Our friend Cathy Rogers called last night with the sad news that Dr. Bill Mitchell passed away the night before in his sleep. Apparently his son Noah had died of a heart attack in the arms of his girlfriend that same day, and what I knew of Bill he was just the sort of person who could die from a broken heart.
My earliest memories of Bill are the first flurry of days after my transfer to Bastyr College, in 1978. I had to interview with a board member, and so it was to Bill's office on Queen Ann Hill in Seattle Washington that I journeyed. After waiting what feel like an interminable time, out he came, wearing Birkenstocks, which I had never seen before (remember this was 1978), and could not imagine anyone would wear these to work. He was talking to the patient who had just seen him and he kind of hugged/slapped them on the back, saying he was so happy that everything had worked out for them, and if there was anything else they needed, they should feel free to call. The look on his face was a mixture of illumination and joy; that look you sometimes see on a person's face when they suddenly realize that they are doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Bill was our botanical medicine instructor. His classes were always one of the most interesting, since he had literally inhaled the work of John Bastyr and many of the other great naturopaths who were now passing into old age.
Since there were no student loans at the time, I had to work many different jobs to pay for room and board. One of these was as a roving â€˜insurance examiner' that involved visiting a person's home and doing a few perfunctory type examinations, plus some urinalysis. During my first week, I received a ticket to visit the home of a certain William Mitchell who was applying for insurance. "No.â€? I said to myself, "This can't be Bill.â€?
It was hard to decide who was more uncomfortable: The wooly herbal jazz guitar playing mountain man or the lanky East Coast SONO city-slicker still trying to adjust to a new life in the laid back Pacific Northwest. We eventually got through the exam, but not before Bill offered to taste the urine to check for diabetes, and pronounced its smell "satisfactory.â€?
Years passed, and I next saw Bill at one of the Naturopathic Conferences in the late 1980's that I presented for. There he was, in the first row, scribbling notes at a furious pace. Then at one point I looked at him and he looked at me. He had that same exact expression on his face, except this time it was the look of a teacher, watching as one of his students goes forth into the world.
Over the years we've kept in touch, usually through third parties, who had come out of school after me and had been regaled with â€˜Mitchellology' a blend of wisdom, hominess and extra-dimensional space-time travel. When it was time to draw up the speaker roster for IfHI 2007, he was at the top of my list. We will fill the slot that was for Bill, but it won't be Bill, and IfHI 2007 will be a bit sadder for me.
I recently got the results of my Genographic Testing back. As a test it is simple enough; you swab the inside of your cheek with a comb like device and send it off to the Genographic services for analysis. You can check on the progress of the test by logging into their site and it does take a while to get it performed- in my case about 5 weeks from submission. If I remember correctly, it cost about USD $150.
Women always do the form of ancestry testing called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, since this is the DNA that is passed continuously through the maternal lineage. Guys can do either mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome analysis, which gives information on the paternal lineage. Since I'm more attuned to my Spanish heritage, I opted to do mtDNA though I'm going to do the Y chromosome as well.
It turns out that I'm Haplogroup T. It's not uncommon in Europe, but not the most common gene marker either (that is Haplogroup H). It seems to have developed in the Middle East (Anatolia) and moved into Europe with the spread of Neolithic agriculture, which jives with my ABO blood group, A.
Time to visit my friend Yaman and once again tour the old haunts!
Haplogroup T has a few subsets (T2, T3, T4 and T5) but I have only four SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in the so-called Hyper Variable Region (HVR-1) called 16126C, 16294T, 16296T and 16519C and these plant me in the rather unsatisfying T* subgroup made up of all T's who are not in any other subgroup.
Well, at least I'm not directly related to Jesse James although I am related to a lot of European royalty.
Take that Isa!
I always did feel a bit of connection to tragic-comic Czar Nicky and it's nice to think I can hit up a few royals for bus fare if needed.
