How a Doctor of Chiropractic degree opens diverse doors for entrepreneurial-minded professionals.
By Jennifer LeClaire
Most chiropractors spend their day giving patients much-needed care and educating them on various aspects of wellness. But some DCs are using the degree—and the experience—to help people in other ways.
Indeed, exploring the career paths of DCs reveals that earning a doctor of chiropractic degree offers these professionals more than another designation to list behind their names. It opens up entrepreneurial opportunities to use their hard-earned knowledge to better the lives of people while continuing to support the profession they love.
This article chronicles the journeys of three DCs who made the decision to enter the field of chiropractic, build a successful practice and ultimately leverage their knowledge to transition into a related field for the benefit of individual patients and the industry as a whole.
Mark Mandell is a third generation chiropractor—and the sixth in his family. He grew up seeing how his father and grandfather helped people live healthier lives and wanted to continue the family tradition. After Mandell earned his degree, he went to work for a large practice in Miami, then returned to New Jersey to work in the family practice with his father and sister-in-law.
“My grandfather was one of the pioneers who was imprisoned just for being a chiropractor. The sheriff, who was also his patient, allowed him to continue to provide care to his patients from his jail cell,” Mandell says. “How many professions have folks who will do jail time just for the right to do their job and have customers who will come to jail for a service? It is vital for chiropractors to continue educating the public and taking care of them.”
Mandell gave up daily practice in 2008 to develop the Vitality Depot concept with his partner, Scott Spencer. Vitality Depot offers chiropractic equipment and supplies, including tables, ultrasound machines and laser systems. The company has created a niche developing markets for innovative clinical products.
Mandell says the hardest part of venturing outside a traditional practice is the first step—to slow down or stop your practice, and the subsequent loss of income. The best part, he adds, is building a related business that allows you to apply your chiropractic knowledge and philosophy in a meaningful way.
“I miss the daily one-to-one patient interaction and experiencing some of the chiropractic miracles firsthand,” Mandell says, “but I also appreciate the support we can provide to doctors and therapists and enjoy hearing about their success stories.”
As Mandell sees it, a chiropractic background can provide a strategic starting point for a business within the health-care field, but there is great value in adding other skills. “Some of the finest clinicians I know have struggled with entrepreneurial ventures,” he says. “On the other hand, there is no substitute for clinical experience with patients to truly understand this market. Living as a chiropractor offers invaluable insight, especially when creating new products and services.”
Hussein Elsangak was a medical doctor at the crossroads of choosing a specialty. He was troubled by the amount of medication he had to prescribe to patients and was convinced there was a better way. His research showed that the better way was chiropractic. So he enrolled in Life University, graduated, and began practicing and lecturing in Europe for six years. Today, Elsangak is a full-time faculty member at Life, and teaches postgraduate courses, including Georgia Law, Risk Management and Anti-Aging.
“Adjusting patients was definitely fulfilling, but so is creating new doctors and seeing the shift from young student to successful doctor,” Elsangak says. “That is very precious and very valuable—and nobody can experience that beauty except a teacher. I enjoy being part of the transformation.”
In past decades, few chiropractors developed specialties. Now, Elsangak says he makes it clear to his students that a Doctor of Chiropractic degree can open up many opportunities to serve patients. Some students may have a passion for sports or pediatrics or neurology. So a chiropractic degree is the first step to additional studies that make them well-rounded health-care professionals.
“My goal is to maintain and expand the connection between wellness and chiropractic by utilizing the incredible power it holds,” Elsangak says. “Right now, there is a global paradigm shift to approach health through non-invasive natural approaches. Chiropractic is at the heart of this thinking and more chiropractors are finding acceptance in hospitals, the military and sports arenas. But we need teachers to make all this happen.”
When Don Hayes returned home after spending four years in the military—including one year in Vietnam—he wanted to pursue a health-care career that did not rely on drugs or surgery. At that time, his choices were limited to dentistry, optometry or chiropractic. He chose chiropractic and pursued his degree at Western States Chiropractic College in Oregon.
Hayes graduated in 1977 and immediately launched a private practice as an associate doctor in Salinas, Calif. After one year as an associate, he opened his own office. Within three years, he opened three more offices—all within a 25-mile radius of Salinas. He practiced for 20 years under the banner of Hayes Chiropractic Centers before selling his practices in 1997 to follow his second passion in the field of nutrition.
“In 1997, I became the lead science instructor for Metagenics Nutrition Company. The owner of Metagenics and I formed a joint venture company called Innovative Practice Solutions, in which I taught an intense four-day nutritional boot camp for doctors and staff,” Hayes recalls. “I co-owned this company for seven years and had the wonderful experience of teaching thousands of chiropractors and staff throughout the world.”
After seven years the company dissolved and Hayes decided to form his new company, Greens First. Greens First has been the leader in greens drinks for the chiropractic industry for the past 10 years. The company allows Hayes to focus his nutritional experience on one of the leading causes of chronic disease—what he believes is free radical damage—and the antioxidant supplements that protect against it.
“My first love is chiropractic and always will be. I spent 20 years serving in the trenches as a chiropractor; therefore, I know firsthand the difficulty chiropractors have getting patients to change their lifestyle habits given the short amount of time we have with each of them,” Hayes says. “I see myself still in private practice in a way, because when a chiropractor recommends Greens First to improve the health of a patient, I feel like I’m there as well, still helping do my part. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from hearing of all the success stories from using Greens First.”
Hayes sees pros and cons to venturing outside a traditional practice with a business targeting DCs. On the upside, DCs already know exactly what the chiropractor needs—so there’s no excuse for bringing out a product to sell to chiropractors that you know won’t work. Of course, the downside is there are no guarantees for entrepreneurs. But, he says, the Doctor of Chiropractic degree and the practice experience offer a running start.
“My chiropractic degree combined with my 20 years of private practice gave me a distinct advantage in creating and offering a product for the chiropractic profession,” Hayes says. “Any chiropractor who is so inclined could use his or her education and experience to improve the delivery of our profession to the world.”