Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina interviewed by Bill Grannell, President of the board of directors of A Promise of Health.
Her Remarkable Path to Homeopathy
Starting its 22nd year, A Promise of Health (APOH) is a non-profit organization bringing quality homeopathic health care to rural indigenous populations living in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Founded by my wife and I in 2001, APOH has worked exclusively to bring homeopathic medicine to Mexico’s underserved indigenous populations, specifically the Maya of Yucatan and the Mixtec and Zapotec people of Oaxaca. To learn more of our work, I recommend a visit to our website: www.promiseofhealth.org
APOH chose homeopathic medicine because of its ability to cure illness and not just treat symptoms. Homeopathic medicine has no adverse reactions, the medicine is not expensive and in Mexico, it is of good quality. As was often said by Mother Teresa, whose Catholic order only used homeopathy in its dispensaries in Calcutta, India, “It is the medicine of the poor.”
In rural indigenous villages where we work, without our program, there would be no medical care available to the vast majority. Our work is an example of what can be done using homeopathy.
For the last 12 years, Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina has served as APOH’s Oaxaca doctor, working in indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec communities. A unique individual, much has been written about her exploits, about her unwavering determination to help the indigenous poor and about her dedication to her work. Some of this has been chronicled in past editions of Homeopathy for Everyone.
Her volume of work, bringing homeopathic health care to Oaxaca’s indigenous people is more than impressive. In her tenure, Dr. Soledad has performed nearly 40,000 consultations. Though she is both an allopathic and homeopathic doctor by training, she only uses homeopathy to treat both physical and mental illnesses of all kinds. Her belief in homeopathy is strong and never wavering.
The mere fact that so many people sought her help is proof alone of her skills and the efficacy of homeopathic medicine. It is also an acceptance by indigenous people of the healing properties of remedies made from natural substances, which they inherently, deeply understand.
This is Dr. Soledad’s story in her own words. It was 1962. In the Mixtec community of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico, campesinos tilled their fields, planted their crops and then prayed for a good harvest. Herders of sheep and cattle likewise prayed. Their orations were for adequate rain – but not too much, for good pastures, and for healthy newborn sheep and cattle.
None of this was new. This is what campesinos and their ancestors have done for hundreds of years.
What was new that year in 1962, was that a young man named Francisco Ramirez Hernández, stood before the municipal authorities in the municipality and was married to an equally young Ofelia Medina Avendaño. This young couple would become the parents of Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina.
Not unlike most married in this manner, they were largely without skills. As newlyweds, ahead of them, lay a life of hard work.
“They were not educated people. Both my parents had only attended primary school for a couple of years – how many I do not know. They could hardly read or write but they did know how to do their numbers. My father’s family were traders of animal skins and wool for as long as he could remember, so that’s the work he chose.
Not long after they were married, my mother gave birth to a son. They were so poor that she had no one to attend her. The boy’s birth was complicated and sadly, he died within a few short hours.
His death profoundly affected them both. My mother told me they were deeply saddened by the event. Without proper medical care, they feared this could happen again. Even at that time, the community of Yanhuitlán had no doctor. There was no medical care even if a person could afford it.”
Worried for their family and the future, Soledad’s father then decided to leave the Mixtec and move to Mexico City, where he believed more opportunities lay before them. Most importantly there was medical care for his wife.
“Because of a lack of education, they worked at odd jobs — whatever they could find. Exactly what they did, I never exactly knew. They never talked with their children about their life there.”
While in Mexico City, they had two more children – both boys. The eldest, Francisco Damel, named after his father, was born in 1966. In 1968, Juan Noel was born. Both were delivered safely in a hospital.
Late in 1970, disillusioned with life in Mexico City, Soledad’s parents with their 2 sons, returned to Yanhuitlán.
“My father always worked from sunrise to sunset, he almost never rested. With a little money saved from their work, he purchased land and built a small house that still stands today.
My parents returned to trading wool, sheep and cattle skins. Each week they wandered from plaza to plaza throughout the Mixtec. They were so busy, they were seldom home. When they were, it was only for a short time. Sometimes it was only for overnight.”
