It is with tremendous sadness that we share news of the recent death of Robert “Bob” M. Duggan, co-founder and President Emeritus of Tai Sophia Institute, now Maryland University of Integrative Health. Bob was a true pioneer in the field of integrative health and an assertive voice for wellness in America. He served as an educator, acupuncture practitioner, author, thought leader, and advocate, as well as an advisor to policymakers and organizations. Though he will be missed, his legacy will thrive through all those he touched.
Bob earned a master’s degree in human relations and community studies from New York University and a master’s degree in moral theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. His master’s qualification in acupuncture was from the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in the United Kingdom. Before focusing on health as a profession and a calling, Bob served as a priest in the U.S. and abroad.
Mentored from an early age by Ivan Illich, Bob often attributed his ability to challenge common assumptions and remain curious to Illich’s influence. This quote from Illich was highlighted in one of Bob’s books and was evidenced in much of Bob’s work: “In every society the dominant image of death determines the prevalent concept of health.”
Throughout his career, Bob advocated for patients and for the shifts necessary to create a wellness model of health. He testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, spoke at the National Institutes of Health and the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and presented at the first TEDx MidAtlantic Conference. He also served as chairman of the Maryland State Board of Acupuncture and as a board member for Howard County’s Horizon Foundation. He pioneered relationships with universities and health systems including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania.
A trailblazer for the acupuncture profession, in 1974, Bob and Dianne Connelly co-founded one of the first acupuncture clinics in the country, The Centre for Traditional Acupuncture in Columbia, Maryland. Joining them in this ambitious venture were their esteemed colleagues J. R. Worsley, Jack Daniel, Haig Ignatius, Erica Lazaro, and Warren Ross. From this early beginning, the Centre evolved into the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (TAI). TAI launched the nation’s second master’s degree in acupuncture in 1981, which then became the first to be accredited in 1985.
Bob went on to practice traditional acupuncture for 44 years. Over that time, he provided tens of thousands of treatments for patients who came to see him from around the nation. Bob also worked with Tai Sophia’s Community Health Initiative (CHI), which began by treating people with addictions at the Baltimore Detention Center and expanded to additional sites, including Penn North Neighborhood Center in inner-city Baltimore. Bob continued his work with Penn North until he became unable to do so. The work lives on through his family, alumni of Tai Sophia/MUIH, and others.
As an educator, Bob directly influenced and/or mentored more than 1,500 graduate students over 49 years at TAI, which evolved into Tai Sophia Institute and then Maryland University of Integrative Health.
Thousands of other individuals have been impacted by his teachings nationally and internationally, through lectures, readings, and workshops, including the highly popular weekend workshop “Redefining Health,” which he co-facilitated with Dianne Connelly. Bob, Dianne, Julia Measures, and John Sullivan, professor of philosophy at Elon University, co-created, SOPHIA® (School Of Philosophy and Healing In Action®) in 1987 to teach laypersons the ancient wisdom rooted in nature that was – and remains – the underpinning of the master’s degree in acupuncture.
Bob’s vast work lives on as his students continue to bring his teachings into treatment rooms, board rooms, and family rooms.
Bob authored two books that were met with wide acclaim. His first book, Common Sense for the Healing Arts was published in 2003 and is an inspirational collection of essays offering practical wisdom for living well. His second book, Breaking the Iron Triangle: Reducing Health-Care Costs in Corporate America was published in 2012. In this work, Bob asserts that we cannot change the cost structures of American healthcare until we reexamine the fundamental assumptions about what it means to be healthy. One of his key messages is that we can effectively reduce costs and expand ways of living well and enjoying life only when we’re willing to shift the focus of healthcare dollars from disease management to empowering individual wellness. Bob wrote in the introduction of the book:
When I chose to focus my life’s work on the arena of health care in society, it was not because I was initially interested in health care or in acupuncture, but because, as a philosopher, I questioned some of the basic assumptions of our modern society about life and science and community. No one in society can avoid the issues of pain and suffering and death. We all must deal with these challenges whether we are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; and we all deal with them with great pragmatic urgency. This is where ideology inescapably hits the wall of reality.
No tribute to Bob would be complete without bringing attention to how he reminded each of us to own every one of our words and actions. He also called us to live in a way that honors our ancestors and serves the children and the children’s children. These, and other timeless teachings, will always remain a valued component of the DNA of this university and can serve as a wake-up call to all those that were touched by him.
It is quite poignant that Bob’s passing came during the season of autumn. The following passage comes from Bob’s essay, “Seasons and Symptoms – Our Teachers about Life.” which can be found in his book, Common Sense for the Healing Arts. May we all find inspiration and comfort in his words.
I’ve described the correlated phenomena of the Metal element and the Autumn, the time when life has reached its fullness. In nature’s cycle, this is the season of letting go: Earth lets go of Late Summer’s rich harvest; trees let go of their leaves; nature lets go into Winter. For us, too, it is time for letting go, time for acknowledgement of the year’s work and for taking a deep breath in awe of the magnificence of life. The Metal phase (think gold and silver) has to do with the way quality, respect, inspiration and awe show up in our lives.
May you rest in peace, Bob.