Natural Doctors International Continues to Change the Global Health Climate


Date: June 11, 2008

Publication: Helfgott Blog

Author: Kimberly Ann

Dr. Tabatha Parker, ND, founder of Natural Doctors International (NDI), stopped by my cubical the other day and I’ve got one word to sum up the encounter: Wow!

Do you ever have one of those moments where you are actually amazed by the greatness that resides within an individual? You can literally feel the courage, compassion, and charisma exude from their presence, such that you honestly believe that anything is possible. Tabatha is a walking representative of such a desirable quality, who puts potential where it counts. Tabatha has made the most out of her passion by creating a realistic delivery system of holistic medicine… in a developing country. This is the premise behind NDI, as it is designed to promote “global justice through natural medicine by focusing on clinical care, education, cross border collaboration, and international policy.” Yeah, I know, Tabatha certainly makes you stop and wonder where she came up with the idea behind NDI and how she successfully pulled it off.

Dr. Tabatha Parker, an NCNM graduate, pioneered new ground both in and out of the formal school setting. She knew that she wanted to practice natural medicine, and needed to complete her education at NCNM before she could create a system to adequately provide health care to underserved communities throughout the world. This didn’t stop her from traveling. As a medical student she visited Peru, an expedition that plunged her into a new paradigm of reality for health care, and ultimately changed her life. The experience took her far beyond what the rest of the world has access to, and her travels later to Nicaragua were not any different. As eloquently outlined by Tabatha:

    “Too many factors keep people at a state of disharmony. Socioeconomic factors impact lives and prevent healthy choices for communities.”

Tabatha continued to volunteer, although she began to realize that practicing “suitcase medicine” was not the solution, and that a more permanent system had to be established to truly help a community. She watched well-intentioned health care practitioners make a few changes, then leave, and remaining in the wake was a temporary bandage. Tabatha debated the ethics of the situation, and worked to find a remedy that would coincide with the naturopathic philosophies of identifying and treating the causes of illness and honoring prevention as a cure. To her surprise there was no organization that offered natural medicine on an international scale. Not one to be discouraged, Dr. Parker went ahead and started her own, and a spark of imagination became a working reality.

After graduating from NCNM, she laid the foundation for NDI on the Island of Ometepe, Nicaragua. Here, Tabatha focuses on what the community needs, as described by the people of the community. For instance, women of the island wished to learn more about botanical medicine, so Dr. Parker and her team are working with the women of the community to grow, cultivate, and harvest medicinal botanicals. And it doesn’t stop there either; she’s putting together a book about the project and the proceeds will directly benefit the community. Now that’s someone who embodies the principles of community medicine and brings the definition of holistic thinking to a whole new level.

While NDI purposely does not operate based on “medical tourist” principles, or short stint medical volunteer work, Tabatha knows that experiences in developing countries provide diverse and enriching lessons for the current and future health care professionals.. For this reason, NDI organizes multiple Medical Brigades for medical students seeking such an opportunity. This, however, is not enough. In order for the system to truly work, doctors need to commit at a foundational level, and a genuine and viable solution needs to be embedded within the community. This is why NDI works: Tabatha transplanted herself and now lives full time in the Island of Ometepe, offering integrative medicine with a local conventional hospital, and training motivated medical students with the necessary skills to live, work, play, and be part of a sustainable medical model deeply embedded within a community.

Tabatha is convinced that naturopathic doctors (NDs) have a place in the international arena and she’s actively making that happen through her organization. “Western medicine cannot handle the situation, there’s a huge hole. NDs fill this hole and offer solutions to remote areas using sustainable practices.” Moreover, it’s the little things that allow NDI to be a true part of the Nicaraguan community,

Tabatha neatly states, “It’s best to find simple solutions to major health problems. Providing a community with clean water goes far beyond what a medication can provide. This is what natural medicine is about, getting to the root of the issue.”

Community building, through work and play, is an integral part of NDI’s foundation. Farming is a central part of the community and some of its practices still rely upon pesticides. Groups at NDI dispense gloves, masks, and other protective gear to limit exposure, and work to educate framers about how the chemical toxins found within these pesticides can affect the body. And to drive the point home, NDI works on building the moral of the community. Baseball in Nicaragua is big, so NDI sponsored a baseball team in the local community. Out with the old uniforms and in with the new, and needless to say, the team members were thrilled. Through these examples, NDI is able gain the community’s trust and continue to demonstrate a true level of commitment to the health and wellness for the people of Ometepe.

NDI’s revolutionary work is still in its infancy, having only 5 years under its belt, and strategic plans for the future include adding NDI outposts in locations such as India and Mexico, as well as registering with the United Nations. Honestly, there appears to be no end in site for such a well-planned and thoughtful venture aimed at delivering quality health care for communities worldwide. When asked how she is able to continue her revolutionary work with NDI, she laughs, “I’m inspired by many people. I surround myself with others who believe in the possibilities. Having the support of my husband and family is very helpful, and remembering to take time for myself to rejuvenate keeps me going strong.”

Yep. To say the least, Dr. Tabatha Parker will not only accumulate a cornucopia of success stories for NDI, she will ultimately change the world.

If you’re interested in meeting the people of NDI and Dr. Parker herself, you have an opportunity this Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 8pm. It will be a night of music, fun, and an opportunity to learn more about NDI’s adventures abroad.