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From the Townsend Letter
June 2007


Healing with Homeopathy:
The Qualities of the Rare Physician: Part 1
by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP and Robert Ullman, ND, DHANP

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This column may appear to have nothing to do with practice of homeopathy, but it really has everything to do with the subject! Two nights ago, in the Bastyr University Chapel, we were privileged to attend the informal memorial for our beloved teacher, mentor, colleague, and fellow pilgrim on the spiritual path, Dr. William Mitchell. Yesterday afternoon, we had the special opportunity, along with many others whom he also touched deeply, to witness the webcast of the formal memorial service. The remembrances, anecdotes of Bill's life, and reminders of what an important role he played in the lives of so many of us will remain with us. Just as Bill inspired us (especially Judyth, who was a member of the second class to graduate from Bastyr) through his life, we are reminded, through his death, to emulate certain qualities that Bill embodied. It was reiterated, both yesterday and today, that it now lies with the naturopathic physicians of the present and the future to carry on Bill's work. The exemplary qualities displayed by Bill as one of the finest naturopathic physicians of our time can be a model not only for NDs, but for other physicians, healers, and human beings. So, forgive us for diverging from our usual homeopathic format and let us share with you the inspiration we derived from Bill's services excerpting from the words of those who knew him so well. As we write this article, we are gazing upon a lovely photo of Bill. We hope, wherever his spirit may be, that he is guiding us as these words flow through us. We will try to get all the facts perfectly straight, but, fortunately, Bill wouldn't have cared anyway, because perfection would not be what mattered most to him here; what is important is that we are speaking from our hearts and spirits.

An Unfaltering Belief in the Healing Power of Nature
Joe Pizzorno recounted a wonderful story about a hike in the woods, one of Bill's favorite pastimes. Bill and Joe were two of 25 naturopathic students in the early renaissance of our profession during the early to mid-1970s. The Washington State Supreme Court had just made a decision to prohibit the practice of naturopathic medicine. Puzzled and somewhat despairing of his newly found career, about which he felt so passionate, Bill asked Dr. Bastyr if he thought naturopathic medicine would continue. "Dr. B." replied, clearly and without hesitation, that our work was bound to spread because of the truth of our medicine. Bill never looked back. Much like Dr. Bastyr, Bill never doubted for a moment the principle of vis medicatrix naturae (the healing power of nature) and passed the strength of his convictions onto his students, patients, colleagues, and anyone who knew him.

Many years ago, shortly after we became NDs, we read an article reporting statistics on the disillusionment of many medical doctors regarding the effectiveness of conventional medicine. The article went on to explain that the longer MDs were in practice, the less they believed in what they were doing. We were happy to say that we, personally, as naturopathic and homeopathic physicians, felt just the opposite. We held an abiding belief that, given a chance and a little push in the direction of healing with the help of nature, we could heal ourselves. Bill had so much faith in this principle that when Bastyr University (then called the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine or JBCNM—JBC for short) was just beginning and was desperately short of funds, he thought nothing of soliciting ongoing contributions from his patients; those contributions helped the college to survive its early days.

A Perpetual Student
Bill was forever reading, learning, and studying, whether devouring all 28 volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, delving into old botanical literature, or pondering the latest research on this or that biochemical pathway. A woman who worked in his office for a number of years shared that Bill, as busy as he was seeing patients and teaching, spent about 70% of his time in his study reading and writing. It was Bill's never-ending curiosity for learning that made him see not unsolvable dilemmas, but fascinating questions to investigate and approach in novel, experimental ways. Bill apologized to Judyth, several times, for not knowing as much about homeopathy as she did. It was not that Bill couldn't have mastered homeopathy as thoroughly as he did herbs or guitar or a number of other pursuits. He probably just didn't have the time, or perhaps the inclination. Bill learned more in his 59 years than most of us do in many lifetimes

Enthralled with the Medicines
Dr. Joe Pizzorno shared that it was obvious from the hikes they took with Dr. Bastyr and Dr. Boucher (a well-known and respected Canadian naturopathic physician) that Bill was awestruck by the wonder of nature's medicinal plants. They were his tools, his friends, his gifts. Bill had infinite respect for mother Gaia in all of her forms, but especially her healing medicines in their natural form. He would regularly bring this or that fresh herb or tincture to his classes, pass them around, encouraging the doctors of the future, who would attempt to follow in his footsteps, to touch, taste, smell, crush…do whatever we could to incorporate those plants as an integral part of ourselves.

