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Student Learns the Value of Naturopathic Medicine Abroad

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Taylor Bean, fourth-year student at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, smiles when she recalls her most memorable experience as a volunteer with Natural Doctors International in Nicaragua.

"A very frail elderly woman came in once," explains Bean. "She had neck pain and headaches. She didn't speak English so we had to use hand gestures, but I think she lived alone and didn't have a lot of human interaction. We massaged her neck and she started crying. That really affected me because I actually got to see the healing power of nature at work. The human connection was amazing."

Bean is just one of the students making a difference overseas through Natural Doctors International (NDI), a humanitarian organization that provides underserviced communities abroad with free naturopathic medical care.

Bean, who graduated with a bachelor of arts from Kings College University, first became involved with NDI in 2007—before she was accepted to the Boucher Institute. Interested in learning more about naturopathic medicine before committing to school, she contacted NDI co-founder and Executive Director Tabatha Parker, who accepted Bean as NDI's first-ever intern.

"The experience really solidified my decision that this was something I wanted to do," says Bean, who travelled to Ometepe, Nicaragua in February of 2008 to shadow Parker for two and a half months. With no naturopathic medical training Bean spent her time observing volunteer naturopathic doctors and naturopathic medical students treat patients.

"I actually got to see the modalities at work," says Bean. "It's amazing how in a developing country with so little, naturopathic medicine can go so far."

For Bean, a Cranbrook, B.C. native who wanted to become a high school teacher before pursuing naturopathic medicine, Docere (Doctor as Teacher) is a naturopathic principle that resonates deeply with her.

"In Nicaragua we educated the people on what they can use from their land and what they can do for themselves," she says. "It's the prevention and education that really go a long way.

"That's why I think naturopathic medicine can be so effective in developing countries."

It was during her internship with NDI that Bean found out she was accepted to the Boucher Institute. Eager to take what she learned abroad and apply it to her studies, Bean arrived at school with a mission to build a global health framework in the culture and the curriculum. Soon she was appointed NDI student liaison and representative on the global health chapter of the Naturopathic Medical Students Association. Since then the 29-year-old has been leading talks about global health and the NDI program on campus.

In 2009 she had the opportunity to return to Nicaragua with a group of fellow students, this time as a student volunteer. "We fundraised and got supplement donations - a lot of our sponsoring companies are very generous," she says.

Bean's second trip to Nicaragua allowed her to practice naturopathic medicine alongside her peers.

"The experience broadens your scope and your knowledge of what naturopathic medicine can do," she explains. "You can see text-book pathologies and things you would never get to treat at home."

More than just experience, Bean's time in Nicaragua strengthened her resolve to practice abroad in the future - she'll soon graduate and get the chance to apply her skills in direct patient care.

It's in my blood now. Working globally is life-changing and the satisfaction that you get from helping people stays with you.

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You are here: Home > Blog > Student Learns the Value of Naturopathic Medicine Abroad