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2006 AMWA-MAC Annual Spring Dinner: Refreshing, Learning and Networking

By Yanni Wang, PhD

See photos of the event here >>

In a cozy Italian restaurant on a warm spring evening graced by a gentle breeze, about 50 people chatted contentedly while sipping cool drinks and enjoying tempting finger foods passed by a team of expert waiters who threaded their way skillfully through the crowd.

Was it a grand party in Italy?

No, it was the opening reception of the AMWA Mid-Atlantic Chapter (AMWA-MAC) Spring Dinner Meeting at Positano Ristorante Italiano in Bethesda, Maryland, on June 6, 2006. Immediate Past-President Susan Tamborini, MS, mentioned in her opening remarks that the 2006 meeting was the biggest annual chapter event she had ever attended.

In addition to Tamborini, current AMWA-MAC President Tamia Karpeles and five past AMWA-MAC presidents, including Norman Grossblatt (1981–1982), Linda Kesselring (1995–1997), Michael Altus (1998–1999), Donna Savage (2001–2002), and Susan Atlas (2002–2003), attended. The Spring Dinner Meeting also attracted a few members from other organizations, including Alisa Zapp Machalek, a science writer from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, who said she attended the meeting to learn what medical writers and AMWA really do. Ronnie Streff, from AMWA headquarters, attended and announced some of the upcoming activities and events AMWA’s national office is planning, including AMWA’s 66th annual conference, which will take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in October.

The two keynote speakers featured at the 2006 AMWA-MAC meeting were Ali Safayan, MD, and Karen Threlkel, ND, from the Restorative Health Center for Integrative Medicine in Washington DC. Safayan’s expertise includes integrative medicine, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, prolotherapy, medical acupuncture, nutritional counseling and supplementation, and Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET), an innovative treatment for food and environmental allergies. Dr. Threlkel’s expertise is naturopathic medicine. She uses well-balanced diets, nutritional supplements, and botanical remedies to help patients recover from illness. Safayan and Threlkel introduced their integrative practice philosophy, expressed their passion for taking care of patients and shared their unique knowledge of integrative medicine and naturopathic medicine with the audience. With vivid examples and carefully considered explanations, Safayan lamented the downsides of the current US health care and health insurance systems and described in detail how he and his team help their patients get through the healing process and maintain health. Instead treating patients only when they are seriously ill, Safayan said he prefers to prevent diseases—something he calls "taking care of healthy people." Safayan said he spends about half of his time in a conventional medical practice and the other half practicing integrative medicine. By listening to patients’ concerns, noting their backgrounds, medical history, and their life styles, the speakers aim to help patients make plans for future treatment and learn ways of taking better take care of themselves day by day.

The speakers’ remarks drew dozens of questions, ranging from what kinds of patients normally seek their help to how they market and bill for their services since integrative medical care is not usually covered by insurance.

Following the keynote presentation, AMWA-MAC President Karpeles summarized the activities that AMWA-MAC had sponsored or been involved with in the past year and discussed AMWA-MAC’s 2006 nominations and election. She also introduced the chapter’s incoming president, Jennifer Sizemore, ELS, who then introduced her board members and talked about her plans for the coming year.

Special recognitions presented during the meeting included a farewell recognition to outgoing Chapter President Karpeles (who won’t be going very far since she will continue to serve the chapter as immediate past president next year), the President’s Award, which is designed to recognize exceptional contribution from a chapter volunteer who is not currently serving on the Board, and three certificates of appreciation.

This year’s President’s Award went to Karen Harrop, MPH, website content editor, for her assistance in promoting, editing and formatting all of the materials posted on the chapter’s website. The certificates of appreciation were awarded to AMWA-MAC Treasurer Beth Lesher, PharmD, for unraveling a backlog of financial records, standardizing them and transferring them into Quicken®; Harolyn Hood, MS, for representing the chapter’s interests at the two-day spring meeting of AMWA’s national Board of Directors and reporting on those proceedings to the chapter Board; and to Program Director Kay Tucker for her energy and attention to detail in planning, initiating and promoting the annual Spring Dinner Meeting.

Although the meeting was scheduled to convene at 6:30 pm and end at 8:30 pm, some attendees came early and some stayed late. At 9:15 pm, most of those who had come out for the evening were still talking, laughing and networking in the cozy Italian restaurant. As AMWA-MAC President Karpeles commented, “The food was great, and the schmoozing went like gangbusters. This group really loves a chance to talk to each other."

Numerous people contributed to the success of the chapter’s Spring Dinner Meeting and special thanks goes out to all of them. Those who deserve to be recognized include all of the members of the chapter’s board, who provided extensive planning, promotion, night-of and follow-up support; former AMWA-MAC President Doris Margolis, who helped generate speaker ideas; Michael Altus, who helped publicize the event in numerous email messages to the chapter’s members; Karen Harrop and Judy Stoffer, who designed and posted the website notice and sign-up information for the event; Donna Savage who took pictures throughout the evening; Pushpa-Rekha Thimmalapura, who posted and coordinated an online registration system before the meeting; Heather Banks, who helped greet attendees and coordinate registrations on site; Yanni Wang, who reported on the meeting; the speakers, Ari Safayan, MD, and Karen Threlkel, ND, who agreed to speak without knowing whether their audience would contain 7 or 70 AMWA-MAC members; Positano Ristorante Italiano, which provided expert planning assistance, a topnotch wait staff and the flexibility needed to host this meeting; and everyone who turned out for the meeting that night, even though some drove for more than an hour to reach the meeting site.

Recently, the board members decided that in order to devote more resources to regional events within the chapter, AMWA-MAC would sponsor just two chapter-wide events each year—one in the spring and one in the fall. Plans already are underway for the meeting this fall. AMWA-MAC members who would like to be involved with that meeting or have ideas about topics, speakers or locales for future events should contact Kay Tucker.

Yanni Wang, PhD, is a new chapter member. You can read her profile here.