When it was time for their son Francisco to start school, he was left at home. Two years later, when Juan Noel started school, both were left at home, with older brother Francisco in charge. When in town, Soledad’s parents would buy a little food and then leave some money for their children, to last the week. This became a pattern for her parents as children were added. The eldest child was in charge of the younger ones.
“My sister, Ericna Hilda, was born in 1974. Three years later, on March 24, 1977, I was delivered in a small hospital in the mountains north of Yanhuitlán. My mother returned to work the next day.
I am told that like my brothers and sister before me, she carried me with her until I was old enough to be left at home. I was mostly raised by my brothers and sister. My mother, as best she could, taught us how to cook and wash our clothes. We all worked to keep our house clean. I learned to wash and dress myself.”
Soledad’s first memories were of a dark and cold house, where food was always scarce. When her parents were home, she remembered her father was always stern and seemed angry. He shouted at his wife and children. It was clear he was the boss and he wanted everyone to know it.
“The story of my childhood is a sad story. I remember days filled with tears. My father’s behavior was sadly imitated by my brothers. Except for mother, I never felt loved and I always felt alone. My father didn’t recognize me and there was no love. This caused me lots of pain. For this, as a small child, I grew up fearful, timid and submissive to everyone.
The treatment of my mother by my father was no better. All of my childhood, she was abused by him in both word and deed. Like most women of the campo, she never defended herself from the physical and psychological abuse she suffered. As a result, it caused her much damage.”
The emotion of Dr. Soledad’s memories is difficult to read and even more difficult to share with you. The facts are this. Money was always in short supply and sometimes it wasn’t enough and then everyone went hungry. The dark cloud of her father’s behavior hung over the entire family and to this day has indelibly colored their lives.
What follows are her first school memories and how this, combined with her home life, molded her into the remarkable person she has become.
“In Yanhuitlán, at 5 years old, I started kindergarten. The next year I began my first year in primary school. Since my sister was only 2 years older than me and my mother was not home to help me, I remember that at first I did not know how to get ready.
How I dressed depended upon my sister’s hand me downs. Many times, the clothes did not fit and were torn and patched. I often went to school without having eaten anything, nor did I have any money to buy something.
Many mothers of my classmates brought food to the school at lunchtime for their children and seeing that I had nothing, gave me leftover food from their children. I ate whatever they offered because I was always very hungry. I dreamed of the day my mother would also bring me food.
My mother was always very kind and loved her children. I know that had she been at home, she would have taken time to care for us. But, her life did not permit it and for this she greatly suffered.”
With children not so much different than her, Soledad began to adapt to school. In Yanhuitlán, these were all children of the campo. If her clothes were old and patched, so were those of her classmates. At school, she was exposed to a big, new world.
But her father had other plans and her life was turned upside down. He decided to move his family to the capital city, Oaxaca Juarez, so his children could have a better education. Having very little money, he bought a dilapidated old 2 room house with only a primitive bathroom.
“School in the city was very different. Most of the children came from families whose fathers had good jobs. My classmates had nice clothes and shoes that fit. They also had money to buy food at school or their mothers brought them a lunch.
I had only hard bread or a bun in which I put some honey or cheese and then wrapped in paper. I was ashamed to eat in front of them because of the good food they had. My clothes were handed down to me from my sister. They were worn and patched. They did not fit very well. The same for my shoes. I had nothing new. Other children would laugh at me. I was embarrassed, timid and always afraid to speak out for myself. I did not know how to defend myself.
In primary and secondary schools, I had almost no friends. But, I do remember one. She was always dressed very pretty and had long, beautiful hair. She would bring money and buy cakes that always looked yummy. She would offer some to me, but I was reluctant to take them. We shared a friendship and a love for books and learning. In my heart, she will always be my friend.”
In our interview, APOH asked Dr. Soledad what inspired her to study and to dream that someday she could be a doctor. Here is her answer.
