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John Bastyr 1912-1995.
John Bastyr, medical pioneer and life-long advocate of naturopathic medicine, was more than a physician. "His way with patients, his ability to stimulate in them their ability to get better, he had that way with patients," commented Dr. Joe Pizzorno, president and co-founder of Seattle's Bastyr University.

Dr. Bastyr found his inspiration early, watching his father, a pharmacist, mix various herbs. He is regarded by many as the man who single-handedly worked to protect and preserve the "nature cure" approach to health care during the decades when it was under attack by organized medicine as quackery and fraud.

"He was never bitter about that," said Dan Labriola, a Seattle naturopathic doctor who once studied under Bastyr. "He kept getting clobbered trying to keep the profession alive, but he just felt it was an educational process and people would eventually come around."

Labriola feels that it was Bastyr's gentle persistence in promoting naturopathy in Washington state that likely saved the profession from extinction in the U.S.

"Naturopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment of the prevention and cure of disease using natural methods," Bastyr once said. "You're not treating a disease. You're treating an individual."

At age 80 he was still practicing, commuting between his Seattle office and his four-acre farm in Kent, south of the city.

Dr. Les Griffith of Seattle found in Bastyr his inspiration for switching from a career as a medical doctor to one as a naturopathic physician. Griffith's idea of naturopathic medicine was that it was the sort of snake oil that was sold off the back of a buggy. Then he was introduced to Bastyr.

"I liked the way he dealt with people, the whole ambiance of making caring a part of the healing process. It was almost as if his caring had a will of its own to make people better," Griffith said. He is glad that he and co-founders Pizzorno and Dr. Bill Mitchell named the school after Dr. Bastyr while he was still alive.

"We wanted to make a monument to him while he was still alive. We wanted him to know how much we cared."

Dr. Bastyr died from complications of congestive heart failure.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Barbara Johnston