Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Michael Smith - A Holistic AIESEC Life
By Stephanie Stewart (Colorado 1988)
Dr. Michael Smith and his naturopathic medical practice are passionate about empowering people to better health. Dr. Smith and his team do this through a comprehensive individualized approach, along with education and coaching to help members make real lifestyle changes to resolve underlying health issues and gain true independence for the rest of their life. He founded the Carolinas Natural Health Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a center that takes a holistic approach to wellness. They focus on uncovering the root causes of illness rather than treating the symptoms. He explains, “The approach in naturopathic medicine is that we understand the body has an amazing ability to heal. The emphasis is not to focus on treating the symptoms because that is not the solution. We focus on the real underlying cause of people’s health issues and concerns and address and treat those issues.” The Health Center helps people make real lifestyle changes which address 95% of patients’ health issues. Many patients have not been taught to take care of themselves and make wise choices to set them on a path to better health. Michael’s practice emphasizes the whole patient, educating them and coaching them to be successful so that they not only make the change but also sustain it for the rest of their lives.
Michael mentors other doctors on how to build successful naturopathic practices and also speaks at seminars, conferences, and virtual webinars. He notes, “The US health system is pretty poor, it has nothing to do with health. A lot of the good doctors are frustrated because they are in the job to help people and now all they do is write more scripts.” Michael and Carolinas Natural Health Center try to empower doctors to step outside a broken system and create a successful practice that can help people be more healthy.
Michael explains that AIESEC helped him develop the skills needed for his role as a doctor and business leader. He said, “As Regional Director, I supported LCs by coaching, training, empowering, and developing leaders. That is what AIESEC is all about, to create better leaders.”
He took a year off from the University of Buffalo to study business in London at the City University of London. Upon his return, he said, “I was specifically looking for an international organization to be a part of. When I found AIESEC, I thought, this is what I want to do!” Within three weeks he became Local Committee President. Three months later he was elected to the AIESEC US National Committee as Northeast Regional Director. He notes, “The leadership development in AIESEC is amazing. In a short period of time, I can step up to a phenomenal leadership position and grow personally and this inspired me not only in my own abilities but to realize that I can help other people step up into a greater leadership role. I do that all the time in my current work.”
After AIESEC, Michael traveled to Southeast Asia and ended up in Jakarta where he connected with some AIESEC friends. He had a traineeship at Fortune PR, a PR company in Jakarta. Indonesia was booming and he helped companies bring in new business. He marveled that he was 21 years old and helping launch the marketing campaigns for Goodyear Tires, Windows 95, and GE which involved dealing with executives, putting on press conferences and events. Michael then headed to Europe and couch surfed with AIESECers for two months. Bemused, he noted that “I visited 10 countries and 14 cities and I never paid for a single night of accommodation anywhere.”
Michael reflects on his transition from a business student and helping expand his family’s food distribution company to Canada. He explains, “I was an athlete in college, a rower, and I was interested in how nutrition affected my performance.” He started on a journey of learning everything he could about nutrition and read extensively on the topic. When he read a book by a naturopathic doctor, he began to explore this holistic approach to treating patients. He explains, “I never thought I would be a doctor” but when he realized that naturopathic medicine was an interesting career path, he returned to school at the age of 29. He completed some pre-med prerequisites and then attended the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, following this with a residency to complete his studies. He moved to Charlotte in 2005 to establish his practice, Carolinas Natural Health Center.
Several of his AIESEC friends from both the US National Committee and AIESEC trainees have ended up in Charlotte. They enjoy the connections that AIESEC brings after all these years. Several years ago, he participated in a Mastermind group with a few AIESEC friends and it helped him to explore ideas and challenges in growing his business. Michael explains, “We were each involved in our own business. We would bring different challenges and situations we are dealing with and help each other out.” Michael is a long-standing member of AIESEC Life. As a Business Circle supporter, he continues to give back to our alumni community.