From the Executive Director: Fall 2012 Update

Fall 2012 is the fourth issue of Vital News and also our fourth season, completing the year.  For the WANP, the year actually begins in the fall with the seating of our new board members.  This board year begins with a number of new directors volunteering their time and talents for our profession.  Starting new two-year terms are Drs. Ralph Capone (Mercer Island), Nicole Maxwell (Vashon Island), Nina Walsh (Bellevue), Sabine Thomas (Kenmore) and Joanna Forwell (Seattle.)  Incumbent directors returning for a second term are Drs. Sabrina Kimball (Seattle) and Laura Flanagan (Spokane.) They join Drs. Adam Geiger (Seattle), Stacie Wells (Kenmore) and President Mona Fahoum (Seattle.)  Welcome to our new board!

The WANP (yours, mine and our) priorities – our skills, our creativity – all change each year with the new group of individuals who become our directors and our members. The WANP is not static, it is in motion, and it is alive. We are more than a board and an executive director and a membership.

Now that you know who is on the board, I have question for you:  “What is the WANP?”  Though this is an editorial and the question is not rhetorical.  How does the language you use affect your relationship with the WANP (and other organizations in your life?)   Specifically, I find it helpful to ask “Is the WANP a noun or a verb?”  Some may think I’m getting into minutiae here, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve hear that comment.  In any case, I think there’s value in this question and I’d like to share my thoughts and maybe plant a seed for you to look at the way that you view our association.

In some respects, of course, the WANP is a noun.  In Washington, it is an incorporated, non-profit entity, and the state and IRS view it as such.  The WANP has been around since 1934 as an organization, and we’re recognized in Olympia and in our community as the voice of the naturopathic profession in Washington. However, it may be just as true, and possibly much more useful, to view and describe our association as a verb.  I’m sure some will already be asking “Why is this important?”

Energetically, verbs describe action and are in motion, whereas nouns are static.  In a very real way, the WANP is the actions and efforts of our members and those we hire to support us.  The WANP is also the potential for taking action. Each year, when our board of directors and our officers change, a fundamental aspect of the WANP changes as well.  Other than having the same name, some elements of our reputation, and some ongoing agendas, the WANP is no longer the same entity it was last year.  We are far more fluid than we are solid and static.  Viewing our association as a verb is not only a more accurate description it is more consistent with a naturopathic view of health and medicine. This dynamic view is what I see as one of the hallmarks of naturopathy.

When you think of naturopathic medicine, which feels more accurate?  Is it a noun or a verb? Considering the naturopathic foundation of ‘vitalism’, and the more current perspectives of ‘functional medicine’, I find a lot of support for the ‘profession as verb’ perspective.  Where much of allopathic medicine is fixated on diagnoses (i.e., nouns), naturopathy focuses on processes.  For patients, this difference is profound and is often what leads to greater health.  In fact, all of the principles of our medicine, from ‘Vis Medicatrix Naturae’ to ‘the doctor as teacher’ to ‘prevention and wellness’ – all are expressions of movement, change, and process – and therefore of possibility.  This difference in perspective is one of the most profound contributions our profession is making to our culture – the view that individuals and their health isn’t static!  Don’t NDs view human beings are far than diagnoses? Within the traditional naturopathic perspective is recognition that all is in motion, all can and does change, and all of us are participants.  Do you see the parallel that is possible in the way we view the WANP as well?

To use another analogy from healthcare, which is more useful – viewing a person’s condition as process or a fact?  If you only see nouns, the opportunities for interaction, intervention and potential for change, for growth and for healing, are significantly limited. Process implies the presence and potential of the Vis, far more so than a view or diagnosis that is static.  And, can’t the same be said for all of our organizations and relationships, including the WANP?

A practical advantage to viewing the WANP (and perhaps more of the world) as verb is that it creates many more openings for participation.   Interacting with a process is quite different from interacting with a noun.  Nouns are closed and defined.  Processes are open and in motion.  Both are useful in the right context, but when one’s perspective is one-sided or out of context, it can be very limiting – just like in medicine.

Clearly, we need to be comfortable with both perspectives. Yes, the WANP is an entity (a noun), but that’s mostly on paper.  We do have an office and we do have certain activities and a certain consistency – but that isn’t where our language or our perspective should stop.  We are also a process made up of individual commitment and creativity and shared purpose.  The WANP is not only our past actions and accomplishments, our successes and our deficiencies.  The WANP (yours, mine and our) priorities – our skills, our creativity – all change each year with the new group of individuals who become our directors and our members. The WANP is not static, it is in motion, and it is alive.  We are more than a board and an executive director and a membership.  The WANP is a process – much more a verb, than a noun – and its power and potential – our power and potential – grows as we acknowledge that!

This is what has been coming up for me lately.  How does it look to you?  Does it seem helpful to view our association as a verb or a process?  Let me know what you think.

In health,

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