Barefoot Doctors Academy celebrates 30th anniversary
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Happy 30th anniversary to the Barefoot Doctors Academy! Since 1983, the Barefoot Doctors Academy has taught thousands of classes to educate people in the ways of “back to the roots” teachings; natural healing, midwifery, traditional medicine, wilderness medicine, permaculture, emergency preparedness and response, sustainability and much more.
The campus is located in Hawi on a 7.5 acre property where husband and wife team, Dr. Jim Berg and Dee Anne Domnick live and work.
“We love to share about natural healing methods, which are healthier and safer,” Domnick said.
BFDA was first founded by Domnick in 1983 under the name Birth Rite Education Center in Lacombe, Louisiana. Offering classes in natural healing and midwifery, BREC was incorporated as a non-profit organization. Co-sponsoring an international midwifery convention in 1988, BREC contributed to the ability to legally practice midwifery in Louisiana.
In 1993, Domnick and Dr. Jim Berg joined together both in marriage and as a clinical duo. Working as a team at what was then known as “The Barefoot Doctor’s Academy,” a name Berg had coined for their clinical practice, BREC officially changed its name to the Barefoot Doctors Academy in 1999. Relocating to Hawi in 2002, BFDA’s teaching traditions have grown.
Domnick, a licensed midwife who has practiced midwifery for more than 30 years, introduced a certified doula course in 1983. The word “doula” translates from ancient Greek as “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained professional who provides continuous emotional and information support to the mother, before, during and after birth.
“As far as I know, ours is the longest running doula certification program in the world,” said Domnick. “Our course is a four month long certification with an introduction in midwifery.”
BFDA has divided their teachings into four categories; 1) Introduction to Midwifery with Doula Certification, 2) Wilderness First Responder Certification, 3) North Kohala Emergency Response Team, 4) A Healing Gardens Internship Program.
For years, the team has coordinated the establishment of a series of grassroots, complementary healthcare centers, serving thousands of people seeking safe and effective natural healing remedies and childbirth options.
There are many benefits at having a certified doula while pregnant and birthing; labors are shorter, few c-sections are needed, fewer complications and less need for medicated labors.
For the mother, having a doula present gives them additional support, helps lessen postpartum depression, and allows them to experience a greater satisfaction with the birth experience.
Dominick’s fall Doula Certification program will begin Sept. 14, and she said the line-up of doula instructors for the fall course is amazing.
Mala Landt, a Big Island resident, has been a certified professional midwife since 1999. She has been an instructor with BFDA since 2003, and is dedicated to educating women and their families about the importance of choosing a gentle birth.
“Before Dee Anne moved here, we collaborated to create a class on midwifery. Women supporting women is so important, and by offering this course, we are practicing how we care,” Landt said. “For me, its very important that we regenerate a model of care within the family.”
Another instructor in the doula course is Sasha Williams, who is a birth and postpartum doula. She is also a lactation counselor and a certified Lamaze childbirth educator. Having been a certified doula for four years before taking Dee Ann’s course, Williams said BFDA’s program was much more comprehensive than previous training.
“It was a fantastic experience, with better training and the breadth of what they shared was far and above an excellent way to introduce the topic,” Williams said. “Dee Anne is a very skilled herbalist and mentor with high standards, and she has done a really good job of bringing faculty together, many who teach what they excel in.”
Now Williams is one of the instructors in the fall doula course, in addition to teaching childbirth preparation classes at North Hawaii Community Hospital, attending births at Hilo Medical Center and NHCH, and in homebirth settings.
Domnick said another expert, Suzanne Arms from Colorado, “is an amazing speaker and author of a number of books,” and who influenced her when she was much younger. Since 1975, Arms has been a popular speaker-presenter on five continents, weaving her knowledge of ancient and cross-cultural wisdom with the modern sciences of cell biology, brain development, public health and attachment.
“We are excited to have such a prestigious and passionate advocate helping to shape the conversation, the vision, and the practical solutions for how best to prepare, and care for, childbearing women, mothers, fathers, and families and properly welcome babies into the world and create the best environment for parenting and rearing children,” Domnick said.
In the Wilderness First Responder Certification course, Dr. Berg explained how important it is to gather community members who are first to respond to disasters. A certified wilderness teacher, Berg is able to teach remote and rescue medicine to everyone including those at a doctorate level.
“I’ve had 30 years of experience taking care of wilderness problems,” Berg said. “We take a disaster and try to make it a good experience, and it is quite transforming to help.”
Berg gave the example of someone who might have broken their leg at Pololu Valley. There is no way they can walk out, even with help, and getting a helicopter might be too much.
“It’s a big deal,” Berg said. “We get a team of 12 to 18 people together, and we take turns carrying the person on a stretcher, maybe even with an oxygen tank, or neck stabilization. In the system we use, we have one medical person whose job is to directly take care of the person, trying to get him as comfortable as possible. Then we have a safety person to deal with the crowd and family, making sure all is safe, because sometimes in emergency situations, emotions are high.”
The best scenario, said Berg, is that everything runs smoothly, and when the first responder team reaches the top of the hill, transportation is arranged for the person hurt, and everyone is laughing and joking.
With remote places like Hawi, anything can happen; hurricanes, tsunamis, emergencies, floods and wildfires. The course teaches the most medically appropriate and kind ways to save lives through evidence-based resuscitation and first aid, reliable transport and communication skills. The next Wilderness First Responder certification course BFDA will offer is scheduled for October through December, and is an eight-day training in the art of taking care of others.
In the healing garden internship program, Domnick said courses are available for people who want to learn more about agriculture and organic growing and sustainability.
“We have a work exchange program and our interns — we call them land stewards — are able to choose from a list of what they are interested in,” Domnick said. “If someone is interested in women’s herbs, they learn how to plant and grow them, how to harvest, usage and how to make tinctures and herbal medicine.”
The garden studies include bamboo, palms, landscape design, alternative energy, canoe plants, vermiculture and culinary herbs for market production.
Domnick said they work with people and their interests, because it makes for students who are happy and enthusiastic while learning in their outdoor laboratory. There are currently three land stewards who live on the land, with room for three more.
“Both of us have been very committed,” Berg said. “Teaching people how to care for themselves, their families and their communities is important knowledge. This is our mission in life, we love to teach and help and it’s our spiritual mission.”
The fall 2013 Doula Certification program begins Sept. 14 with eight full-day classes held through Dec. 14. Deadline for payment and registering is Aug. 22. For more information, call 987-7008 or visit barefootdoctorsacademy.com.