How many doctors of chiropractic service as teaching faculty for healthcare profession students at undergraduate colleges or universities?
Unfortunately, there are very few, which is a missed opportunity. Teaching at the under- graduate level offers significant benefits and opportunities for the DC instructors and the chiropractic profession as a whole.
As you are a doctor of chiropractic, undergraduate students who are preparing for graduate degrees in healthcare such as medicine (MD), osteopathy (DO), chiropractic (DC), naturopathic medicine (ND), physical therapy (PT), or physician’s assistant (PA), can all learn from you.
Benefits for the DC
Two of the biggest benefits for the DC teaching in an academic setting are community involvement and increased standing in the community. Many DCs spend enormous amounts of time attending networking groups, joining their local chambers of commerce, and doing spinal screenings to meet community members and market their practices.
These endeavors usually cost money and project the practitioner as “just another chiropractor” out there looking for patients. Teaching at a 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, 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, DCs are qualified to teach any subject at the undergraduate level that they have personally taken at the graduate level. Teaching at a college or university communicates to the public that you are an expert in your field and qualified to pass that knowledge on to others entering healthcare professions.
It should be added that you must also be comfortable teaching the material if you pursue this route. Just because you took a course in graduate school (perhaps many years ago) doesn’t mean you 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 have taken 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 EMG training in graduate school many years ago, I haven’t used it in private practice and am not current with the technology. It is up to you to know your personal areas of expertise to be sure you are the right instructor for a course.
One objection to DCs teaching at the undergraduate level is that they have no formal training in education, and therefore are unqualified to teach college courses. But on the other hand, virtually no college or university instructor with a Master’s or PhD degree teaching at the undergraduate level has had formal training in education (outside of those teaching education programs). What most schools are looking for in faculty members are people with a passion for what they do and for teaching.
Benefits for the profession
MDs, DOs, and PTs are often involved in educating undergraduates, and that’s one reason those professions are often regarded more favorably in society than the chiropractic profession. When DCs take part in 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 DC teaching under- graduates entering other healthcare professions breaks down the barriers between chiropractors and other practitioners. Before entering graduate school, the students learn that DCs are intelligent, educated, and competent members of the healthcare industry, who are qualified to teach and interact with them.
By being exposed to the fact that DCs are an integral part of the healthcare community early in their education, students are inclined toward increased inter-professional cooperation when they are in practice themselves. To quote the physicist Max Planck: “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by rapidly winning over and converting its opponents. What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out.”
How do you get hired for a teaching position at a local college or university? Start by sending letters of interest and your CV to the program directors of the educational institutions in your area. The academic programs likely to need the expertise of a DC are often prerequisite classes for healthcare graduate school.
Kinesiology and biology are common undergraduate majors for healthcare students applying to graduate programs. You might need to develop your teaching skills, but you are academically qualified to teach undergraduate anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, exercise physiology, and any similar class you had in graduate school.
As in most other areas of life, who you know is often as important as what you know. When you meet anyone involved in undergraduate healthcare education, mention 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 associates or as practicing business owners. Teaching full time is usually not an option for most DCs. Faculty associate or adjunct faculty positions are, however, offered by nearly all colleges and universities. These positions are part time and paid on a semester basis per class taught.
Most DCs could find the time to teach one or two courses per semester in addition to their chiropractic career.
Make no mistake: Teaching at the college level is a sure way to discover that 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 the institution can afford to pay. The main benefit for you is exposure to the academic environment and an increased presence and stature in your community.
Not many DCs will have the desire or time to teach a university-level course, but for those who do the benefits go far beyond a paycheck. Being part of training the next generation of healthcare professionals is an incredibly 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 makes all the class preparation time and effort spent teaching worthwhile.
Steven Brown, DC, is a graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic and also an acupuncturist and faculty associate at Arizona State university (ASU). His private practice is Brown Chiropractic & Acupuncture, PC, in Tempe, Arizona. He can be contacted through brownchiro.com.