“It was my mother who inspired me to study. Also, it was my mother who gave me my faith to put my trust in God, that he would reward my hard work.
I remember as a small child, my mother began to suffer horrible headaches. Instinctively, I knew it was not only from her hard work, but also from her abuse. It was then I began to dream of becoming a doctor so I could take care of her. I wanted to cure her from suffering, not only from physical but from moral pain as well.
Sometimes, alone together, we would cry and pray for her and my suffering. It was then that she would tell me, ‘Soledad you must study very hard! promise me you will study, study a lot please.’ She said this would be my salvation so I would not have a life like hers. It was from these words, that I was determined that yes, I must study and study harder, to escape my poverty.
I will give my father some credit for my inspiration to learn, have a career and become self-sufficient. Despite all his errors, he too encouraged his children to study hard and do well in school. He told us that this would be our inheritance, because he had nothing else to offer.
Both my parents taught us to be responsible, taking care of ourselves. My mother taught us to respect each other and to get along well. But, we were left on our own to learn life’s hard lessons.”
Taking to heart her mother’s urging and her father’s admonitions, study Soledad did! Throughout her public-school years she began to show her undefeatable inward drive that continues to this day. Despite her home environment, early on she led most of her class in studies, earning high marks.
“In both primary and secondary schools in my country, the best students are selected as escolatas (escorts) to participate in national flag ceremonies. It is the job of the escolatas to escort our flag in national ceremonies, protecting it and to represent our school. There are only 6 escolatas selected at each school.
Despite my humble appearance and timid demeanor, because of my good grades, most years the teachers selected me to serve with five other students in this great honor and responsibility. In secondary school, I had the highest honor of an escolata. I was the flag bearer!”
In 1995 Dr. Soledad graduated from secondary school. It was time to think about college, medical school and becoming a doctor. Knowing that there was no money for a private school, she took the admission exam at the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca in the Faculty of Medicine, in the capital city.
Though there was tuition, it was much less than anywhere else. By working at odd jobs she could afford it. But she wondered, could she pass the entrance exam! Competition was fierce.
“It was amazing! I passed the exam and entered school. I was now a medical student! When I began medical school, I only had 3 changes of clothes and some shoes that squeezed my feet. Fortunately for me, most of the time they gave me a white uniform to wear and that, with a borrowed white shirt from my brother, completed my wardrobe.”
During medical school, Soledad would ask her father to buy her instruments she needed. These times were always met with a very strong scolding and then sometimes he would reluctantly buy them. Since she could not afford to buy books, she had to study in the Faculty Library after class.
Always in her life, Soledad remembers being hungry. With only money for tuition, bus fare and copies, there never was much for food. Each morning before leaving for school she would eat a small breakfast and seldom ate again until she returned home that night.
“On rare occasions my friends would invite me to join them in the cafeteria to eat and visit. They would ask me if I was going to eat something and I lied, saying I was not hungry. I dreamed of the day that I would have my own money and I could go into the school’s cafeteria and buy whatever I wanted!
That’s how my 5 years as a medical student went. When I graduated, both of my parents attended and I was so proud! I had proved to them and the world that I could study and have a career. I could support myself, my family and I could heal my mother. It was a great day for all of us! I shall always remember it!”
Shortly afterward, Soledad left for her internship at a military hospital in Chetumal, Quintana Roo. It was a long way from home for Soledad, the furthest she had ever been. Also, it was the first time she had lived away from her family. She described it as a “very big step” for her to take.
At the hospital she was provided with food, lodging and a very small stipend. This time she would not worry where her next meal would come from. As an intern, she was required to work 34 hour shifts, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. the next day, without sleeping. If caught sleeping, she was assigned another 34 hour shift! Her resident doctor was military and very strict.
Soledad describes her 12 months of internship as intense with long hours of work only interrupted with short times to rest and sleep. Never was there time for a holiday.
“My 5th month at the hospital I received alarming news. My mother needed surgery. She had been diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a painful neurological disease. Now, the pains in her head had become unbearable.
