A globetrotter on a mission to end cervical cancer. An acupuncturist moving the needle to access holistic care. A spiritual intuitive with training in Psychiatric Emergency Medicine. I recently sat down with these powerhouse healers to discuss their work in the world, the passions and principles that drive them, and their advice to you, dear reader.
Maggie Zimmerman, MD
Crusaders in international healthcare
work in the world: From leading women’s health initiatives in Ethiopia to leading palliative care and hospice programs here at home, Maggie Carpenter gets around. About six years ago I wrote about her nongovernmental medical nonprofit, Go Doc Go, which she founded to help bring cervical cancer screening to parts of sub-Saharan Africa — where there were no Pap smears and about 53,000 women died annually from the preventable cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. Since then, the New Paltz-based doctor and her team of volunteers have taken HPV tests (simple than the Pap, but no less effective) and treatment protocols to Senegal, The Gambia and Haiti. Next stop: Alabama, where Carpenter hopes to roll out HPV testing in US communities with “extremely high rates of cervical cancer and very little access to female health care.”
“About three years ago, the World Health Organization said cervical cancer was a crisis and stressed the need to increase screening around the world,” said Carpenter, whose volunteer work is supported by tax-deductible donations. “It’s made a huge difference in how countries welcome us and how interested they are in our services.” Today, with the help of Go Doc Go Program Director Patricia Bacon, she can get more done. This frees Carpenter to focus on serving her local palliative and hospice patients, as well as those requiring medical marijuana certification, through her Nightingale Medical practice.
Biggest passions: Volunteering to improve lives has always motivated Carpenter at work – and more recently, she’s channeling those efforts to support people’s empowerment. “In my 20+ years as a doctor, I’ve heard far too many stories of people feeling stuck and unable to stand up for themselves or make the changes they’d like to see,” she says. “Empowering people to be their true selves and live life to the fullest is my goal. Sometimes you just have to listen and see them for what they are. Often they first have to be connected to the tools they need.”
On being a change maker: Carpenter has encountered many obstacles, from bureaucracy to stubborn mindsets. In order to change something, she has to get creative and find alternative solutions. A case in point is The Box, an interactive art installation created in collaboration with Hudson Valley artist Ryan Cronin. A fixture of Kingston’s O+ Festival in 2017 and 2018, The Box is a free, portable, private space where women can test themselves for HPV. “A lot of people don’t realize that you can do these tests yourself,” says Carpenter. “Education and commitment are extremely important. They need communities that understand the issues and are committed to change.”
Small advice: “Listen to your heart. Don’t let fear and concerns about what others might think control you,” says Carpenter. She has proved many naysayers wrong with her efforts, including her early advocacy for medical marijuana. “If you do the right thing you will never regret it.”
Acupuncturist and owner of a community clinic
work in the world: The field of wellness has always drawn Masha Schmidt, who immigrated to the United States with her family from Odessa, Ukraine, in 1978 as a baby /11 to study yoga, then acupuncture. She found a lack of inclusivity and financial accessibility around every corner — from the whitewashed demographic (“There were almost no Asians in my family [acupuncture] school”) to the cost of admission ($60,000 for a three-year master’s program) to the cost of treatment, which is prohibitive for many. Schmidt asks, “Why is wellness least accessible to the people who need it most?”
Determined to change that, she set out to find a new model, eventually opening the DayDream Collaborative Clinic in Beacon in 2021. (An earlier iteration, the Hudson Wellness Clinic, served the Hudson community.) The multidisciplinary trauma information clinic offers treatments on a sliding scale with one simple premise: as long as some people are able to pay at the top of the scale, these funds will help subsidize those who cannot pay as much. With about half a dozen practitioners, DayDream offers community acupuncture clinics combined with another modality — such as acupressure, Reiki, craniosacral therapy, or sound healing. The space also has group events, including a Birth Story Hour beginning October 6th. “Our goal,” says Schmidt, “is never to turn anyone away for lack of money.”
Biggest passions: Indigenous traditions have plenty of juice for them. “I grew up in an immigrant community, where ‘folk traditions’ such as fire cupping (my grandfather brought his cups from Odessa), mustard plasters or herbal teas were part of our everyday life,” remembers Schmidt. “I got some weird looks in gym class when I walked in with cupping patches all over my back.” She rejected these traditions as a teenager and embraced them again in grad school when her teachers confirmed their effectiveness. “The modern allopathic medical system is a relatively new set of ideas and could definitely benefit from asking Grandma for advice.”
On being a change maker: “My approach is curiosity and a willingness to question the whole concept of ‘wellness’ – who defines it, who has access to care and who has the opportunity to become a practitioner,” says Schmidt. “It is also important to recognize the amazing role that stress, trauma and nervous system dysregulation play in our experience of health. Nervous system support is the best medicine, but a healthy nervous system depends on external conditions. We all need access to safe, affordable and stable shelter, food, water, medical care, support systems, childcare and elder care. “Holistic” care is not a substitute for these things, but a way to improve our quality of life, no matter where we start.”
Small advice: Consider coming together in groups to heal – and challenge the notion that health and well-being are private, individual matters. “We are only as healthy as the most vulnerable people in our communities,” she says. “COVID has made this clear. As we suffer the effects of late capitalism, climate change, pandemics and natural disasters, we will need more places for people to come together to heal, learn and remember hope and connection.”
Intuitive reader and Reiki practitioner
work in the world: Though trained in the arts of Astrology, Tarot, and Reiki, Taylor Jackson doesn’t want her clients to feel the need to consult her before making any move or decision in life. She would rather empower them to find their own inner guide. “My approach focuses on the wholeness of the person, really witnessing them, seeing them, providing all the insights I get from divine communication in a way that helps them bring out the best in themselves,” says Jackson, also passing by Black Satin Venus. “My goal is for people to use their own intuition and confidence.”
What is unique about Jackson’s approach is that she combines her ethereal modalities with a firm focus on mental health – she is trained in mental health first aid as well as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention. “What I saw, especially during lockdown, was that people were just not doing well,” she explains. “I have recommended these trainings to any wellness reader or spiritual practitioner that I can evangelize for them because it wasn’t long after I completed the mental health training that my first client expressed a desire to end their life. We turned off the timer, I put the cards aside, and my body language shifted as I asked the questions and had the conversation as I had been taught.” Jackson, who is based in Beacon and gives readings via Zoom and at events , works with local therapist Moraya Seeger DeGeare to help clients find themselves. She also offers Reiki during community acupuncture sessions at the DayDream Collaborative Clinic.
Biggest passions: After years of doing astrology readings as a side job, Jackson quit her career in corporate marketing when the pandemic hit and turned to a path that better suited her — and that better served others. “Often when I talk to people, I just erase outside noises and old programming to validate what they’re already feeling deep inside,” she says. “Whether it is through mediumship or her higher self or spiritual guides, I seek to bring clarity, insight and a breath of fresh air to everyone who works with me.”
On being a change maker: For Jackson, creating change is a kind of alchemy that “brings out the harmony I see between science, traditional mental health, and spiritual and wellness support,” she says. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this – the movement where all of this works well together to provide a well-rounded experience of empowering people.”
Small advice: “Surround yourself with people, be they your friends or naturopaths, who see your wholeness and abundance,” Jackson says. “A big part of my approach is that each person’s self-actualization is an integral part of the world we all create. It’s about realizing your gift and your core contribution to this collective. Be with people who empower you to be your most radiant.”