Alumni, Dr. David Shryock (’59), recently made plans to leave $100,000 to National University in his estate.
In addition to his generous gift, he shares his personal story, giving a glimpse of what starting a chiropractic career was like 50 years ago. Like many students today, Dr. Shryock had financial challenges starting out. However, through thrift, hard work, and a dedication to his patients, he found success, and even a way to give back to his alma mater. His story offers a wealth of advice for new DC graduates and for those who are considering a chiropractic career.
“I really think choosing chiropractic as a career saved my life! My father ran a store in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and I was the only one in the family who could take it over when he retired. I went through four years of college studying business and retailing, then joined the naval air corps during the Korean War. When I got back I worked at that store for a year and a half and hated it!”
While disgruntled with the retail business, Dr. David Shryock explains what led him to a chiropractic career: “During that time I was a weightlifter and sometimes hurt myself. When two osteopaths treated me with their methods of adjustment, I became interested in learning more about manipulation as a treatment. I was fascinated by it, and thought I might like a chiropractic career.”
His years at National, and how he launched his private practice, give current students a window back to days where dollar amounts were smaller, but the financial challenges were just as formidable. “I had a wife and two kids and only $800 in my pocket when we moved to Chicago so that I could get my chiropractic degree in the mid-fifties. Even though I had some funds from the GI bill, I worked two jobs all the way through National just to make ends meet.
“Dr. Ronald Beideman and Dr. Joseph Janse were my favorite teachers when I was there. They both were wonderful, dedicated, and approachable men. In fact, Dr. Janse helped me out by selling me a portable table for $50 and helping me get a job in New York state when I graduated.
“After those initial years working under other chiropractors, I set up my own practice back in Meadville, Pennsylvania. I found a tiny two-room office in a good location, but not in good shape. The landlord wanted $75 a month, but I bided my time and came back with an offer of $50. I rented that office for $50 a month for 20 years! Later I took a partner in, and we moved across the street when they tore the old building down. Needless to say, we had to pay quite a bit more for our new office space.
I charged $3 per patient when I first started, and never charged more than $19 for a visit. I believed in being like those old family doctors. I would make house calls, and meet my patients at the office on holidays or late at night if they needed me. I got to know them, and often served as a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or even a marriage counselor to them. I was able to retire comfortably in 1992.”
If it sounds impossible to comfortably retire with such a low fee scale, Dr. Shryock has a confession: “To tell the truth, I didn’t make all of my money at my practice. In the Navy, I took a course on investing, and investing became a hobby for me. From my first year as a DC, I took whatever money I made from my first patient every day and put it in a special account at the bank. I did that for thirty-two years and invested it in stocks and bonds in industries people couldn’t do without, like electricity, food, oil, etc. I also looked for high dividends.”
Over the years, that strategy made it easy for Dr. Shryock to retire at age 63 with enough left over to give back to National in the form of a $100,000 portion set aside from his estate.
What can today’s chiropractic students and recent graduates glean from Dr. Shryock’s life experience?
He says, “My advice to new practitioners is that anybody can take a dollar a day, or ten dollars, or what you receive from your first patient every day, and set it aside. Keep your overhead low: don’t hire too many staff people, or buy too much equipment at first. Most of all, be friendly to your patients and try to emulate those old family doctors. Talk to your patients – really care about them. Don’t treat them like just another number, as they do in many medical facilities today. They’ll learn to trust you and soon refer their family and friends to you to help you build your practice.”