Dr. Stephen Messer

Homeopathy Scholarship

Dr. Stephen Messer is an esteemed professor and chair of the Homeopathy and Pharmacology Department at Sonoran. This scholarship began in 2013 in honor of Dr. Messer’s significant impact on the study and practice of homeopathy. The scholarship supports students interested in homeopathy.

The recipient of this scholarship must demonstrate a commitment to the study and practice of homeopathy and exhibit intellectual curiosity, generosity and integrity – all characteristics modeled by Dr. Messer. This scholarship is awarded to a 3rd or 4th year student active in clinic, enrolled fulltime and in good academic standing.

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Recent Recipient: Heather Dirkmaat

Heather Dirkmaat is currently an honor student at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine on the Honors Pediatric track working on her doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine. She graduated with Bachelors of Arts in English from the University of Utah in 2009. She also has completed a Master of Biomedical Science from University of Northern Colorado and a Master of Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. She has been awarded three undergraduate research awards along with a grant. She is currently a research assistant under the supervision of Dr. Langland and presented her co-research project regarding Mastitis in dairy cows in 2021. She is currently researching botanical medicine at the Ric Scalzo Institute of Botanical Research and further elucidate possible treatment options for the Herpes virus. She has a love of homeopathy and currently shadows Dr. Jamie Oskin and Dr. Eric Udell at Arizona Natural Health Center. She will graduate in Fall 2022 and looks forward to the future.

Previous Recipients

Derek has always been interested in helping and serving those around him.  As a Junior in High school he became a Certified Nurse Assistant and worked at his local Nursing home in Washington State.  While attending Brigham Young University- Idaho, Derek again gravitated towards Medicine and got a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and an Associates of Nursing. As a Registered Nurse, Derek worked in Orthopedics, Behavioral Health, ICU/Cardiac Care Unit, and GI lab.  Though he loved to serve his patients, he desired to offer his patients more options than solely drugs and surgeries.  Derek was accepted into a prestigious Doctor of Nurse Practitioner Program.  Yet, as he was preparing for this program, Derek realized this path would not give him the skills to truly help his patients.  Derek then applied and got accepted at Sonoran in their Doctor Naturopathic Physician program.

As a future Naturopathic Physician, Derek feels more competent than ever to continue to help his patients find true health. While a student at Sonoran, Derek is learning the skills to become a practitioner who treats the whole person.  Derek is greatly appreciative to Dr Messer who has not only taught him the art of a homeopathy and how to be an effective physician, but provided means to continue his education at Sonoran.


Adriana Berusch Gerardino came to naturopathic medicine through a desire to change careers from the fashion industry into medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree in Contemplative Psychology with an emphasis in health and healing from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and spent the next two years preparing for naturopathic medical school by shadowing an experienced and licensed naturopathic doctor. At the time, observing her ND mentor was illuminating as she had never seen a healthcare provider offer such comprehensive and compassionate medical care. Those two years solidified her decision to pursue a career in naturopathic medicine.

Adriana’s favorite part of being a student at Sonoran is working and learning within Sonoran’s various community clinics. Serving Phoenix’s Spanish speaking population is the best part of her day.

As a student nearing graduation, this scholarship is helping her pursue additional training and education in the realms of mental health and addiction medicine, two areas of specialty that Adriana is particularly interested in offering to her future patients.

Originally from Westchester, New York, Scott Spiridigliozzi always had an interest in nutrition. After receiving his undergrad in Biology, a friend introduced him to Naturopathic Medicine, which became the perfect opportunity to combine his interests in science, nutrition and helping others into a career.

In Scott’s scholarship essay, he wrote about an experience treating a 10-year-old boy with ADHD. The boy was taking the medication Ritalin but still experienced anger outbursts and was unable to focus in school. After consulting with Dr. Messer, the overseeing physician, the boy was prescribed a homeopathic remedy. After one-month, the boy’s parents said his symptoms had improved by 80% and he was able to stop taking Ritalin. This experience was particularly impactful to Scott since he plans to specialize in child behavioral medicine.

When Scott is not in class or studying, he loves to cook, play guitar and sing. He even participated in the last two Sonoran talent shows where he played his guitar and sang publically for the first time, a huge personal accomplishment. When asked why he enjoys being a student at Sonoran, he told us “I love the connection between people here. You can pick out anyone and they are incredibly friendly and willing to help. Everyone is down to earth. You create connections fast and it almost feels like each person is your long lost best friend.”

To help further Scott’s education, this scholarship allowed him the opportunity to join Naturopaths Without Borders on a trip to Haiti to practice medicine and help those in need. After graduation, he hopes to get the first year residency at Sonoran followed by the homeopathy residency. Eventually he plans to go back to New York or Connecticut to focus on pediatrics. Scott has a lot to offer the world and we wish him the best of luck after graduation!

When we spoke with Tanya, she told us about the case she wrote about in her scholarship application and how it impacted her. “This was a very meaningful case because the patient outcome was incredible.” The patient Tanya referred to was an eleven-year-old boy experiencing delusions. He even told his mother he wanted to hurt himself. The child and his parents came to the Sonoran Medical Center hoping to find a homeopathic approach to treatment.

Tanya explained the complexity of this case as she and her supervising physician considered all options including a referral to a psychiatrist. “First and foremost we are physicians and we need to make sure our patients are safe and getting properly evaluated. We needed to know if there was an underlying psychiatric issue.” In this particular case, homeopathic treatment worked and the boy is doing much better. Tanya shared, “This proved to me how powerful homeopathy can be. It changed the family’s lives.” Tanya still occasionally calls the parents to check in and see how their son is doing.

Out of the core characteristics modeled by Dr. Messer, Tanya most identifies with intellectual curiously. Referring to graduation, she told us, “This is going to be the end of my formal education and to continue to grow and learn as a physician, I need to be curious, want to do research, learn more and stay on top of everything.” When she started clinic rotations and working with patients she was finally able to start forming her own opinions and becoming critical of what she learned and how to apply it to patients.

After graduation, Tanya will begin a two-year residency in Montana, where she plans to practice primary care and start introducing homeopathy to the clinic. She is excited to ski and snowboard during her free time and is thankful to be only 10 hours from her hometown in Edmonton Alberta, Canada, which beats the 33-hour drive from Tempe.

This scholarship has helped Tanya financially and allowed her to reflect on her what her experiences have taught her. She shared, “I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had here at Sonoran and all the teachers who have helped me. I am very appreciative of Dr. Messer and having him as a mentor. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life in this program. It feels like home.” Tanya is excited to begin working as a physician but Sonoran will always have a special place in her heart. We wish her all the best as she begins this exciting new chapter.

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