Clinic Placement and Friendship

Salvation -Army -LogoThis past week was a week of anxiety, hope, and celebration for thousands of our medical colleagues, all over the nation. Yearly, on a particular Thursday, our allopathic friends get matched with one of the residency programs to which they have applied. It's a tense, emotionally charged day in which they see their years of hard work come to fruition, for better or for worse. Coincidentally, this past week was permeated with an air of suspense at National University as well, among my chiropractic friends and me. It was the week that we had the privilege of seeing our work come to fruition as well. Students are placed into tiers corresponding to their GPA.

The tier you earn determines which day you may choose the clinic, and the clinician, where you will complete your internship. As there are only three clinics to choose from, the nervous anticipation wasn't nearly as heart pounding as awaiting a residency placement. Nevertheless, the anxiety was palpable around the computers as we first-tiers kept refreshing our screens, trying to seize the exact moment when registration opened. Spots with each clinician, clinic, and shift are limited, so it's the fastest click that wins the prize. Thankfully, we all landed the slot we desired. I nearly cheered when I seized a spot at the Chicago Salvation Army Clinic. I've become quite fond of this city and winning that spot means I'll get to spend a lot more time here, at home. I think my excitement was diminutive compared to that of my good friend Richard.


Untitled2Richard and I having a good laugh

Richard is graduating from Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine in May. He was matched with his residency on Thursday. He applied solely to East Coast hospitals for his residency. He wanted to be close to home (New York) and his family. Richard is one of the most talented, insightful, empathetic individuals I've ever met. And between you and me, he's one of the top medical students, not just at Northwestern, but also in the nation. Keep it quiet though…he's humble. So, I wasn't surprised to learn he was accepted to his first choice residency - Columbia University Medical Center, Manhattan, New York. Needless to say, celebrations were in order this past weekend. However, it wasn't just a celebration of work hard done. It was a celebration of friendship, a reflection of how far we've come and the meaningful connections we've forged on this journey of ours. 

Empathy, Not Intellect

It's easy for us to get too comfortable with what we're learning. It becomes second nature to intellectualize what the healthcare profession is. Don't get me wrong, the intellectual aspects of our profession have their time and place. But, don't let this way of thinking cloud the crucial human component of what we do. People place their trust, their health, and their lives in our hands. I think keeping that reality close and in focus every time we interact with a patient is so very important. I struggle with this myself. So often the intellectual route is the route with emotional security. This reflex is a strong one for me.

GregoryComing out of the military, I found it hard to emotionally invest in people. But, emotional availability is a two-way street. I found that I couldn't shut down the incoming traffic without shutting down the outgoing, effectively isolating myself in my castle of rationality. It's our emotional acuity and ability to truly empathize that make us uniquely human. I felt as though I had lost a part of me to some degree, that part that allowed me to truly connect.

So when you find yourself taking a step down that path of intellectualization, stop and ask yourself what it is you think you're protecting yourself from. You'll find that the only thing that you end up "protecting" yourself from is taking part in that breathtaking human tapestry of emotional connection.

Stop the retreat. Be here. Be now. Your patients will thank you.

An International Profession

Put your finger anywhere on the map. Chances are, you'll be able to work there as a DC. Many countries provide DCs with a scope that is either similar to the U.S., or broader.

I'll admit I let my imagination run wild while I was researching possible locations for the business plan I was writing for Dr. Hodges' business class. The two hours I spent dreaming wasn't all idle time thankfully, as I learned a lot about international licensing requirements.

I finally landed on what I consider to be my dream location -- Queenstown, New Zealand. It's a gorgeous town, nestled in an idyllic setting, surrounded by the towering New Zealand Alps. There are large lakes in abundance, and in New Zealand, the ocean is never far away. As an added bonus, this is the fastest growing region in New Zealand, growing at a staggering annual rate of 3.8%. The point is, if you're looking to practice abroad, there are diverse options available.

Idyllic Queenstown

Figuring out the legal status of chiropractors in the country you choose is the first hurdle, so here's a link from the World Federation of Chiropractic that will help clarify things. The next things to thoroughly figure out are the visa or residency requirements. Luckily, in most of the countries I've researched, chiropractic is considered a highly skilled profession, which means you go to the front of the line. Additionally, U.S. chiropractors are recognized by The Councils of Chiropractic Education International, which means our education is equivalent to, or surpasses, the education offered in the other recognized nations.

Chiropractic in Europe
(Image source:

Finally, you need a practice plan. Let's be honest, it can be really hard to move to a new country, apply for a business loan, and get a practice up-and-running without being completely buried. At the least, I plan to start work as an associate. At the most, and ideally, I would find a practice that I could buy after working there a few years. This will give me ample time to learn the country, the practice, and the patient base. Regardless of your ideal practice destination, you'll find that there are a myriad of options available to you. 

On Building a Practice

Becoming a fantastic doctor is crucial, no doubt about it. However, especially in our profession, the business aspect can't be downplayed. There isn't much of an established medical structure that we can easily assimilate into upon graduation. In fact, a good chunk of graduates start their own practice right off the bat. Needless to say, there's a lot that goes into that, which is why having a solid business foundation is paramount.

NUHS addresses this thoroughly. Some of my largest projects during my few years here have been for my business classes. And that isn't a slight. Business isn't something that you sit around and theorize about. Business is about getting your hands dirty. It's about working through the complexities, putting the pieces together, and creating a business plan.

Some much needed time with my nephew

Anyone can sit and talk about how important it is to have the financials figured out, or knowing how much income you need to make, or understanding how you should keep your overhead low. But that won't lead to anything unless you've actually had to price out every single thing you need to start your practice. Without doing the groundwork yourself, you'll be left holding your stethoscope on the curb after graduation. You need to know what challenges you face and how to overcome them -- before you graduate.

I'm currently in my third business class at National. This one is a bit different from the past two, because this one is a series of guest lectures. Each week, there is a new expert in their respective field that lends insight into that particular facet of business. This is truly an invaluable class that I would be completely lost without. 

Solace for Sensitive Exams

This past weekend we had three days off due to Presidents' Day on Monday, and let me tell you, it was needed. The extra day provided time to catch up on all those little things that have been put on the back burner over the past couple weeks. More than anything, the apartment needed some TLC as it had taken the brunt of my exam driven negligence.

The bond between an ND and DC student

The extra day also served as a time of solace to gather up any procedural notes and thoughts relating to male and female sensitive exams, as we will be performing them on paid "sim" patients this coming week. It can be a bit of a daunting prospect, and it's hardly something that my classmates and I are overly excited about. However, if there is an activity that perfectly embodies why many of us chose NUHS, this is it. This is one of those quintessential primary care skills that we need to develop. As daunting as the task may seem, it is a crucial milestone on the journey to doctorhood.

Chicago, rising from the mist

As crucial as this impending task is, it's not necessarily something I enjoy dwelling on, so I promptly found time to enjoy the unprecedented weather in Chicago this past weekend. With a high of almost 70º on Saturday, I dusted off the bike, gave it one heck of a tune-up, and ripped down the lakeshore trail for its inaugural trip of the season.

I was not disappointed as the view was breathtaking. The cold, rising from the water mingled with the warm air from the city, swirling into clouds of vapor and mist, shrouding the city in an ethereal blanket. A wispy, fading manifestation of that shining city on a hill struck me as an ironic happenstance. My bleak geopolitical reverie certainly didn't last long as I had to really kick it hard when another biker made the mistake of passing me. My mind focused to the task at hand, I found the true solace I was searching for.