Helping people is anything but cliché
By Rachel Sullivan
Athough the notion may appear a bit antiquated in a world where the bottom line seems to rule supreme, exceptional individuals nonetheless still exist who choose a calling based on their genuine desire to help people.
Indeed, many of the people who dedicate their lives to Chiropractic and holistic healing seem to be driven by such a calling. And while there’s no question some might view the profession as a fast track to money and status—a proportionately larger number of practitioners demonstrate through their words and deeds that healing not only is their profession, but also their vocation.
Like so many of the profession’s most avid supporters, LIFE student Chris James came to Chiropractic through personal experience. “I was diagnosed with repetitive strain injuries in the back of my forearms,” he says. “I worked as a marketing specialist and it caused me enough pain that I missed eight or nine months of work. I finally went to a medical doctor, who gave me a prescription for pain counseling. I felt like I’d been given a life sentence.”
Faced with no other alternative, James says he finally turned to Chiropractic in search of a comprehensive system of care. “I felt like the experts were missing something. I went to a chiropractor and it was amazing—within 10 minutes, I could feel something shifting,” he explains. “It happened gradually, but I kept going back; one day in his office, I felt so good and so connected with my whole body, it was a like a massive energy blast. That’s the moment I decided to dedicate myself to Chiropractic.”
James, who began his experience as a self-admitted skeptic, says he quickly realized the power of holistic healing. “I had a second experience not long after that led me to appreciate how much better things work when everything is perfectly coordinated. In February of last year, I started practicing positive visualization. I prayed—or meditated or whatever you want to call it—for 30 days straight,” he says. “It was fascinating, because I made the decision to try to make peace with the people I was angry at by putting them on the top of my list of people to pray for, and I soon realized that the act of thinking positive thoughts for those people meant that I wasn’t angry at them anymore.”
And for James, what began as a personal ritual eventually made the jump into his experience as a student, providing gratis care to patients at LIFE’s on-campus clinic. “There’s one patient whom I’ve seen quite a few times,” he explains. “One day, I asked her if it was okay for me to meditate on her while I was [caring for] her. I literally kept a vision of the patient’s highest good in my mind as I touched her. At the very least, it made me incredibly present for her and it was an experience that she, at least emotionally, benefited from. Then, over the next 30 days, I added her to my list.”
In this way, James further explains, he eschews monetary rewards and focuses his desire to positively affect others. “I don’t think the job of Chiropractic is to treat a specific disease or symptom—it’s about being there with the person,” he says. “It isn’t a cure-all, but [the patient from the clinic] says she has seen positive benefits since I started this with her. She’s even gotten job interviews. I don’t know if it’s related, but there are studies on the power of prayer; regardless, it feels good to know someone is thinking about you and wishing you well.”
Joe Strauss, D.C., has been practicing since 1967; significantly, he approaches the issue of serving patients for service’s sake, rather than for monetary benefit. “At one point in time, we saw upwards of 1,500 patients a week,” Strauss recalls. “We see fewer than that now. We’re slowing down some, but I still work six days a week and we’re open 12 hours a day.”
Staffed by Strauss and his brothers, The Strauss Chiropractic Center has been a fixture of Levittown, Pa., for more than four decades. It has survived on an old-fashioned—and some would say impossible—financial practice of “box-on-the-wall” payments. “It’s an honor system,” Strauss explained. “It lets our practice members determine their own fee. To me, the most important part of chiropractic care is that patients come in regularly; however, the No. 1 barrier is cost. Time is the other, which is why we stay open long hours. We don’t operate with appointments, but people don’t wait too long to be seen once they walk in.”
When asked how this system has worked, Strauss laughs. “I haven’t gotten rich, but I live well. More importantly, I’m happy. I know there’s no one in my community denied care and that’s what I got into practice for,” he says. “Thus far, my needs have been more than provided for by the [box-on-the-wall method], and my life has been and remains dedicated to giving chiropractic care.”
Of course, Strauss didn’t begin his practice with this payment method. “At first, I tried opening a practice where I charged patients, but it didn’t go well the first year. Then I thought about it, and remembered learning about this payment practice when I was in school,” he says. “I decided to give it a go, reasoning I couldn’t do any worse. I also realized I not only needed to offer people services, but also to educate them on why they needed these services.”
