In Memoriam: Konrad Kail, ND 1949-2011

Summary: Konrad Kail, ND was a leader in the re-birth of the naturopathic medical profession, and, as such, in the re-emergence of natural health care in US medical delivery. He died on July 18, 2011. Kail’s appetite for leadership was immense. His roles: president of his national association; awarded in-office researcher; state licensing board chair; NIH NCCAM adviser; managed naturopathic care entrepreneur; 25-year clinician; product formulator; doctor to a national ultimate Frisbee championship team; and board chair for a naturopathic medical college. From 1990-1992, Kail was a very close colleague of mine in a critical period in my professional life. We worked hard and played hard together. Here are my own remembrances plus inks to those of Holistic Primary Care editor Erik Goldman, AANP president Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc and SCNM president Paul Mittman, ND.


Konrad Kail, ND, 1949-2011

Konrad Kail, ND was an energetic, driving force behind the rebirth of the naturopathic medical profession. This obituary in Holistic Primary Care details some of Kail’s work. In his remembrance, Paul Mittman, ND wrote that Kail was “bigger than life, one whose accomplishments would fill
the resumes of 10 people.”

Konrad’s contributions crossed multiple domains: educator, clinician, professional leader and researcher. The list at the bottom
of this post highlights contributions in each area. One can read
the rough course of his profession’s modern history in that

From 1990-1992, Konrad and I
were in significant contact at least twice a week. Konrad was drafted into taking on the presidency of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
(AANP). I was then executive director of the organization, a position I
held from mid-1989 until January 1993. We talked during his lunch break
every Tuesday and Thursday, and on many other days or evenings in a given week.

Konrad’s wasn’t a place-holding
sort of presidency. The AANP was just getting its legs. The organization had only barely begun to have an office. Volunteerism was
its life-blood. Konrad was a perfect exponent of the “insanely committed” who lifted that profession from obscurity. He’d agree to doing something and crank it out, fast. We had our own mutual adoration society. He
called me “60-Hour Weeks.” 

were not infrequently interrupted by his clinical demands as we brainstormed the practical steps to grow a small organization into one that could best serve a re-emerging
medical field.
Konrad’s own workhorse ways made it easy for him to ask more of others. He recognized that while his profession was cash short, it was personnel-rich. Konrad announced to members a program he
styled “EPOP” (Each Person, One Project). Find a place you can contribute and do so! The AANP more than doubled in size during Konrad’s term.


Petie Kail and Konrad in 2008

Few who had the pleasure of knowing Kail
speak of him without mentioning his wife of 30 years, Petie. Together
they developed Naturopathic Family Medicine, their Phoenix-based
clinical practice. Konrad treated and together he and Petie cared for thousands of patients. When I’d
make my executive director to board president calls, Petie would answer
and, if Konrad was available, call out cheerily: “‘It’s Weeks.” She’d work the necessary patient business in and around the calls. In a
visit to Phoenix, Konrad gave me my first first spinal manipulation.
Petie heard my response to a long-overdue adjustment that rippled my vertebrae. She called out: “I see we have a giggler.” Konrad’s
physical medicine skills became
a regular benefit of our relationship whenever our work brought us into
physical proximity.

Konrad had a passion for promoting
real-world clinical outcomes.
He considered this documentation of what naturopathic doctors do to be critical to his
profession’s future. He pushed his fellow clinicians to engage in-office
research. Konrad practiced what he preached. He steadily documenting
cases, particularly with his allergy patients.

I was a happy
partner with Konrad in this area. To move this agenda,
Konrad led the AANP to create an annual award for in-office research. In one of the two conferences over which he presided as president, the AANP devoted its entire program, themed Into the Light,
to presentations on office-based observational outcomes.

We continued to share this passion for the ensuing 2 decades. I recall
Konrad’s deep frustration after he was appointed by Donna Shallala to serve on the first NIH National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Konrad argued for research on what naturopaths and other whole-person practitioners do. NCCAM director Stephen Straus, MD refused to act on
Konrad’s advice that researchers failed the public if they didn’t look at the whole
practice. Straus couldn’t be budged.

I will miss the opportunity to share with Konrad next month at the AANP conference in Phoenix about how the direction he promoted to Straus a decade ago seems finally to be gaining some traction in the real-world and disciplines focus of the 2011-2015 NCCAM Strategic Plan.

A story

The work with Konrad was never far from the play. And Konrad played hard: ultimate Frisbee, skiing, golf, Frisbee golf, biking, guitar, music. Our play was always laced with stories and strategies about our work, and with a good deal of humor.


Kail, right, with author and Pamela Snider, ND, August 2009: Each recently through cancer treatment

I recall one evening at Petie and Konrad’s home in one of my stay-overs. We were in their kitchen musing on the fanciful, mythical story lines concocted by some natural product companies to stir up enthusiasm for their business. We began jamming on a story line for a powerful immune stimulant. An herb from the Alaskan tundra. Tempered by the Arctic cold. Grows only in Grizzly shit. Somehow the power of that creature is passed into the plant. The combined power of the cold  – The principal seems to be like that of grapes that have to struggle creating the best wine – and the power of the Grizzly together produce a product with tremendous power in stimulating immune function and enhancing one’s energy. The product takes off. Finally, its visibility and widespread use stirs researchers to more thoroughly examine the product. The results come back. Konrad, in serious tone: “I am sorry to report that our assays show that it’s not bear shit at all. It’s bull-shit.”

Over the past decade, I mainly saw Konrad at the annual AANP convention. We sought each other out to catch up. Konrad was typically
cooking on a few new projects. He would enthusiastically share some
new scientific advance, forgetting that I hadn’t actually been trained as a doctor and had no idea, really, what he
was talking about.

Konrad was a unique mix. One would sometimes encounter a brusque, assertive “Yes, Sir!” He could be a bull in a China shop. Meantime, his big-bodied exterior was molded
around a huge heart.

Konrad’s diagnosis of brain cancer came just 6 weeks after my own for cancer of the tonsil in December 2008. His diagnosis was 7 months after that of our fellow colleague Pamela Snider, ND. The three of us were photographed together in August 2009. The friend who snapped it sent it on with this title: Survivors.

We count our life in our relationships. Konrad was a huge
one for me, in a very important period of my life. I am among the many
who are both grateful for having known and worked with him, and who will
miss him.


An Overview of Some Contributions of Konrad Kail, PA, ND


Clinical leadership

  • Operated Naturopathic Family Practice for 25
    years with his wife Petie Kail

  • Developed unique community models for involving patients in
    behavioral change

  • Formulated new natural product combinations

  • Continuously examined his clinical outcomes

  • Presented widely on clinical topics in integrative medicine

Professional leadership

  • 3rd president of the American Association of
    Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)

  • Chair of Arizona’s Naturopathic Board of Medical Examiners
  • Frequent media spokesperson

  • Developed models for inclusion of naturopathic doctors in
    managed care

Educational leadership

  • Co-founder of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM)

  • Founding Chair of the Board of SCNM

  • Clinic director of the SCNM teaching clinic

  • Member, Council on Naturopathic Medical Education

Research leadership

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Written by John Weeks

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