The Arizona Biltmore. Photo by AANP President Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc.Upon returning this week from the AANP convention at the Biltmore in Arizona, I have been very busy. Which is fantastic. I’m very grateful. But it has not allowed much time for reflection on all that has happened, one of the gifts that being away from our usual circumstances often affords us. But being at the convention barely allows time for a few deep breaths, much less assimilating what we are learning and assessing our place in our national association. So I will take a few moments here to offer some of my musings regarding our time together, a family of healing professionals, basking in the sun and the desert heat.
First of all, while naturopathic medicine is still not more than a blip on the national landscape of health care, I was reminded yet again at what an amazing roll we might have in really, truly repairing not only the health-care system in America, but the health of all Americans. As we move into a new era of leadership in our community, I hope that this opportunity is realized.
Which brings me to thoughts about the resignation of our executive director for the past nine years, Karen Howard. I have a love-hate relationship with Karen and possibly always have. Let’s not call it love-hate. Let’s call it love-irritated relationship. We have very different styles of communication. I’m soft, squishy, and easy to tears—and dream of acquiring tactful disagreement skills. Karen is strong and outspoken and has no problem sharing her opinion, even if that may mean (what feels like) steamrolling over quieter voices. That said, I believe with all my heart that she has been the right person for our association for most of the last decade.
Karen has brought incredible awareness of our profession to our nation's capital—a stark change from the beginning of this decade. She has created networks within our own profession to assist more states in licensing naturopathic physicians, to help states with standing licenses to work together in improving scope of practice and marketability of NDs within those states, and she has taught so many of us how to come to our legislators with our information and expertise and ask for what we want. The DC FLI was an incredible undertaking and has blossomed with incredible success over the years. Most legislative health aids and legislators today know what a naturopathic physician is. This was not the case before Karen Howard took over the roll as full-time steward of our profession ten years ago.
Within the framework of the State Association Leadership Team (SALT), Karen taught us about strong associations and strategic planning. Many of us in our states' leadership roles brought this knowledge back to our states to assist local leadership in becoming more organized and stronger—not to mention becoming more proactive than reactive, learning to quit operating via putting out fires and start planning for the future.
When Karen took over as executive director, our association was fractured and deeply in debt. She thrives on picking up pieces in great disarray and building something that is stronger than it was before. And that she did. While I felt her resignation like a blow to the gut, once I recovered and began to breath again, I realized that she has equipped us with the ability to move forward and continue to achieve our goals as an association. And as one physician who has worked with her for many years, I feel that I will continue to be able to achieve my own goals with much of the knowledge and experience that she has helped me acquire. I am deeply grateful for her touch in my life.
While I was working as president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors, I was inspired at a SALT conference to bring in a consultant to work with our association on strategic planning. It was a challenging process, but one where we moved forward as a group and all learned a lot. One thing that I have always held from those days of meetings was about volunteerism: our consultant impressed upon me that we should never separate our volunteers from their passion.
It takes a great deal of time and commitment to volunteer for any work—and perhaps most especially for this profession—because there is so much to be done and so few people to share in the tasks, which at times seem larger than life. I have worked on putting together speakers for the AANP Convention for the past four years—task which I think Karen inherently knew was my passion, and could rely upon me to spend many hours trying to perfect the process. It is bittersweet to let go of chairing that committee—made easier only by leaving it in such capable hands as those of Dr. Jacob Schor.
Karen Howard had an innate ability to recognize people’s passions – and help them find a way to fit service to our organization into their busy lives. I am not certain if it is testament to my lack of backbone or her great persuasive skills that I could not say no to her. Maybe I’ll try to hide for a while from our new ED! :’)
Hiring Rebecca Takemoto and her staff at Sync-Opate to handle our convention and other meetings such as the SALT and FLI was another insightful move on Karen’s part. Rebecca makes the convention run incredibly smoothly, and is perfectly cut out for a job where she is juggling 40 things at once and smiling calmly as she deals with the latest crisis. And let’s not forget the food. She makes sure that the chef’s anywhere we go provide fresh, green, allergy-sensitive foods—and as seen at the Biltmore—that taste wonderful.
When I look at our profession as a whole, from topics as diverse as the national legislative process to the process of trying to figure out what topics at a conference will be most interesting, I find myself perplexed. We are both so alike and yet so incredibly different. As Dr. Matthew Baral so eloquently said in his closing keynote address, there is no me, only us. There is no mine, only ours.
I wish many blessings for Karen as she finds a new place to share her incredible strengths.