I took a temporary leave from my internship and returned to Oaxaca to be with my mother. The surgeons operated and discovered numerous tumors in the meninges of her brain. They removed some of the tumors saying that was all they could do safely. Following the surgery, she was in a coma for a month. I was with her all the time. Sadly, she could not live and upon her death, with great sadness, I returned to Quintana Roo. For me it was a devastating time. I was becoming a doctor but not soon enough!”
Dr. Soledad wrote there was not much to remember about the rest of her internship. When it was completed, she returned to Oaxaca Juarez. It was time for her medical exam, which she took immediately, saying that she was ready to become a doctor. Now she had only to await the outcome. In a short time, she had her answer.
“I passed my medical exam and now was, at last, a licensed medical doctor! But I did not know whether to laugh or cry! My mother had died 6 months earlier. Alone, my father, was again back at work buying and selling wool, sheep hides and cattle skins and had moved back to his house in Yanhuitlán. My sister and brothers were all doing other activities or away at school. The little house in Oaxaca Juarez was empty, except for me. There was no one to celebrate the news with me. I was alone! So, I sat and cried.”
The next week Soledad again left Oaxaca, this time headed for a hospital in Putla de Guerrero, to begin a year of Social Service, required by Mexico’s government for newly minted doctors.
When she arrived at Putla’s bus terminal at about 3 a.m. in the morning, it was raining hard. She didn’t know where to go, had only a little money and had no place to stay. Finding a former classmate who was also at the hospital, she stayed there until 4 days later she was assigned a room at the hospital
Though she was now a doctor, her 12 months in Putla proved to be not much different than her internship in Chetumal. Her stipend was too small to buy meals and her room had no place to cook.
“I remember buying a kilogram of tortillas at the grocery store. They were cheap, I could dry them and whenever I was hungry, snack on them. I did meet an older, middle aged woman while there who sometimes invited me to eat with her. I believe she was an angel, sent by God.”
At last, her year in Putla ended and Soledad returned to Oaxaca Juarez. Now, she thought, she could begin her practice.
“Upon my return home, I began to realize the immensity of it all. I had almost no money. Though my father said I could use the Oaxaca house to live and start my practice. It was dilapidated and in a very poor part of the city.
The mother I had wanted to cure was dead. My father had returned to Yanhuitlán. My sister had married and was working as was my older brother. The younger brothers were away studying. Again, I was alone and very depressed!
Despite my pain, once more I used all my strength to move ahead. I looked everywhere for a job and took work wherever I could find it. I cleaned a small space in the little house so I could consult with patients in my neighborhood. Not many could afford to see a doctor, so I charged them very little.
One day, when I was looking for a job, I went in the office of a homeopathic doctor. We talked for a while and I shared some of my history. She told me that I was emotionally in very bad shape. She said I had deep depression that I had carried since my childhood.
I told her that I didn’t have any money. She said it didn’t matter, she wanted to try to help me. She said she would treat me with homeopathy.
That is when I began to learn about homeopathy and how it could cure both physical and emotional pain.”
After several consultations, the doctor told Soledad that her profound depression needed a physician with even greater understanding of her condition. She introduced her to Dr. Raul Morales Lopez, who was also the director of the School of Homeopathy at The Institute of Higher Studies, another public university in Oaxaca.
“When I went to see Dr. Raul, he made me trust him a lot and tell him all my very personal thoughts and feelings that I had never told anyone and he gave me a lot of advice. During these sessions, he gave me a lot of confidence and insisted that I had to trust God to help me change my mentality. Above all, he explained to me what homeopathy was, and what it could do in my body and in my person.
He assured me that I was going to be better, calmer and above all happier; although at first, I confess that I did not believe it. Then, the morning after my second consultation, I woke up realizing that I felt very contented and happy. I had never felt like that before! Until then, my life for me was pure sadness and anger for seeing the shortcomings of my family and my father’s mistreatment of my mother.
It was the beginning of something new, the peace that I felt. It was a miracle, the miracle of my lifetime! Dr. Raul cured me of my depression and he gave me hope!
