Thirty Years with Dr. Hugh Riordan

By Richard Lewis

At age 72, Dr. Riordan died Friday, January 7, 2005, around noon while working in his office. He had just sent a fax saying, “What we learn from these superb observers and orthomolecular doers can literally change our lives for the better. That is why Medical Mavericks, volume three, has been written.” He turned to return to his desk and collapsed.

“May his example inspire us to strive for even greater heights.”

It was quite a surprise and shock for the staff at The Center, to say nothing for his family. But he died doing what he loved to do-working to create The Center’s future.

At The Center, we had many messages from patient/co-learners, from fellow physicians, research Ph.D .s, and friends. I will quote from a few of these that reflect on the importance of Dr. Riordan’s work and ideas.

Dr. Michael Gonzales, a researcher at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, said that, “Dr. Riordan was a mentor, supporter, colleague, friend, and father figure for me. I will miss him dearly. His novel ideas, theories, and dedication to patients will also be missed. I had the honor to publish various scientific papers with him and to discuss ideas, theories, and information for long hours that I hope will change how degenerative disease is treated …. We will keep working hard as you taught us by your example, this will be our way of honoring you.”

Jack Challem, author of books and articles on nutrition, said “I always enjoyed his soft sense of humor, his generosity, his inquisitiveness, his openness to new ideas, and his steadfast commitment to the importance of nutrition in health. He had a way of seeing things so clearly. As one example, a couple of years ago, when I told Dr. Riordan that I was going to work on a book on nutrition and genes, he gently shrugged his shoulders and matter-of factly said, ‘Genes don’t do anything by themselves.’ Those words became a cornerstone for the book. Genes, like every other aspect of our health, depend on nutrition. I will miss my conversations with Dr. Riordan. I owe him a lot of gratitude … and more.”

Aside from the many hours he spent working for The Center, he also worked for the La Leche League and both his wife and he served as chairpersons of its board of directors. “I cannot think of Dr. Hugh Riordan without remembering all of the joy for life he and his wife, Jan, shared with La Leche League (LLL) of Kansas and with LLL International. About 25 years ago, young couples of breastfed children and busy with their families were trying to ask questions at a session about intimacy problems. I will never forget his suggestion, ‘Haven’t you heard of Wesson Oil?’ The laughter just overcame us all and we relaxed and learned very easily how to overcome those difficulties. Also, I have a wonderful mental picture of Dr. Riordan at the 2001 LLLI conference in Chicago, teaching us how to stay young and enjoy life. In my memory, he is wearing his red clown nose and I couldn’t look at him without laughing and laughing,” wrote a La Leche League member from Colby, Kansas.

A former employee now living in Indian Wells, California, wrote, “Dr. Riordan was one of my heroes. He was a true medical maverick. He was a true trailblazer. He was a true fully alive human being. He was a true pioneer in health. He was unique–one of a kind. He was a loyal friend. He was a man of great inspiration.

“Because of Dr. Riordan and the many people who walked through the doors of the Olive W. Garvey Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning, I know the health of human beings in a much fuller way than I would have ever known without him and The Center.”

A Ph.D. remembered Dr. Riordan by writing, “Hugh Riordan was a unique presence in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. Hugh was like a force of nature-and we therefore may have taken him somewhat for granted and never thought he might someday be gone. Like Linus Pauling before him, he will be irreplaceable. He was a true Medical Maverick! May his example inspire us to strive for even greater heights.”

Phil Ray, a co-learner from Wichita, Kansas, wrote about Dr. Riordan this way, “As a patient of The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning, I was saddened by the loss of Dr. Hugh Riordan.

“There are thousands like me who have chronic illnesses that have come to a dead end with conventional medicine, only to find hope, education and wellness from Dr. Riordan and the staff at The Center.   From the moment you enter the facility, Dr. Riordan’s presence could be felt. What makes Dr. Riordan so very special was the way that he took interest in every patient as an individual; working, teaching, coaching us back to health instead of a five minute visit and a prescription pad.

“I laugh when people tell me about those strange looking buildings and what they think goes on there. I tell you the truth, you can look long and hard only to find a very few medical facilities that work with and love their patients like Dr. Riordan and his Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning. Thank you Dr. Riordan for all you taught us, you will be greatly missed.”

Another co-learner wrote, “Dr. Riordan gave me the tools I needed to take care of myself. He always said something that made me laugh … I invited him to my wedding, and how many doctors take the time to drive an hour to see one of their patients get married.”

A doctor from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, said that, “Victor Hugo wrote and I quote, ‘An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.’ Orthomolecular Medicine’s triumph is inevitable, but it still takes very intelligent and courageous people to carry its banner forward. Dr. Hugh Riordan was certainly one such individuaL He will be greatly missed, but we owe it to him to keep the banner flying.”

From the many comments we received, it was difficult to select so few comments to quote here. But one more deserves quoting. This one is from a co-learner in Wichita, Kansas. She wrote, “Dr. Riordan has, in his presence among us, created a better world, better people, inspired the thought processes of all who knew him, to encompass the fact that all things are possible. He has truly left a personal legacy. Yet his life is only the trunk of the tree, sprouting branches and trees that live forever and continue to grow. We have much to look forward to, all because of Dr. Hugh.”

The Center’s staff was saddened by Dr. Riordan’s death, but we all know that he is indeed the trunk of the tree and he hand picked all of us and then he began to grow our branches and to sprout new trees so that we became the people who help make The Center what it is today.

He will be sorely missed. But at the same time, he and the board of directors have worked hard to keep his many ideas growing. The board of directors, along with The Center’s staff, will be there to keep his ideas going and growing. Dr. Riordan has selected us well. Now it is up to us to continue to grow these branches and new tree sprouts that he, as the trunk, has sprouted. As the doctor from Canada said, ” … we owe it to him to keep the banner flying.” And we will.