Dr. Paul Mittman


Paul Mittman, ND, EdD, became President of Sonoran January 23, 2000. In honor of his 20th anniversary as President of Sonoran, Judith and Charles Backus founded this scholarship endowment.

Dr. Mittman holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from National College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. He practiced naturopathic medicine for 25 years, 12 years in private practice and 13 after joining Sonoran. His 1990 study on the use of Urtica dioica in the treatment of Allergic Rhinitis was the first randomized controlled trial on a botanical medicine published in a peer-reviewed journal (Planta Medica).

Dr. Mittman received the American Association of Naturopathic Profession (AANP) President’s Award in 1990, was the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association Physician of the Year in 2000 and the AANP Physician of the Year in 2007. Dr. Mittman leads by example, following a healthy diet and races as a Masters 60+ cyclist.

“We have been associated with Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine throughout these first 20 years of Dr. Mittman’s presidency. We have made an initial donation to establish an endowed student scholarship in Dr. Mittman’s name to formally recognize and honor all of his contributions to the success of Sonoran. We hope that others who wish to honor and thank Dr. Mittman, will also contribute to the “Dr. Paul Mittman Scholarship” Endowment. It can thus grow into a Major Force that can attract and support outstanding students to the College.” – Chuck and Judy Backus, 2020.

Recent Recipient: Monica Graffius

Monica Graffius, an Arizona native, received her Pre-Professional Health Science degree and Psychology Minor from Arizona State University. Throughout her undergraduate degree, she worked as a Clinical Research Associate at Celerion, a phase one pharmaceutical research facility. Throughout this time she traveled both locally and internationally to Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica as a bilingual medical volunteer following her inclination toward community medicine. After receiving her degree, she worked as the Associate Executive Director of the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children. There, she helped develop the capital campaign and facilitate the fundraising of the first one million dollars towards Ava’s Tree House, a pediatric cancer support center that came to fruition in September of 2022.

She began her pursuit to become a naturopathic physician in 2020 at Sonoran University of Health Sciences, becoming part of the graduating Fall class of 2024. She currently serves as President of the Naturopathic Without Borders Club, Social Liaison of the Oncology Club, and is Managing Partner of Sprucing Spaces, a family-owned business.

Previous Recipients

Savannah Warner is in her second year of her Master’s in Clinical Nutrition at Sonoran University. She found her passion for nutrition while in her undergraduate degree in Exercise and Wellness at Brigham Young University. During this period Savannah found that nutrition was critical in her own recovery from Chronic Lyme Disease. She started her Master’s degree just a few months after graduating BYU, and has thoroughly enjoyed the deeper dive into nutrition, metabolism, nutrigenomics, and personalized nutrition. She has experienced the power food has as medicine and wants to share how it can change lives for individuals dealing with chronic disease, and for those seeking prevention and longevity.

Savannah has worked with older adults, and young adults with autism and other learning difficulties to learn basic nutrition and wellness principles to improve quality of life and independent living. These experiences illustrated first-hand how education and small interventions can help people make healthier decisions every day. Receiving this scholarship has solidified Savannah’s focus on accessible nutrition and a growth mindset for herself as well as clients on an individual and community level.

Neha Bhatt is a current fourth-year naturopathic medical student at Sonoran University of Health Science, formerly known as Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, Arizona. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of California-Irvine in Biological Sciences with double minors in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Prior to medical school, Neha worked in education and was involved in social justice movements, particularly supporting low-income, LGBTQ* communities of color. She is also a Reiki Master and holds a strong belief that trauma is a root cause for a variety of health concerns and that trauma-informed care is the future of medicine.

Neha is passionate about naturopathic medicine, especially in combination with evidence-based clinical practice. While in medical school, she embraced her love of teaching and research through her work as Botanical Medicine Teaching Assistant, Medicine Making Lab Assistant, and Senior Research Assistant at the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research. Clinically, she has special interests in botanical medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, and hydrotherapy. Her areas of interest within her future practice will include treating concerns in women’s health, gender expansive health, gastrointestinal health, endocrinological health, mental health, and community health. Neha believes in the power of prevention, the healing power of nature, and the concept of doctor as teacher. In the future, she wants to create a non-profit to expand access to naturopathic medical care to those in need.

Lexi Parenti was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, MI. She has always wanted to be a pediatric physician. Lexi discovered her calling to naturopathic medicine while undergoing her own health concerns when attending Michigan State University for her bachelor’s degree in physiology with a minor in health promotion. Lexi came to Sonoran immediately following her undergraduate studies.

Lexi has worked as a hospital phlebotomist as well as nationally certified pharmacy technician. This experience has further developed her medical experience and integration with the allopathic world. Here at Sonoran, Lexi has been a class note taker for students requiring ADA accommodations, a tutor, a pharmacotherapeutics teaching assistant, and a GNMD review content developer. Her true passion is helping others and she thrives when teaching. The opportunity of this scholarship has impacted Lexi’s education by further solidifying the importance of helping those around you and to remember to care for yourself. It has allowed her the opportunity to take a step back and reflect the bigger pictures in both medical school and life. Thank you so much!

Lexi Parenti

Clara Sage Sartor was born and raised in Ashburn, Virginia.  Her interest in medicine started at an early age with a love for solving mysteries.  As a child, you could find her solving puzzles with her grandparents or playing Nancy Drew with her sister, who would later join the medical field as an MD.

After high school, she moved to Williamsburg, VA where she received her Bachelor’s in Mathematical Biology with a minor in French and Francophone studies which she’s studied for over 10 years.  Throughout her time at college, she worked part-time as a calculus tutor, as teaching has always been important to her.  After graduating, she worked as an ER scribe which confirmed for her that allopathic medicine was not her calling and that a more natural, integrative, and holistic approach better suited her principals and beliefs.

Receiving this scholarship helped Clara confirm her passion for leadership, not just in the field of medicine but towards diversity, inclusion, and equality.  As the daughter of two government workers and an INFJ personality type, political activism and social justice run deeply in her blood.  Her future plans include to continue teaching and practicing docere, to bring about equity, and to make naturopathic medicine more accessible to the marginalized and disenfranchised.

Support the Dr. Paul Mittman Scholarship Fund