A weekend shoot at the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians 27th Annual Conference, held in Portland, was a wonderful reminder that the long, dark interruption of our lives during the pandemic is finally moving into the light. For photographers, that’s not just a figurative, but a literal experience.
For physicians with the OANP, the pandemic meant the loss of face-to-face contact with colleagues at their annual conferences, which went virtual in 2020 and 2021. The loss was long and painful.
Popularized as “patient-centered health care”, naturopathic medicine has long been associated with an emphasis on the relationship between physician and patient: on listening, caring, learning and supporting. But when naturopathic physicians were denied the same kind of relationships with each other during the two year pandemic, it left a unique vacuum.
Fast forward to this month. The return of a live, face-to-face OANP conference provided a rush of fresh air after almost three years of isolation.
During the two day event, there were reunions, hugs, tears and a renewed sense of purpose for some two hundred participants. For an event photographer, the emotional content of OANP’s 27th Annual Conference was a powerful force. Talks on reversing dementia, on anti-epilepsy drugs, nutritional balance and mental health, and the treatment of traumatic brain injury, brought out sustained, enthusiastic applause from the audience. Particularly compelling was a talk on neurodiversity, the idea that individuals perceive the world around them differently, relying on different combinations of seeing, hearing, touching and cognition to make meaning out of life. Nothing could better describe the importance of communicating face-to-face.
The gathering gave new meaning to the adage “physician, heal thyself.”
That kind of energy is spreading in professional organizations across the Northwest, coming together for the first time after the long pandemic. Whether in the health industry, tech, construction or tourism, the return of face-to-face events carries with it both ritual and renewal- and a return to community.