Retirement meant more than golf and cruises to Dr. Lou Netzer, who spent the last five years practicing medicine in the tropical forest of Bolivia.

Netzer, who worked in Los Olivos, Calif., for 30 years before moving to Bolivia, will speak on his experiences abroad in the MultiCultural Center Theater tonight at 7. Direct Relief International, a nonprofit organization that sends medical supplies to charities and victims of natural disasters, funded his work in Bolivia.

While visiting Bolivia on vacation, Netzer became fascinated with the remote area between the Andes Mountains and the head of the Amazon River, home to the Tacana, Chimane and Quechua – indigenous Inca Indian descendants.

Netzer treated what he estimates to be 50,000 people with a blend of native plants and Western medical methods. The native people, many of them living the life and speaking the language of their ancestors, were sometimes wary of an American doctor like Netzer.

"It’s been difficult for him to gain their trust because many of them are used to visiting shamans – not using Western styles of medicine," DRI Director Ken Grimwood said.

Netzer began teaching native people about preventative medicine and hygiene so they could treat their own people. He also works with fourth-year medical students who plan to practice tropical medicine.

Despite their isolated location, the Chimane are accustomed to Western interference, though not always the positive kind. In the ’70s, logging companies rolled in and hired Chimane for cheap labor. In the ’80s, many were hired to manufacture cocaine for the drug trade.

– Sarah Healy