Why did you choose to pursue naturopathic medicine? What were you doing before that?
- Simply put, divine intervention and purpose. As a child, I always knew I wanted to help people and become a doctor. My family worked hard to expose me to as many health and medicine opportunities as possible to encourage my dream, which gave me valuable insight and work experience in hospitals, clinics, private practices and even pharmaceutical companies. During college, I was premed, a member of the Phi Delta Epsilon Premedical Fraternity, sat for the MCAT, and initially applied to osteopathic medical school. However, I had a serious change of heart due to dissatisfaction with allopathic/conventional medical curriculum and modalities. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, and a simple internet search finally led me to learn about naturopathic medicine. The rest is history.
- I deeply resonated with the of using the healing power of nature and food as medicine to facilitate self-healing and wellness. This belief is also prevalent in my own Southern Black-American roots and traditions, because for generations, my family had to depend on growing our own food, using herbs from the backyard/forest as our medicine, and passing along home remedies to manage our health. Systemic racism, disenfranchisement and limited resources kept us from accessing modernized healthcare. We used what we knew, coupled with faith and love, and it worked well for many non-emergent situations. Additionally, I’ve always had a fascination with using herbs and natural approaches to heal because there is great wisdom in the practice. I knew it was the path for me because I felt a great conviction in my soul to pursue this medicine, and everything worked out to my favor to learn it.
Why did you choose your naturopathic medical school?
- I choose NCNM/NUNM because it is the oldest accredited naturopathic medical school in the country, and I loved the story of how our predecessors fought to reopen it and keep the medicine alive at all costs years ago. That kind of passion and determination is part of why I became a doctor, and I wanted to join a network of others who felt the same fervor. When I applied to ND school, I only applied to NCNM and no other schools. At the time, I had never been to Portland and knew nothing about the area. But compared to the other school locations, Portland stood out as a more interesting city to explore. Fortunately, I was accepted and everything worked out.
What did you gain from your time at naturopathic medical school?
- Words cannot truly describe all that I gained and learned from my experience, but I’ll try to capture a few highlights. The process, in and of itself, was tremendously difficult and overwhelming; but it was great to have a tight-knit community to lean on during my programs. The curriculum for both the ND, Master’s in Science in Integrative Research, and Natural Childbirth programs have made me a better doctor in many ways because it pushed me to be more than average, instilled multidisciplinary skills, and taught me how to integrate the best of traditional medicine with modern scientific advancements. But most importantly, I learned about people. You meet a plethora of people in ND school, which greatly attuned my understanding of human behavior. As a doctor, the better you understand human nature and behaviors, the better you know how to help someone confront their deeper issues creating barriers or obstacles to cure.
How did you plan for success in your career from the beginning? What happened after you graduated?
- Any successful person can tell you that the climb to the top is never in a straight line. I didn’t even know naturopathic medicine existed until well into my 20s, after college, when I made the pivot away from osteopathic medicine. Even after I graduated from ND school, the first year and a half did not go as planned. I took my boards twice before I passed, and had to work an entry-level admin job at OHSU to pay the bills while I awaited licensure. The first ND job I landed, I thought was my dream job. Then, I had my rose-colored glasses shattered when I was suddenly laid-off without notice after only a year of employment. At that point, I didn’t feel successful at all, and I couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much when I worked incredibly hard. But then I realized, I couldn’t approach success and my career like my peers. Many of them have a higher level of access to various privileges and opportunities that just aren’t offered at the same fairness to Black people, even today. I stopped trying to outwork my skin color barrier, leaned in hard on mastering my craft, and trusted in a different career process for myself. It was an imperative life lesson to acknowledge that sometimes what I’m told to think is the right way, isn’t always right for me or will pan out. It’s always OK to pivot and change as long as I never give up. This insight led to me creating a successful new business model not previously applied within naturopathic medicine.
- Ascension is my focus. Everything is a work in progress, but I’m extremely blessed and proud of my accomplishments. My practice is entering its 4th year of business and is booming! I’ve found my harmony by blending my Afro-indigenous roots and naturopathic medicine within an evidence-based, concierge-style biomedical model. The best feeling is knowing that I’m making transformational differences for people and they value my unique approach to their health. Moreover, I’m honored that I can practice this medicine and create a safe healing space for my patients, Black people and underserved people of color to be truly seen, deeply heard, and well-cared for by a doctor they trust, and they know will fully understand their unique needs in the healing process.
- When I’m not working hard, I enjoy a quiet, therapeutic lifestyle with my family. I still haven’t recovered 100% from nearly burning myself out in med school, but I can definitely say I feel the best I have in a long time, and I make a point to put my own health first above all else.
What do you like most about being a naturopathic doctor? What aspects are you passionate about?
- Honestly, I’m passionate about it all! I love making medicine and creating personalized formulations because they work brilliantly in most cases. The philosophy behind naturopathic medicine, the 7 tenets, are life-changing and need to be implemented in healthcare wide-scale. I also enjoy having longer patient visits so I can hear a person’s life story. My patients have truly been my greatest mentors and teachers in this journey, and I’m humbled by their trust in me as a ND. There are so many wonderful tools in naturopathic medicine, and I never approach healthcare as one-size-fits-all.
Does the flexibility of the profession appeal to you?
- Absolutely! I think it’s crucial for every profession to have a certain level of flexibility in today’s world. Specifically, in naturopathic medicine, I feel that I have more freedom than other medical counterparts to make decisions to run my business and treat my patients however I want (within reason) without answering to insurance or administrators, or being stuck to practice within rigid protocols, or forced to work in toxic jobs or work-environments. Every person is different and has different needs, and I’m thankful to work in a profession that affords the flexibility that I need.
Does your practice focus on treatment of a specific health condition(s)? If so, please explain why you chose to focus on it and how naturopathic medicine can make a difference in treating that condition.
- Ray, ND: The People’s Doctor is a boutique naturopathic and complex primary care practice. I treat the patients who literally feel that they have run out of options and have no other doctor to turn to for help. I operate as a multidisciplinary generalist who treats most conditions including, but not limited to, endocrine, digestive, neurological, cardiovascular, dermatological and immune conditions. Naturopathic medicine works extremely well in complex care because it’s all about treating the whole person, educating patients on how to change their lives and self-heal, and applying minimally-invasive interventions to bodies (and spirits) otherwise traumatize by their conventional care. This work chose me by sending these patients to my doorstep. I’ve accepted this calling because people need doctors who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, take extra time to really dig deep, and facilitate major healing breakthroughs in situations where faith was all but lost. Of course the easy cases are nice from time to time, but I’ve found passion and purpose in complex care and intend to practice this way as long as my mind and body will allow me.
Anything else you would like to share in your success story?
- Always stay true to yourself and be bold in creating your OWN path to what success looks like for you. Also, if something hasn’t been done yet, you might be the person inspired and blessed with the talent to make it happen. So never let other people’s critiques, doubts and discouragement deter you from living and walking in your mission.
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