Sonoran University's History

Our Roots

In addition to the medicine and health sciences we teach and practice, it’s important to know about our long history in the Valley of the Sun providing education and care for those looking for an integrative approach. From our inception, we’ve blended new ways of learning and teaching with timeless principles of naturopathic and conventional medicine and healthcare.

Originally incorporated as Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (SCNM) in 1992, we welcomed our inaugural class of future naturopathic doctors in 1993. When our founder, Dr. Michael Cronin, first convened his co-founders Kyle Hawk Cronin, Hugh Hawk, Conrad Kail, Dana Keaton, and Deborah Mainville-Knight, the number of licensed naturopathic physicians in Arizona numbered less than 40. Today, over 800 licensed Naturopathic Physicians practice in Arizona.[1]

We quickly outgrew our first home and moved to the current Tempe campus in 1996. The campus tripled in size, starting with the purchase of the Medical Center building in 2010. In 2015, the LEED-Platinum Lim Commons, established a campus hub that includes a café, Medicinary, library, teaching kitchen, classrooms, and the Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine (offering a patient-centered non-opioid approach to chronic pain).[2]

Our Community Health program began in 1995 and together with our partners, our student clinicians and physicians have provided free care to tens of thousands of women, men, and children.  Patients include children in impoverished school districts, domestic violence survivors, women and children recovering from homelessness and trauma, individuals coping with HIV/AIDS and patients recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.[3]

Sonoran University has a rich history of research. A grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2001 in collaboration with Gaia Herbs fueled a passion for botanical research spanning the following two decades. Gaia founder, Ric Scalzo, invested in this passion with a transformational gift funding a state-of-the-art Biosafety Level 2 laboratory on Sonoran University’s campus that opened in 2021.[4]

In 2019, Sonoran University’s Academic Programs added the College of Nutrition and subsequently launched two Master of Science programs: MS Clinical Nutrition and MS Nutrition Business Leadership. Paving the way for the future of higher education, both Masters programs were built to be taught 100% online for a best-of-class learning experience.[5]

Anyone who has visited the campus will tell you that Sonoran University is much more than a bricks and mortar academic institution… It’s a place where passionate, like-minded students, faculty and staff come together to make a difference in people’s lives. And, that feeling of a deeper commitment is tangible on campus.

Throughout the decades, our student body grew from its inaugural class of 42 to its current size. To this day, we remain committed to our founders’ vision of being a force for change to help transform healthcare. Welcome to Sonoran University of Health Sciences.


Key Dates


Incorporation as Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (SCNM)


First class begins studies


First community clinic offered in our Community Health program


First Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine graduation


First offering of our residency program


Accreditation received from the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education


Received NIH grant in collaboration with Gaia Herbs


Founded Sage Foundation for Health to support Community Health program


Received institutional accreditation from Higher Learning Commission


Regenerative medicine techniques (Prolotherapy, Stem Cell, Platelet Rich Plasma) added to curriculum


Medical Center relocated to Tempe campus


Lim Commons (originally Community Commons) built as the first building our institution envisioned and built from the ground up.


Sage Foundation for Health qualifies for the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit


Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine established thanks to transformational philanthropy


Transformational philanthropy propels the institution forward with a gift that establishes the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research


School of Nutrition is established and the Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition program launches


Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research, in collaboration with Arizona State University, conducts research on botanicals that may be effective in combating Covid-19


Master of Science in Nutrition Business Leadership program launches


First Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition graduation


SCNM becomes Sonoran University of Health Sciences


Tempe Elementary School District Clinic opens


St. Vincent de Paul Washington St. Shelter Clinic opens


School of Mental Health and Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program launches