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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Three Black Holistic Healing Superstars Make the Rounds

Jun 01, 2023 06:00AM ● By Trish Ahjel Roberts

Stephen Tates, Mark Armstrong and Dr. Serena Satcher (Photos: Jason Dennard)

Every year since 2019, we have written a cover story that highlights a holistic health concern specific to the African American community. This year, we wanted to spotlight a few of Atlanta’s most popular and esteemed Black holistic health practitioners. After asking for nominations from more than 70 Black business owners in the Atlanta area, we narrowed the field to Mark Armstrong, Dr. Selena Satcher and Stephen Tates. Learn about their unique and multi-faceted approaches to helping people get and stay healthy.
Have you ever visited a holistic doctor? Unlike traditional Western medicine, which seems to consider the body as a collection of parts, holistic medicine practitioners seek to heal the body, mind and spirit. In other words, they treat the whole person. There are many kinds of holistic doctors with a variety of credentials, techniques and modalities. Holistic doctors often reach back to ancient lessons. According to Britannica’s History of Medicine, “Primitive physicians showed their wisdom by treating the whole person, soul as well as body.” Holistic doctors are coming full circle to the wisdom of history. There are many types of practitioners; here are a few common classifications.

Types of Holistic Doctors

Naturopathic doctors. According to the Natural Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, naturopathic medicine, also known as naturopathy, is practiced in the United States by medical doctors, naturopathic doctors (NDs), traditional naturopaths, and other healthcare providers. Naturopathic practitioners use many different treatment approaches, which might include stress management, lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements, homeopathy, exercise, psychotherapy and more. Education and licensing for NDs can differ, but they traditionally complete a four-year graduate program and pass a licensing exam.

Integrative medicine doctors. According to the Mayo Clinic, integrative medicine offers services that are not part of conventional approaches, including massage, yoga, acupuncture, dietary supplements, meditation and wellness coaching. As with NDs, there’s no single path to becoming an integrated medicine doctor; it is often an added credential to a traditional medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), doctor of chiropractic (DC), or ND. DOs are licensed medical doctors with special training in manually manipulating the musculoskeletal system. DCs are trained to care for the neuromusculoskeletal system, including bones, nerves, tendons, muscles and ligaments.

Functional medicine doctors. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, functional medicine is a biology-based approach that seeks to address the root cause of diseases. It takes an individualized approach incorporating research in genomics, epigenetics and nutrition science. It is often an additional credential for an MD or DO. According to the Cleveland Clinic, functional medicine providers look for the root cause of illness, including triggers such as stress, poor nutrition, allergens, genetics, toxins and the microbiome—the bacteria living in our guts and on our bodies. Once these triggers are identified, a treatment plan might include nutrition, exercise and sleep changes, as well as plans to address stress in one’s life.

In addition to these types of doctors, acupuncturists, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and many others can be considered holistic doctors. In general, holistic medicine isn’t used instead of traditional medical care but as a complement to it.

The Healers

Atlanta is home to many holistic doctors. The following are three preeminent local practitioners who are on a mission to improve the health of mind, body and spirit.

Mark Armstrong, Naturopathic Practitioner, is a naturopathic doctor and energy medicine practitioner and the founder of the Ahimki Center for Wholeness in Roswell. He grew up in California and began his health journey as a child suffering from asthma. His grandfather was his first holistic health teacher. “[He] took me off all those inhalers and just put me on some basic [diet to] get rid of the yeast, get rid of the fungus in my body, get rid of the dairy, get rid of the corn and gluten. And I got well.” 

Armstrong went further to clear his own psoriasis and acne. When he was introduced to the popular herb and holistic health book, Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss, it became his “Bible.” He entered the University of California at Santa Barbara as a pre-med student and quickly realized he wanted to do holistic medicine. He continued his studies at the California Acupuncture Institute, the Polarity Institute, and the Institute of Holistic Studies and obtained a degree in naturopathic medicine from Clayton College of Natural Health. Armstrong has studied a wide range of paths and modalities, including epigenetics and iridology. In the 1980s, he opened his first herb store in the Atlanta area.

Armstrong says his ideal patients are those that want to expand their consciousness. “I want to educate you and empower you so that you can change your life. So that you can heal your life. I am the facilitator. I’m the helper. When people want help or support or to be empowered, it’s a match. It’s a perfect match.” He begins by assessing their situation and identifying their preferred condition and provides recommended treatment and action steps to make the transition to improved health.

