In 2009, Bill Grannell, while attending a one day health conference in Mexico City, was approached by a former national deputy from Oaxaca. The deputy, upon hearing of A Promise of Health’s work in Yucatan said this was exactly what was needed in Oaxaca’s rural indigenous villages. Armed with the frightful statistics of poverty in villages, disease and infant mortality higher than most of Latin America, it moved Bill to immediately consider a program for Oaxaca.
Barbara Grannell realized from her experiences in Yucatan that the organization could and should not go it alone. To sustain the program, the organization would need allies. Why not enlist U.S. migrants from Oaxaca, she reasoned. Migrant groups, organized into “hometown” clubs existed throughout the U.S. These, she reasoned, have a real stake in the health of their communities back home. The next step was to contact the groups, present the project as A Promise of Health did in Yucatan and let the chips fall where they may. In this case, the group that immediately came to the forefront was a US migrant group representing the community of Ayoquezco de Aldama. It fit the bill. Though it had a Casa de Salud (House of Health) that was occasionally visited by the state’s doctors and nurses, it had no permanent health facility to assist the poor.
Ayoquezco is a Zapotec community. Zapotecs are one of the largest indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca. Dependent mostly upon agriculture, they are also one of the poorest. The need for a healthcare clinic to serve this community was evident. More importantly, it had a market day each week that drew into it residents from other nearby villages. This would then become A Promise of Health’s base in Oaxaca.
What followed were the same organizational skills that A Promise of Health used in Yucatan. After the migrant group committed to partner, on the ground negotiations in Ayoquezco had to take place. With the help of the migrant organization, the municipal government agreed to donate an old Casa de Salud building next to the municipal palace for the clinic. Filled with debris and in need of repairs, the next step was to convince the municipal government to provide labor and materials to make the building livable for a doctor and to have space for the clinic itself. While those efforts were going on, Bill Grannell was back in Mexico, in Ayoquezco and Oaxaca City, looking for a homeopathic doctor who could vigorously and successfully launch the Oaxaca program.
From experience, A Promise of Health knew that it was difficult to coax a doctor from his or her comfortable circumstances in a large city. It was no different in Oaxaca. After making an appeal to the graduate school of homeopathic medicine in Oaxaca City, the only doctors who came forward were either those who were in retirement and lacked the vigor or commitment to the program, or they wanted to bend the rules of the program so they could continue to live in the city and either commute or have the patients, who had no money for transportation, commute to see them. The exception was a young woman, Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina, who was married to an Oaxaca policeman and had two very young children. Impossible as it seems, she fit the bill.
In a face to face interview with Bill Grannell, Dr. Soledad was enthusiastic for the program. She said that she wanted to live in a rural community where her children could experience the same quiet life and values she had enjoyed growing up. She was a Mixteca (the 2nd largest indigenous group in Oaxaca). From her experiences, she knew the challenges that face people living in these circumstances. As a homeopathic physician she possessed the needed qualifications. As a human being she possessed the kind and caring personality needed to truly help the people!
Dr. Soledad was first trained as an allopathic physician and practiced medicine in the capital city of Oaxaca. After experiencing firsthand the amazing healing properties of homeopathy, her career took a sharp turn. Studying at the graduate school of homeopathic medicine at Oaxaca’s university for 3 years, she became an avid proponent of homeopathy and exclusively began its practice using only homeopathic diagnosis and remedies.
On April 1, 2010, Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina became the Promise of Health sponsored doctor for their health program in rural Oaxaca.
The week before the opening of the clinic, Dr. Soledad moved her entire family to Ayoquezco de Aldama. It was a considerable sacrifice to move her young family into the small, cramped quarters in the medical building that had been donated by the municipal government of Ayoquezco. But like all things she and her husband, Arturo, do, they did it with grace and a rare enthusiasm. Today they live in 4 rooms of the clinic. The front 2 rooms serve as the health clinic.
On opening day, the Ayoquezco clinic mimicked that of the first Yucatan clinic. A large crowd began gathering before daybreak though the clinic was not scheduled to open until 9 a.m. With more people than she could see in a day, patient’s names were taken and scheduled for the next day.
Today, in the program’s 7th year there, things run more smoothly. On average Dr. Soledad consults with 62 patients each week. Always active and on the go, she sees patients, checks medical supplies and communicates weekly with A Promise of Health on the state of its Oaxaca program. Arturo, her husband, has left the Oaxaca police department and is a full time partner, helping with homeopathic medicine supplies and parenting their children.
Dr. Soledad is more than a doctor. For Dr. Soledad, her focus is not only on her patients. She is concerned with the overall health of the communities she serves. She has organized village meetings to discuss general health concerns and homeopathic medicine. She has instructed children in schools on hygiene and nutrition. Professionally she remains active in association with her fellow doctors who are all graduates of the homeopathic advanced program at the University of Oaxaca. She is a tireless advocate for A Promise of Health and its program in Oaxaca. She has spoken about her work at a homeopathic congress in Mazatlan and joined A Promise of Health directors in an invitation to speak to professors of medicine at the University of Oaxaca. Proudly of Mixteca heritage, Dr. Soledad wants to see A Promise of Health’s program grow to include more indigenous people including the Mixteca, a population that has been marginalized for decades.
A Few Days in the Life of Dr. Soledad from Her Diary
Each week, as part of the program, Dr. Soledad writes in her weekly report a running diary of her activities and her patients. A glimpse at some recent entries (copywrited by Promise of Health) gives the reader a sense of what her life has become. In July, 2016, she wrote, “In Oaxaca, the rains have started. Some days are cloudy and cool, some days there is heavy rain with wind and unexpected turbulence. Today, as I sit in the small Internet café in Ayoquezco to send my report, sometimes the service fades in and out. I write my report and when I try to send it, it is lost and I have to try over and over again.”
Think of her frustration, persistence and dedication to communicate, after a long day of seeing patients. She then goes home to fix dinner for her family, many times only to find that the electricity has failed once again in the storm. How long will it be out this time?
Another time she wrote, “The teachers are still protesting across Oaxaca. Many roads are blocked and there is violence. We have tried to purchase more medicine bottles in Oaxaca City but road closures have kept many suppliers from bringing their merchandise to town. This weekend, Arturo and I will scour the city for any pharmacy supplier that has plastic bottles needed for our medicine.”
On her return she wrote, “We had to take the long way home to Ayoquezco because of problems in Zimitlan. Cars were burning and the road was closed. We went through several check points. I pray the unrest will end soon.”
About her patients she writes: “Today I want to comment on a case I have been treating for several weeks. It was a very sad case. It is of an old man from the community of San Martin, whose wife brought him for consultation. She was in great despair for not finding a cure for his sufferings of many years. At our first consultation, she told me that over the years, her husband had visited many doctors. He had taken many different medicines and his wife prepared for him home treatments but nothing had worked. He has had no improvement. She told me that when he eats he cannot swallow and feels as though he will drown. For that reason he starves himself. I could see his eyes were full of tears and he feels very full of anger. By not eating he has many complications. He told me he prefers to just die rather than to continue on. When questioning his wife, she says he is often violent and attacks her verbally. He is impatient and he screams and has hit her. It is all very sad. They told me that they live alone and don’t have the resources to continue to consult with doctors. I offered them my help and my prayers that their lives shall improve. I then gave him a remedy that I prescribed that I trusted would heal almost all of his nuisances. Now, following 3 more consultations, they have returned to tell me how much the old man has improved. He can now swallow his food and his fear is fading. His wife tells me that his anger is disappearing. They told me how grateful they are and now they have regained their faith and trust that their lives will be better.”