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From the Townsend Letter
July 2008

Townsend Letter Celebrates 300 Issues!

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Jonathan Collin, MDJonathan Collin, MD
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

The question I am always asked is how do you practice medicine and put out a magazine? I started the Townsend Letter as a hobby, a newsletter. Back in 1983, it was a bulletin board for doctors to share their pet therapies and mad-scientist ideas. When I realized that a publishing hobby could become quite an expense, I made the decision to make the letter into a magazine. We sent the earliest issues out to chelation physicians, environmental doctors, naturopaths, and members of the professional supplement industry. I remember my first paid subscribers asking, "Am I really going to get a full subscription for the year, or will this magazine fold?" and "Do you really expect the magazine to be operating after five years?"

Well, here it is 300 issues later, and the Townsend Letter is a fixture in the alternative medicine/naturopathic medical community. While our circulation holds to around 10,000, we have had well over 100,000 health professionals read our publication over the past 25 years. Although we are not yet referenced in the Index Medicus, many of our articles can now be found on Our listing of alternative medicine meetings is updated each issue and on our website

Getting back to my opening question, it is difficult to see patients and edit articles and sell advertising and design a magazine. Yes, it is juggling, but it's the type of juggling that I enjoy doing. I edited the high school newspaper and the college engineering magazine, so editing and publishing were not new to me. It's a great fit to be able to write about the alternative medicine I practice and the medicine that peers practice. We still are a bulletin board – there are many diagnostics and therapies that don't fit my idea of an alternative practice yet still deserve a forum.

BellaMy biggest shortcoming has been that the time to see patients, publish a magazine, and walk our Westie terrier, Bella, has meant less time for my wife and family, whom I thank for bearing with my workaholic ways.

We look forward to another 300 issues of the Townsend Letter!

Alan Gaby, MD
Contributing Medical Editor

Dr. Gaby writes the invaluable column Literature Review and Commentary as well as regular editorials for the Townsend Letter.

I have been interested in writing for as long as I can remember. Between ages 10 and 12, I published a bi-weekly newsletter called Spotlight on Science. My co-writer was a nine-year-old boy named Edward Witten, who lived two houses from me and was the smartest person I have ever met. He has since won the Field's Medal in mathematics and is a contender for the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on string theory. We wrote articles on topics such as Mendelian genetics and Einstein's relativity, discussed science news, posed brain-teasers, and told people where they could look for the planets through their telescope at that particular time of the year. I plagiarized most of my work from the World Book Encyclopedia and the local newspaper, not knowing at the time you weren't supposed to do that. I did all the typing: four pages per issue, single-spaced onto a Ditto stencil, with a non-electric typewriter, hoping with every keystroke not to make a mistake, because there was no clean way to correct mistakes on those stencils. We sold copies (for five cents each) at school and by ringing doorbells in the neighborhood. Our highest circulation for a single issue was 105 copies.

The Townsend Letter has been a similar labor of love, and I am grateful to have been able to contribute to every one of the 300 issues. It has been an important outlet for helping to shape my thought processes, and I have especially appreciated the fact that Jonathan Collin lets me say just about anything. It has been a joy working with Jonathan, Barbara Smith, and the rest of the staff.

My non-medical activities include being a volunteer for the Kimball Elementary School Chess Club, where my son is a first-grader, and a coach for the Concord, New Hampshire Little League. I stopped eating red meat two years ago, and my back stopped hurting for the first time in my adult life. I wake up every morning grateful that I have a wonderful family and that most of my body parts still work. I hope to resume my old hobby of songwriting some time in the not-too-distant future, after my 30-year project (a textbook of medical nutrition) is completed.

Adrianne HarunAdrianne Harun, Editor
Adrianne joined Townsend Letter in 2005, replacing retiring long-time editor Irene Alleger.

My father, a doctor, is a crack diagnostician. I remember over 24 years ago, a Port Townsend friend's family was undergoing a series of mysterious illnesses and, having been treated unsuccessfully with a phalanx of pharmaceuticals, the whole family had been referred to a psychiatrist. I mentioned what I knew of the family's symptoms to my father over the phone. He thought a moment and said, "Sounds like Lyme disease." Turned out that the family had spent a summer visiting in-laws in Connecticut, and while no one remembered a tick bite, the symptoms fit, as did the resulting treatment. My father is still a hero in that family. So, obviously, one of the aspects of working at TL I enjoy most is sharing the magazine with my father and my mother, an equally astute nurse, back in Pennsylvania.

In addition to editing TL, I write fiction. My most recent book, The King of Limbo, is a collection of stories published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002. And I teach in Pacific Lutheran University's MFA program for writers. With my two sons grown – and greatly missed – I no longer have to sneak in writing and reading time, so when not at work, I'm most often found at my desk or with a book or working in the garden with my husband, Alistair, our enormous dog Mac, and our last surviving cat, Enzo.

Favorite TL Feature: All the columns, the book reviews, and, of course, Barb's cover designs.

Jule Klotter, Contributing Editor
Jule is not only a longtime Townsend Letter staff member, she writes the much-revered "Shorts," frequently reviews new books and DVDs, indexes the magazine, and occasionally offers a fascinating full-length article.

I still remember my excitement at finding a job listing for "temporary editor" in Port Townsend's weekly paper in 1990. I was grooming dogs at the time and wanted to use my training in writing. The temporary job at Townsend Letter led to permanent employment as the magazine's indexer, gradually expanding to book reviewer and "Shorts" columnist. I inherited my interest in alternative medicine from my parents. My mother, a former nurse, taught us to trust the body's ability to heal and to be skeptical of traditional medicine. My dad enjoyed reading about vitamins, Edgar Cayce, and biochemistry. My passions include companion animals and theatre. While living in Port Townsend, I wore several "hats" in a community theater group. I also took part in the National Audio Theatre Workshop in Missouri for a week each June. Now I live in South Carolina, where I teach astrology at the local Unitarian Universalist church, sing in the community chorus, walk my three dogs, and experiment with "wild fermentation."

