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Meet a Medical Professional--Bixby Tapiero

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Meet a Medical Professional--Bixby Tapiero, MS Nutrition and Dietetics

By Jo Johnson


During one recent Tuesday Talk (BCP) I first heard the name Bixby Tapiero, a licensed Nutritionist who obtained one of her many degrees from Andrews University in Michigan.  That happens to be the alma mater of my brother and sister-in-law, so I just had to meet her. As you will see in this article, Bixby's path has crossed my family's path many, many times.  It is a wonder our families haven't met her before.   I cannot begin to write everything I've learned about her, but Doug and I found her to be a fascinating person.  She is intelligent, pleasant, knowledgeable, practical, and determined to change people's lives one meal plan at a time.  It is a much-needed skill in Panama, especially among the indigenous population.

Bixby was born in Bajo Mono (near the famous rock formation/waterfall area north of town).  Her parents were one of the five major pioneer families that owned property in the earliest days of Boquete.  Her first introduction to good nutrition came from her paternal great-grandmother, who was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, whose teachings include good nutrition.   She lived to be 117, her husband 109 .  Bixby’s father recently passed away at age 97.  Most Seventh-day Adventists are lacto-ovo vegetarians, but many often include fish, chicken, and beef several times a month.  With their focus on good nutrition, church membersin the U.S. live an average of 10 years longer than the American life expectancy of about 79 years.

Education was very important in Bixby's family.  Her father was educated at Columbia University in the Washington, DC area (a school that both my parents graduated from 2 years earlier!)   Bixby went to elementary school in the Boquete area, but High School in David because it offered better science labs. She then went to Tennessee to get her Associate Science degree in pre-dietetics, at Southern University near Chattanooga (the school where my brother is now an English professor).  She then attended Andrews University to obtain her BS degree in Dietetics in 1990.  Later she earned a Master's degree in teaching from the Universidad Autonoma de Chiriqui in 2010, and a second Master's degree in Nutrition with specialization in liver and kidney from the Universidad de Leon in Spain, 2012.  She also got extra training in parenteral and enteral nutrition ("tube or intravenous feeding") from Kettering College of Medical Arts, In Kettering, Ohio (unbelievably, Doug's brother also went there for his anesthesia residency). 

She is currently working on her PhD in Nutrition from Universidad Internacional Iberoamericana in Mexico.  She may never stop studying!


Chiriqui province is extremely blessed to have Bixby spend her entire life here working for the country she loves to help improve life among the local Panamanians, ex-pats, and indigenous tribes.

I asked her how far nutrition can go in good healthcare.   Can a good diet prevent and cure diseases? She says that proper nutrition cannot only prevent diseases, it can cure certain diseases.  Even if a person has spent years eating poorly and causing damage to their body, within a period of 21 days of making dietary and lifestyle changes, Bixby is able to monitor through post -treatment testing, changes in body composition, and often facilitate the reversal of the prior damage. Bixby is a serious nutritionist; don't even consider asking her to help you lose 15 pounds for your 40th High School reunion in two weeks (and don't ask me how I know this). 

Bixby is a liver and renal (kidney) specialist, so roughly 60% of her practice is spent in that area.  Another 20% of her patients are diabetics and or have cardiovascular diseases, and about 10% is with teenagers and children with weight or obesity problems.   The remainder of her practice is working with Hospice locally, where she often treats end of life cases with parenteral feedings to provide enough energy for patients to wrap up their final personal and legal matters. She treats patients age 5 and older.  

While her most difficult case involved a man with multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen who had to be on parenteral nutrition for 5 months, she continues to see other serious conditions on a regular basis.  One of the most serious in the Chiriqui area is a disease known as Kwashiorkor, a Swahili word that means "the evil spirit that takes the first child when the second one is born".  It is caused by a diet very, very low in protein, and unfortunately is prevalent among the indigenous people of this area.  A second related disease is Marasmus, a term which includes any diet lacking in a specific type of food or a combination of deficiencies (e.g., low iron plus low protein).  The indigenous people have a short life expectancy due to malnutrition beginning in the womb. The children are often born with kidney and/or liver problems, and therefore end up developing many additional,  non-transmittable diseases as they age.

She offers some services you will not find too often even in the U.S., Canada or Europe, a personalized service she calls "supermarket savvy".  She will meet you in David and take you shopping to teach you how to shop for the foods you need.  She can find things in David you never dreamed existed here.  For this tour she charges $75.  She will also come to your home and will spend 3-4 hours (depending on the recipes you need to try) teaching food preparation for your individual needs; a fee of $40/hr for this. 

The most pressing nutrition need in Panama, according to Bixby, is nutritional education for pregnant teens, to show them how nutrition affects their children.  She feels if this were done as a priority in Panama many of the current health problems of the indigenous would be nearly eradicated.  Lack of education and willingness on the part of the government to make progress in this area frustrates her.  For this reason, she has decided that training the Nutritionists in the University on the crisis within the pregnant teenaged women, feeling that if they also make it a priority in their careers, they can get the message spread throughout Panama.

Bixby is an extremely busy lady, but in her spare time she loves to cook, hike, and she is currently taking classes in Hebrew. Her other passion is in-depth study of the Bible, archaeology, and ancient history.  She also serves as the English translator in the bi-lingual Seventh-day Adventist church in Alto Boquete.

If you wish to contact Bixby Tapiero to make an appointment in Boquete call Clinica Especializada (Drs Chen and Gomez), 720-2080 or Clinica Alfa 6949-5998. In David, an appointment can be made with her secretary, Veronica, at Mae Lewis Hospital 777-2325.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know how I missed this when it was posted on January 15, but it's an excellent piece. Thank you so much, Jo and Doug, for these medical profiles. I'm making an appointment with Jessica next week and may see Bixby shortly thereafter. It's so nice to know something about them ahead of time.

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I agree. This was a wonderful piece about my friend Bixby. I've known Bixby for about 14 years and she's an amazing person. The only bad part about our friendship is that she wants me to give up all meat and it would be very difficult to give up my BLT sandwiches. Bixby, being a 7th Day Adventist, doesn't use alcohol or tobacco, is a strict vegetarian, and also doesn't use caffeine. She will probably live to be 110.

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