Every patient is a different and unique case, which is why the California Chiropractic Association has become an organization that represents the diverse voices of chiropractic. Student Intern from Southern California University Health Sciences, Arash Aalem believes that the CCA is really putting out the word that instead of being ego-driven. Chiropractic needs to be patient-focused and so should the continuing education. There is a need to direct every patient to the right doctor. Learn more of Arash’s advocacies as a student leader in the CCA.
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Student Leadership in the California Chiropractic Association with Arash Aalem
I’m excited about the guest that I have. I want to give you a little introduction. My friend, Arash Aalem, is here and he is actually a student at the Southern California University of Health Sciences also known as LACC. From this point forward, I will be referring to that school as LACC. I met him about a year and a half ago and when we met, it was through a CCA event where I was speaking on the campus. He is the immediate past president of the student body for LACC and he is extremely involved in all things CCA. I’m excited to introduce to you, my friend and my intern, Arash. How are you doing?
I’m doing great. Excited to be on.
Arash, we met a year and a half ago. Give me your first impression of this crazy Blair Upper Cervical doctor coming on your campus.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what the technique was. I thought you’re very knowledgeable. I remember watching you at the CCA Convention. You taught a class there and it was very interesting. You’re going through the X-rays and I wanted to know what Blair was and get exposed to that because you don’t get exposed to all the techniques when you’re in school. When I came and interned here, it was totally different and magical.
I’ve been on campus a lot and I come on campus to either talk to the Upper Cervical Club or I come on campus to represent the CCA. Tell me about the CCA from a student perspective and what drew you to that and why you wanted to get involved in leadership?
When I went to chiropractic I knew about the history and how legislation was really important to get us our rights, our scope of practice, and how we’ve been under attack at times from different entities and the government is how we’re able to protect ourselves. We have rights. We have certain things that we are allowed to do as individuals and as a collective of individuals. That part of the CCA, knowing the chiropractic history and knowing how important that was really attracted me to CCA, the ACA. I think it’s really important as far as just looking at our country, California being such a big state, such a diverse state. We have three of the sixteen chiropractic colleges in our state. Even outside of chiropractic what happens in California, it takes to the rest of the country. The country looks at us as an example. I think it’s really important for our state association to lead as far as chiropractic goes. What happens here for chiropractic will follow everywhere else.
That is why I was also drawn to getting involved in the CCA. Give me a little history. You start chiropractic college at LACC because of its location, it’s the philosophy you want to do? What’s the deal? Why did you choose Southern California?
I was supposed to go to law school. I mentioned that I applied to law school and I did. That is still part of the plan. I was a political science major and I had no intention of getting into any kind of healthcare profession. I actually got a job with a chiropractor and I realized that I could apply and I could do this. When I got to seeing what she did and learning about the rich history and I like to say, this is the only profession outside of the seminary that has any conception of a higher intelligence. There are other healthcare professions like Chinese medicine that do that as well, but I think chiropractors are the most mainstream, the most positioned in a place to make the most change immediately. That really attracted me to the profession. I looked at a couple of schools but ultimately settled on LACC because of its location.
Your intention is once you graduate from LACC which is in April, you’ve applied to law school. You’re waiting to hear back and then you’re going to go to law school. What do you want to do with that? That’s a lot of higher education.
I didn’t know about the CCA when I got into chiropractic. I didn’t know the opportunities that it would have in the way that I could get myself involved from an advocacy perspective. I don’t know exactly where law school might take me. I just know that it’s where I should be, what I should do. The opportunities that will open up as far as advocacy goes I think will position me in a place to make chiropractic better. That’s where I think chiropractic, because of its conceptions of this higher intelligence, this higher power, it really is in a position to make a change in the world. We have a lot of different practices in the state and those practices service a lot of different patients. I think that’s an important thing that chiropractic can change a lot of people’s perceptions on things.
Tell me about getting involved as a student leader on campus. I also went to chiropractic college and it was hard academically, time-management wise. How did you find time to do all the studying you needed to do and then take that extra effort to then get involved and then become the president for your student body? I know that not even just for the school but on the state level, you’re very involved. Every time I check Facebook, you’re flying to Sacramento for some government body meeting or your down in San Diego at a convention and you’re volunteering for this or that. Tell me what was it that drew you to the CCA once you learned about it and then how you managed all that while you’re in school?
First year, I didn’t have a life outside of school. I barely was able to keep my head above water because I didn’t have any basic science background. I really had to learn a whole new language. I would joke that there are ten to fifteen words a day that I didn’t know on my first year that are just completely new language of the human body. That was why I wanted to come to chiropractor school and learn that. I didn’t have a lot of time for extra stuff. I was on the E-Board as a member relations chair in my first year but there was a significantly less responsibility than as a president and a student director. After the first year, we got into the clinical stuff. It was more intuitive. It wasn’t as book-intensive where I had to spend a lot of time sitting. I was able to devote more of my time to things that were important to me, which is the advocacy stuff. I’m really, really passionate about the advocacy. The things that CCA does for the chiropractic profession.