Being Fully Present with the Patient
Again and again, we heard – as Bill's patients, friends, family, colleagues, students of naturopathic medicine and yoga spoke – how Bill had the remarkable talent of making anyone he was with feel not only accepted and soothed, but as if (s)he were his best friend… the only person in the world. This appreciation and deep listening made everyone feel comfortable, able to do more than what they might have believed possible, and even loved. When Bill was with you, it felt as if he with you one hundred percent. No matter how much reading or curriculum preparation or board meetings or family obligations he had, you felt important, as if there were nothing else he would rather be doing. How different this is from the proverbial hand on the doorknob story we hear about doctors who are impatient, after five minutes, to leave the consulting room.

A Teacher Par Excellence
Not only did Bill share information freely and without expectation of anything in return, but he had no doubt that his students, whoever they might have been at the time, could take in that knowledge and use it whenever necessary. At the memorial, another of Bill's colleagues described a hike that Bill took long ago with a fellow ND on an icy slope. When they got to a certain point, Bill called to the novice snow-hiker, handing him an ice axe. He explained clearly and succinctly when and how to make use of it. Moments later, after having taken no more than a few steps onto the slope, the colleague slipped, feet flying out from under him. He quickly did exactly as Bill had instructed him minutes earlier and halted his rapid downward descent before reaching the cliff. "That's great," Bill commended him calmly. "You did it just right."

A Twinkle in the Eye and a Passion for Life
There was an unmistakable gleam in Bill's eyes. The kind that you see in a mad inventor or a five-year-old child who can't get enough of life. More than one of those close to him called it Bill's "kid-in-a-candy-store look." He had an exuberance and zest for life and all of its wonders and experiences. Though thoughtful and contemplative, Bill was a mischief-maker. As knowledgeable and dedicated as he was, he embodied more than a touch of the wild man. Les Griffith, ND, a friend and colleague for decades, reminded us that "Bill was no saint." His weakness for women and wine must have complicated his life immensely. The incident in which Bill tragically killed a Vietnamese mother of two brought him, and others, immense suffering. Bill plunged into life with both feet as, so often, impassioned souls do. Bill's daughter reminded us of how profoundly affected he was by the accident and how it served as an impetus for deepening further his ability to love.

Scientist, Artist, Philosopher, Scholar, Visionary
Bill was a man for all seasons. An avid scientist, Bill was as versed in biochemical pathways as many a chemist. He was such a talented guitarist that, as a teenager, his picture was on the cover of Time magazine for his prowess as a guitar teacher. We only learned yesterday that he was a sculptor as well. Bill was quite the philosopher—regardless of the topic about which he was speaking. He had that seemingly rambling, but actually relaxed and brilliant, way of wrapping his mind around vast expanses and depths of concepts and subject matter. Then, somehow, he could synthesize it and share it in a coherent fashion. A couple of Bill's long-time yoga students (we learned only a few weeks ago that he taught a weekly drop-in yoga class for twenty years) shared that Bill's were the most wonderful yoga classes they had ever attended, far different from your typical routine of asanas. As the students held a stretch or posture, Bill spoke to them, interweaving and applying to life the diverse wisdom of the universe that so moved him. An idea man, many a time others looked to Bill for expansive ideas beyond the confines of their own limited imaginations. Bill was a brainstormer—a welcome addition to the many board meetings required to take on the immense task of being, and later sustaining and growing, a naturopathic college that was to become a natural university.

More Next Time
These are only half of the qualities that we are inspired to share, so please bear with us as we finish weaving this tapestry next month. After that, we promise more cases, more philosophy, more homeopathy.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board certified in homeopathy. Judyth graduated from Bastyr University in 1983 in the second class to graduate from the school. Bob received his ND in 1981 from The National College of Naturopathic Medicine (the first two years of which were held in Wichita, KS and the second two in Portland, OR. Their books include: A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac Free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages-Stories of Enlightenment. They teach and lecture internationally and practice at The Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They treat patients by phone and video conference as well as in person, and can be reached by telephone at 425-774-5599 or by fax at 425-670-0319. Their websites are and


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