Barbara SmithBarbara Smith, Managing Editor
Barbara is the linchpin of Townsend Letter. Whether submitting an article, placing an ad, puzzling out design, or planning the perfect dinner party, Barb's the person to seek out. Thank goodness she's a Gemini, a natural multi-tasker. We're all just hoping one day TL springs for a desk for poor Barb, who manages to accomplish all her tasks at a table ("it's not a desk").

My first exposure to TL began in 1985, practicing the lost arts of paste up, darkroom, and plating. When things began changing in the printing industry, I purchased a Mac and a laser printer (the first in town) and started my own business. With that business, The TypeSmith, I began typing and laying out the magazine as of issue #50 in 1987. In the beginning, I actually had to type every article, then slowly, people started sending floppy disks, and now, they send most everything by email. Each issue is a new challenge, and I really enjoy starting with a list of things that need to go in the magazine and creating it from scratch. Working from my home office allowed me to be home for my daughter, Allison, while she was growing up. When Reba Be retired – about the same time Allison started high school in 1994 – I was able to take on the position of managing editor. Basically, if anything is wrong, it's probably my fault. My favorite pastimes are cooking, entertaining, traveling, motor-homing, and spending time with my husband, Larry, and friends, laughing, off-road riding, and finding new adventures.

Favorite TL feature: Health Risks & Environmental Issues

Joy Reuther-CostaJoy Reuther-Costa, Circulation Manager
Joy has been with the magazine practically since its inception. She started helping with the mailing in 1985, when she was a mere baby, and then came to work at the magazine part-time in 1990. In 1997, she became Circulation Manager, following in the footsteps of her mother, JoAnn Reuther.

I love talking to subscribers on the phone and being able to help them research articles. Because we're so small, we can respond personally, but occasionally, readers call with a list of requests, assuming we're a corporation with a large staff. It takes them awhile to realize TL is more "a dedication than an obligation." I love, too, the concept of the magazine, the give and take of information.

Away from TL, I'm active in my church, serving on the church council and on the pre-school board, and teaching Sunday School. I also act as a volunteer driver for ECHO, a helping hands organization. With what spare time I have, I'm working with my husband Robert to transform our acre of mud into a yard and garden, trying out the bike path near our home, going to Pilates classes, or baking fabulous new desserts.

Favorite TL features: Shorts and Literature Review

Julie ReutherJulie Reuther, Managing Assistant
Julie is the junior member of the Reuther dynasty at Townsend Letter. Like her sister Joy, TL's Circulation Manger, Julie cut her teeth in TL's mailing department.

After years of helping with the mailing, I joined TL's office staff part-time in 1994 as a Circulation Assistant, eventually moving to full-time Managing Assistant. The best parts about the job are my co-workers and boss. When not at work, I love watching movies – any kind – most outdoor activities – hiking, camping – and hanging out with my two dogs – a Lab Pointer and a Blue-Heeler mix.

Favorite TL feature: Letter from the Publisher

Buddy HefleyBuddy Hefley
Buddy would give his job title as "Mailing Wrangler," but everyone else at TL calls him the Mailing Manager, a job he's held for the past 16 years.

I was born in Kentucky and made two passes at Port Townsend, before I stuck. Today, I live off the grid in the country, with no electricity or water. I play music – washboard bass – and enjoy reading modern literary fiction. Favorite writers include Jean Giono, Knut Hamsen, and (early) Cormac McCarthy. The best part of working at TL is definitely being with my co-workers. I just wish the cartoons in the magazine were better. Dr. Collin clearly has a talent there; the one cartoon I saw of his was great.

Favorite TL feature: Nutritional Medicine

Jill TomasiJill Tomasi, Managing Assistant
Jill primarily works on the practice side of the Townsend Letter office as Dr. Collin's medical receptionist.

I began working for Dr. Collin 17 years ago and almost immediately was drafted into the Townsend Letter mailing, eventually working my way up to "go-for." I've absorbed so much from working in both the practice and at Townsend Letter that my co-workers joke that I'm a P.A.D. – Practically a Doctor. Born in Seattle, I was raised in California and migrated back to the Northwest and then Alaska, before putting down roots in Port Townsend. I'm passionate about gardening, and I love walking around Port Townsend.

Favorite TL feature: Healing with Homeopathy

Sandy HershelmanSandy Hershelman
Sandy, an award-winning journalist, photographer, desktop publisher, and Web designer has been the Townsend Letter Webmistress since 2002. Her photos have graced the covers of a number of our magazines, as well. She is the only person we know who could get a dramatic "swimming with the giant turtles" cover shot without getting wet.

During her eleventh 39th birthday party last year, Sandy's parents "adopted" two fellow Townsend Letterites, Barbara and Joy – and 14 more of her closest friends. Her children, 22 and 26, were quick to calculate the Christmastime benefit of having so many loving aunts and uncles.

While we have long questioned Sandy's sanity, it has only recently been confirmed that she's totally lost it: in February, Sandy announced she's running for county commissioner. (That's what happens when you sit on way-too-many land/water use and affordable housing committees.)

In her spare time, which she has oh-so-very little of these days, Sandy loves to shop, eat, read, walk, and dance. She's even taught swing dance to some of our office crowd. Re-reading this little blurb, Sandy realizes it would probably scare off most of the guys on those online dating sites – especially if she continues to speak of herself in the third person.

Favorite TL feature: Medical Anthropology



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June 2, 2010

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