Published on July 26th, 201723
Legacy of a Health Warrior
My friend and colleague, Dr. Ron Schmid, died quietly in his sleep Thursday, July 20, 2017, at the age of 71. I want to honor him today by sharing stories of his courage, integrity and the rich legacy he left for all of us in the fields of natural health and nutrition.
Long before paleo became a popular trend, Ron integrated the teachings of Weston A. Price, D.D.S., Francis Pottenger, M.D., and other nutrition pioneers from the early 20th century, and argued for their ongoing relevance. His book Primal Nutrition (first published in 1987 as Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine) profoundly influenced my thinking about nutrition and alternative medicine and that of many other health practitioners and healers as well.
During the 1990s Ron also contributed important articles to the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation’s journal and other health publications. Ron and I met and started spending time together when we spoke at annual and regional conferences of the Weston A. Price Foundation, where Ron received the Activist award in 2004.
Ron’s second book The Untold Story of Milk (first published in 2003 and revised in 2009) not only addressed the raw milk controversy but offered a fascinating history of milk in the United States — complete with a riveting exposé of government and corporate corruption and power plays.
As a naturopathic doctor in private practice, Ron helped thousands of patients over a period of close to 35 years. Their need for quality supplements and personal care products led him to form his company Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure.
He was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, and for two years served as Clinic Director and Chief Medical Officer at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Like many health warriors, Ron himself suffered his own health challenges. In 2002 he came down with a severe and debilitating case of Lyme disease and nearly died, but recovered completely with the help of diet and natural supplements.
Sadly, several years later, he began experiencing shortness of breath and swelling of his lower legs. In 2012, these symptoms became so severe that he landed in the hospital emergency room, where he was diagnosed with advanced heart failure. His doctors were stumped as to the cause but certain that he had only a few months to live — and that his only hope was a heart transplant.
Ron was staggered by the diagnosis, given his history of living what he thought of as a balanced lifestyle with a healthy diet and safe supplements. When he began researching possible causes of his symptoms, he turned up a 1930 article in Acta Pediatrica entitled “The Appearance of the Electrocardiogram in Heart Lesions Produced by Cod Liver Oil Treatment.” In his words, his “desperation turned to joy” when he realized the probable cause of his woes was a high daily dose of the fermented cod liver oil he had been taking since 2006. After eliminating it from his diet, his heart gradually recovered to the point where he could walk three or four miles daily and play tennis several days a week.
Ron was surprised to learn that Dr. Weston A. Price was not an avid proponent of cod liver oil. In Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and other writings, Dr. Price repeatedly warned about the dangers of cod liver oil and had noted that clinicians were reporting “severe and striking” adverse effects, including physical and mental health problems, most notably depression and “serious structural damage” to the heart and kidneys. The problem does not seem to have been cod liver oil, per se, but the fact that most of the products available during Dr. Price’s lifetime were rancid.
Although sales of Green Pasture-brand Fermented Cod Liver Oil represented 20 percent of his company’s income, Ron firmly believed doctors should “first do no harm.” He was committed to learning the truth about whether the product was or was not rancid and volunteered to help fund the independent investigation that led to my report Hook, Line and Stinker: The Truth about Fermented Cod Liver Oil. He shared his story Too Much of a NOT So Good Thing online and strongly urged Sally Fallon Morell to cease promoting the product through her Weston A. Price Foundation.
Soon thereafter, Ron decided to found a new non-profit foundation. His dream was a foundation that would be democratically governed and open to diverse points of view. Under Ron’s leadership, the fledgling Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation put on a successful two-day conference in Southbridge, Massachusetts, for 150 attendees. Dr. Ron and I became co-presidents, with journalist David Gumpert as the third founding board member.
Renamed the Hunt Gather Grow Foundation, Ron’s goal of “bringing real food communities together” remains, and we will be soon launching a membership campaign and planning a conference in Ron’s honor.
Although Ron never fully healed the heart problems that ultimately led to his passing, he greatly enjoyed his retirement, which allowed him ample time with his wife, Elly, his kittens Weston and Francis, and volunteer work in cat rescue.
This spring Ron decided to enroll in a master’s degree program in American history at Arizona State University. He looked forward to starting his program this summer, saying “I feel I’ve come home to the deepest part of myself. I can’t remember being this happy since the time when I was writing my two books, both of which required a good bit of historical research.” Ron decided to take one course at a time, “allowing time to go into each course deeply and carefully while continuing to read widely in related areas.” He said he was excited about joining a community of scholars with mentors to guide him. “Now my time has come to dedicate myself to learning and writing, and I hope teaching. I believe my best and most productive years lie ahead of me. My hope is to make a significant contribution to our understanding of American history and our current situation. Or perhaps I should say our current predicament.”
Dr. Ron’s rich legacy includes teaching; assisting thousands of patients through his naturopathic practice as well as his company, Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure; founding of the Hunt Gather Grow Foundation; generous donations to the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation and Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; and, most recently, endowments to organizations committed to cat and kitten rescue.
Ron was a man of great intelligence, integrity and character. He was dedicated to excellence and service. He touched the lives of many, many people.
I am honored to have had him as a friend, and I extend much love to his wife, Elly.
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