When you go and participate with the state level, like the doctors that are in practice that are helping craft the message of the CCA and then taking that to the legislators, where do you feel the CCA is winning?
I think the CCA is winning in a lot of ways. We have a very diverse membership and we’ve got people in leadership that are trying to bring out all the voices so that everybody is represented and that not one group, the loudest group, gets the attention. I think that we’re doing a really good job of getting all the diverse voices of chiropractic out there because we have so much to provide to so many different people. We end up fighting each other on the smallest little things instead of focusing on the patient and how we can work together. One of the conversations we’ve had before is something that I’m really interested in focusing on as profession is figuring out which patients belong to which doctors. Most people practice diversified and that does a lot of good things for a lot of patients, but not everyone benefits from diversified. There are those patients that need to see a Blair doctor, that should go and see an Activator or a Gonstead doctor or some other ART, whatever other technique it is. We’ve got to figure out as a profession how do we siphon those patients to the right provider so that they benefit?
What’s interesting when I got involved with the CCA in my local district, which is Orange County, one of the things that I wanted to do, one of my legacies I wanted to leave having been involved in leadership there is to get people to be more okay with referring to one another. I think that if you look at medicine, they’ve got that figured out. They have general practitioners and then they have people that are specialists. If you go to your general practitioner and they realize that this is something above and beyond what they do on a daily basis, they refer you to a specialist whether it be an endocrinologist or nephrologist or cardiologist.
Within chiropractic, we have incredible diplomate programs where people go and specialize in neurology, in radiology, in orthopedics and things like that. My heart behind my leadership style was collaborative and being able to inter-refer within our profession because you’re right, there are people that respond better to one thing or maybe need that extra look at the atlas compared to maybe they were just getting activator done. The neat thing is chiropractic works. If you’re not getting the results you want, maybe it’s because you don’t have that thing that that patient needs. It’s patient-focused instead of ego-driven. I do agree with you that the CCA is an organization that represents every different type of chiropractic. That is the way that they want to keep it. They don’t want to single out any different group.
What was remarkable was this year, at the state convention, I got to do a two-hour talk on Upper Cervical and I don’t remember in the history of the CCA that ever happening. I’ve done little seminars throughout the last few years at the local backyard seminars that the CCA offered but the state convention had never had Upper Cervical for a two-hour timeslot. That was a huge win. I felt like we were all equally represented. There a lot of Upper Cervical doctors that practice in California. There are people that just want to do cash only. There are people that do work comp. There are people that do PI. I feel like the CCA has done a brilliant job of representing each of us.
It’s important to have people like you with that specific knowledge of a certain technique to come and tell other chiropractors who are in their own offices who don’t know and do that technique everyday. They have no idea what it is after ten years, twenty years of school because they’re so focused on their patient to educate them, so that we’re aware of what each other can do. Chiropractic works and there are so many different types and versions of chiropractic that we just got to figure out which is going to benefit the patient the most and that’s been a struggle I think.
I was at this holiday party that it was several different districts in Southern California. I was hanging out at this game thing that we were doing. This woman came up to me and she said, “I saw you talk at state convention. I’ve never even heard of the Blair technique. I didn’t know anything about it. I wanted to see what it was about so I came to your class and I’m really impressed. Thank you so much for coming and teaching.” I was so flabbergasted that she remembered who I was because I didn’t meet her personally that day. She just remembered me speaking and that she was impressed that they’re bringing a different level of education to these events. That’s what it’s all about.
That’s part of the reason why I’m so involved at getting on the campus and I think that it’s important for the schools. We have three in our state; three chiropractic colleges. There’s no other state that has that. We should be able to offer the students the ability to have access to all the different types of chiropractic care that are offered and that’s why I go into the campus and I volunteer and teach people about the fact that there is this thing called Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic. Most students have never heard of it but they leave knowing about it. One of the things that I would love to have happen is to be able to get this as a selective on the campus. I know that just repeatedly showing up and just showing that it’s not about me, it’s about education and it’s about the student who is then going to impact the patients that we’re called to see eventually. Maybe they don’t do that technique but they know that they can refer to somebody, that’s the point of it all. I’m excited because we’re actually going up to the school and I’m going to share some case studies from different fun cases that you have personally seen in the office. You actually helped me hand-select each case that we’re going to talk about. Give me a quick little scenario of what you expected when you came in and what you’ve actually gotten as an intern in the office?
