Monday, May 24, 2010

Double Vision

By Bill Benda, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

Photo by Lomo-Cam via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
“Visionary.” Now there is a word we’ve all heard countless times as we meander the naturopathic path. Merriam-Webster defines the term as “one having unusual foresight and imagination.” We tend to view our visionaries as those among us who can see into the future, imagine unimaginable realities, lead us to promised lands if we are intrepid and willing enough to follow. We laud our visionaries, follow their writings, award them at our banquets.

As we should, should we hold to that particular definition. But from my boundless perspective, and limited experience, a visionary is not necessarily a prophet or clairvoyant, but rather someone who can actually discern the truth of the present moment – a point of view requiring far more courage to express than any tale of potential future pleasantries. Visionaries who can discern reality are fewer in number than the prescient variety, and those with the courage to voice their views are fewer still, given the political price that must invariably be paid, because the reality of our culture -- and of our healthcare system, and of our profession -- is not always pretty, and definitely not as pretty as our conference and clinic brochures tend to proclaim.

Now do not misinterpret these words –- the underlying beauty of the naturopathic and holistic and integrative et al. philosophies and therapies is alive and well, and more than worthy of love and support. But we in our optimistic, energy-medicine, “hugs heal” mentality are often more than hesitant to take a long, hard look at our internal dysfunctions, dysfunctions that are an essential part of our very humanity rather than an unwanted and obnoxious uncle who has overstayed his welcome. We hold onto historical injuries that are no longer relevant. Our organizations avoid dealing with whispered dissent from their membership. Industry fails to note that their journal advertisements and promises of health are not that much different than those of the conventional brethren we condemn.

And why am I writing these words on this particular blog at this particular time? Because as an AANP board member and associate editor of your journals and adjunct faculty at one of your medical colleges, and especially as a non-ND, I believe your profession is at a crossroads, an adolescent-to-adulthood moment of your evolution when it is time to let go of the past and create a new future. And this shift cannot, and can never, occur without first making a difficult and objective assessment at what is real in the present.

So the next time one of your fellow professionals or employees or students or board members stands up and points out the pachyderm in the pad, see if you can refrain from withdrawing from the inevitable discomfort and instead take a long, hard look at the actual information being presented. You may well find that you have a bona fide visionary in the room.


  1. good blog...I am not a ND (I'm a DC) but have followed the professions progress since I was a teenager and I have seen It grow in professionalism so much (not unlike my own field). I fell the exact way as the above blog now is the time. Mature to the next step, self evaluate, know your worth and grow from the process. I enjoy working with ND's and am excited about there licensure progress in the US and Canada.

  2. Excellent words...I could not agree more. My partner is currently in an ND program and it pains me to see such a worthwhile profession shooting itself in the foot in so many ways.

    From my limited exposure I see so many potential positives being wasted. I see a strong academic curriculum tainted by a lack of professional standards in the classroom (attire and conduct) that in turn taints the public's perception. I see a profession that is tainted by its association with unqualified individuals who have bought their way in, through so called online/home training or no training at all. Most of all, I see a profession that does a fairly poor job of PR & marketing to the general public who, for the majority, have no idea it exists or have a wrong perception of what it is.

    It is time for those who have influence to take a stance in promoting a true "wellness" approach to public health that does not compete with or complement alternative methods, but is truly an integrated story. Take the high road why you can.

    What good is licensure if either no one knows about it or it is perceived wrongly. Accept the realities with regards to the culture that we live in, one that for the majority has no idea about the profession, and educate accordingly.

    Exciting times, and one where, with a lot of focused effort, a true integrated approach to public health could come out top.

  3. Excellent post. It appears to me that now there is the opportunity to rise above political arguments. Your profession has the opportunity to come out as a much bigger player in the world of public health if it pulls out of its perceived niche and, dare I say it, grows up.