Recently, I was asked to write down why I chose to become a chiropractor and why I do what I do. I originally thought that it was a simple answer. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the answer to why I do what I do, what motivates me, is not concise at all.
If you had asked me why I wanted to be a Chiropractor when I was just starting Chiropractic school I would have told you something about how my parents took me to a Chiropractor when I was young and that it had a positive effect on the asthma I was diagnosed with at 2 years old. While that is still true, the reasons why I became a Chiropractor and Functional Medicine practitioner have grown exponentially since I completed my medical training. The way I practice Chiropractic medicine has become much more that what I learned in school. I have expanded into the world of Functional Medicine, but more importantly, in the way I practice, I have tried to create a distinction between health and medicine. I do this by asking myself what creates health rather than how do you treat disease.
As for my why, let’s start at the beginning. What many people don’t know about me is that from a very young age up until about 22 I suffered from many chronic illnesses. I was the poster child for inflammatory conditions. I had asthma, chronic hives, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, and ultimately ended up with the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes. For years I did what conventional medicine doctors told me to do and my conditions stayed the same or worsened. No conventional doctor tried to heal my gut, change my diet, or decrease my exposure to toxins, and it wasn’t until I started seeing a Chiropractor again in college that I started to see how my own lifestyle choices had dramatic effects on my health. I am now proud to say that all the conditions I suffered from as a child are gone (aside from type 1 diabetes, the damage had already been done). This happened outside the walls of western medicine. So, reason number one of why I practice medicine the way I do is because it personally worked for me.
But let’s not let my personal reasons steal the show. In society today it is often assumed that the hospital is the safest place to be if you are sick. However, unless you have had a severe physical trauma, have a life threatening infection, or are in the end stages of chronic disease then the hospital may not be the best place to be when you are sick. In the article Death by Medicine Dr Gary Null PhD, Dr. Carolyn Dean ND, MD and their colleagues presented some pretty shocking statistics saying that “the estimated total number of iatrogenic deaths—that is, deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures— in the US annually is 783,936.” Therefore, that makes our health care system the leading cause of death in this country, even more than heart disease (699,697 deaths in 2001) or cancer (553,251 deaths in 2001). There are much better ways of addressing chronic disease and achieving health. So the second reason I practice medicine the way I do is because people need a safer and more effective option.
A discussion about why I do what I do wouldn’t be complete without talking about money. I know you are silently judging me because you think I am talking about making money but I’m actually talking about quite the opposite. A few years ago a study out of Harvard University showed that the most common reason, coming in at 62%, why people filed for bankruptcy in America was due to medical expenses. It also showed that of that 62%, 72% of them had health insurance. This is not surprising when you consider that, according to a 2004 study, the United States spends an estimated $1.6 trillion per year on healthcare (far more than any other country) yet it ranks 37th in quality of health outcomes. There is a real problem with these numbers and the only thing worse than being six or broke is being sick and broke. So, if there is a high likelihood that you could end up either broke or dead from depending on our conventional medical system for health then what are you supposed to do? For one thing, stay away from the hospital as much as possible. How do you do that? Well a 7-year-study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological therapy that came out in 2007 showed that those people whose primary physician was a chiropractor experienced 60% less hospital admissions, 59% less days in the hospital, 62% less outpatient surgeries, and 85% less in pharmaceutical costs. So, reason number three of why I practice medicine the way that I do is because it is a far more cost-effective form of healthcare.
Lastly, while all those reasons have had huge influences on why I do what I do they pale in comparison to this last one. One of my favorite quotes is by Howard Thurman. He said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I try to live by Mr. Thurman’s words and if I find that I get to a point where I can’t say that I am, I know that I need to reevaluate what I am doing and why. Luckily, the last reason why I practice medicine the way that I do is because it is what gets me up in the morning.