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The History of NWNPC

by G. R. Farnsworth, D.C., N.D.
March 2003

The NorthWest Naturopathic Physicians Conventions is the longest existing annual convention of naturopathic medicine in the world!

It has been rewarding to have been serving in some capacity on the convention committee from its’ inception. Having missed only one convention in that time, I have seen the attendance grow and the quality of the convention improve. I believe we have only started to tap the potential of this convention as there are unlimited growth possibilities with its resultant rewards.

This convention provides a unique opportunity to enhance regional strengths. Ideally, there should be similar regional conventions in eastern Canada, northeast, southeast, mid-central, and southwest areas of the United States . There should not be any conflict with either state or national associations. Rather, they should embrace each other. Desirably, the national associations’ conventions should not be held in the same state that is hosting a regional convention, such as the Northwest, in the same year. It would be nice to think states/provinces would not intentionally compete with seminars, etc. during the same weekend.

Dr. Jim Sensenig, the past President of the A.A.N.P. states that this is the outstanding convention of the year, not solely due to academia, but due to the camaraderie that accompanies it.


In addition to the following brief written history, I recorded this welcome message to you, my fellow naturopathic colleagues and health care practitioners. If you see my at the convention, please stop and say, "Hello!" Naturopathic medicine has been my life and I am here to share my knowledge, stories and advice.


Coming Back From the Brink of Extinction

I commenced practice in British Columbia in 1950. I had graduated from the Canadian Chiropractic College in Toronto and been post-graduated in Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Drugless Physicians, in Chicago. At the time I commenced practice, there were only two colleges whose educational standards met the requirements established by the Association of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia: National College of Drugless Physicians in Chicago, and Western States College in Portland, Oregon. Our membership was approximately thirty-five members.

There were at least three critical problems facing the profession, both in the United States and in Canada.  In both countries, by the mid-fifties, there was no federal representation for the naturopathic profession. Attrition was reducing the number of practicing naturopathic physicians. There were no longer any colleges teaching naturopathic medicine which met the requirements of the various associations. Federally, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and Surgeons had been very active. However, by the mid-1950′s, this Association came to an end, leaving no voice to speak on the profession’s behalf on a federal level. To ensure federal representation, the National Association of Naturopathic Physicians was formed, primarily through the efforts of members in Washington and Oregon.

Much time, effort, and funds were expended in Washington, D.C., but it was difficult to evaluate how much was achieved. This association was eventually disbanded to be superceded by the present A.A.N.P.

In Canada , the profession received its’ Charter with the federal government and the Canadian Naturopathic Association was recognized as the official voice of Naturopathic Medicine in Canada in 1955. There are now only two charter members alive in B.C: Dr. Fred Loffler and Dr. G. R. Farnsworth.

The Canada Health Act required a lot of work on the part of those provinces who had legal recognition: Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia. At present, Ontario and British Columbia naturopathic physicians have some limited coverage under their respective government health plans. Federal recognition was an important factor in the chiropractic profession as well. Until the 1950′s, there were two distinct and separate chiropractic associations in the U.S. The NCA (National Chiropractic Association) represented the broad practicing chiropractors known as the “mixers”. National Chiropractic College in Chicago , Western States College in Portland, Philadelphia College in Pennsylvania, the Los Angeles Chiropractic College and a few others supported the broad scope of practice.

The ICA (International Chiropractic Association) represented the chiropractors called “straights”. They were predominately graduates from New York Chiropractic College, Indianapolis College, Palmer College, Logan Basic College, and several others. Until this time, Veterans received financial support to attend chiropractic colleges but the profession was not recognized by the Health, Education and Welfare Department in Washington, D.C. The objective of the chiropractic profession was to obtain this recognition. To achieve this, the chiropractic colleges would have to dissociate themselves from all naturopathic education. In 1951-52, the profession was alerted that by 1956, the two colleges whose graduates were recognized by Washington, Oregon, and B.C., would discontinue graduating naturopathic doctors. This was opposed vigorously by both National Chiropractic College and Western States College . However, with the passing of Dr. Budden, the President of Western States College, the colleges acquiesced and ceased graduating naturopathic doctors in 1956. This brought forth a major concern to the dwindling profession. Attrition had taken its toll and no new replacements were to be forth coming until National College of Naturopathic Medicine was established primarily by the associations of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

Minor support came also from Ontario, Alberta, and Idaho.  While Utah gave some support, it was short lived. I’m sure there were other individual members in some states and provinces who also supported the college. However, it was primarily the members of the three associations that provided the meager funds, labour, and effort to preserve the future of Naturopathic Medicine in the U.S. and Canada . I dare say we owe a debt of gratitude to less than fifty doctors for this devotion.