Through his work in epigenetics, which is the study of gene expression, Armstrong says, “I do something called the ‘soul constellation,’ which is the journey to heal the epigenetics nine generations in the past and nine generations in the future.” The top conditions that people visit him for are physical pain, hormonal imbalances and fibroids. He also treats many patients suffering from autoimmune disorders such as lupus and fibromyalgia, which are often related to food allergies. He can offer assessments virtually using birth information, height, weight and a passport-type photo. For in-person visits, he conducts a case study and uses neurological testing for bacteria, fungus, parasites and hormonal and emotional imbalances. 

Armstrong shared about a patient that had been challenged by alcohol and drugs. “For many, many years, they were indulging in that reckless lifestyle. And after being treated and doing the soul constellation, they completely quit. They haven’t done drugs or alcohol ever since. And now that person is an intern in my clinic, they got certified in NAADAC [National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors], which I have as well, and they assist others.”

That person is Teresa Jackson. “I’ve been a client of [Armstrong] for 15 years,” says Jackson. “All he did was acupuncture, and he fixed my sciatica problem—in just one session.” Armstrong used acupuncture and mayo fascial release (MFR) to rid Jackson of her back pain, and he did the soul constellation, which resolved her alcoholism. He also used specialized equipment to treat her. Says Jackson, “When you find a good body mechanic, you want to keep them, just like a car mechanic.” 

When asked for his tips for optimal health, Armstrong said, “Have a spiritual connection. So, spiritual first. Then, cultivate the physical. We have to build the energy with qigong, tai chi, yoga. We don’t have to tear our bodies down. We have to cultivate and build energy through exercise, diet, food, good thoughts, prayer.” He also recommends a plant-based diet, plenty of water and a life of balance.

Serena Satcher, MD, is an integrative and functional medicine doctor in Roswell. She was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew up in one of just two Black families in Corvallis, Oregon. Satcher earned her medical degree from Meharry Medical College, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee. She is certified in functional medicine by the Institute for Functional Medicine, the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and the Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine Board. She is also boarded in sports medicine as a subspecialty. 

Satcher’s journey to holistic medicine began when she discovered she had fibroids. “I had a really big one. At that time, I was doing a triathlon, I was doing a marathon, and I had to stop in the middle of a race to go to the bathroom,” she says. She needed surgery. “I had to have it taken out because it was pressing on the bladder, which coincided with me learning more functional medicine and nutrition. I already had an interest in nutrition, but then I actually went and got formal training.” 

With a few changes to her diet, she was able to shrink the tumors that couldn’t be removed surgically and resume her race training. It was the beginning of her path of sharing holistic wellness with her patients. 

Many of Satcher’s patients are perimenopausal and postmenopausal women experiencing fibroids, hormonal and autoimmune issues, she says. They may come to her with eczema, allergies, thyroid or adrenal issues. Satcher begins with a virtual assessment and then invites patients into her office for laboratory tests, looking for deficiencies, food sensitivities, toxins and more. She treats patients with a wide variety of modalities, including nutritional biochemistry, hormonal balance, exercise, homeopathy, essential oils and thought field therapy. She can also write prescriptions for traditional medications and hormone therapy.

Satcher describes a patient whose thyroid gland was out of control and who was developing insulin resistance. She taught the patient to tune into her own body, use essential oils and learn meditation to take control of her thyroid. “I want people to be independent with their health.” 

Jane, an 80-year-old patient, says she had been seeing Satcher for 13 years. “She saved my life … I had the best physical [exam] of my life … I had 12 vials of blood taken, urine and stool and saliva—the whole nine yards—and the results were stunning.” She learned she had high levels of inflammation and was advised to remove gluten from her diet. “My joints suddenly didn’t hurt.” Jane says she was prescribed a “natural thyroid pill” and high-quality supplements. “How many doctors—when you finish your visit—give you a hug? [Satcher] treats the whole person, and she doesn’t just treat the body. And that to me is so powerful.”

Satcher’s tips for health include: “Work with a holistic doctor, primary care physician, and a body care person—like a chiropractor, massage therapist or energy person. Work with a ‘mind person,’ like a psychologist or a tapping practitioner, and take care of your nutrition.”