Subsequently, Strauss started touring as a lecturer, composing newsletters and writing pamphlets to educate people. He has since written 19 books, some of which are used as textbooks now. As a result, he insists his practice was built through education and not its novel method of payment. “Still, [the box-on-the-wall method] got rid of barriers,” he explains. “I tell my patients I’m not an average chiropractor, and therefore I cannot tell them the average price of a visit somewhere else. I trust them to pay what they can, if they can.”
Strauss says he fulfills his self-appointed mission of caring for people in other ways as well. His practice, for instance, is a drop-off point for donations to local food banks and pantries. Every year at Thanksgiving, he solicits names of needy people from his patients, and puts together food and care packages.
“We’ve also been sending care packages to soldiers overseas since the first Iraq War,” adds Strauss. “We’ll continue doing that until the last soldier comes home. We’ve sent literally tons of needed—and wanted—items to the men and women defending our freedom.”
A former member of the U.S. Armed Services herself, Leona DiAmore, D.C., also puts her gifts to use helping American soldiers. Having served in the U.S. Navy during the first Gulf War, DiAmore says she saw firsthand the inability of traditional medicine to adequately address combat soldiers’ needs.
“I worked in Explosive Ordinance Disposal—a Special Ops team that builds and disarms bombs,” she recalls. “These guys are incredibly physically fit, but any time they had an issue, they could only get medications that left them unable to work due to potential liability. I kept thinking that there had to be something better. I had gone to Medical Assisting School and worked to help these guys stay healthy, but I became so disillusioned by traditional medicine that I went to massage school to try and help them.”
According to DiAmore, a client of hers—a chiropractor—first counseled her to attend chiropractic school. However, she says she didn’t immediately follow this advice. “It took a second patient, with the same career, telling me the same thing to make me realize I needed something different,” she says. “And I realized the medical model of ‘name it, drug it, cut it out’ just didn’t work for me anymore.”
DiAmore now works in a private practice near Chicago called The Healing Place. “We are a cash-for-pay facility that offers Chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, life coaching, massage, energy works, meditations, hypnotherapists, counseling, a whole food co-op and even Jiujitsu and Qigong classes. Chiropractic is definitely king, but the office has a variety of practitioners all willing and able to make referrals to the others. We are an integrative practice that allows all of us to best utilize our gifts.”
For DiAmore, utilizing her gifts means simultaneously empowering her patients. “This is why I work with soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My best friends are still in the Navy and one of them is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and pharmacist who deals with PTSD work in California. He had some really challenging cases and approached me about trying to help. I met with some of his clients, with the worst of the PTSD symptoms and the results were absolutely profound. I was able to show them the symptoms they were having were actually rooted in their physical bodies. I did neurological scans prior to [chiropractic sessions], and these guys—who had often done multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan—were simply so overwhelmed that the [allopathic care] and medication weren’t working.”
According to DiAmore, the chiropractic care she provides has the potential to give these soldiers hope. “I was able to show them that they weren’t going to be on medication permanently. Many of them said they felt like walking zombies before [receiving chiropractic care] and every single one of them felt better after [chiropractic care], with notable relief in their depression and anxiety. [One patient told] me he felt the best he’d felt in five years and another one told me he had no migraine for the first time in months.”
She also says the relief described by her patients was evident in post-adjustment scans. “The scans showed why these soldiers were struggling so much—everything was geared as high as it could go,” she says. “All they needed was help in turning the volume down some. Being able to tell them their issues were actually physical and manifesting emotionally gave these men relief and hope. I was able to show them they weren’t broken and actually touch the affected areas. My only regret is I can’t be there for them more often. They need it.”
Not surprisingly, DiAmore offers one year of free care to military vets in her own office as well. “I think my life’s goal is to work to get Chiropractic to be more accepted in military health care. I’ve got the connections and the know-how to do it,” she says. “I’ve already been on committees organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs and heard in D.C. I have a unique niche in military [health care] and I’m going to keep working.”
No matter what their individual approaches may be, it’s clear James, Strauss and DiAmore all approach patient care in ways leaving little doubt as to the authenticity of their desire to make a real difference in the world. And, even more importantly—to the people they help—they make all the difference in the world.