By Bill Benda, MD
I have always found AANP annual conventions fascinating, although exhausting, most likely because as a non-ND I attend exclusively as Board member, lecturer, and journalist. No alumni reunions or interesting practice enhancement presentations for me, replaced instead by meeting after meeting after presentation after exhibitor appreciation after AANP after HOD after SALT after NMSA after NDI, with a final acronym of zzzzzzzzz.
And still I look forward to it every year. There is something about this particular field of medicine, a certain cultural attitude I resonate with. Probably a déjà vu of my formative years in the 60s and 70s, life relatively unencumbered by social protocol or political correctness. Only it seems I get to exhibit less inhibition this time around; as I am not a native of this tribe, I am a bit more free to travel in and out of the lectures and social gatherings. A bit more lonely as well - a hybrid of participant and observer, collecting thoughts and perspectives rather than disbursing tales of what I’ve been up to since “the last time I saw you.”
The crowd in the conference center seemed a bit more sparse than prior years, fully expected by staff and convention planners in economically challenged times (although the hotel bar appeared to not suffer from inattention). And there were a few novel presentations, such as the “naturopathic approach to global warming” and “here come electronic medical records.” But this is the year that I discovered the real future of naturopathic medicine, unwittingly lured by an innocent request to fill the role of moderator at the annual ZRT Cup, an answer-the-medical-question competition between our seven naturopathic medical colleges for bragging rights, a trophy, and a check for $10,000. I find these students to be a treasure – innocent and worldly, full of desire to change a world that still confuses their (and our) minds and souls. I can easily perceive a distinct difference between them and us, a touch of purity and excitement and energy (in them). I don’t know where they coalesce in the evenings, but it doesn’t appear to be at the bar, at least not before this writer’s curfew. I imagine they are off somewhere strategizing how to fix this global mess we have gotten ourselves into. Or drinking in their rooms. Who knows?
Back to the ZRT cup competition. The early rounds were populated primarily by students participating or awaiting their turn, along with a few institutional mentors. But the competition was hot, with each panelist hungry for the opportunity to elevate their school to the top of a seven-institution academic pyramid. And one by one they rose or fell, with the final round to be between Bastyr and NCNM the following evening.
And what an evening it was. Beautiful room, full bar, and packed standing room only with students and graduate supporters (quite noisy supporters at that). As moderator I had my back to the crowd, but could feel the heat of expectation on my backside. No place for goofs on my part here – there was far more than the $10,000 prize at stake. NCNM won handily, although not so much from superior knowledge as from a somewhat risky strategy that paid off far more than left them stranded: hit the buzzer early, and trust you’ll know or figure out the right answer. A bit of aggressive behavior coupled with confidence bordering on cockiness, which certainly will come in handy when they enter our healthcare system.
Following the night of the ZRT came days of keynotes, and yes, more meetings. The Gala on Saturday night was quite sweet, and thankfully we finally had a band playing music I could dance to. After the final set, its off to the hotel bar, where last calls were called for over a half hour before security showed up to inform the naturopathic crowd that, yes, we are done for the night.
Sunday is the day most conventioneers reserve as a travel-home-hung-over day, but for our young charges it marks the annual Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) conference. I won’t list the speakers or content for the weary reader, but will emphasize that this fledgling organization already has a seat at the AANP board table, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the Naturopathic Coordinating Council (NCC), and the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC). If any of you eyeing this diatribe truly wish to invest in the future of your profession, support this organization. Now. With money. And time. And volunteerism in any way possible. www.naturopathicstudent.org.
Spice: Voluntary Zombie Apocalypse?
6 months ago