Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Naturopathic Leaders and Leadership

By Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

Earlier this month, I attended three meetings in three days in Portland, Oregon. The first was our AANP Board meeting, bringing together 13 Board members elected by the membership to represent their interests and guide the direction of the association. The second day was a meeting of the Naturopathic Coordinating Council (NCC), a diverse group representing the AANP, the schools and colleges, the CNME, NABNE, and other established and recognized organizations representing the naturopathic profession in North America who collaborate in planning and coordinating action toward a vibrant and successful naturopathic profession. The third day was a meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) where representatives from the seven naturopathic medical schools met to discuss topics of mutual interest and promote successful programs and improve student education.

As I sat in these 3 days of meetings, it struck me that, by and large, I was spending time with most of the current leaders of the naturopathic profession, a relatively small group of people who through their hard work and dedication, are advancing naturopathic medicine and in their small ways, changing the world.

It is currently estimated that there are about 6000 licensed NDs in the United States and Canada. My guess is there are around 100 people who are in key leadership roles. Some are employed by various organizations to do their work (the schools and colleges come to mind), but many are volunteers who are members of Boards or officers in their state associations. What all have in common is a vision of where naturopathic medicine can go and what it can do to improve the health of the public and influence the course of health care policies that affect us all.

It’s a funny thing. I think that when most of us became students of naturopathic medicine, we were focused on our studies, learning about how this medicine can benefit our patients as we go out into the world and establish our practices. Little did we know how important it would be to get involved in politics, both at state and federal levels, to expand access to naturopathic care, assure scopes of practice to reflect our training and education, and to dispel much of the ignorance and misperceptions around the naturopathic profession.

While on vacation last month, I ran into a ND at the Kona Farmers Market. We chatted a bit, and I found out she had become involved in the Hawaii association during its recent successful effort to update the scope of practice for Hawaii NDs. She mentioned that she had not planned to get involved in these political doings, but that she felt she had to because of the effects on her practice and her abilities to be of benefit to her patients. I think many of us can relate to her experience. Whether we expected it or not, many of us have found that to do our work well, we must become involved in big picture thinking and join with others in cultivating and growing the profession.

As I write this, the AANP has sent out its call for nominations for the 2010 elections. This year, we will be choosing a new President-Elect for the 2012-2013 term as well as 5 new board members. The AANP is a member-driven association; candidates are nominated by the membership and elected by a majority of the members votes. Your participation in this process is vital to the direction and future of the AANP.

This election promises to be an exciting one. I know of some candidates who plan to run and am impressed by the experience and professionalism they bring to the ballot. It is very likely this years elections will be competitive, with more candidates running than there are available positions. This means choices for AANP members to influence the direction and goals of the association.

My charge to you is simple: Get Involved! Vote! Read the candidates statements and decide who best speaks for you and your concerns and desires. For those of you with leadership experience and interest, consider running for a Board position.

With your voice and your vote, you have the power to grow and guide the naturopathic profession as it gains its rightful place in the healthcare system.

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