Global Health and NDI – A Life Changing Medical Brigade

Global Health and NDI – A Life Changing Medical Brigade

By Dr. Kelly McGuire

February 2013,

Myself with local volunteer

In February of 2011, I ventured on a life changing experience to the remote island of Ometepe, in Nicaragua. Through the organization Natural Doctors International (NDI) I joined the forces of global health. I went on an  international medical brigade to bring help to those experiencing life in a developing country. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Largely due to the pioneering work of NDI’s co-founder and executive director Dr. Tabatha Parker, a model of naturopathic care and public health is now a reality in Los Angeles, Ometepe – the island made of two volcanos. I’m honoured to be part of this experience and wanted to spread the awareness of this global health organization. We can all make a difference by donating, promoting volunteerism and social responsibility, and building personal relationships with likeminded people interested in the future of our health and planet. We are reminded this February to spread love and hope in small and big ways. Reflecting back, exactly two years ago, I’m happy to share some of my experience.

Tales from my travel journal February 2011



Pictures from left to right : Clinic snapshot. / Supplies closet. / Farming day water break.

Armed with our mosquito nets and scrubs and arriving as an eclectic group of individuals with our unique ideas on how we can change the world, we returned as a cohesive force empowered by the experience we had. NDI’s unique brigade experience living in homes with locals, and popular education style of delivery and practical experiences beyond words changed me as a person and physician. From struggling to communicate with a Spanish dictionary over dinner to tending the fields, working in clinic and attending lectures the journey challenged us on so many levels.

Our house mom’s welcomed us in like daughters and their children and grandchildren were our brothers and sisters. Even though they have next to nothing compared to the standard of living we are used to in Canada, these individuals showed us true happiness. Life really comes down to the simplicity of health and happiness regardless of our possessions. I learned that its easy to take for granted the standard of living we are used to and how personal choices can impact the larger global community. Our use of water in particular concerns me, especially when you realize it is possible to take a shower out of one small bucket of cold water.


Pictures from left to right : Farmer group shot. /Home-stay siblings. /Plantain and nap in kitchen

One case in clinic that particularly touched me was when a man broke down crying during his interview when describing his experience with stroke. Even though my broken Spanish was unable to express empathy it was mutually understood as his eyes thanked me and I handed him his free treatment. He held my hand for a moment and squeezed. The days in clinic brought other crazy experiences of finding green pus and other fungal or insect infestations in the ear canals, possible rabies infected dog bites, many stomach aches and digestive complaints from parasites, back pain due to kidney stones, back pain from working as farmers, and severe dehydration due to environmental conditions. We also treated many common cases of cough and cold, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as malnutrition.

A necessary part of the educational process was sharing stories and the emotional impact of our experiences as a group and reflecting on the privilege and responsibility it takes to be a physician in another culture. Often our own tears would be shed after exhausting days in the heat treating many patients. Naturopathic medicine has a lot of offer the world and thanks to Dr. Parker a free health care clinic remains in Los Angeles that continues to demonstrate the impact our medicine can have. Many brigades since mine have continued to enrich their understanding of global health through NDI. To learn more about NDI check out their website at

In light of Valentine’s Day falling in February, lets all think of donating a little love and support to this amazing organization. Even if that simply means sharing and promoting awareness.



Pictures from left to right : Dr. Parker lecturing. / Island of Ometepe.