Monday, August 30, 2010

AANP's Greatest Hits, Volume 25

By Bill Benda, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
The pre-Gala reception at the AANP's 25th Anniversary Convention in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Daniel Atlas.
Well, time for another blog submission and mental search for inspiration and hopefully somewhat coherent dialogue. But this time I find the task quite easy, as I get to talk about a few of my favorite people in lieu of philosophy or politics.

This year’s Saturday AANP Gala in Portland was visibly different than those of prior years, notable for the recognition of both past presidents and past recipients of the Physician of the Year award – twice the stage was filled with these luminaries of naturopathic history. It is the organization’s 25th anniversary, after all. But time constraints also necessitated curtailing of the usual recognition of another batch of unsung heroes who have contributed immeasurable time and energy for the benefit of everyone reading this page – those AANP board members whose terms come to a close on December 31st. Given I did not get to stand and applaud for each at the Gala event, I’ve taken blog liberty to remedy this oversight. So without further ado, the envelopes please . . .

I’ll start with Lise Alschuler, as I get to save time by not having to list all of her quite visible achievements, challenges, and contributions as President-Elect, President, and Past-President of the AANP. What has been invisible and underappreciated by our membership is the fact that Lise carried this organization through its transition from what it was to what it is to become, much like a mother carries a pregnancy to term, and likely with the same feelings of unwieldiness and fatigue and “I’m ready to deliver this thing.” Carl Hangee-Bauer gets to birth this new baby, not a comfortable process in itself, but Lise was the lifeblood that ensured its healthy development in the womb.

Sara Thyr was shepherd to the flock of submissions, abstracts, speakers, scheduling, conflicts, and God knows what other machinations that are required to put on the annual conference each year. I personally have attended countless conferences of countless organizations over the years, and the AANP annual event has never had close competition as the premier event of the year, and Sara is the reason why. Plus she had the wisdom to move to the central coast of California.

Michelle Clark has been our Alliance chair and policy wonk, I believe, since she was born. For those of you who have engaged in the parallel universe of politics, her contributions will become clear once you contemplate the mishmash of licensed states and unlicensed states and state medical boards and legislative bodies and 15 different scopes of practice in 15 different jurisdictions and Boyd Landrys and health freedom movements all flavored with the occasional (OK, frequent) last minute disaster.

Which brings me to Tabby Parker, leaving the board after her first term to have her second child. As founder of Natural Doctors International, Tabby has chosen to spend her very lengthy days caring for the underserved on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua, all the while hosting endless teams of naturopathic physicians and students trekking down to learn and serve alongside her. Tabby has been, for me, the heart and conscience of our board, and she will be missed deeply.

I am leaving the board as well, and I can say it is with mixed longing and relief that these four years are coming to a close. I’m more than certain that all five of us share these contradictory feelings. But as those of you who attended the Gala did not have adequate opportunity to see these people stand in recognition and hold the eternal-flame-recognizing-our-past-and-welcoming-our-future-before-the-band-starts-candles, I ask you to take a moment to silently thank Lise and Sara and Michelle and Tabby. Or better yet, drop them a line and thank them personally. Your lives, and your patients’ lives, are better for their service.


  1. It seems appropriate that Bill would be the one to recognize departing board members, even as he is also departing. I started and ended my term with Bill and am actually quite relieved that I do not have to be on the board without Bill, since we term limit together. Bill was consistently the one to speak the loudest and most consistently on the naturopathic professions behalf. He spoke up for our place in health care with more conviction, dedication and eloquence then any ND/NMD I know. He also spoke up for us internally more then we generally could ourselves. He showed me that to stereotype any group is a form of bigotry and challenged me to seek the facts. He helped me see the power of Naturopathic Medicine, and gave me more confidence in our medicine then any of my patients or teachers. He built many bridges between us and the many MD/DO organizations. I certainly never expected the One with the vision to expand us beyond our own small community would come from the same group we were still fighting. Now Bill, an MD, is a seed planted inside the heart of Naturopathic Medicine. He will forever be an icon for me exemplifying growth, vision, community and honesty. He has led our community to unite with other health care organizations and most recently with other countries. Maybe a lot of this would have happened anyway, sign of the times and all, but I can tell you with out a doubt, that without Bill at our side, and sometimes carrying us through, we would never have been ready for all the change that has transpired. Thank you Bill, you will always be a respected, loved and essential member of our rapidly growing tribe. Thanks for sharing yourself with us.
    Michelle Clark

  2. I would like to edit my previous post, it should have said "an MD, ND."
    Bill is more of an ND to me then most NDs, and I see he is even willing to join us with his signature on this post. Welcome Bill!