There is an old African prayer: “We pray to live long enough to become wise.”

I have tried to bring medical care to people who do not have access around the world and to include and incorporate traditional indigenous medicine.

I believe the word “work” can start with a little “w” and a capital “W.” For me, the little “w” is the work that pays the bills. My little “w” is that I am the special advisor to the president of Morehouse Medical School. My capital “W” is the work I dream about and that I love to do; it is my passion and why I live. My capital “W” is my work studying traditional healers in Africa and in other regions in the world. I am the closest I have ever been to getting my little “w” and capital “W” to be the same thing.

I went to medical school at Howard University College of Medicine and did my residency in internal medicine at Emory University. In 1991, I was awarded a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellowship. This was a great honor, and it afforded me the opportunity for three years to pursue scholarly inquiry. In fact, as a requirement of my fellowship, I had to devote 25 percent of my time during the three-year fellowship to something new and different, in a field that was completely different than my area of expertise. The concept was that the breadth of study—not the depth—would make the fellows better leaders.

I had to come up with a plan.

I decided I would study the indigenous knowledge and medical systems—and prove it all wrong. I studied traditional medicine and cultures in Egypt, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Guatemala, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Hawaii and in various Native American cultures here in the United State. I realized that I was not well trained as a healer, particularly when it comes to healing a soul.

Now, 25 years later, I’m the biggest cheerleader of traditional medical systems and knowledge. And if I get sick, that’s where I am going. I came full circle so to speak.