Pyramid on the Prairie: A Riordan Clinic Publication Book Review

 Pyramid on the Prairie: A Riordan Clinic Publication Book Review                                         by Laurie Roth-Donnell | Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner

Pyramid on the Prairie by Dr. Craig Miner is a delightful manuscript detailing the history of the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, Kansas. This writing project was originally commissioned between Kansas’ own historical treasure, Dr. Craig Miner and world renowned Dr. Hugh Riordan. They labored hours researching facts and recreating “the history of the domes on the plains.” The book was intended to be presented in commemoration of the clinics 25th Anniversary, but was not completed for various and sundry reasons. The work lay dormant for years until long after both men passed, Mrs. Jan Riordan and Mrs. Susan Miner teamed up to breathe life into what had literally become the “forgotten manuscripts.” They edited these findings into a magical recollection of the genesis of the domes and birth of a pyramid. You will realize how Dr. Riordan willed these geometric oddities to literally sprout from a patch of farmland in Wichita, Kansas!

Pyramid on the Prairie encapsulates the pitfalls and triumphs of The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning, an alternative medical center in the Midwest (forty years before it’s time) and Dr. Riordan’s struggle to accomplish his vision of everyone achieving optimal health through education and application of daily health practices. He believed natural health could be attained via proper nutrition, exercise and exploring healing regimes that mainstream doctors and insurance companies refused to recognize. Dr. Riordan was considered a “maverick” (at best in the 1970’s) by the mainstream health profession, but proved to become a talented self-researcher, educator, visionary and dedicated healer. Dr. Miner, the author, captured the essence of the daily battles Riordan endured fending off constant peer group criticism, insurance company rejection, budget short falls, constant fund raising, public relations, construction management issues, and litigation. As Miner pointed out, “it is devilishly hard at first to tell a ‘nut’ from a ‘genius.’” What do we have here?

The story is more than a historical account of the growth and development of the Riordan Clinic, but an intriguing story of a young doctor and his unlikely relationship with one of Wichita’s social elite, Mrs. Olive Garvey. As the story unfolds, you will discover how fate brought a Wichita heavyweight and an alternative health professional together. You see, Olive was like-minded regarding natural health, and this philanthropic matriarch became a lifelong donor, friend, patient, and champion of the clinic, almost as if it was her baby. Olive passed away at the age of 99 and she proudly contributed her longevity to her physician’s (Dr. Riordan) sound advice. She continued her commitment and support of Riordan beyond the grave, having set-up a trust for the center’s benefit, projected to provide roughly half a million dollars annually to the center. Dr. Riordan, in memory of Olive, fondly recalled her keen ability to accurately judge character and identify the truth, as her most endearing traits. Over the history of the clinic, Garvey donated substantially and as her trusted doctor professed in one of his many notes to Olive, “you provide me with a great deal of strength” (page 204). I discovered, as I read, the strength Olive provided went well beyond financial, she was the doctor’s friend, advisor, comrade, and business partner; being a savvy, fully capable, wealthy, well read woman, he admired her and strived to exceed her expectations. For years they worked side by side developing strategic plans that included educational initiatives, low cost health care, international conferences, audio, video and televised productions, all in a “not for profit world” with the dream of the clinic being a self-funding, self-sustaining, world model for future health care.

Smatterings of actual client testing are threaded throughout the book, many cases where hopeless patients thrive. Some of the areas of experiment and patient therapy the clinic engaged in included: autism, cancer, hyper-activity in children, chelating therapy, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, macular degeneration, carpel tunnel syndrome, food allergies, parasites, biofeedback, & subtitle energy testing. (ESP too, as seen on a 1977 Johnny Carson Show!) They were ever expanding into new areas including hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments, yoga, acupuncture, and intravenous vitamin therapy. The campus also offered a state of the art testing laboratory, herb garden, walking path and restaurant all under a series of domes and a single pyramid on the Kansas Prairie.

Dr. Riordan envisioned an epidemic of health and understood the complex relationship between nutrition, behavior, intellectual performance, health, and longevity. By the time of his death, Dr. Riordan’s legacy was anchored in research and the clinic was prolific in testing, publishing, and education via the Health Hunters Newsletter and Rope (a publication designed for general health practitioners). Riordan also amassed an impressive library, implemented educational initiatives, hosted world-class conferences, and created health programs.

This book is both an education and enjoyable read about the most unique real estate on Chisholm Creek. It is a literal “who’s who” parade of characters in the world of holistic health. The Riordan Clinic and Dr. Riordan’s memory live on; visit the library; tour the campus; attend a lecture, and enjoy your vitality and health in a manner that would make Dr. Riordan proud.


Pyramid on the Prairie, By Craig Miner, Mennonite Press Inc., Newton KS