The Birth of the NWNPC

Until 1956, each state and province held their own annual meetings and educational seminars. With the reduction in size of each association’s membership, due to attrition, it became impractical to maintain quality continuing educational training. It was decided that the three associations should conduct one annual educational seminar, and at the same time conduct state/provincial annual meetings. Thus the first Northwest Naturopathic Convention came into existence.

The initial convention involved naturopathic physicians from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  Currently, naturopathic physicians from all Canadian associations, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, California, and Arizona are notified and invited to each convention. Our colleges are also notified and reduced registration fees are offered to students.

For several years, the convention site was rotated between British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.  Naturopathic physicians in all other jurisdictions were notified of time and place.  Many of them took advantage of the educational seminars. The Alberta association asked to be a part of this gathering and hosted an excellent convention to coincide with the famous Calgary Stampede. Unfortunately, geography presented a problem as the greatest concentration of naturopathic physicians were on the West Coast and attendance suffered. This resulted in a financial loss. However, the individual members – less than ten – made up the loss out of their own pockets. Idaho asked to affiliate and eventually hosted three conventions in Twin Falls . The last one failed to develop an adequate educational program so the convention sites were again rotated between Washington, Oregon, and B.C.

The Northwest Naturopathic Physicians Convention

The first convention was held in Nanaimo, B.C. in 1956. The organization of this inaugural conference was done by Doctors Joe Boucher, Doug Kirkbride, and Gerry Farnsworth. It was very successful with about seventy doctors in attendance. There were two days of educational seminars. The third day was devoted to allowing each association to conduct their business meetings, and the other half day was a joint meeting where the doctors were apprized of ongoing events nationally, as well as state and provincially. Common problems such as legal, legislative, and collegiate issues were discussed. Subsequent conventions in Canada, and occasionally in the U.S., combined the national associations’ annual meetings with the Northwest Convention. These meetings were never held in conflict with the Northwest Convention, but rather were piggy-backed a day before or after the convention so as to reduce the travel demands of the membership.

One of the most important aspects of the Northwest tradition has been to emphasize the camaraderie within the profession by arranging unique social events. As a professional, academic ability is not enough to preserve and advance the profession. The value of sharing our knowledge, new and old, is important.

Meeting old friends and colleagues, establishing a camaraderie, and improving the profession’s cohesion are important aspects of professional advancement. Hence, in addition to the academic C.E. hours, the Northwest Convention strives to allow time and the right environment to ensure socialization among the members.

The NorthWest convention has been scheduled as a spring convention, usually being held in the latter part of May. The initial convention was notable in that Dr. Kirkbride personally financed a formal dinner for the entire attending physicians and their spouses. My brother and myself supplied boutonnieres for the gentlemen and corsages for the ladies.

Oregon arranged for a scenic Willamette River cruise and maintained the tradition of a Saturday banquet dinner and dance. Alberta hosted a convention to coincide with the world famous Calgary Stampede. British Columbia chartered a DC-6 to take a sight-seeing tour over the Vancouver area, the Gulf Islands, and the Gold Coast of B.C. Washington has hosted a number of successful entertainment events: a cruise to the salmon bakes with entertainment by a barbershop quartet; a morning brunch and bus tour to Falls City; an exciting and entertaining casino night.

The Future of the NWNPC

This convention is not an old-timers conference. The Northwest convention offers the opportunity for the knowledge of our elders to be passed to new graduates. This convention should serve as a vehicle that unifies the traditional practices of naturopathic medicine with the advancing knowledge obtained through current education. I have appreciated many of the young doctors who come to thank us for passing on our experiences.

We wish to involve the student bodies of the naturopathic colleges and welcome their participation. The roots of this convention shall not be forgotten. While future plans include inviting other professional practitioners, considering professional convention planners, and developing student bursaries, the camaraderie and high level of education will not be compromised.

“I wish to thank many people as I close this presentation. The entire Convention Committee members – new and old, over the past years. The Hosting Associations and the progressive minded members of the profession who are in attendance today. Last but not least, the vendors who faithfully support this convention and our profession.”

Respectfully submitted,
G. R. Farnsworth, D.C., N.D. Chair Emeritus
Todd Farnsworth, N.D. Current NorthWest Commitee Chair

In 2009 Dr. G. R. Farnsworth was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, LLD degree, in recognition of Dr. Farnsworth’s lifetime contributions to the profession, and most particularly for his many years of service to NCNM in the beginning stages of the school’s development both in Portland and in Seattle.  Dr. Farnsworth not only was a volunteer lecturer and clinical supervisor for two decades, he provided stewardship as an administrator, board member and professional development contributor through his work with the Canadian Naturopathic Foundation and through the NorthWest Naturopathic Physicians’Convention for over a half century of unhesitating dedication and excellence.