Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why I Hate AANP Conferences

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
2013 AANP Conference Speaker Selection Committee Chair

It’s such a relief that the AANP conference is over. I can finally stop pretending that I was looking forward to it. Or enjoying it!

Nothing personal. I enjoyed seeing many of you there in person, but honestly who among us would choose to spend a week hermetically sealed in an air conditioned hotel sitting in windowless lecture rooms? Are our schools graduating a new kind of naturopathic physician? Ones that like fancy hotels and that don’t need nature? If you take nature out of naturopathy, you don’t have much left.

I return home from AANP conferences dreading the arrival of our credit card bill; we spend more on a conference than we would ever consider for a vacation.

Why do we do these conferences? Because the MDs do, isn’t a good enough excuse. Because the AANP makes money off them? Well I’m not yet sure that the AANP breaks even. Because we need continuing education? That’s a joke these days as we can find all the CE we need online.

Most of the year my weekdays are spent sitting indoors at a desk with a changing array of patients sitting with me. The last thing I want to do when I take off time from work is sit somewhere else.

Why am I again chairing the conference speaker committee? It’s because like everyone in our profession I believe that the future can be better than the present—especially when it comes to our conferences. I think we can recreate our conferences and turn them into a different experience, an experience that is more congruent with whom we are both as people and a profession.

Next year is OUR chance to do it differently. As many of you already know, the conference is going to be held in Keystone Colorado in July, a week after the Fourth of July. This is a beautiful time of year to be in the Colorado Mountains. The wildflowers should be in bloom, most of the snow melted, and the mountain meadows moist and lush.

This is a location that you should be happy to visit, glad to come early to and stay on after the conference is over. In fact we are hoping to create excuses so that you do exactly that. We want you to bring your families. We want to meet those children of yours in person, not just look at their photos on your computer in the back of lecture rooms. In fact, I plan to bring my dog. We want to merge recreation with education and have you leave the conference rejuvenated. We have ambitious plans but can’t make them happen without all of you. We need your help.

This year’s Call for Abstracts is out. We need your creative ideas of things you can do, things you can teach, things that will further your colleagues’ knowledge and their ability to help patients. Submit these ideas as abstracts. Our good AANP president, Michael Cronin, has told me it is time we left behind the long marathon lectures of the past. He is eager to hear submissions that are shorter, particularly 30-minute lectures. Think short, sweet and if possible outdoors. Also think about long and slow lectures, the kind that you can stretch over an hour or two-hour hike. Maybe what you want to teach will only work with a small group of people. We will consider it! Perhaps you may get to repeat it a few times. Leave behind the old formats. We don’t have to repeat what was done in the past.

I may not be a big fan of our current conferences but I think we can make them a whole lot better. Let’s make this happen.


  1. I agree, Jacob! As usual, well said. Also, let's remind the ND readers that we in Colorado plan to post some tips of how to prepare in advance for the altitude change and the hydration change.

  2. While I understand where you're coming from, I have to say I had a completely different experience. I felt invigorated and inspired by the conference, particularly because it gave me the opportunity to mingle with and learn from my (future) colleagues. Also, because this is still a small profession and we are fighting the misconception that we're nothing but a bunch of "drum-circling, incense-burning hippie quacks," having a very "straight" sort of conference helps build our credibility in the wider community. It's unfortunate but true. Maybe there's a way to compromise and hold both outdoor and indoor seminars at the next conference?