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Chiropractor: Mark J. Blessley, NTS., DC

Cathy Sivak, Contributing Writer

What advice do you have for students hoping to pursue chiropractic or natural therapeutics educations and careers?

Keep up on your math. Don’t let the math slide, even if it seems boring and doesn’t seem useful for the future. Get good at math. Erasers are really useful too. In my woodworking, when young kids are in my shop looking at the woodworking tools, I ask them, “What the most important tool here?” They usually point to something big, like the band saw. I show them the pencil eraser and tell them the eraser is best, most important thing. You plan, you write stuff out, but you find you want to change it, and erasers are really helpful.

I was not that good of a high school student, I couldn’t see the value. While I was in high school I actually went to auto mechanic school nights. I got certificated as a doctor of motors, which was a General Motors certification that you got in auto mechanic school that has since been replaced with Mr. Goodwrench certification. The way I look at this from a retrospective view is that I started out with mechanical things, figured out how they worked, electrical systems, pressure, hydraulics. Then I went on to building very technical solariums, and sun spaces and things with glass, aluminum and wood in challenging environments. It kept bringing me closer to the most exquisite mechanical thing in the world, the human body. I kept graduating.

What did you like and dislike about your education?

I wish I knew how critical math was going to be. I had to go through a lot of extra work, because I didn’t take the classes when I should have. I didn’t see the importance and value of algebra as a student. When I realized I had to take physics class, calculus and have a certain math level before I could start school. I got a tutor, I rented math videos. Have you ever watched a math video? Instead of sleeping pills, go rent a math video, and I guarantee you’ll be asleep before you know it. I caught up pretty fast; I got a C in my first class, than an A in the next one. It was something like six quarters in sequence I had to take. So, make sure you have math training.

In retrospect, what do you know now, that you wish you knew before you pursued your education?

I did a lot of traveling and looking at the world before I started, and I don’t regret that. You start when you’re ready. Get some of the stuff out of the way; travel and get a broad perspective of the world. Before you settle down, make sure you know what you want to do, create goals for yourself, and get good at accomplishing your goals. It’s a big goal to become a doctor, and a big responsibility afterwards, so you want to make sure you’re ready for that.

Doing massage therapy is not quite as large of a schooling commitment, but there is a high burnout rate in massage therapy. If you want to get into massage therapy, that’s something you should make sure you get an education in, how to avoid burnout. They teach that well at the best schools.

What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a school?

Choose the place where you would like to live, make sure you visit more than one school. It oftentimes boils down to being in a place you like to live. That’s for your practice, too; look for a place you want to live, and when you have your practice, you’ll be happier and the practice will flow better.

I would visit several schools, as they all have a different feel. They have the same requirements, taking much of the same classes, but each has a different feel and a different philosophy. It’s hard to know what your philosophy is, but if you find a place where you know you want to live, that your intuition tells you is a good place, it’s probably the right school for you.

Does school choice make a difference in being prepared to treat patients? In landing a job or launching a practice?

There are differences in philosophies of the schools; they all have fairly similar curricula to be certified. I would get with a mentor or a chiropractor; go out to lunch with someone who does what you’d think you’d like to do. Interview them a bit. Ask them how they like what they are doing. There are differences in chiropractic treatment philosophies, but you don’t get some of that info from the schools’ web sites and brochures and literature. If you want to focus on wellness, a school that has changed their mission statement to focus on wellness may be a draw. Find out what extra-curricular clubs are at the school, what the students are into. How many people are involved in the wellness clubs, sports clubs, motion palpation club, nutrition circles? Find out the extra stuff at the school. If you’re married, find out if there are things going on in the area to interest your spouse.

What can students do to increase their chances of being accepted to chiropractic and natural therapeutic programs?

You have to do your prerequisites, get good grades in the pre-reqs and have good goals. The schools look at what your goals are, and why you want to be a chiropractor, how well you express yourself. Some states require a bachelor’s degree before starting chiropractic college.

What other advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in the chiropractic and natural therapeutic field?

I would go and check out what chiropractors do, shadow one and watch what they do. If you have a goal of how you would like to help people in practice, and try to pick a chiropractor who is doing that kind of procedure.

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