By Nan Dunne Byington, ND, MANP Executive Director

It’s coming ‘round to the 3rd anniversary of the process begun when I saw an opportunity for leadership I could confidently fulfill. My time and attention have been devoted to naturopathic medicine in a completely satisfying way for 30+ years. I want you to know I am more than satisfied with what we have accomplished, and I am ready to move into the next iteration of my professional contributions.  In this report I want to describe the essential nature of leadership succession, using the example of our recent Spring Gathering, and ask each of you to consider what your contribution may be, ongoing.


Starting with the 1991 legislative victory that established licensure in Montana, I have spent more than 23 years in appointed and elected volunteer leadership at state and national levels. I’ve been to a lot of meetings, worked in a lot of group processes, and I have earned a Master’s in Applied Behavioral Science, work that gives me insight into the life cycles of organizations as well as human behavior.


I am trotting out some of my bona fides here in order to specifically claim the authority I am addressing you from. In 2015, the MANP was suffering a lack of professional attention to organizational development, and we were losing ground. I proposed that the MANP hire me to make the organization functionally sound and better protected and I have more than accomplished my original commitment (see side bar for some details). The MANP has refreshed capacities and articulated structures that will support the goals of the active MANP leadership going forward. It is my strong recommendation that the MANP continue to engage professional association management services, in order to sustain effectiveness and functionality into the future. A blend of volunteer energy and professional services is a fundamental requirement; we will not be a functional profession in Montana without both of these elements.


Some of those next-generation leaders have just demonstrated a fabulous result of working with this kind of blended functionality. The all-volunteer Conference Working Group (CWG) pulled off a truly wonderful, new-to-us vitalism-enspirited Spring Gathering at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. They did so by entering into the formal system that our organization has adopted, using resources previously developed and manifested their vision with thoughtful accountability, in a beautiful collaboration. I could not be more grateful to these volunteering doctors for their gracious and well-rounded professionalism in guiding us through an experiment that has been an unqualified success.


The 2018 CWG headed by Danielle Phillips-Dorsett and enriched by Jacqueline Arnold, Margaret Coffey and Tara Wilcox provide a perfect example of wholesome professionalism. They wanted a less formal, more social, more relaxed and restorative event, with a deliberate emphasis on unity and connection. They achieved that by behaving in a formalized and professional manner to produce the event. They engaged the sponsoring organization (MANP) by adopting the format we have established as our policy. They compromised to make group commitments work; they showed up on time and they were there til the end; they respected process and gave each other exquisite attention; they flexed as individuals and as a group as needed. They behaved in ways respectful of each other’s time and the time of impacted others, meaning the executive committee, the venue and catering staff and the ED. They were cognizant of the MANP’s contractual obligations and were thoughtfully inclusive in reach-out to members as well as to our corporate partners.


Those foundations of professional behavior- flexible collaboration within an established system, respectful awareness of one’s impact on a group process, the thoughtful efficiencies of timeliness, reliability and accountability combined with a confidently juicy, joyful creativity. It was sweet to witness the happy excitement in the CWG at the end of the Gathering, evoking the kind of deeply rewarding group experience that fuels a willingness, even an eagerness, to continue to develop as ever more effective change agents. That’s the kind of experience that kept me coming back, year after year, effort after huge effort, arm-in-arm with my personal cohort of naturopathic leaders, for a couple decades. These new leaders did not just pull off a great gathering. They are building their personal skill sets for a successful, contributing professional life and they are strengthening our community so it will grow, diversify and be a functional, effective container for naturopathic medicine in Montana. And they are rooting potentially life-long, irreplaceable friendships.


Part of effective leadership is making way, at the right time, for others to step in. I am beginning my own space-making process in this report to you. I’m not letting go of my PCOS Consultations practice or my roles at Black Bear Naturopathic. However, I will complete my commitment as MANP Executive Director on 12/31/18. I have some insistent creative urges that cannot be expressed until I shift my time commitments. In the coming months I will be working with the executive committee to identify how we will replace the variety of functions I’ve been fulfilling as executive director. I’m confident what we come up with will effectively continue to strengthen our collective.


The MANP is all of us doing together what none of us can do alone. We each have a role to play. We have room for folks to contribute to our Conference Working Group, our Legislative Action Working Group, our fundraising efforts, our public relations. Our executive committee roles are meant to be 2 year commitments. There is modernization we could do with how these roles flow and how responsibilities get met. That will be the reliably ongoing demand, for executive leadership guiding the fulfillment of our collective mission. Understanding the essential nature of professionalism, professional organization and professional development is fundamental to ensuring your personal success as a naturopathic physician as well as to ensuring access to naturopathic medicine for all. It’s a skill set that will benefit you as business owners/medical directors, educators and clinicians. I hope you will make it part of your personal development plan to cycle through a commitment to our professional organization.


As always, I am available for your questions and feedback, via info@


Thanks for your invaluable attention and time. Thanks for being a precious part of our whole.