Dr. Christopher Herndon is an Assistant Professor and the Associate Medical Director of the in vitro fertilization program at the University of Washington. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and cell biology from the University of California, San Diego in 1999. He went on to receive his medical degree from Yale University in 2005 and completed his residency at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in 2008.
Dr. Herndon is also the President and Co-Founder of Acaté Amazon Conservation which is dedicated to preserving the Amazon rainforests. As part of this work, Dr. Herndon has been assisting the Matsés people of Brazil and Peru in creating a 1,000+ page encyclopedia that documents and preserves their traditional medicine practices.
The massive work details every plant used by Matsés shamans to cure an enormous variety of ailments. The encyclopedia will be used to train new shamans and is written in the native language of the people. This is to protect the information from being stolen by researchers or corporations—a tactic called biopiracy—a sad occurrence that has happened in the past with the skin secretions of the giant monkey frog.
“The Matsés live in one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and have mastered knowledge of the healing properties of its plants and animals. Yet, in a world in which cultural change is destabilizing even the most isolated societies, this knowledge is rapidly disappearing,” Dr. Herndon told Mongabay in a 2015 interview. “The methodology they pioneered to successfully protect and safeguard their own knowledge can serve as a replicable model for other indigenous communities facing similar cultural erosion.”