ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT – Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors
By Lori DiBacco, ND – President
What is your mission statement? Our mission is to promote the success of naturopathic doctors and the naturopathic profession in Massachusetts through education, public awareness, advocacy, and community.
What are your goals for the next three years? One of our primary goals is the successful passage of legislation registering NDs in Massachusetts. This effort has been ongoing for over 12 years; it is our time. In addition, we must reinvigorate the MSND into a highly efficient leadership body, one that will convert into a governing board with ease. Other important goals include creating continuing education opportunities, diversifying revenue streams, and improving media coverage of naturopathic medicine in Massachusetts.
What current projects is the association working on? Who is involved and how are they progressing? The MSND Board is completing work on a new and improved website. We expect the website will be a powerful tool for education, awareness, and promotion of naturopathic medicine in Massachusetts. One of the new features is a Members Only section that will encourage an open exchange of information and support among members. In addition, the News & Events page will help advertise programs and events for both members and the MSND. To help advertise our doctors further, we hope to have a scrolling list of MSND members and their photos on the home page. Of course, the website will also assist the legislative efforts by connecting viewers easily with their legislators. The board is also working to implement a Strategic Plan for MSND’s short and longterm success. We recently met with a strategic planner who helped us clarify our strengths and challenges, and build a road to success within that framework. We are excited to have this guidance document for MSND leaders to rely on and follow in the future.
What obstacles are you contending with as you work to meet your goals? The Massachusetts Medical Society is the strongest opponent to our licensure efforts. They oppose our bills at every hearing, but fail to show evidence of their claims. Another obstacle to the legislative process includes the long 2-year legislative process where it is hard to build and maintain any political or supporter momentum. Fundraising for our efforts is also a challenge. Our current revenue streams depend largely on corporate sponsors and membership dues.
As president, what do you most want to accomplish while in this position? I want to promote a sense of community among the NDs in Massachusetts. I want to help build an organization that supports its members, and I wish to create paths for improved communication and participation.
What methods are you using or will you use? To achieve these goals, my immediate tasks were to create a new website we could all be proud of and a Strategic Plan to provide direction to current and future MSND leaders. In addition, our vice president Anne Kelty, ND, has taken on the role of Director of Media/ Public Relations. She spearheads efforts to promote naturopathic medicine in local and statewide media outlets. This year, I hope to expand both social and business interactions among the NDs of Massachusetts via quarterly conference calls, our annual meeting, frequent email communication, and a few social events. Since we are spread out across a long state, we are considering regional meetings. On the political front, several years ago the MSND created a dedicated position for a Legislative Chairperson. This person maintains constant contact with our lobbyist, attends key political meetings, and keeps the organization abreast of any political developments. Each legislative session, MSND members typically testify at committee hearings and have a lobby day at the State House.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most challenging part is trying to run and build a successful organization with volunteer doctors who are simultaneously running a practice in order to make a living. We have no shortage of passion, commitment, and good intentions, just a finite amount of time in each day. I wish we could afford a dedicated staff to run this important organization. Also, the licensing effort has been long and arduous, and the requisite level of energy can be difficult to maintain.
In what ways within, and from the greater ND community, do you receive support for the association’s mission and goals? Thankfully, I have the guidance and support of many past presidents and presidents of other associations. In addition, the AANP has several organizations to provide support and education, and an opportunity for State leaders to communicate about the legislative process, progress, or issues within organizations. These avenues also provide a sense of community, which helps prevent burnout or feelings of isolation. The staff of AANP is always available as a resource. AANP has done a fantastic job of collecting legions of data for our use in marketing materials, legislative materials, etc. Finally, the D.C. FLI (Washington, D.C. Federal Legislative Initiative) has provided many of our doctors with additional leadership and lobbying training. The AANP has organized this federal lobbying day for over 5 years. ND students and state representatives unite in May of each year and visit our federal senators’ and representatives’ offices to educate, lobby, and promote naturopathic medicine or issues pertinent to our cause.
What do you think naturopathic medicine’s role is in your region and how do you see that furthering the medicine globally? Massachusetts is a key state in medical thought and policy. Recently, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate health care coverage for all. As a result, there is a massive shortage of primary care providers: Naturopathic doctors are poised to fill this need. We know our current bill will not make us primary care providers, but it will put us on the right path. Achieving licensure in Massachusetts will hopefully accelerate the licensing efforts in other states and bring our culture closer to a proper respect for natural medicine and a proper balance between naturopathic and allopathic medicine.
How are you making your association and/or its efforts known or visible in mainstream society? Our new website will be a great resource for our patients and doctors and encourage ongoing participation in legislative efforts. The News & Events feature will easily provide the latest legislative news and post any classes, talks, programs, or other ND news. Also, our VP/ Director of Media has been increasing ND coverage in local newspaper, radio, and television.
What sort of inroads have you made politically within your local government? We have made tremendous strides in the state legislature at acceptance of our profession. When we started our licensing effort our profession was not known at all. Over the years we have gained respect and garnered many supporters among legislators and staff. We also received a favorable recommendation for licensure from the Massachusetts’ Special Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2002. Unfortunately, this did not convert into immediate success for passing our bill. In early February this year, Senate Bill 889 successfully passed out of the Public Heath Committee and was sent to the Health Care Finance Committee. These are joint committees containing members from both the House and Senate. We hope the bill will move quickly through this committee. With this movement of our bill, we have great hope that we have sufficient time to pass our bill this session. In the last two legislative sessions, we have passed successfully through either the House or the Senate. Unfortunately, both sessions ended before we had passage through both the House and Senate.
Do you have any particular stories that highlight the accomplishments of your association? Over the years, a key state senator has been a committee chair and in a position to block our bill from advancing. With continued discussion with him and his staff members, he is no longer opposed to our bill, which has passed out of his committee for the last two sessions.