With an attitude described as passionate and devoted, Dr. Kail helped lead the rebirth of the naturopathic medicine profession during the mid-1980s. Among numerous other achievements, he served as President of the newly formed American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), co-founded one of the country’s leading naturopathic schools, and served on the first-ever advisory council of the National Center for Complementary Health (NCCAM).1
“Dr. Kail was a force in our profession and a true leader who has left a mark that will endure for many years,” said Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc, current president of AANP.2
Several years after being certified as a physician’s assistant by the Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Kail obtained his doctor of naturopathic medicine from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM, now known as the National College of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon, in 1983.3 Soon after, he and his wife Petie and other NDs took off on a country-wide bicycling trek to spread awareness of naturopathic medicine through numerous in-person and radio interviews.1,4 This “Wheeling and Healing Tour”—a physical feat that brought national recognition to the field—was a foreshadowing of Dr. Kail’s leadership capabilities.
Dr. Kail soon became a member of several naturopathic physician and education organizations, and in 1990 he and Petie established their own practice, Naturopathic Family Care, Inc., in Phoenix, where they treated thousands of patients.1,4 During his 25 years of clinical work, Dr. Kail “developed unique community models for involving patients in behavioral change, formulated new natural product combinations, continuously examined his clinical outcomes, and presented widely on clinical topics in integrative medicine.”4
“Konrad was very devoted to his patients,” said Lise Alschuler, ND, vice president of quality and education at Emerson Ecologics. “His enthusiasm for natural medicine was so infective that it was hard for his patients to not get better” (e-mail, September 6, 2011).
In 1991, Dr. Kail was selected as the third president of the AANP,3 a position to which he brought much of his energy and ambition.
“Konrad’s wasn’t a place-holding sort of presidency,” wrote John Weeks, who was executive director of AANP at the time Dr. Kail was president.4 “The AANP was just getting its legs. Volunteerism was its lifeblood. Konrad was a perfect exponent of the ‘insanely committed’ who lifted that profession from obscurity.”
According to Michael Cronin, ND, a physician with Naturopathic Physicians Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of Dr. Kail’s main initiatives at AANP was called Each Person One Project. “He asked each ND to take on a project, to think about what they would like to see accomplished, volunteer, and through their personal initiative to get stuff done. Konrad was very much about getting stuff done. He was always the first to volunteer” (oral communication, September 15, 2011).
Dr. Kail’s term as AANP President from 1991-1993, according to Dr. Cronin, “was a time of great growth.” Weeks also noted that AANP “more than doubled in size” during Dr. Kail’s time there. Drawing on his passion for real-world research and outcomes, he created a new AANP in-office research award, which he would later win in 2004 and 2006. He was also named AANP Physician of the Year in 1997.
“Some of the achievements that I was personally most grateful for are his unwavering commitment to researching natural therapies,” said Dr. Alschuler. “He led by example and advanced the field through his own research and his mentorship of other researchers.”
At the end of his AANP presidency, Dr. Kail, along with Dr. Cronin, Kyle Cronin, Dana Keaton, ND, and Hugh Hawk, PhD, co-founded the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). At the time, the only US naturopathic medicine institutions were Bastyr University in Seattle and NCNM in Portland.
“A third naturopathic medical college in sunny Arizona just made sense,” said Dr. Cronin, noting that Dr. Kail taught a diversified set of courses, including public health, clinical training, and pharmacology. Since its founding, more than 700 NDs have graduated from SCNM.5
“As a clinical supervisor, he was equally devoted to his students,” said Dr. Alschuler, who met Dr. Kail when she taught at SCNM. “He was an excellent teacher and inspired his students to want to learn.”
In 1999, Dr. Kail took on a position of national importance when he was chosen as a member of the first-ever advisory council for NCCAM at the National Institutes of Health. Though an honorable opportunity, Dr. Kail encountered significant frustration on the NCCAM Council that consisted of many conventional medicine appointees. Dr. Cronin said that Dr. Kail strongly believed in researching, not what one herb does for one condition, but “how effective a naturopathic physician is in the holistic care they are prescribing.” According to Weeks, “Konrad argued for research on what naturopaths and other whole-person practitioners do. NCCAM director Stephen Straus, MD, refused to act on Konrad’s advice that researchers failed the public if they didn’t look at the whole practice. Straus couldn’t be budged.”4
Twelve years later, NCCAM finally took the direction that Dr. Kail had so enthusiastically supported. According to a report by the American Botanical Council, NCCAM’s 2011-2015 Strategic Plan “specifically accentuates translational and outcome-based research focused on effectiveness and ‘real-world’ settings.”6
“It was a source of satisfaction for him that the NCCAM strategic plan embraced whole practice,” said Dr. Cronin.
A few other of Dr. Kail’s accomplishments include serving as the executive director of the Southwest College Research Institute and being a 10-year member of the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Board of Medical Examiners. As for what drove Dr. Kail’s ambition, Dr. Cronin speculated, “The naturopathic community, for many of us, becomes our family. We all grow through a common educational experience that is unique. There is a very strong feeling of commitment and responsibility to provide leadership and direction. Konrad was able to step into the leadership role and be a role model for many of the new leaders.”
“In my conversations with Konrad,” said Dr. Alschuler, “he always spoke about naturopathic medicine and naturopathic physicians with pride and confidence. He articulated a future healthcare system that included naturopathic doctors at its core, delivering naturopathic primary care in integrated settings. I know that one of his goals was to ensure access for every American to a naturopathic doctor.”
And though SCNM and the NCCAM appointment were some of Dr. Kail’s proudest achievements, “His successful marriage to Petie would be first,” said Dr. Cronin.
Dr. Kail is survived by Petie; his mother Jean Peterson; Joe, Barbara, Rosalie, Taryn, and Twilah Kail; Julie Jones; and Tauna Wiltz.1 Donations in Dr. Kail’s memory may be made to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine at www.scnm.edu/.
1. Goldman E. In memoriam: Konrad Kail, ND, 1949-2011. Holistic Primary Care. 2011;12(3). Available at: www.holisticprimarycare.net/news/1158-in-memoriam-konrad-kail-nd-1949-2011. Accessed September 19, 2011.
2. President’s message: remembering Dr. Konrad Kail and “The Run” takes off. July 20, 2011. Available at: http://physicianswholisten.blogspot.com/2011/07/in-memoriam-dr-konrad-kail.html. Accessed September 27, 2011.
3. Curriculum Vitae - Dr. Kail. E-mail to L. Stafford from M. Cronin. August 29, 2011.
4. Weeks J. In memoriam: Konrad Kail, ND 1949-2011. The Integrator Blog. July 30, 2011. Available at: http://theintegratorblog.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=189. Accessed September 21, 2011.
5. About Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine website. Available at: www.scnm.edu/about-scnm.html. Accessed September 19, 2011.
6. Korpik C. NCCAM’s new 5-year plan: a real-world approach to integration and health promotion. HerbalEGram. March 2011;8(3). Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/heg/volume8/03March/NCCAMPlan_v2.html. Accessed September 21, 2011.