“My awakening to the moral imperative as a privileged global citizen is what drove my focus on global medicine.”
Laying the groundwork to become an ND
“I came into integrative medicine through chiropractic. After a back injury in high school treated with little relief, I was referred to a chiropractor. I decided I wanted to work full-time in global health, and to be a complete physician, able to use a variety of modalities and always with my hands, food, and the plants growing around me to help people heal themselves.”
SCNM as a springboard
“The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) was the right college for me because it had the only chapter of Naturopaths Without Borders (NWB) and the broadest scope of training. SCNM teaches acupuncture in the core curriculum and is the only US naturopathic medical school to do so. Acupuncture is a strong part of our global health repertoire and we have used it not only for one-on-one consults but also to train international health workers in basic treatments to help their own communities.
SCNM trained me to be a well-rounded naturopathic doctor. I gained a school-family I will treasure forever. My work with NWB also set the stage for my future in not-for-profit management and leadership.
In order to prepare myself to succeed in global health, I gained as much experience as I could working in low-resource communities in the US and abroad. Through my shifts as a student in SCNM’s free community clinics around Phoenix, I learned how to apply foundational, root-cause naturopathic care to people who otherwise lack access to care.
After working with Ryan Ferchoff, ND and seeing the naturopathic approach to the patient and how the pieces come together, I knew I wanted to bring this style of medicine to those most in need around the world.”
“My wife (Sarah Preston Hesler, ND) and I graduated naturopathic medical school and then we moved to Haiti to not only see patients, but more importantly to open and operate the MamaBaby Haiti birth center in Cap Haitien. It was the first free-standing birth center in northern Haiti. Afterward we started NWB’s work in Haiti initially three months on, three months off and eventually training and hiring local community health workers to take over the work.
For me, my awakening to the moral imperative as a privileged global citizen is what drove my focus on global medicine. Underserved communities tend to receive sparse and poor-quality care, with a lack of options and cultural disempowerment from the dominant model of medical care and reliance on unaffordable technology and medications. I have the tools to act, and I’m choosing to act.
Naturopaths Without Borders serves the global community through sustainable medicine, but it also promotes best practices in global health within the profession and promotes the profession within the larger global health community. We are focused on evolving integrative approaches to health worldwide through our volunteers and our local community health workers. I’m proud of the organization we have built and for its bright future as a driving force to build #oneworldinhealth!
Finding fulfillment as an ND
“My favorite thing about being an ND is flexibility – of tools, of the hats I can wear, and of the cultures I work among. Drawing from whatever modality we need makes us so versatile as practitioners . Using chronic pain as an example, we can utilize spinal manipulation and injection techniques, modulate inflammation through nutrition and botanical medicine, perform acupuncture and teach the patient hydrotherapy to use at home. My prescription rights give me respect from, and open opportunities for collaboration with our conventional colleagues abroad. As a physician, I integrate easily into the healthcare team and bridge the gap between doctors and public health.
Dr. Sarah and I balance our work between NWB work administratively and in the field, private practice and teaching.
In my nine years since graduation I have worked around the world involved in direct patient care and project management, but as we have grown as an organization I have shifted to stepping back and empowering our community of NDs to step into the field work as I work to build NWB and teach students.”
Advice for aspiring NDs
“Decide what you want to do on a daily basis – if it’s meeting patients, listening to their stories and helping them take their health to a new level, naturopathic medicine might be for you. You need an entrepreneurial spirit in business and beyond – we are a rapidly-growing profession and we need innovators and go-getters!”
Learn more about Dr. Hesler: