Riding the Trail that has been Blazed
Tabatha Parker, ND
Within every profession, development is constantly happening. The naturopathic profession, because of its emergence, has unique opportunities in regards to that development.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
by: Tabatha Parker, ND


The growth of naturopathic medicine globally has been unprecedented in the last 10 years and our ability to be leaders in that world will depend on our ability to address certain strengths and weaknesses we collectively have, improve those weaknesses, and develop the strengths.

I have been working closely with a new collective of dedicated individuals representing naturopathic global health – individuals that represent a broad global health agenda – who are dedicated to strengthen global health in the naturopathic community. The committee is called the Naturopathic Global Health Working Group and we have recently made a huge political stride in our own profession when the AANP [Board] unanimously created a global health committee on our request. This will allow these efforts to be incorporated into the structure of the United States’ most influential political body for naturopathic physicians and truly help catapult a global health agenda for our profession. I commend the AANP board for getting so strongly behind this vision. Michael Cronin and Tabatha Parker will co-chair the AANP Committee and are actively seeking individuals who are interested in global health to join. (Please email drparker@ndimed.org if you are interested – doctors and students welcome!)

This task is not unlike the larger task we have within the naturopathic community in regards to taking our rightful place in the larger healthcare debate and discussion happening in the USA right now. We are at the crux of moving into the reality of the larger healthcare debate on many levels, but what will catapult us into a leadership role within that debate?

In the Fall of 2012, I had the unique opportunity to attend the ICE-CIM conference in Washington DC, a collaborative event between the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) and the Consortium for Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM). I know, you are thinking, oh no, more acronyms and organizations – but really – take note of both. CNME, NABNE and AANMC have each been members of ACCAHC for years along with their parallel organizations from chiropractic, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, massage therapy and midwifery. They have worked with leaders of CAHCIM, an organization of 54 medical schools, since 2005.
Integrative medicine . . . may seem to some to be co-opting our medicine – but the strength in naturopathic medicine lies in our depth, in our unique position of not being controlled as institutionalized medicine is . . .

What I witnessed at this conference was the most important political strategizing happening for our profession that I think may be out there. It was an absolutely essential dialogue for our profession to be leading, which we were in thanks to ACCAHC co-founders Pamela Snider, ND and especially for this event, the person we awarded as Naturopathic Champion in 2012, John Weeks who has been fighting, sometimes against our own NDs, to have our medicine not just get a seat at these integrative tables, but also lead them.

The conference was eye-opening on so many levels. At the tremendous opportunities we have and the potential for being left behind if we do not focus, collaborate, and lead. Integrative medicine, led by medical doctors, may seem to some to be co-opting our medicine – but the strength in naturopathic medicine lies in our depth, in our unique position of not being controlled as institutionalized medicine is, and our deep understanding of what holistic medicine truly is. What we need to demonstrate is how we are valuable in the larger debate.

And the interesting thing about integrative MDs is that they truly are our first cousins. The collaborations happening between leaders like Adi Haramati, PhD from Georgetown and John Weeks from ACCAHC and the many volunteers with their respective organizations have the potential to truly transform our reality. In an ACCAHC training program the day before the Congress to become a more effective leader for all of integrative health and medicine, I learned that ACCAHC has basically gotten our profession to the table in three critical arenas - Institute of Medicine projects, a national strategy on integrated pain management, and critical dialogues with other agencies.

I travel optimistically. I challenge our profession to start thinking out of the box more. Organizations and Councils like the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Naturopathic Coordinating Council should be strategizing on how to make sure we as a profession represent in this larger healthcare debate. How can we help every state organization is showing up for the Affordable Care Act discussions happening on a local level? Are we strategically working to strengthen the collaboration with our integrative medicine colleagues and ensuring the inclusion of the values we stand for in the larger health care dialogue? Are we wholeheartedly and cohesively supporting ACCAHC and other organizations and collaborations like them that are truly blazing the trail for us? The question is, will we ride the trail that has been blazed?
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