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Power of self-healing WOMEN IN BUSINESS 2017

Dr. Linda Sparks performs a homeopathic treatment on a patient at her naturopath practice Blue Ridge Natural Health in Waynesville. Donated photo

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Dr. Sparks takes long-range approach to personal health

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“It made me realize something was missing with this system,” Sparks said. “My mom went to a manipulative osteopath, a naturopath and did yoga and she eventually walked again. My mom wouldn’t have danced at my brother’s wedding without that alternative doctor.”

BY J ESSI STONE N EWS E DITOR Too often patients visit Dr. Linda Sparks as a last resort. Only after years of not being able to find any answers or relief through traditional medicine, do they turn to an alternative like naturopathic medicine. Sparks has personally seen patients completely heal themselves with naturopathic medicine, which is why she decided to change her entire career to help others see those same health benefits. “We believe the body can heal itself if you give the body what it needs and take away what it doesn’t need,” she said. After spending years clawing her way into the film and television industry in Hollywood and ultimately finding success, Sparks made the difficult decision to go to medical school. She could have easily

become a traditional medical physician but her mother’s story inspired her to become a naturopathic doctor — a challenging yet rewarding career. Sparks was 8 years old when her mom started falling down and ended up being confined to a wheelchair. “No one knew what was wrong with her. She went through so much testing — even electroshock — but none of it helped. Doctors said there was no help for her and that it was in her head,” she said. Three years later a family friend advised the family to take their mother to a manipulative osteopath doctor in Maine. They drove four hours for this doctor to perform spinal manipulations on her mom. They weren’t very hopeful after so many years without a diagnosis. “Mom and dad were crying when they came out of his office,” Sparks recalled. “He discovered she had scoliosis — it was hitting her sciatic nerve and making her legs jump, which was causing the falls.” It seemed like such an easy answer, but it was one that no other medical doctor was able to determine.

Looking for work proved to be more challenging that she thought — and in 2000 she was still carrying around a pager and the internet wasn’t what it is today. “I had a big book of names of people who worked in the industry — I literally just started calling and got to the middle of the B’s when I finally got an interview and a job on the first action series ‘The Tick’ — that lasted for six weeks,” she said. It was while attending a Tom Jones show that Sparks’ career really turned around. The men she was chatting with at the table next to hers during the show turned out to work for ABC and knew film director JJ Abrams. She gushed about how she’d love to work with Abrams, never thinking it would lead to an interview and then a job working with him on the hit show “Alias.” She was a production assistant for a year and then was the assistant to the executive producer/director. “It changed my life. I worked right next to JJ — he and Ken (Olin) are just crazy geniuses. They are inspiring and giving and talented,” she said. “He was the kind of guy you wanted to work 15 hours a day for because he was working 18 hours. He would be playing guitar, sculpting and editing the next episode all at the same time.” While working on “Alias,” she also went back to school to become a massage therapist — it seemed like a good back up plan if work dried up again or for when she was ready to get out of the film business. She was working on ABC’s hit show

Long before she became a naturopathic doctor with her own blossoming practice in Waynesville, Sparks thought she was destined to work in show business. “I wanted to be an actress — I was really into musical theater and dance — so I attended an arts and college prep high school,” she said. After high school, Sparks decided she didn’t want to “sell herself ” in Hollywood to be an actress so she decided that working behind the scenes would be a better fit. She attended the University of Miami where she earned a degree in theater design and production. “I went for palm trees and sun and ended up spending 90 percent of my time in a dark theater,” Sparks joked. “But Miami didn’t have a large theater community and there weren’t many internships available so I minored in film to get an internship.” In addition to interning as a set dresser for a B movie for a month, Sparks said she did plenty of other free work during her senior year in college. The only way she knew how to land jobs after graduation was to just show up to commercial sets, start helping and hope they’d “It made me realize something was pay her when it was all said and done. missing with this system. My mom “I didn’t have any conwent to a manipulative osteopath, nections — I just kept showing up and helping a naturopath and did yoga and she people until they paid eventually walked again.” me,” she said. That strategy did — Dr. Linda Sparks work out for her though — it wasn’t long before “Brothers & Sisters” in 2007 when the she was hired to work on a movie set as a writers’ strike happened and she had a prop assistant in the Caribbean for six chance to try her hand at massage therapy. weeks. While the movie — “Life’s A “It was hard to get clients and it was Beach” — wasn’t a box office smash, it did taxing because people just wanted you to star Christopher Walken, Morgan make them feel good,” Sparks said. “And I Fairchild and Robert Wagner and helped realized I don’t want to just help people Sparks make new connections that would feel good — if I’m really going to help ultimately lead her to Los Angeles. people, I need an education.” Without much of a plan, Sparks moved to L.A. and lived with the art director of “Life’s A Beach” while she ACK TO SCHOOL looked for work. “I moved out with two suitcases and I Sparks swore she’d never go back to lived in a closet under the stairs like Harry school — she squeaked by in high school Potter,” she said. and college — but the need to help people

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Women in Business 2017  
Women in Business 2017