That is when I began to think about the healing power of homeopathy. At last I was able to leave behind me all of my traumas, frustration and resentments that I had held for so long a time! It was then that I began my journey to learn all there was that I could learn about homeopathy.”
It was then that Dr. Raul Morales Lopez invited Dr. Soledad to formally enter his graduate program to study “Homeopathy Specialty.”
“I didn’t really know what that meant. Until now, I had never heard of Dr. Hahnemann or homeopathy. I thought that perhaps it was just a course in homeopathy. But then he told me all that was involved. There would be many subjects to be learned, just as it was in medical school! It was all very exciting and of course, after my healing, when Dr. Raul told me that I could help a patient more as a homeopathic physician, I believed him! So once again I became a student.”
I entered the university’s School of Homeopathy. This time, since I was on my own, I had to work daily to pay my tuition, buy books and some food to keep me going. I went to school at nights. 3 years later, I graduated.”
Four years later, on a sunny Monday morning, April 12, 2010, Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina became A Promise of Health’s doctor in the village of Ayoquezco de Aldama, Oaxaca, Mexico. She would be there until Friday, December 11, 2020, when still APOH’s doctor, she returned to Yanhuitlán, her birthplace, to build a first ever health clinic.
During the 10 plus years Dr. Soledad lived in the Zapotec village of Ayoquezco, she had 38,359 consultations with patients! While there, after a day’s work, she continued her studies at night, completing a Master’s Degree in Homeopathic Medicine. For any doctor, this is a great achievement.
Dr. Soledad’s return to Yanhuitlán and the building of the clinic is a story we have written. On Monday, May 16, 2022, after more than a year of work, construction on the clinic was completed and she opened its doors for the first time!
To date, Dr. Soledad’s clinic has cared for nearly 750 patients! This is remarkable news in a village that was without a doctor for several decades.
For APOH’s interview, we asked Dr. Soledad what motivates her intense desire to continue our work in Yanhuitlán. This is her response.
“The main reason for me continuing this great work with A Promise of Health is because of my own tragic personal experiences that are not unlike many people who today live in our communities. They suffer the same economic situations as I did.
Sometimes they are hungry. Sometimes they suffer the abuse of a parent who feels great anger and pain because of economic hardships. I can tell you it hurts my soul to see this, because it reminds me of everything I experienced.
Now, with the support of APOH and the skills that God has given me to become a homeopathic doctor, I have returned to my home village to help all who suffer and need care. For each patient who comes to me, I shall always try to give my love and dedication to improve their health so they might have a better life.
I must tell you, returning home has also been a great gift to me. This is something I always wanted and now it is real. To have this new life where I work in my own clinic, helping my Mixtec neighbors, is a blessing from God.
Now, I live contentedly with my 3 children. Unlike my childhood, each day my children have a mother who can see they are safely to school, bring their lunches and escort them home at days end. Here, they have good friends and activities to fill their minds.
You ask me how long will I do this. To A Promise of Health and everyone who reads this article, I will be Yanhuitlán’s homeopathic doctor and continue this beautiful work helping many people for as long as God shall allow me!”
Photos of Dr. Soledad Medina at her work
in both Ayoquezco de Aldama and Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico
Soledad at APOH’s Ayoquezco clinic. Middle photo is opening day with her first patient.
Meeting with women in rural villages, Soledad presents APOH’s program to care for everyone.
(Above) Dr. Soledad’s patients at the new APOH Yanhuitlan Oaxaca Clinic
Contact information for A Promise of Health:
A Promise of Health, 2702 W 410 N, Hurricane, Utah 84737
Telephone: 1-435-635-1010 Website: www.promiseofhealth.org
Email address: President Bill Grannell: [email protected]
Fantastic interview Bill! Well done! And I’m so glad you are going backwards in time from your current age of 85 to 79!
Co-founding A Promise of Health with you has been the biggest highlight of my life! Thank you Alan, for publishing this interview and for your continued support of A Promise of Health!