High School Forum Speaker - Dr. Josie Skavdahl

     Doctor Josie Skavdahl, naturopath and midwife, came to the high school as a Forum speaker on Thursday, Dec. 1st. Under her arm, Dr. Josie carried a small clear plastic box. This was her traveling birth kit. Dr. Josie began by telling the students that as a teenager in South Dakota, she had never heard of naturopathic medicine. Following her interest in nutrition brought Dr. Josie to Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, where she finished her undergraduate in nutrition. It was also at Bastyr that Dr. Josie was able to pursue her doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Bastyr is one of the few accredited naturopathic medical schools in the United States.

     The high school students listened with interest as Dr. Josie recounted her personal story. Then, turning to her small plastic box, Dr. Josie pulled out two homeopathic remedies to share with the students. She passed these around as she explained the remedies’ various qualities. Pulsatilla for weepy patients and the popular Arnica for bumps and bruises of all kinds. Both are useful remedies for the birthing room. Dr. Josie clearly explained the premise for homeopathic medicine, and even shared her initial feelings of doubt over the efficacy of such remedies. With her logic, it was impossible for Dr. Josie to explain how these remedies work on a patient. Dr. Josie now is confident that homeopathy offers relief to her patients as she has seen the effects first hand. Students were told that each remedy is unique to a certain set of symptoms and constitutions, and were free to try each remedy without fear of adverse effects. Students tested with gusto! Dr. Josie also handed around tinctures of the spicy, warming Zingber and the less pleasant-tasting Panax ginseng. Students tried these tinctures as well, their opinion of each clearly written on their faces. Surprise at the spiciness of the ginger and repulsion of the unidentifiable flavor of ginseng.

     Students did not hesitate to ask questions, Dr. Josie inferred an ease that opened the curiosity of the students. Some questions included: “What is your favorite part of the job?” (All! Dr. Josie never feels bored at her job). “What happens when two births occur at the same time?” (Dr. Josie works at a birth center in Topsham, Maine, where she works with other naturopath midwives, in the case of two births at once, practitioners will split up and call on trusted doulas or other midwives for assistance). “Do you use the placebo effect with your patients?” (All the time, the first rule you are taught in naturopathic medical school is to use the least intervention, sometimes patients need to get out of their head, and using the placebo effect in such cases is more powerful than any drug that could be administered). And questions that even some expecting parents do not ask: “Do the patients who need to go to the hospital in the case of a difficult birth need to pay both the hospital and the midwife?” (Yes, because the midwife does not want money to interfere with her decision-making process when a birth becomes difficult. Patients are told this up front at Dr. Josie’s practice). And lastly “If my wife were pregnant and we wanted a midwife, how would we know how to choose a good one if there is no official certification program in Maine?” (You would have to trust your instinct and rely on word of mouth. Since there is a national certification, patients may ask for proof of this certification).
      Overall, students responded with enthusiasm to Dr. Josie’s visit. They enjoyed her familiar tone, students felt as if they were more part of a discussion than a lecture. Dr. Josie had no agenda to impose upon the students and they were appreciative of how she answered their questions directly without going off on tangents. Most of all, students were inspired by her positive message, her obvious love of the topic and felt that this rubbed off on them a bit. Dr. Josie expressed to the teachers that she was very impressed with the maturity and the openness of the students.

     More information on Dr. Josie’s practice in Topsham can be found in the Midcoast Saturday newspaper from this past Saturday, December 3rd, 2011. Thank you to Régine Whittlesey for bringing yet another one of her many acquaintances into our Forum space and enriching our school experience. Sarah Buck


High School Forum Speaker - Ambassador Jonathan Moore

Last week, the high school was very honored and privileged to host Ambassador Jonathan Moore who came, invited by M. David Whittlesey, to participate in the Model UN class. We took advantage of this opportunity to invite Ambassador Moore to our monthly Forum as well as have a conversation with the 9th grade class who had recently studied US government.
Ambassador Moore came through to the students as a man of high probity, in quest of truth and integrity through his understanding of world affairs. He approached his talk with kindness and lucidity, explaining for example how everything is interrelated such as pessimism and optimism, when it comes to world affairs.

Who is Ambassador Moore?
From 1989-92 Moore was Ambassador to the United Nations and Representative to its Economic and Social Council, and from 1986-89 U.S. Coordinator and Ambassador at large for Refugees and as Director of the Refugee Programs Bureau, U.S. Department of State. Currently, he is an associate at the Joan Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he was Director of the Institute of Politics and Lecturer in Public Policy from 1974-86. He also serves on the Dickey Center Board of Visitors and is former Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth.

During 1969-73, he served in Washington as Deputy Secretary of State, Counselor to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department. Previously, he worked for the U.S. Information Agency in India and Africa, in the U.S. Senate, and on state and national electoral campaigns.

He continues efforts pursued over the past fifteen years for the United Nations and other international organizations in relief and development programs in poor and conflicted countries such as Cambodia, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, Kosovo, Croatia, and Sri Lanka.

Among other publications, Moore is the editor of Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention, (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), and author of : "Independent Study of U.N. Coordination Mechanisms in Crisis and Post-Conflict Situations" (U.N. Development Programme/ERD, October 2000); "Peace-building in an Inseparable World" (N.E. Journal of Public Policy, Winter 2004-05); "The U.N. and Complex Emergencies: Rehabilitation in Third World Transitions" (UNRISD, Geneva, 1996); and "Morality and Interdependence" (Rockefeller Center, Dartmouth College, 1994).

We are so grateful for the visit to Merriconeag School by this highly respected international diplomat!
Regine Whittlesey