Haplogroup T is closely related (derived, rather) from Haplogroup J, another Middle Eastern haplogroup, a fact which I find especially interesting in light of another recent discovery.
My mother's maiden name was Subira-Vidal, the Vidal from her mother (my grandmother's) side of the family. It turns out that Vidal in that part of Spain (Catalonia) was a name commonly adopted by Sephardic Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition, the name "Vidal" being used as a substitute for "Chaim" both signifying "life." Not all Spaniard with the surname Vidal are of Sephardic origins, but many in Catalonia are.
My mother was born in a very small town near the Aragon-Catalonia border called "Masalcoreig" which the locals say is derived from a phrase meaning "The Moor's Rock.â€? In those halcyon days before the occupations and intifadas and especially in Spain, wherever you found Moors you usually also found Jews; often as doctors, scribes and tutors.
So I'm a quarter Middle-Eastern and Sephardic. Now I can't wait to see some of my old-timer Hassidic patients at the clinic so I can pull rank on them.
Well, gotta go brush up on my Ladino...
We were talking about diets the other day and one of the people at the table mentioned that they had brought up the subject of the Blood Type Diet to several friends who ran a health food store. Their friends had certainly heard of it, but responded that that concept was "old" and "past its prime." Thinking perhaps they were correct, I decided to compare my first book, Eat Right For Your Type with current as well as past diet best sellers to see how it held up.
Interestingly, many of these books have long gone on to paperback, whilst ten years after its release Eat Right For Your Type keeps chugging along in hardcover. Another factoid I just learned from my editor is that Eat Right at $24.95 is priced substantially higher than the usual hardcover diet book which typically has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $19.95. Since amazon.com gives up to the date sales ranks, I thought I'd use their ranking system as a good idea of current consumer interest.
Here are the results:
|The Maker's Diet (Rubin HC)||3,854|
|Eat Right For Your Type (D'Adamo HC)||226|
|Healthy Aging (Weil HC)||1,667|
|Enter The Zone (Sears HC)||3,688|
|Atkins for Life (Atkins P||489,632|
|Eat Less, Weigh More (Ornish P||6,388|
|The No Grain Diet (Mercola P||270,636|
PD=Paperback HC=Hard Cover
Doesn't look past its prime to me. In fact one of my daughters, who relentlessly checks its standing on Amazon, tells me that Eat Right more typically hovers around #150 and will peak at 30-35 when I do a radio or television show. Like most books on Amazon, you can also buy a second-hand copy of the book you are perusing from an Amazon-approved independent vendor, with the listings set up as a sort of reverse auction, lowest prices first. The lowest price being asked for a second hand copy of Eat Right For Your Type was $7.95, whereas the lowest asking price for most of these other books hovered between one cent and fifty cents.
Health food stores are often difficult arenas for the BTD. The concept requires both education and discussion, which a lot of retailers don't have much time for. Also, like other sales-driven entities, the health food industry tends to get seduced by new and exciting things. It just makes me even more appreciative of the doctors and retailers who use the concept day in and day out in their work .
Naturopathic medicine is in somewhat of a life or death struggle in New York State, which is why I agreed to do the gig. Recently, the American Medical Association has announced a general strategy of opposing new or expanded licensure for non-MD health care providers., including NDs. One local byproduct of this seems to be a new smear campaign against naturopathic doctors in New York, often depicting the profession as a cartel of snake oil salesman with heads firmly planted in the seventh century.
What a selective description!
Perhaps I'll reply by describing allopathic medicine as a "Collection of bone-saws, who routinely employ toxic metals such as mercury, don't wash their hands much, and whose treatment has only been shown to shorten the lives of their patients."
Is that description true?
Well, sort of --if I was trying to describe for you the typical MD of the late 1850's.
You see, sometimes we can be even worse than wrong.
I made a montage in Photoshop for my UB Grand Rounds presentation. It depicts my take on the current disease care system and how it bumps up against Waddington's concept of an 'Epigenetic Landscape'.
Thought some of you might get a kick out of it.