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Alumni Career Spotlight - Naturopaths Going Global
First Stop, Nicaragua. Doctor Profile: Tabatha Parker, ND
Date: May 2007
Publication: Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges Website
Author: Coquina Deger
Interviewee: Tabatha Parker, ND
As a naturopathic doctor, Tabatha Parker feels it’s her duty and her mission to serve others. That mission has led her create an organization called National Doctors International (NDI), which provides free health-care services to underserved communities. It does this by offering worldwide medical rotations for licensed naturopathic physicians and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers worldwide. Her practice is on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua where she treats patients in NDI’s free community clinic. We caught up with Dr. Parker on a brief visit to the United States to find out more about her practice and her mission.
AANMC: What led you to becoming a naturopathic doctor?
TP: I herniated a disc when I was younger and kind of went through all the traditional routes of potentially getting surgery, which led me to decide to heal myself through natural medicine. I ended up working with a chiropractor and a physical therapist who worked together and that’s ultimately what cured me — or helped me to reach a state of health where I could deal with it. I had decided to go back to school to finish my undergrad degree. I was really interested in herbal medicine and herbs, and I found that there was this profession — a doctor of
naturopathic medicine, ND — and I knew that I had found my home.
AANMC: When did you decide to practice medicine overseas? Did you have any
international experiences as an ND student that influenced you?
TP: I was interested in traveling and I had traveled a little bit. I had been to Europe and Thailand and China – but always visiting friends or traveling as a tourist. Then, when I was a second-year student I had the opportunity to go to Peru. That’s where I did my first actual medical work in a developing country. That experience really changed my life. I realized that I had no real understanding of what life meant in a developing country and especially in relation to health and health care. So after that trip I decided that I would incorporate some kind of international service into my life once I became a naturopathic doctor.
AANMC: And you found there weren’t a lot of opportunities for you to do that?
TP: The reality is that most of the large organizations like Doctors Without Borders don’t accept naturopathic licenses. So, if you want to legally practice medicine in another country, you have to obtain licenses with those individual governments. You can’t just go in and practice medicine. There are tons of opportunities to join medical missions because the churches do a lot of service work in developing countries. So if you can find an MD who says, ‘Okay, you can come work with me,' then you have an opportunity. But if you want to actually work with a non-profit organization, it’s much more difficult.
AANMC: So you and two of your colleagues decided to form NDI. Tell us a little bit about your practice and the mission of NDI.
TP: I’ll start with the mission of NDI. In 2003, Dr. Laurant Chaix, Dr. Michael Owen and I founded NDI. Obviously we wanted to bring services to underserved communities internationally. But we also found that as naturopathic physicians trying to work internationally, there weren’t many opportunities for us. So we decided to start an organization like Doctors Without Borders, but specifically for naturopaths. Our mission is to serve people in underserved communities worldwide. The clinic that I work in, in Nicaragua, is a general practice. We see and treat everyone from pregnant women and newborns all the way to the elderly — my oldest patient is 104 years old — and everyone in between.