dr. Qaqundah was recently interviewed by Alice Fong, ND. Dr. Fong produced a short video for her Healing Around the World project. Please see this video below:
How did you get into Naturopathic Oncology?
I became interested in oncology during my Bachelor’s Human Biology degree. I had an incredible opportunity to do in vitro research for my thesis applying botanical extracts to multi-drug resistant small cell lung cancer cell lines. We found a ray of hope for this deadly type of lung cancer with extracts that were successful in decreasing cell populations. My research mentor, Dr. David Sadava, knew that I was heading to naturopathic medical school and felt that I was destined to work directly with patients rather than pursue research. He gave me the advice to avoid clinical oncology as it was too depressing. I spent the next 4 years at NUNM trying to find another area of expertise that I was drawn to. In the end, I felt the calling of oncology and found that it was uplifting to be able to help people who needed it most. During my naturopathic oncology residency at CTCA, I was heartened to see how much of a difference we can make in these people’s lives.
What do you do on your down time and/or what do you do for fun?
I love to cook! I love to go to the market to buy fresh produce and talk with the elder Italian ladies about how to prepare it. I also like to spend as much time as I can outdoors. I like to walk the old trade route paths that I find in my neighborhood and spend time in my olive grove and garden. We have just finished with the olive pruning and now that Spring has finally sprung here in Tuscany, I am happily planting my herbs, veggies and flowers.
What are you most grateful for in your practice of Naturopathic oncology?
I am very grateful for the teachers that I have had along my path of naturopathic oncology helping me learn the facts, how to find the facts and how to channel my empathy in order to continue to help. I am grateful for the doctors whom I have been honored to teach, what they have in turn taught me and to see the amazing things that they have created. I am mostly grateful to my patients, who have taught me the most about how to help, about life and death and have given me a sense of purpose.