In his letter, Dr. Wood stated, "As we close TFA we plan to use any remaining funds to assist us in organizing and preserving our educational materials for future use by other organizations." Members were also given the opportunity to file for a prorated refund on membership fees by an early March deadline.
I'm hoping to have a chance to speak with Dr. Wood sometime next week to get more information on the circumstances surrounding the shutdown. In the meantime, however, I have to say that I'm sorry to hear about this. It's no secret that I have at times been critical of TFA. The group, while meant to support patients, was founded and run by a doctor, and often took a narrow, conventional approach to thyroid education -- an approach I've criticized in the past as being more focused on the doctors than the patients. The group was sometimes quick to come to the defense of deep-pocketed drug companies on issues of interest to endocrinologists, even when it seemed to work against patient interests.
At the same time, TFA provided a much-needed service, by answering questions and distributing thyroid information to many thousands of people each year, and doing so the old-fashioned way -- using an 800 number phone line, and sending brochures and newsletters via regular mail. TFA was able to reach out to many thyroid patients in the U.S. who were unable to use the Internet.
Despite my criticisms, I mourn the loss of TFA. TFA's closure leaves a huge gap -- there is no other national organization of and for all thyroid patients. There are a few specialized sub-groups of varying size and effectiveness, for example, but no groups that serve the overall community of more than 30 million American thyroid patients who are coping with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, and various thyroid conditions. TFA has, on its web page, listed a variety of professional medical groups, as well as some of these patient organizations as resources, but truly, none of them is in a position to do what TFA was trying to do.
In the end, I'm not sure if it was a lack of members, insufficient outside funding, rising postal costs, the growing dependence on the Internet for non-profit organizations, or other reasons that ultimately are causing TFA to close. What I do know is that it's a sad time for thyroid patients, given that more than ever before, we need better thyroid information, support, and advocacy.
Logo: Thyroid Foundation of America