Monday, September 26, 2011

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

By Bill Benda, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
2011 Naturopathic Champion Award Winner

Dr. Benda accepts the Naturopathic Champion Award at the 2011 AANP Convention Gala.
I received an award at August’s AANP annual convention at the Biltmore, a brand new one entitled the Champion Award, which from this time onward will be given to a non-naturopathic individual recognized for his or her contributions to the field. It was a bit of a bittersweet moment, for a number of reasons, which, in my semi-shocked and semi-intoxicated state, I revealed to the gathered audience of several hundred.

You see, since the end of my second term on the AANP Board this past January, I have been contemplating my interprofessional affair with naturopathic medicine. I’ve come to realize that this relationship has followed the course of most of the intimate personal romances I’ve wandered through during my adult life: the shy, hesitant initial contact; the heady discovery of mutual interests; flirtations via email; commitment to a two-year trial, followed by another. The inevitable red flags, mixed messages, minor jealousies, extraorganizational dalliances, threats of abandonment. And finally, that inevitable choice to be made as we separate: Can we still be friends? If only for the children?

But more on this in a minute.

Back to the award presentation. After Sally LaMont came to my table and explained that I really had to step up on the stage and say a few words, I made my way to the microphone and, given that I had no clue and therefore no opportunity to prepare, had no other option than to blurt out what I had been thinking just minutes before.

I revealed that I had spent that particular day in my hotel room on the bed watching bad television and figuring out how to extricate myself from the evening gala without too much notice. How to weather the emotions that arrive whenever a relationship changes. I actually revealed to the audience that whenever I’ve thought of naturopathic physicians over the past decade I’ve felt a combination of a “deep love and a desire to kill you.” Really, I said that. It came from years of appreciation of brilliance and commitment, as well as exasperation with avoidance of dealing with internal issues. The irony of helping a profession with such beautiful and pure principals while constantly hearing about the evils of my own chosen vocation. The puzzled looks when I brought up my frustrations to my fellow Board members, as in “What are you talking about?”

Ah, well. The good news is that we will still be friends, especially for the children, as I get to continue working with Naturopathic Medical Student Association leadership knowing that they will be college deans and presidents and AANP officers and Board members in just a few years. And that I can still maintain some sort of contribution to our health-care system outside of the daily grind.

And there is something else I said on that stage that I know to be true, and will always believe to be true. Something I’ve preached and written and lectured about and sort of made my own personal integrative crusade. And that is that, when we get down to it, there are no MDs, or NDs, or RNs, or DOs in this world. No titles, no social standing, no one-upmanship. There are simply people who have chosen a particular path in their desire to help their fellow human. It is, I believe, how some of us choose to manifest love—not something we feel, or express through song, or poetry, or touch. Love is simply what we are, and it is made manifest in all of its beauty by what we do when another needs us to act on their behalf. It is this—not the money, or prestige, or social conscience—that makes the insanity of working in such a dysfunctional system tolerable. And makes living such a complex and, at times, such a painful life end up being worthwhile.

So thank you, everybody. I like you, too.

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