Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Their Generation

By Bill Benda, MD

I’ve experienced an epiphany in the past few weeks, keeping in mind of course that one man’s epiphany is another man’s delusion. As I reach the end of a decade attempting to build bridges between various integrative/holistic/CAM vocations, I’m beginning to think that a true inter-professional coalescence of energies and efforts to change the foundations of our healthcare system may happen in my lifetime, but not via my generation. There are tremendous efforts, don’t get me wrong – ACCAHC and CAHCIM and IHPC and a veritable alphabet soup of organizations and individuals meeting and conferencing and symposiuming. But it seems like such a slog at times, with no cohesive voice yet to be heard above the “we need better insurance coverage” cacophony from today’s political parties.

Then I walk into a gathering of students, whether of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) or the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), or the chiropractic or the nursing schools, and all of a sudden issues such as competition and licensure and who gets the biggest piece of the pie are not even whispered, much less argued. Those coming after us are apparently fairly free of the baggage we tend to drag along behind us – baggage gathered over years of battle with the status quo or as the status quo. These young (and often not so young) people see the students of another healthcare profession as actual people, not adversaries - as fellow travelers on an academic sea with whom to commiserate rather than compete. For years AMSA has housed a Humanistic Medicine section, and three years ago established a Naturopathic Medicine Interest Group with an ND student from NCNM as chair. NMSA itself sits at the table with the grownups of AANP and ACCAHC and in the Naturopathic Coordinating Council. And when these scholars speak to us it is about how we are all alike, not disparate.

And another consequential point – among these student bodies are, by default if nothing else, our next AANP officers and board members, and medical school presidents and faculty, and industry leaders and lobbyists. What an amazing one-two punch – energetic youth without prejudice against traditional healthcare enemies already making inroads that their parent organizations can only long for. A virtual dream team in the healthcare game.

So this leaves us with both and opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to move our campaign forward by giving our moral and financial support to the student cause, as it is our cause, only in a more pure state. A challenge to step back and consider that perhaps we in our later years are as blind in some ways as we are wise in others. That perhaps we should call in a less sophisticated perspective from a less “experienced” source.

I’m talking ‘bout their generation . . .

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