Stephen Tates, Naturalist/Herbalist, based in Sandy Springs, is a naturopathic doctor with a degree in integrative medicine. He is an herbalist, nutritionist and lifestyle consultant with more than 40 years of experience. He has also studied raw food, reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

As a child, Tates’ parents thought something was wrong because he had chosen a plant-based diet. “Literally, they said I had a chemical imbalance because how can I not eat meat?” He has observed a vegan diet since the early 1970s and was mentored by the well-known vegetarian activist, civil rights leader and comedian Dick Gregory. His relationship with Dick Gregory went “from mentor to student to colleague to friend to family over the decades.” He studied at Boston University, Harvard University School of Nutrition and was mentored by herbalist Dr. John Moore and esteemed natural healer Ann Wigmore. 

While many of his patients come to him as their main doctor, local physicians often refer patients to him to make sure their supplements don’t interfere with their prescribed medicines. According to Tates, many patients show up with what he calls “the three blood disorders”—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. “They might be overweight, they might have stress issues, sleep deprivation—all those types of things when they come.” 

About two-thirds of Tates’ patients are severely constipated, and about 20 percent want support for a cancer diagnosis. He works with patients with HIV, lupus, multiple sclerosis, eczema, acne and just about any condition you can imagine. About one-third of his patients deal with a high level of emotional issues. “Every thought you think affects every cell in your body.” 

Tates shares the story of working with an elderly woman beset with anger. His advice was, “Get a life!” He says he gets people to write a list of things they used to like to do and things they want to do. “A bucket list means you plan to die,” he says, so instead, “make an empowering list.” By encouraging the woman to pursue her interest in horseback riding and to ride a horse for the first time—at the age of 81—her blood pressure soon dropped to within a healthy range from what had been far outside healthy limits.

Retired psychologist Dr. R.V. Rogers has been a client and student of Tates since the 1980s. “Dr. Tates will first talk to me. He would examine [me], looking at my eyes, my tongue, my skin. I didn’t have to start off by telling him what was going on; he could tell me some of the things that he could see just from my appearance.” Tates taught Rogers how to change her diet and routine and how to use herbs to optimize her health. “I don’t call him a healer,” says Rogers, “I call him a person who has all the tools to help us to learn how to heal ourselves.”

Tates’ tips for staying healthy include, “Drink water, learn to breathe properly, get good sleep and exercise.” Tates is a big proponent of hydrotherapy, including swimming and ice water foot and body baths to decrease inflammation. He recommends supplements and offers his own line of herbal tinctures and tonics. 

The Takeaway

In conjunction with traditional doctors, holistic health practitioners are valuable resources for healing chronic ailments of the mind, body and spirit. Black holistic doctors are making rounds in Atlanta, offering education and treatments to heal and empower the communities they serve. ❧

Trish Ahjel Roberts is a transformational coach, bestselling author, inspirational speaker and founder of Mind-Blowing Happiness coaching and Black Vegan Life events. Learn more at

sidebar: Black Holistic Health Practitioners in Atlanta

Clare Babino, MD, FACOG, ABIHM
Functional medicine practitioner and gynecologist
3822 Highlands Pkwy. SE, Bldg. 9, Smyrna

Dee Doanes Davis
Ayurvedic practitioner
Shanti Villa Atlanta 
1490 Freeman Ln. SW, Conyers 

Dominique Smith, MD, FACOG
Premier Health & Wellness
5900 Hillandale Dr., Lithonia

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA
Mind Body Spirit Wellness Center 
2480 Windy Hill Rd. SE, Ste. 405, Marietta

Kemi Oluwakoya, ND, AADP, CNC
Abundant Living Wellness Center
1393 Scenic Hwy. N, Snellville

Mark Armstrong
Naturopathic practitioner
Ahimki Center for Wholeness
555 Sun Valley Dr., Ste. A-2, Roswell

Mboh Elango, MD
Medici Urgent Care and Wellness Center
1039 Grant St. SE, Ste. D12, Atlanta  

Nicole Peoples DO, ABIM, ABIHM, IFMCP
2540 Windy Hill Rd. SE, Marietta

Perry Little, DC, CCEP
827 N Hairston Rd., Ste. C, Stone Mountain

Serena Satcher, MD
Treat Yourself to Health
555 Sun Valley Dr, STE C1, Roswell

Sonza Curtis, IFMCP, PA-C
Three D Wellness
555 Sun Valley Dr., Ste. C1, Roswell

Stephen Tates, ND
Integrated medicine and herbalist
270 Carpenter Dr., Ste. 500, Sandy Springs

Yolanda Clay
Bioenergetic practitioner
6740 James B Rivers Memorial Dr., Stone Mountain
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