Gathering Weekend

Take dozens of tasks (all with a deadline), about 250 people--the entire NUHS naturopathic faculty team, drummers, dancers, 12 respected naturopathic doctors and naturopathic medical students from all the schools in North America--throw them together in the auditorium on campus and what do you get? 

The 2012 Naturopathic Gathering at NUHS!

This past weekend was incredible! This is the first time that the NUHS naturopathic program has hosted our colleagues from the other naturopathic schools in North America. The entire student body wanted to make sure that we presented ourselves in the best manner possible for our peers. At the end of the weekend, while saying goodbye to the students from the other schools, wishing our best to the Elders who spoke, and hearing the great time that everyone shared, confirmed to the Gathering Team that our first hosting was huge success!

This picture is of the wreath stand with wreaths from each school in attendance.
(Not a steady hand on this one, from my cell phone.)

NUHS helped to establish a tradition within the Naturopathic Gathering. The Gathering Talking Stick was introduced at this year's Gathering to be passed from school to school each year as the Gathering travels throughout North America. The Talking Stick is to be held by each speaker as they share with conference attendees. A totem from each school will be placed onto the Talking Stick the first time that the school hosts the gathering, to remain with the tick for as long as the Stick exists. The Talking Stick is the symbolic vessel of the wisdom of the Elder Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine. Each totem is the symbol of each school's contribution to the wisdom of our Naturopathic Elders. The Stick is the thread that will bind each year and each memory to future Naturopathic Gatherings.

Our opening ceremony was one for the ages! Our naturopathic students shared their talents in Romani dance, African dance and drumming! The opening ceremony commenced with drumming as our dancers entered the auditorium and paused in front of the Elders where they performed an African tribute dance to the Elders. The dancers transitioned to the stage and performed a Romani dance as the procession approached the stage. The procession consisted of students bringing the NUHS Totem, Gathering Talking Stick, Senior Elder Present, and the Leader of Ceremonies followed by the entire complement of NUHS' naturopathic faculty! The Gathering Team made rhythm sticks for all attendees and each person was banging their sticks together in harmony. It was an incredibly uplifting sight! The opening ceremony concluded with speakers from our school welcoming our guests and our Leader of Ceremonies loudly tamping the Talking Stick on the floor to open the weekend!

Along with keynote speakers each morning and afternoon, our guests had the option of breakout session speakers in smaller groups two times each day. Yoga, meditation and Tai Chi were available at different times as well! The hardest thing was making the difficult decision of which speaker's session to attend!


Each year, the Naturopathic Gathering honors one Elder who personifies the pursuit of our philosophy, the sharing of our wisdom and promotion of our medicine. We were proud to present the 2012 Beacon Award to Dr. Fraser Smith, assistant dean of naturopathic medicine at National University of Health Sciences. Dr. Smith arrived alone at NUHS in 2004, tasked with building a naturopathic program from the ground up. Dr. Smith's strategy of incorporating the philosophy of naturopathic medicine started the first day he arrived on campus. He built his team of faculty with this thought in mind and now, in my opinion, we have the strongest philosophical foundation of any of the eight naturopathic schools in North America! Congratulations Dr. Smith, your honor is well deserved! (Also, Dr. Smith took our program from one person, him, to an accredited program in only 8 years!)

This year's Gathering helped to confirm our school's strategy of a strong foundation in the philosophy of naturopathic medicine during our education, as well as confirming the personal reasons that drive each medical student who chooses to practice as a naturopathic doctor. Each student's confirmation of choosing naturopathic medicine and its philosophy through interaction with our elder naturopathic doctors and their clinical pearls, research and observations throughout years of practice has helped set an example for us as future doctors. Finally, friendships were established, contacts made, lessons learned, and decisions re-affirmed for each student who traveled to Chicago or stayed on campus after class to attend the 2012 Naturopathic Gathering.

Dr. Gerald Farnsworth (our Senior Elder) and his partner Neta.

Personally, this year's Gathering was an enlightening and reinforcing event. I met and enjoyed the camaraderie of colleagues from each school, made new friends and feel strengthened in our medicine. To hear our doctors who have been in practice for many years, fought for licensure throughout the United States and Canada, and shared with us as students shows the strong bond among everyone in naturopathic medicine. This event will be stamped upon my memory as the point I realized that I personally am tasked with carrying our medicine forward scientifically, legislatively, scientifically, and perhaps most importantly for our doctors of the future, philosophically. I have included a bridging moment after the end of the conference. The picture above is of Dr. Gerald Farnsworth, our Senior Elder, his partner Neta, and I saying goodbyes until next year.

Join us next year as we travel from Chicago to SCNM in Arizona for the 2013 Naturopathic Gathering!