For Chiropractic Students

Addendum (March 2011)

In the last decade the world of chiropractic education has changed significantly. In addition to the loss of my alma mater, CCC Los Angeles, the first chiropractic college to close in decades, almost all the colleges now offer “regional” education programs.

This means that instead of studying each technique independently, its evolution and philosophy, and its methodologies, students are taught anatomic regions: study the anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, neurology (etc.), and adjusting of the cervical region, next semester the thoracic region, and so on.

I was devastated when I learned that CCCLA had chosen to take this approach, because the finest techniques in chiropractic - Gonstead, Thompson, SOT, Blair, Applied Kinesiology - are systems, and you cannot learn a system when it is dis-integrated from itself, especially when dissected then “taught“ by people who themselves never learned or practiced the system.

My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Suzanne Davis, recently shared with me that in the course of doing the ICPA program in Philadelphia she was meeting student doctors and recent graduates who were sharing that they felt like they had no idea what they were doing. It is no surprise to me given this change.

Analogies are a weak area for me, but this change in curriculum is akin to learning how a car engine works by studying an air filter one month, then a differential, then a disc brake the next… and without ever being told that the pieces go together, let alone how, why, or what they make when assembled.

Just another reason to make yourself to go to technique seminars and to find mentors. Not only the survival of the profession, but your survival in practice will depend on it…

All my best,


So you are on the path… (April 2006)

Congratulations on your decision to become a chiropractor. We enjoy a profession with integrity, with passion, and with an understanding of—and more importantly, a knowing of—the incredible innate healing power of the human body. We enjoy a profession which allows incredible lifestyle choices: my first chiropractor, Dr. Dalby, sees 40 patients a week and scuba dives the first four hours of each day, and several of my mentors are known to see a hundred patients in a day. There are DCs who spend a few hours with patients and most with their families, and DCs who own large clinics and employ dozens of other doctors but choose not to work with any patients. Whatever the design of their work week and business, all these doctors know one thing; they are working in the most powerful healing art on the planet, which holds the human body in high esteem and honors its innate intelligence.

Deciding what to share with you is hard: there are so many things to say and to share with a chiropractic student, whether you are at the start of your schooling, in the middle, in clinic, or just considering it as a career. In addition, everyone is different, and the things I would have wanted to know sooner, the most useful things I heard or experienced, may have little meaning for you.

What I can say that is relevant for all students is that chiropractic college, which is today for all intents and purposes a medical school curriculum, can feel like a long and challenging road, with many long nights and many moments where you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. My class began with more than 80 students, and I graduated with fewer than 30. Those 30, however, are amazing men and women who kept the course and who will make powerful differences in their patients’ lives.

I heard two particularly important things at the start of my schooling which I want you to hear as well. The first was “A students teach, and B students work for C students.” This comment is not intended to encourage anyone to be a poor student, but to help us understand that there are more important things to learn than the academics - namely, adjusting. School can only teach you so much, and if you’re lucky you are at a school where there is a respect for and emphasis on philosophy and adjusting. If you want to be successful, get to every adjusting seminar you can; set up at every class break; practice after school and on weekends, and go to every DCs office you can and learn about everything in that office—even if you’re learning what you don’t want, that is tremendously valuable.

The other valuable thing I heard was something that B.J. Palmer told his students the first day of classes: “You will spend your career forgetting all the things you will spend the next few years learning.” This communicated to me the importance and power of the adjustment, and the ease of getting myself all wrapped up in the ego of being a doctor, and the basic sciences, and trying to “figure out” the human body. The human body does not need to be “figured out”, nor does the adjustment. As Gonstead said, “Find it, accept it where you find it, fix it, then leave it alone.”

The most important experience I had was one I will never forget, and I beg you to seek your own version. Early in my second trimester a classmate of mine, Dr. Kristy Zinnes, came up to me on a break and said her stomach hurt, and that she had suffered chronic acidity for years. I offered to check her out, and so we went to the back of the class where the adjusting table was. As we chatted, I checked her out using the skills I had started using in clubs just three months earlier, and as far as I could tell, her sacrum was out. Now, no matter where you are in the schooling process, you get that I knew pretty much nothing at that point (and if you’re not a student yet and are thinking about chiropractic, let me mention…I knew nothing at that point). As we continued talking I set her up for a BP sacrum, and ka-chunk it went—and went deep. I was scared! I had never really moved a bone before, let alone such a deep adjustment: it’s a good thing I was distracted by the conversation so I could let my body do what I had been training it to do without over-thinking. For a second I thought I had broken her, and she just said “Wow!” while I tried to summon up a poker face. We finished our chat and went back to our seats, and on the next break she came to me, and told me that her stomach hadn’t felt that good in years. It changed the entire experience of schooling for me and gave me an invaluable reference point for those long nights studying for finals and boards. That, my friends, is the power of the adjustment, and it is something that is under-emphasized, under-valued, and under-experienced by chiropractic students today. Once you’ve had that experience, you no longer need to believe you’ve made the right career choice, or to have faith in chiropractic. You’ll know it, and you’ll own it.

Chiropractic requires great levels of mastery—from the coursework, to the board exams, to clinic, to moving into practice and then running a successful one. Above to the right are links to the the outlines of a few of the talks I give on mastery, excellence, success in school and practice, and transition. You are welcome to read through the material, and to contact me for support or guidance at any time. Please respect copyright laws and the work I’ve put into these and do not use this material inappropriately.

With gratitude and all my blessings,
Dr. Matthew

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