The Future of Naturopathic Medicine Summit: An interview with Dr. Margaret Beeson
Node Smith, ND
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ (AANP) annual convention in Portland, Oregon this August will mark the culmination of a year-long process that strives to bring unification to the naturopathic profession through a series of collaborative “summit events” over the past year – the Future of Naturopathic Medicine Summit.
Future of Naturopathic Medicine Summit
The process has brought together many thoughts, opinions, strategies, and intentions for a more unified profession, as well as isolating key obstacles and struggles of the profession. The next phase of the project will be to convert a vast amount of specific data points into actionable items specific to shaping a more cohesive naturopathic professional identity.
NDNR has the distinct pleasure of being able to share an interview with Dr. Margaret Beeson, naturopathic doctor from Billings, Montana and one of the key members spearheading the Summit project for the Future of Naturopathic Medicine (FNM). It is the intention of this interview to communicate and celebrate the emergence of a great amount of support for and through this process.
Node: Thank you Dr. Beeson for all your hard work this past year, and steadfast leadership in coordinating such an inclusive process/event as the Summit for the Future of Naturopathic Medicine. As a starting point, could you please give a brief overview of the course of the project over the past year, and the current trajectory?
Dr. Beeson: Node, we had an excellent turnout at our 2018 AANP kick off- you were there -There was broad representation of a full spectrum of 145 of our colleagues, from students, new NDs to elders. We then held 3 online events by Zoom, each hosting 100-150 NDs. With the professional guidance of Ten Directions, we harvested 6 themes from the AANP event, 2 of which the profession explored at each on line call. The collected ideas and opinions of our colleagues can be explored by all NDs at futureofnm.org. This site was set up with the hope of generating more input and discussion as well. The Planning Team, involved in leading the process, includes members of the NMSA, NMI AANMC, INM, member at large, both presidents & Ex Director of the AANP, the State Alliance chair, the Foundations Project Ex Director and Helfgott Institute director. Originally, the Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR) was represented as well.
These individuals were charged with representing their groups or organization, with the firm goal of inclusivity for the profession.
We prepared by reviewing the materials from all the past events and with the specific direction of our lead facilitator, Rebecca Colwell, we met for a full day on June 16 in Portland Or. There we developed 5 potential initiatives to present to the profession for review, input and further development, as is desired and beneficial.
Node: Wow! I know this was a huge undertaking. What exactly drew you and other vision team members forward to start this process?
Dr. Beeson: Over the last number of years there has been many a discussion among our colleagues, voicing concern about the growing changes in our education and the pressures that the changing Health Care environment is generating on our profession.
Node: Is there something about being a naturopath that may have led you and others into this type of process?
Dr. Beeson: Treat the Cause, and Physician Heal Thyself, are principles by which we practice and strive to live. With the rapid growth of the profession, the increase in the number of ND medical schools and the financial demands on new graduates, among other factor identified in this process, it feels to some that the principles that connect us have become diluted and many are concerned that the heart of our medicine will be lost.
Node: I know this has been a lot of work for a lot of people. I was hoping you could give us an idea of how people were engaged in this process? What have been the various ways people have participated?
Dr. Beeson: Folks were excited and engaged on the Zoom calls – it was pretty powerful to see so many faces and to hear the conversations as our colleagues sought to hear each other and to dialogue with curiosity and offer creative solutions.
I mentioned the Planning Team, who have been integral in helping direct the process, participating in the events and ultimately digesting and interpreting the conversations to bring forward these initiatives, which arose directly from these dialogues.
Node: How has the vision and process of this project been received by the profession? Is a unified profession in view?
Dr. Beeson: The 4 events have included over 700 ND voices, weighing in and discussing with each other specific concerns and offering solutions. I believe that folks have had a different experience that has propelled an ever greater desire to find common ground.
Node: Has the project and the process gained traction over the year? Are more people participating currently than initially began the project?
Dr. Beeson: Some of the same individuals have attended and many new faces and voice have been seen and heard each time.
Node: In your overview, you mentioned an action agenda. What are the details of this action agenda at this point?
Dr. Beeson: Yes-I am so excited what has evolved from the conversations- the PT has developed 5 initiatives to present at the day-long Summit on Aug 14, the day prior to the 2019 AANP, from 200+ pages of the synopses and transcripts. The profession will have the opportunity to work these initiatives, evaluate, refine and develop them to further –and make them our own.
Node: This is truly an amazing undertaking and project for the entire profession. I’m interested in your thoughts on how this process mimics our principles that support the idea of a “body” being able to heal itself. Are there elements of system design being utilized here that support wellness being applied to the collective “body” similar to how NDs are trained to treat the individual body?
Dr. Beeson: I am eternally grateful to have the opportunity to work with Rebecca Colwell and her crew at Ten Directions. The year’s events have been inclusive and transforming. We have all been participating in a healing process of practicing being for the whole and listening to each other.
Node: How is the last year of work guided by the planning team already an embodiment of the vision of a more unified profession? In other words, what is the new “we” and collective alignment that has already been fostered, and what does it feel like from the inside?
Dr. Beeson: Well, it is often characteristic of a fast growing profession to experience unrest and dissatisfaction among some colleagues, who feel disenfranchised from the national organization. The Summit has included many groups whose members are not necessarily associated with the AANP. Therefore we were able to hear the issues and desires of many of our colleagues who otherwise may not feel they have had the opportunity to be heard and participate to their fullest. I feel that a wave is in motion and we are swept up with this momentum to take part and realize our desire for healing, in our profession and in the world.
Node: What personal edges have been revealed to you Maggi as a leader and a practitioner as you have participated in this project?
Dr. Beeson: It has been invaluable for me as an individual and doctor. While, I have been practicing NVC for 15 years, this year has challenged and stretched my ability to listen with more openness and expand my capability to notice my reactions, in difficult interactions, and to respond (with more consciousness) as opposed to reacting.
Node: Thank you so much for you time and effort with me here, and also for the profession this past year, and into the future. I do have one more question to close us off with, and perhaps one that is slightly scary to ask, and answer. Where are you getting the funding for this project, and how will it be funded moving forward?
Dr. Beeson: Oh, that has entailed many prayers and late night letters/emails and grant proposals, prepared by my friend and colleague, Jeana Kimball, ND, MPH, and myself, and the generosity of individual NDs and our vendors, who believe in our profession and the process and are invested in our unification and our individual and collective success.
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.
Node Smith graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in 2017, and is currently licensed as a naturopathic physician in Oregon and working towards becoming licensed in Saskatchewan, Canada as well.