How many Doctors of Chiropractic serve as teaching faculty for healthcare profession students at undergraduate colleges or universities? Unfortunately, very few, which is a missed opportunity for the Chiropractic profession. Teaching at the undergraduate level offers significant benefits and opportunities for the individual DC and for the Chiropractic profession as a whole.
As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I also teach Functional Anatomy & Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology in the Kinesiology Department of Arizona State University. These are upper-level undergraduate courses designed for students entering graduate school in healthcare professions. The majority of these undergraduate students are preparing for graduate degrees in healthcare such as Medicine (MD), Osteopathy (DO) Chiropractic (DC), Naturopathic Medicine (NMD), Physical Therapy (DPT) or Physician’s Assistant (PA). This article will explore why Doctors of Chiropractic should pursue teaching healthcare students at the undergraduate level.
Benefits for the Practitioner
Two of the biggest benefits for the DC in teaching in a college or university setting are community involvement and increased standing in the community. Many Doctors of Chiropractic spend enormous amounts of time attending networking groups, joining the local Chamber of Commerce or doing spinal screenings in an effort to meet community members and market their practice. These endeavors often cost money and project the practitioner as “just another Chiropractor” out there looking for patients. Teaching at a local college or university puts you in touch with faculty and students (all potential patients and referral sources) on a weekly basis and generates another paycheck, not another marketing expense.
Along with building relationships with faculty and students, teaching at the university level also increases your stature in the community. Many people are unaware that Doctors of Chiropractic are qualified to teach at the undergraduate level. According to Tannah Broman, Coordinator of the Kinesiology program at Arizona State University, Doctors of Chiropractic are qualified to teach any subject at the undergraduate level that they have had the graduate level. The Arizona State University Kinesiology program employs several Doctors of Chiropractic as teaching faculty. Teaching at a college or university communicates to the public that you are an expert in your field who is qualified to pass
that knowledge on to others entering healthcare professions.
Mrs. Broman adds that the DC must also feel comfortable with teaching the material. Just because aDC had a course in graduate school (often many years ago) does not mean they will necessarily know it well enough to teach it. For example, my private practice is oriented toward treating orthopedic and neuromusculoskeletal injuries and conditions. For the past 20 years I have made daily use of concepts taught in Anatomy and Physiology courses, and I have done Continuing Education in orthopedic and neuromusculoskeletal imaging and treatment. However, when ASU asked if I would like to teach their Electromyography (EMG) course, I had to decline. Although I had training in EMG in graduate school many years ago, I have not used EMG in private practice and I have not stayed current with Continuing Education courses in EMG. It is up to the individual DC to know their personal areas of expertise to be sure they are right instructor for the course.
An objection to DC’s teaching at the undergraduate level is that DC’s have no formal training in education, and therefore have no business teaching college courses. However, according to Mrs. Broman, virtually no college or university instructor with a Master’s or PhD degree teaching at the undergraduate level has any formal training in education (outside of an instructor teaching in an actual Education program). Says Mrs. Broman, “Ideally, all college instructors WOULD have formal training in teaching, but the reality is that most of the time they don’t. What we look for in a teaching Faculty member is someone who has a passion for what they do and for teaching.”
Benefits for the Profession
Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy and Doctors of Physical Therapy are often involved in education in at the undergraduate college or university level, and that is one reason those professions are often looked on with higher favor in our society than the Chiropractic profession. When DC’s become part of the system of higher education it elevates the status of the entire profession in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of other healthcare professionals.
In addition, a Doctor of Chiropractic teaching undergraduate students entering other healthcare professions breaks down the barriers between the Chiropractic profession and other healthcare professions. The students learn before entering graduate school that DC’s are intelligent, educated and competent members of the healthcare industry who are qualified to teach and interact with them. They are exposed to the fact that Doctors of Chiropractic are an integral part of the healthcare community early in their education, which will lead to increased interprofessional cooperation when they are in actual practice years down the road. To quote physicist Max Plank: “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way rapidly winning over and converting its opponents. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.” DC’s teaching our undergraduate healthcare students will have the same effect for the future of the Chiropractic profession.
How does a DC go about acquiring a teaching position at a local college or university? They can start by sending a letter of interest and resume to the Program Directors of local community colleges and four-year universities. Academic programs likely to need the expertise of a DC are programs which offer pre-requisite classes for healthcare graduate school. Kinesiology and Biology are common undergraduate majors for students applying to graduate healthcare programs. DC’s may need to develop their teaching skills, but they are academically qualified to teach undergraduate Anatomy, Kinesiology, Physiology, Exercise Physiology or any other class they had in graduate school.
As in many other areas of life, who you know is often as important as what you know. When you meet anyone involved in the undergraduate education of healthcare students, mention to them that you would be interested in teaching if a position is available. Opportunities will often come your way.
Most Doctors of Chiropractic are already working as an Associate Doctor or as a practicing Chiropractic business owner. Teaching full-time at the college or university level is usually not an option for the DC. However, Faculty Associate or Adjunct Faculty positions are offered by nearly all colleges and universities. These positions are part-time and are paid on a semester basis per class taught. Most DC’s could find the time to teach 1-2 courses per semester in addition to their Chiropractic career.
Unfortunately, teaching at the university level is the surest way to become convinced that our teachers are overworked and underpaid. The amount of time and preparation necessary to competently teach a university-level course far outweighs the amount of money that a college or university can afford to pay. The main benefit for the DC is the exposure to the academic environment (faculty and students) and an increased presence and stature in the community.
Not all DC’s will have the desire or time to teach a university-level course, but for those that do the benefits go far beyond whatever paycheck may be received. Being part of training the next generation of healthcare professionals is an incredible and rewarding opportunity. I regularly receive cards, letters and emails from former students who are now in practice in many fields of healthcare. Their sincere appreciation and gratitude for taking the time to be part of their education and career makes all the class preparation time and time spent teaching worthwhile. Educating future healthcare practitioners at the undergraduate level is a win-win situation for the individual Doctor of Chiropractic and the Chiropractic profession as a whole.