Winter is upon us as I write this, my last blog as AANP President. It is a time for drawing inward, reflection and preparation for growth as well as new things to come as the light begins to return and Spring is right around the corner. We see this season reflected in our microcosm of the AANP, with our Executive Director of the past nine years having moved on, Board members departing (Thank you so much, Trevor Holly Cates and Corey Resnick!), Helen Healy finishing her term as HoD Speaker, and other changes in AANP staff. It is truly a time of great change and with that change comes challenges and opportunities.
AANP's renewal is already taking shape, like an early Spring thaw. Terri Deerr has stepped into the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and will manage the association during the interim period as we seek our next ED. Michael Cronin takes the reins of AANP President on January 1st and brings vigor, passion and new ideas for moving the AANP and profession forward. Bruce Milliman is stepping up as the next HoD Speaker, and the Board welcomes new member Michelle Simon.
As I like to say, "Change is the order of the Universe." I believe these changes are timely and I'm optimistic about the growth and future of the AANP. We must embrace change if we are to adapt and grow.
Please renew your AANP membership or rejoin if your membership has lapsed. We have so much to accomplish with regards to changes in the federal health care landscape, state licensing and scope of practice issues, PR & Branding, member support and a host of other ongoing projects. We need your help, your active participation and your support if we are to meet the challenges ahead. Your actions and your voice are a vital part of this process.
In August, I gave my farewell speech to those gathered at our annual Awards banquet. As I re-read it, it still reflects my thoughts and observations as I finish my term as AANP President. I have reprinted it below:
"Last year the AANP celebrated its 25th anniversary. At the gala we formally recognized those who founded this association, our past leaders and award recipients and my speech envisioned what the next 25 years would bring to this profession and to the AANP. It was a very formal event befitting of the time and venue.
This year I am going to be less formal and speak more from my heart and share a few of my experiences and insights. I have served nearly four years on the Board and my last year as AANP President is coming to a close. It has been a very interesting, challenging and, as I tell many who ask, a growth experience. There have been moments of great joy as well as moments of struggle and conflict.
It’s said that change is the nature of the universe. It is certainly true for the naturopathic profession. Over the past year we’ve suffered losses with the passing of Dr. Konrad Kail, Friedhelm Kirchfeld and others who have led, taught and inspired us. We’ve learned that our next naturopathic medical school will open in San Diego in 2012; meanwhile our other naturopathic colleges are growing as we’ve never seen before. We’ve seen another state licensed with more poised to follow. We’ve been inspired by how one man, Dr. Dennis Godby, with great personal sacrifice and dedication is acting to change the world by running across the United States to raise awareness of naturopathic medicine and how it can improve the health of all Americans. The AANP membership has grown and surveys show member satisfaction with the AANP is very high.
We bear witness to the renaissance of naturopathic medicine in the US.
Change is also on the horizon for the AANP.
We have a dynamic board dedicated to making naturopathic medicine a household name and have elected new board members who are stepping up as our future leaders.
The House of Delegates has worked diligently to improve its process and has set an ambitious agenda as well as the work the House and the Board will do together will move this profession forward.
Our next president, Michael Cronin, a long time pioneer and leader in Arizona and founding board member of the AANP, takes office in January at a time of great challenges and changes at both the federal and state levels, and I believe he is ready and up to the task.
Our executive director, Karen Howard, who has dedicated herself to serving this profession for the past 9 years has decided that it is time to move on to the next challenges and opportunities that life presents and we will sorely miss her. With the support of her professional and dedicated staff, she has worked tirelessly to make naturopathic medicine known on Capitol Hill and the houses of Congress, to build bridges with other professions and coalitions, to support the growth and success of our members and to build our organizational structure, finances and resources so we can meet our goals as the national association representing naturopathic physicians. Please join me in thanking Karen and wishing her much success wherever her future takes her.
On a more personal level, serving as AANP President has been one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of my life and I have had a few insights along the way I want to share with you now.
Some of you in this room who know me know I love the outdoors and our garden. Often if I’m stressed out or feel overwhelmed with everything, I’ll make time to get out into my backyard, repot some orchids, pull some weeds, prune a few plants and get my hands dirty. There’s something about getting my hands in the earth that I find grounding. During these activities I often reflect on problems and issues I’m dealing with and something about gardening helps me step back and get the bigger picture.
In these moments, one train of thought I’ve followed recently is how the naturopathic profession is alike and different from other health professions. For example, allopathic medicine, for all of its great strengths and weaknesses often favors a mechanistic approach and relies on specific diagnoses to treat disease; prevention, for example, often focuses on vaccinations or screening tests. It has produced major advances in medicine and surgery to be sure, but can sometimes miss the forest for the trees.
We naturopathic physicians are most like gardeners in the care of our patients and we must apply these principles in our professional associations and in our interactions with one another. We must nurture our community like we nurture our patient’s health.
We must focus on the soil.
In Metchnikoff’s discussions with Pasteur, he argued that “it’s not the germs but the soil” that is most important to focus on in health care. As NDs we learn how to improve our patients’ health by laying the foundation with proper diet, exercise and play, adequate hydration and sunlight. We check for mineral levels, pH and indications of imbalances. We focus on achieving health and wellness as much or more than disease itself.
The AANP, our state, specialty and other associations as well as our colleges prepare the soil and the environment for the growth of our profession by educating our doctors, passing licensing laws, creating board exams, nurturing federal recognition, and other steps to insure that naturopathic care is available for all Americans and that the sprouts of our graduates have the opportunity to grow, thrive and become fruitful. Our corporate partners help us nourish the soil by their support for our goals and our programs.
We care for and tend our gardens.
Naturopathic Physicians are trained as systems thinkers. In patient care, we are wholistic in our approach even while focusing on specific health issues. Even while we help our patients manage or overcome their challenges, we encourage their growth, vigor and hardiness through preventive strategies and by dealing with health problems in context with the individual in all our aspects-body, mind and spirit.
As an association the AANP nurtures the growth and robustness of our profession.
We companion plant by building coalitions with our natural partners and creating deep ties with external organizations with mutually supportive goals. However effective as we are, we know that we cannot do this alone.
We pay attention and we tend the garden of our profession. When we are engaged, focused, thoughtful, attentive and have our vision, we produce beautiful and productive ecosystems in balance with nature. If we don’t pay attention or have a plan, we see a few plants thrive, many struggle to survive, our soil become deficient and the weeds take over.
We are the gardeners and it’s our responsibility to take care of the land.
Sustainability depends on good caretaking. If we are good caretakers, our harvest will be the health of our patients and the health of this profession. How well we do this will determine our yield. We must work together, knowing that while we may have differences of opinion and approach, we are all working toward the same goals and ends. Respectful debate and listening will yield better solutions. And we must take care of each other and nurture one another, because our greatest strength is our community and our relationships with one another. We are a small and growing health profession yet together we are much greater than the sum of our parts. Our strength does not lie in our numbers but our connectedness to each other.
In closing, I want to thank you for the good work you all do everyday to benefit the health of your patients and this planet and for your dedication to this profession. And from my heart, I want to thank you for the honor and privilege to serve as AANP President."