From Iraq to Oriental Medicine: Parkinson's and A Veteran's Journey - PMD Alliance

“It Was My Dream Job.”

Ever since he was a kid, Robert Bibeau, DOM, knew he wanted to serve in the Marine Corps. Service was in his blood; his dad served in the Vietnam War, his grandfather during World War II. It was his path afterward, in his years since the Marines, that have been more unexpected.

“The instance of a single bomb detonating in the desert forever changed the trajectory of my life,” Dr. Bibeau told me. While serving in Iraq in 2008, he was wounded in action, sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It left him convalescing and searching for his way forward for nearly five years.

But it was a chance encounter with a battalion medical officer while he was still in Iraq that started the shift. Dr. Bibeau had been practicing martial arts most of his life up until that point. He had done tae kwon do as a kid, wrestled for his high school wrestling team, studied various forms of karate in college, and was a boxer. During his first deployment in 2007, the battalion medical officer, who happened to be a practitioner of a Vietnamese style of kung fu, told him, “I am balanced. I prefer to heal as a doctor, but I can also hurt. You have to be a double-edged sword.” This, the idea of being able to both hurt and heal—and to choose how to use his powers—stuck with him.

When Robert was recovering from his injury, he began more deeply exploring martial arts as an alternative therapy. Eventually, he decided this was his path and, in 2013, he opened a kung fu academy in Albuquerque. “I quickly realized,” he told me, “that all my students were more like patients, all recovering from something. If I was going to serve them and my community, I had to pursue advanced education, and the highest level of education in kung fu is Chinese medicine.” With the support of his family, he took the plunge, attending acupuncture college.

Dr. Robert Bibeau Iraq veteran

Dr. Bibeau in Iraq

We’re On the Precipice of a Rise of PD in Veterans 

“Today,” Dr. Bibeau tells me, “the link between my martial arts, my medicine, my status in the veteran community, and Parkinson disease—you can boil it all down to that bomb that detonated in the desert in September 2008. If you sustain a brain injury (from a bomb, a car accident, sports—anything), a single mild TBI increases your risk for Parkinson disease by 56%.” It’s staggering. In fact, given the astounding number of TBIs sustained by veterans in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, alongside an aging population, Dr. Bibeau believes we are “on the cusp of a massive increase in PD.”

This is what motivates Dr. Bibeau, who shared his passion and knowledge as a PMD Alliance featured speaker at our recent Refresh!™ event in Albuquerque, to advocate for veterans on health-related issues and to pursue his work with earnestness and heart. He believes in hope: “The only reason veterans are able to enjoy an increased understanding of Parkinson disease and, thus, have a more reliable standard of care is because of the efforts of PMD Alliance and other organizations…All my brothers and sisters and potentially me are likely to benefit from this in the future.”

Every Sacrifice Deserves a Thank You

With so much given by him and his comrades, I asked Dr. Bibeau what message he has for us on Veteran’s Day as we seek to understand his sacrifice and express our gratitude. “I know it’s become common to say thank you for your service,” he said. “I don’t think people understand how important it is to the veteran community and to our republic…When I look at the state of our country today, it makes me hopeful for the future that on days like Veteran’s Day, we still have Americans who engage in simple acts such as saying thank you and simple acts of reflection. I am really appreciative of every patriot in this land who’s aware of the cost of their liberty, whatever political side they stand on.”

While Dr. Bibeau is no longer an active member of the Marines, his service is ongoing. “We get to choose what we’re going to be in this life,” he said. “Are we going to be a weed or a gardener? I don’t know how long I have on this planet. While I can, while I’m here, I want to be a force for good.”

Dr. Robert Bibeau Iraq War veteran

About Robert Bibeau, DOM 

Robert J. Bibeau, DOM is a former Marine Corps Captain and Infantry Officer. He served in Iraq with the First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division. He was deployed to Iraq and was wounded in action in 2008. After an honorable discharge and many commendations and medals including the Purple Heart and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, he returned home to New Mexico to raise his family. He and his wife Tiffany are the Owners of Mountain Path Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy founded in 2013 and located in Albuquerque. Additionally, they are the owners of Mountain Path Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, also in Albuquerque. Doctor Bibeau graduated from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, NM in December of 2019 and worked through the pandemic to complete his Boards and Licensure process. He is now a board certified and licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine and is currently completing the degree of Doctorate of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine through Pacific College of Health and Sciences. 

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