Matthew Kowalski, DC, a 1990 graduate from National University, has recently been appointed as an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also Associate Clinical Director at the Osher Clinical Center, a joint venture between Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Since graduating from National University, Dr. Kowalski has helped advance the chiropractic field through his efforts in academic research and the integration of chiropractic medicine into hospital systems.
Early in his career, the medical world viewed chiropractic medicine much differently than it does today.
“At the time, there was great opposition to chiropractic,” he said.
However, that didn’t stop him from building relationships with other medical professionals.
In 1994, when he was first awarded privileges at a hospital in Massachusetts, he used the opportunity to help educate physical therapists on diagnostic imaging and clinical evaluation.
“The physical therapists were who I needed to win over,” he said. “Slowly, I worked myself in through collaborative patient management and educational opportunities.”
Kowalski believes his training at National University, particularly his orthopedics residency, helped him achieve this kind of collaboration with many other medical professionals at hospitals.
“Today it’s a totally different atmosphere in medical education,” he said. “Nearly half the MD students have been to a chiropractor. Our new students don’t share the same bias of the past, but it’s not gone. It’s lessening.”
He believes research is a big part of the reason attitudes toward chiropractic medicine have improved within conventional medicine. Since leaving private practice to work full-time at the Osher Clinical Center three years ago, he continues to build upon this important research and create more opportunities for chiropractic studies. In 2021, he helped establish the first chiropractic research fellowship at the Osher Center. His plans also include the development of a research group out of Harvard and other chiropractic universities.
Funded in part by various National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, his research explores the health benefits of chiropractic treatments for managing migraine headaches, chronic back and neck pain, work-related performance and fall risk prevention. For neck and cervical spine treatment, he said it’s particularly important to demonstrate strong evidence of its efficacy and low risk.
He encourages today’s DC students to not only consider a career in research, but in other fields like insurance and policy.
“By preparing students at the graduate-level for these positions and opportunities, we will continue to see more growth in the field,” he said.