Report on Professional Advancement: 900 Gather for Naturopathic Conference with Holistic MDs
Summary: Over 900 NDs,
MDs and others gathered August 12-18, 2008 at the Arizona Biltmore for
the annual convention of the American Association of Naturopathic
Physicians (AANP). The Cleveland Clinic sponsored continuing medical
education credits for medical doctors learning from NDs at the NDs
conference, a first. Three score members of the American Holistic
Medical Association (AHMA) attended, mixing things up in meetings, on
the dance floors and in the pools. A plenary panel and private luncheon
convened leaders of 7 national professional and educational
organizations to consider joint policy efforts. Expansion of a residency program was described. AANP executive director
Karen Howard announced that a Congressional Resolution, developed by
the AANP, had been introduced to advance wellness and empowerment in
any medical reform plan. Presentations on international opportunities
in at the Harvard-Dubai Healthcare City and in Nicaragua added additional spice to the offerings. Here is
a look at the naturopathic medical profession through the lens of one of the most robust, future-thinking practitioner
gatherings in recent years.
1. Some recent AANP history from an interested party …
Roughly 100 years ago, I served in the formative period of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) as their first paid (somewhat) executive director.
Actually, it was 1989-1993, but with each integrative healthcare year
equal to 6 normal years, that’s almost a century. While I have not been
directly involved with the AANP since 1996, I have continued to observe
the profession’s organizational development with interest.
And the developments in the last decade, which underpin the action at
the recently concluded 2008 conference, have been robust. The
profession organized a Naturopathic Coordinating Council for leaders of
all of the profession’s organizations to meet twice each year and share
action steps. The AANP began an annual lobby day in Washington, DC. As
a profession in which 75%-80% of its new doctors are females and which
is seeking to raise the number of states in which its members can be
licensed to practice, a potentially brilliant strategic move was made
to succesfully place executive director Karen Howard on the board of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.
to holistic medical doctors and holistic nurses has led to
participation in new coalitions. Regular support from holistic MDs for
expansion of licensing has been guaranteed. Meantime, the
organization’s operating budget has doubled since 2003 to $1,300,000
annually. The AANP has escaped red ink and developed a substantial
operating reserve for an organization of its size.
The 2008 convention, in which the AANP partnered with the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), offered a sense of what the might come next for the AANP with author and integrative cancer expert Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, serving as president.
2. Opening up the ND guild to collaboration and coalition with MDs and others
The naturopathic medical “tribe” – just 4500 licensed practitioners in
America – may be viewed as a sort of vanguard for integrative practice.
In the 1980s, the modern profession’s
leaders set standards for a deep, rich, residential, integrative
medical education, long before such a concept had begun to
germinate in conventional medical education. That “integrative
medicine” is presently mainly associated with medical doctors is
sometimes the cause of bitterness. (See Time for a Heretical Model? Ballard, Quinn, Manahan & Simpson on ‘Integrative Medicine,”
July 29, 2008.) The decision to co-locate the conference with the AHMA
was controversial. Some NDs wondered if a tribal experience would be
compromised. Others saw their tribe expanding. Debate was the subject of some excellent back-and-forth. (See Expanding the Family: More Comments of Holistic MDs and NDs on Their Co-Convening in 2008, February 24, 2008.)
But while any healthcare profession in this era serves
patients by viewing its work as necessarily focusing on team and new
inter-disciplinary relationships, such a small group as the NDs must
act through collaboration and coalition to realize its mission. And
this requires a change in perception among its members. This change
seemed to be facilitated at the conference by the selection of
keynotes. The first day featured a conversation with Dianne Connelly, PhD, MAc, co-founder of Tai Sophia Institute.
Connelly explored the “language of love for the treatment room” through
images, poetry, song and anecdote, before the attendees dipped into
their more typical fare of such topics as “Risk Factors Potentiating
Human Papillomavirus Pathenogenesis and Evidence of Natural Teratment
Options: A Review of the Literature” and “Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer –
Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment Options.” (Through the work of AHMA, attending MDs were awarded 12.5 CMEs for such content through the Cleveland
The next morning, attendees were again pulled out of their left-brains
to a wild, shamanic ride into “shaking medicine” by psychologist Bradford Keeney, PhD.
This connection with primal healing energy seemed to open the audience to
core mission rather than guild mission, to inclusion and connection
across the disciplines. They were also prepared for the shared
challenge of transforming U.S. healthcare as presented in the 3rd
keynote by philosopher and clinician Nortin Hadler, MD, author of Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America.
If connecting with one’s healer self is insufficient grounds for
reaching across to healers of other stripes, Hadler’s iteration of the
medical system’s awful problems argued that the naturopathic profession
certainly needs some membership extender to succeed in being a
significant contributor in transforming this mess.
3. Two MDs honored with ND leaders in successful Minnesota licensing
Many non-MD professionals have little respect for the challenges
academic MDs face in trying to secure new footholds for integrative
education and practice inside conventional academic health
institutions. Just so, few MDs grasp the Sisyphysian commitment it
takes to go back to a state legislature session after session,
organizing, fundraising and educating to pass licensing for a formerly
unrecognized profession. With small numbers, and licensing in just 15
states, legislative success in new states for naturopathic physicians is
arduous. When successful, it is celebrated.
Leaders of the Minnesota Association of Naturopathic Physicians‘ (MnANP) such as Helen Healy, ND and Tom Stowall, ND (now deceased) began their effort to pass licensing in the late 1980s. At
the AANP conference, the MnANP finally had their moment on the AANP
stage. This year, they finally gained licensing status. Healy was
there, together with the current president, Leslie Vilensky, ND.
What was new, and partly an outgrowth of the AANP’s strategic design, is that the
group that was called to the stage to be honored also included Bill
Manahan, MD, a long-time holistic medical leader (and Integrator adviser) and medical educator and integrative clinician Carolyn Torkelson, MD. Torkelson’s professional work includes practice as a holistic doctor and service as a representative for the University of Minnesota’s integrative medicine team on the Clinical Care Working Group of the 41-member Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. The message: MDs and NDs working together created this new healthcare opportunity for citizens of Minnesota.
4. Naturopathic Education and Research Consortium advances ND residencies
Another up-by-the-bootstraps aspect of the
naturopathic profession’s development which would not be known to their
MD colleagues is the process for creation of residencies. Federal
support allows medical doctors to take these for granted. Literally
billions of governmental funding underwrites this part of conventional
medical education. Not a single federal dollar supports naturopathic
(NERC) to offer community-based residencies for NDs. The 501c3
organization addresses a widespread interest in the profession to
expand clinical training opportunities for graduating naturopathic
physicians beyond the few residencies available through the
profession’s teaching clinics. Each NERC residency must be accredited
through the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education
(CNME), the profession’s federally-recognized accrediting agency. A specific
focus of the NERC residencies is on educating practitioners in
“community and collaborative medicine” through work in practices of MD
specialists in their communities.
The Hudson-Beeson team reported at the AANP meeting that the program, which began with residencies at their Portland, Oregon and Billings,
Montana offices, respectively, has expanded to include additional
accredited programs in Seattle, Hawaii and Colorado. An oncology
residency, an international residency and an integrative clinical
residency in the office of Integrator adviser Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA
are among new sites under development. (
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