Chucky and his father Patrick Ndumbi
National University is proud to have students from a diversity of rich cultures. Echaukyei "Chucky" Ndumbi, currently in the naturopathic medicine program, was born and raised in Cameroon on the west African coast.
Chucky's interest in natural medicine started as a child. "I had rheumatic fever from age 11 to 16, which left me with a damaged heart valve" he says. Chucky saw an herbalist twice a week while also seeing an MD for penicillin shots. "The herbs helped ease the joint pains that came with the rheumatic fever attacks."
"In Cameroon, people generally turn to natural remedies first and use pharmaceuticals as a last resort," says Chucky. "Our own traditions are very connected with the environment. People understand certain herbs that grow locally, because they grew up with those herbs all their lives. They know which herbs in their backyard are used for a fever or which are used for a headache."
What Chucky likes best about the naturopathic medicine program at National University is its emphasis on preventive care. "Perhaps if I'd had this type of preventive care as a child, I would not have ended up with heart damage and needing surgery later in life."
The Ndumbi family immigrated to the United States in 1998. They lived in the greater Washington DC area, where his father worked at the Smithsonian and attended a school for herbal medicine at night. "He used to bring me monographs to read on all the different herbs he was learning about," remembers Chucky. "His interest in herbal medicine rubbed off on me.
Although both he and his father avidly studied herbs together, Chucky had never heard of the term "naturopathic medicine." In Cameroon, there was no such term. In fact, even chiropractic medicine is an unknown profession there. Chucky discovered naturopathic medicine while searching the Internet for "natural doctors school." "I was majoring in biology at Marymount University at the time, and when I 'googled' and found out about naturopathic medicine, I knew that was the direction for me." He chose National University for his ND degree.
"When I first came to National University in 2009, my father had just graduated from herbal medicine school and was working on a masters degree in nutrition. Our dream was to open a holistic medical center together in Cameroon when I graduated." But that dream was one they wouldn't be able to share together, as Patrick Ndumbi passed away in August of 2012.
Foundations for Wellness Center in Cameroon
Nevertheless, Chucky perseveres. "My new plan when I graduate is to open a healing center in the Washington DC area. When that is fully operational, I plan to open a second center in Cameroon." In fact, that center is already under construction. Chucky had the opportunity to visit the site when he brought his father's body back to be buried in the village where he was born.
Chucky advises those considering an ND degree to evaluate their reasons for wanting to become a naturopathic physician. "Some people think this is an easier way to become a doctor than earning an MD. That is an illusion. It's not easy. You need an innate call to this medicine from deep within. Otherwise, how are you going to keep going when things get tough? Yet, if you have that call, that vision of helping people and making a change in health care, you will have the motivation you need to keep going."