Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Path to Integration

Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

Dr. Hangee-Bauer with Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz.
May was an interesting month for me, and I want to share a few of my recent experiences with you. I’ve found that my role as AANP President has given me many opportunities to be curious about different facets of the naturopathic profession and have experiences which are not so common in my day-to-day practice.

One of my goals during my two-year presidency is to visit each of the naturopathic medical colleges. I want to understand better the questions, dreams, aspirations and fears our naturopathic medical students have as they envision their futures as naturopathic physicians as well as understand the challenges and successes of the naturopathic colleges.

Last week I had the honor of being invited to Bastyr University to attend a celebration where Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife Lisa Oz were given honorary doctorates from Bastyr for the work both have done to improve people’s health and educate and empower them to make better health choices. They are a remarkable couple to meet: charming, obviously intelligent and we had a nice conversation around building bridges between naturopathic and conventional medicine. The Bastyr community welcomed the Ozes with open arms and open hearts.

I spent the rest of my time at Bastyr touring the campus and clinic, having a brown bag lunch session with students, and getting a tour of the new LEED Platinum-certified student housing. It was a remarkable experience for me. When I graduated from Bastyr in 1984, we were housed in an old elementary school in North Seattle, and the school had a small clinic in the University district. It had been at least five years since my last Bastyr visit. I am so impressed at the many ways the college and community have grown and matured since my time as a student there. Between the state-of-the-art clinic facilities, the expansive campus, and the great dialogue I had with the students, I came away impressed at how far our profession has grown since my days as a student in the early 1980s.

It’s a funny thing. When I was a student, we knew instinctively we were on to something, even though hardly anyone knew what naturopathic medicine was at the time. I have to say it is truly remarkable how this profession has grown both in size and respectability, and it only makes me wonder how we will continue to evolve and grow in this era of health care change as we continue to expand our presence and the impact of the medicine.

Which brings me to another experience I want to share with you. I was in New York in February at the Integrative Health Symposium where I met a young (to me) ND who had graduated from Bridgeport in 2003. He was in San Francisco a few weeks ago attending a urology conference and we met for lunch. He told me about his journey from naturopathic school to his present position as a naturopathic doctor in a urology practice in New York City. It was fascinating to hear. When I got out of school, opportunities for NDs were fairly limited. Most went into private practice, mostly solo or small groups, or went into teaching or to work for supplement companies. He described to me how it works in his office and how his training and treatment focus meshes with those of the surgeons and urologists with whom he works. It’s a win-win-win situation. He has a good job that keeps him busy in a specialty practice he enjoys and at which he is successful, the medical doctors have an ND to whom they can refer patients, their group practice benefits from the naturopathic services offered, and patients of this practice have more treatment opportunities.

I strongly believe that we are entering an era of integration as opposed to separation, where health care providers of different training and skills come together with mutual respect and understanding to improve the health of people and our planet. In his book Nature Cures: A History of Alternative Medicine in America, author James Whorton makes this case quite effectively and succinctly. The old ways are dying, and there are great opportunities for naturopathic medicine in this paradigm shift. There are ever-increasing examples of how our graduates can utilize their skills in a variety of settings. We can continue to emphasize our differences from other health professions or we can seek ways to come together. It is up to us.

My experiences in May have reinforced this for me and have given me much to think about as the naturopathic profession moves forward into the next phase of our evolution.

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