Monday, March 15, 2010

AANP Building Relationships, Expanding Our Reach

By Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

Lamp Post in Snow in Madison Square Park - New York City (NYC) - February 2010

Photo by David Berkowitz via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.

We’ve all heard about the value of relationships before. “It’s not what you know but who you know” and “politics are all about relationships” are but a few of the common sayings and beliefs many of us have. Whether or not we believe these sayings are fully true, I think we can all agree that the relationships we have with others are important aspects of our personal and professional lives.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe in the importance of forming close professional relationships and have seen these come back to benefit our professional goals in many important and sometimes unexpected ways. With our training as naturopathic physicians and our deep connection with our patients, these relationships are often as powerful as the medicines we prescribe and the therapies we use in enabling our patients to heal and move toward wellness. The referral networks we all develop deepen our connections with other health practitioners as well as get our patients the care they require. As NDs we join together at our state and national naturopathic conventions not only to learn about new therapies and freshen our skills, but to reinforce our bonds with old friends and form new relationships with our naturopathic colleagues.

In California, where a relatively small band of NDs worked for years to educate legislators and establish ourselves as a political force in Sacramento, a tipping point came when a student at NCNM who wanted to return to California to practice connected the CNDA with his father, a principle in a prestigious lobbying firm. With the access to the legislature this provided as well as the personal connection that made the costs affordable to the association, we were able to finally get a law passed licensing NDs in California.

Last month, as a powerful snowstorm descended on New York City, I attended the Integrative Health Symposium that brought together practitioners from various health disciplines to share our knowledge, learn from each other, and, yes, form and deepen our relationships on both personal and professional levels. The naturopathic profession was well-represented, with many NDs both attending and leading some of the sessions. Interestingly, the largest group of practitioners at the conference were MDs, which reinforced my belief that health care is moving to a more integrative model despite the turf battles we often find ourselves engaged in. I was a member of a panel discussion that brought diverse groups such as the national acupuncture and chiropractic associations, the AHMA, IHPC and other groups interested in federal health policy together to discuss common goals and challenges in this age of health care reform. I’m sure the relationships I’ve just begun to develop in this one setting will lead to bigger things for the AANP down the road.

Our external relationships is one of the key areas the AANP Board is focusing on as I write this. As an association, the AANP has many relationships with other groups, some formal and some informal, and is a member of several coalitions centered on issues that affect our profession on a national level. We are constantly in dialogue with other groups, and are often approached by groups and associations wanting to be in relationship with the AANP. When we evaluate our participation with these other groups, we come from a place of strategic intent. Do we share a common vision and goals? Does entering into a new relationship further our organizational goals and our work plan? Does it fill in a missing piece for us or overlap with what we are already doing? Would it be mutually beneficial? Do we have the human and budgetary means to make the relationship work toward our ends?

A few examples of organizations the AANP is formally aligned with include the National Federation of Woman Legislators (NFWL); the Coalition for Patient Rights (CPR), representing more than 3.5 million health care providers, and the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA. In addition to these, the AANP is aligned and in regular dialogue with a number of groups and associations including the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC), professional associations such as AAAOM and AHMA, and the Integrative Healthcare Symposium.

The challenge before the Board is to create a bigger view of our relationships and determine directions to move ahead as we enter in to more relationships and coalitions. How should we interact with the natural products industry and the LOHAS movement? What about like-minded groups in different industries such as the environmental movement or the Bioneers? How should we interact with other political and health policy associations?

As you can see, it’s a monumental task for a relatively small profession with limited budget and resources. But, having said that, the AANP is increasingly being seen as a leader in the coalitions and relationships we have engaged in, and the goal is to continue to grow our presence and influence in areas that are important to our association goals.

We can only envision some of the concrete ways our external relationships will benefit our profession and the health of our patients. It takes a leap of faith to know that in unexpected ways, our continuing involvement with our strategic partners will benefit us in ways we cannot foresee. In many ways, the journey is as important as the goal.

Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

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