How It All Began

By Marilyn Landreth, M.A.

For a number of years the entrepreneur group at Wichita State University has invited Dr. Riordan to speak to them about how The Center got started and what plans they made before it started. He has told them that The Center started without a plan.

Dr. Riordan is always quick to say that people who come to The Center improve because of or in spite of the treatment they receive here.

One day Carl Pfeiffer, M.D., Ph.D., was in Dr. Riordan’s office along with Bill Schul, Ph.D., and Dr. Riordan. Dr. Schul was writing a book about medical advances for the Garvey Foundation. While they were together, for some reason Dr. Schul suggested that they go down and meet the executive for the Garvey Foundation, which they did. While they were there, the executive suggested that they meet Olive Garvey, the widowed head of the Garvey empire.

They were there for less than ten minutes when Dr. Pfeiffer said out of the blue, “You should give Dr. Riordan some money to establish a nutrition laboratory.” After that pronouncement there was no discussion. The conversation turned to Olive Garvey who was a prolific writer. She gave each person one of the books she had written. The book she gave Dr. Riordan was Produce or Starve. Two weeks later the Garvey executive telephoned Dr. Riordan and said, ”Why don’t you submit a grant for that nutrition laboratory?” Dr. Pfeiffer and Dr. Riordan had not discussed anything about this proposal so Dr. Riordan called Dr. Pfeiffer in New Jersey and asked him what kind of laboratory he should have. Dr. Pfeiffer wanted one similar to what he had developed that measured trace minerals and something called polyamines in people who were mentally disturbed.

At that point, Dr. Riordan thought he should read the book that Mrs. Garvey had given him.  In it she said that in business she did not think you should trust anyone with a beard. After reading that Dr. Riordan thought that rather than submitting the usual 100 page proposal that usually comes back with lots of red markings of things that need to be changed he wrote a one-page, handwritten message. Since he did not think he would get the funding because he wore a beard, the proposal basically said, “You don’t know what I am going to do and I don’t know what I am going to do, but if you want to fund it I will devote three years of my life making it work.” Two weeks later they had the underwriting funding established for the laboratory at the rate of $100,000 a year.

What Dr. Riordan did not know was that Mrs. Garvey had read a book called Nutrition and Your Mind by George Watson and was very interested in using nutrition to alleviate health problems. The Garvey Foundation had talked with a couple of universities about the possibility of funding a department for nutrition and health.

Dr. Riordan was an ideal candidate to head this new venture. He had run a successful psychiatric practice that employed a large group of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors, so he had the skills to manage a practice. He was already interested in orthomolecular medicine. Orthomolecular medicine is the pursuit of good health and treatment of disease by providing the patient with the optimum concentration of substances normally present in the body. Another plus was that the first practice he had been associated with used B vitamins in the treatment of mentally disturbed people. Also, Dr. Riordan had been involved in the campaign of a candidate for a political office so he was familiar with politics. He was a family man with a wife and six children and, most important, he had a strong personality.

Dr. Riordan officially started putting the laboratory together the first part of July in 1975. Finding a facility, hiring and training staff, and having paperwork in place took a little while. The first patient was seen at the Bio-Center Laboratory the first part of November, 1975. In the beginning, Dr. Riordan kept his medical practice separate from the laboratory. It soon became evident that there was a need for a medical approach that also treated the people that were being tested. Thus, began the clinical services branch of The Center.

The need to educate professional medical personnel as well as the lay person in this new area soon became apparent. Bio-Medical Synergistics Institute was begun in 1977 to fill that need. The institute sponsored medical conferences that drew international speakers and attendees.

When The Center first began, the need for exercise, good nutrition, and lifestyle changes were seldom addressed. The conferences brought those needs to the public’s attention. In 1979, The Center began the Personal Health Control program. For the first time, The Center began actively working to prevent medical problems as well as treat the problems. They enrolled about 1,000 participants who were committed to making mini lifestyle changes. Small changes that could add up to major benefits for improving health were instituted through that offering. Diet, exercise, and relaxation were all addressed during this 12-week program.

The Center has gradually evolved from treating mentally disturbed people to those who have sustained health problems such as arthritis, allergies, and cancer, as well as the psychiatric population.
The change has been brought about through research conducted by The Center and others that shows the importance of strengthening the immune system as well as finding out the underlying causes for the “diseased” state.

Twenty-seven years of being medical detectives have also added to The Center’s success story. Dr. Riordan is always quick to say that people who come to The Center improve because of or in spite of the treatment they receive here. That is how the concept of the co-learner became a part of the treatment process. The Center believes that the person knows more about herself or himself than anyone. They don’t always realize what they know and part of the process is the interaction between the person and the physician.

Ronald Hunninghake, M.D., joined the staff in 1988 and has added greatly to the mix of treatment and education. Dr. Riordan has shown an outstanding ability to pick key personnel who have also contributed to making The Center what it is today. Longevity is rewarded rather than penalized.

One of Dr. Riordan’s fellow physicians in the Holistic Medical Society suggested that The Center’s symbol should be a pearl. In the beginning the pearl starts out as an irritant and later becomes a thing of beauty. He thought that in the beginning The Center would be an irritant to the standard medical community but would later be seen as a thing of beauty in the area of health care. Pearl pins are given out to staff members as a sign of longevity. One pearl is for 5 years, two are for 10 years, and soon.

Looking back, it almost seems like The Center effortlessly became what it is today. That perception would be faulty. Just as we all have challenges and opportunities, The Center has also. There have been programs that did not work out as well as disappointments with personnel. Lemons have been made into lemonade, and opportunity sometimes presents itself as a challenge.