By Shreya Soni
It was our first day at the Natural Doctors International (NDI) Clinic in Ometepe, Nicaragua, and at 7:30AM there was already a line of patients waiting to be seen by a doctor. Patients were seen on a first-come, first-serve basis, and after the first twenty-nine, the rest were asked to return the following day. The grand opening of the clinic was made possible by a grassroots petition that garnered over a thousand signatures from local community members. The petition was to press the government to speed up processing of clinic paperwork that had previously been stalled.
The day before starting in clinic I felt exhilarated while stocking shelves with botanicals, homeopathic medicines and supplements donated from suppliers knowing that these would help us provide immediate medical services to vastly underserved populations. While in clinic, I enjoyed creating tinctures from a range of herbs customized to patient needs. If we ran out of one type of medicine, we were often able to find a similarly beneficial form of treatment using a different modality.
During my first shift I worked with a local health psychiatrist who used Bach Flower remedies. On finding that a patient may benefit from additional naturopathic therapies, she would cross-refer them to the naturopathic doctors in the clinic. The NDI’s relationship with local healthcare providers allowed for comprehensive care. For example, NDI is also integrated with the local hospital where patients are referred in the case of need for additional blood testing or where lab tests such as pap smears taken in clinic are submitted for analysis.
My favorite experience was problem solving with the doctors to help crack patient cases. With just one year of naturopathic medicine under my belt, I already felt able to contribute and was surprised by how empowered I felt. The doctors would discuss treatment plans and welcome suggestions from the students there. The comprehensive patient consults allowed us to capture the patient’s full health picture and embodied naturopathic values.
I especially enjoyed learning from other naturopathic professionals as many had unique skill sets and specializations. Witnessing cutting edge therapies such as prolotherapy as well as traditional modalities such as Reiki broadened my horizons about the tools we have as practitioners. The learning and trusting environment of the clinic helped alleviate anxieties I had about modalities such as acupuncture and manipulation.
During the breaks between clinic shifts we had the opportunity to explore the island of Ometepe. I found myself jumping from a rope-swing over a well of water formed by volcanic rock or zip lining upside down in the rainforest, learning to let go of control and trust my peers. Nicaragua’s sunsets have to be some of the most beautiful in the world-the meeting of horizon and earth symbolizing dreams transforming into reality. My work at the NDI clinic was made possible through the Global Health Fellowship from the Naturopathic Medical Student Association.
Student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
Global Health Fellow at the Naturopathic Medical Students Association