I try to not have any expectations when going into new places especially in regards to chiropractic because I’m a student. You could be out there for ten, twenty years and you still have a whole technique to learn. You don’t know one doctor does on a daily basis. I try to come in with no expectation. I couldn’t believe some of the patient’s stories that I heard. It’s awesome that you’re coming on our campus and you’re going to go and go through these case studies and tell the students, but it’s one thing to be there having the doctor tell you the stories versus listening to the patients telling you the stories. I’m just sitting there like, “I can’t believe this.” I cannot believe it because the patient is sitting right in front of me telling me the story of what happened. I’ve seen so many insane stories. I think two of them were disc surgeries that were young men who ended up not needing to get disc surgery. Another one was ocular cancer. The coincidence of this guy’s meeting, the story behind that which you’d probably tell much better than I could is so unbelievable, then that you were able to help her in that way with this technique is mind blowing.
That’s what’s so exciting when I get to have students come into the office and observe and participate in patient care. It’s one thing for me to go to the school and talk about all the success that I have. I try to be actually pretty real and not just talk about all my success. I talk about what it is really like to be a doctor in real practice because I was once a student not so long ago and I remember thinking, “That’s incredible but there’s got to be more to it than this.” I try to be real and authentic and not that anybody that is coming isn’t real and authentic, but that’s just what I’m trying to convey here. I do understand what you’re saying. It’s one thing to hear it from my perspective as, “Of course this person got better because what I do is awesome.” For you to come in and see the patient tell with their own words, you a student intern who is looking at all of the different opportunities and possibilities that they have to their future, and this person is telling you the results that they’ve gotten from chiropractic care. It’s outstanding and it breeds excitement, it breeds success in my opinion.
One of the things that I was most impressed with about your practice and the style of practice is the patient education. The thoroughness of the history and the real explanation of what’s going on neurologically and structurally, biomechanically to their bodies over time and how chiropractic can help, specifically Blair stuff. A lot of doctors do patient education. If we did a better job of educating what we do, patients are going to understand that it’s not even low back pain for ten years or three months or four months. It’s not going to necessarily go after one adjustment. The body takes time to heal itself but what we’re doing is putting it in alignment, allowing the brain to work inside out so that it can heal. That’s something that patients don’t get. They don’t understand. It’s not part of the modern Western medical paradigm. When they come here, they really get that education. I think that’s the most important not just for their own healing but for our profession, from an advocacy perspective of allowing our doctors to educate the patients at the time of treatment.
Everything you’re saying is so right on. To me it’s just exciting to know that as a student, you already have this philosophy and this understanding down because that’s just going to allow you to be more successful no matter what you choose to do. I couldn’t be more proud to have you as an advocate for our profession. I think the fact that you have the ability to communicate the message of what chiropractic is. You’ve seen different types of practice. Every time I talk to you, you’re going to a different seminar, learning a different technique and that’s what we need to do. We never need to stop learning. I have been in practice nine years now but I still consider myself a student in this thing called life and a student in the world of chiropractic because I’m always going to be pushing myself to learn to continue to provide for my patients. I think every chiropractor has that kind of heart. I am excited to be able to go to school with you with processing a couple new patients, and I guess just to close with what you want to see for the profession in general. What do you want to see chiropractic look like five years from now and how you think you’re going to be a part of that?
I think that we’ve been struggling to find this unity in the profession and I think it’s possible. I know that a lot of people don’t think it’s possible and I know that there’s so much diversity and so much different perspectives and paradigms that it seems hard to find those bridges that connect us. I really do think that as we get more integrated into the modern medical paradigm, as we are seeing at least the answer to low back pain and neck pain at first, then we get to move on into really how innate intelligence expresses and how important that is to prevent health. I do believe in my lifetime that we can get people under 30 to be seeing chiropractors regularly like they see their dentist. I do believe wholeheartedly that that’s going to lower rates of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, all sorts of other things because the body structurally is aligned. It allows for the intelligence that is innate in us to express and that’s going to lead to health. Stuff is going to always happen but I really do believe that in my lifetime, that will be achieved. It seems crazy right now and it seems very, very outlandish but I don’t think we’re that far away.
I always tell my patients and you’ve heard me say this 100 times, “Structure dictates function.” When your body is in alignment from above down, inside out, you’re going to express life on a different level. I think that the way that you go about learning and the way you go about pursuing the dreams you have, it’s structured but it’s also allowing for inevitable variations to occur and the innate intelligence to be expressed in your life. It’s a really cool thing to see. I’m excited to see what your future holds. I’m excited to call you a colleague and a friend. I look forward to the many successes that I know are going to from you.
I know that at some point in the future, I’ll probably call you back and see how law school is going. Then at some point in a distant future, I will see what is up with the legislations that you are learning to create and pass for our profession. I just see nothing but bright stuff for you and I’m so thankful that you were on my podcast. Thank you for coming and talking about your experiences in interning, your experience as a student leader, your experience in the leadership of our state and the organizations that support legislation and advocacy. I wish you nothing but the best. I will talk to you soon. Thank you so much.
Thank you for having me.
Thanks for tuning in. That was Is Your Head On Straight with me, your host, Dr. Elizabeth Hoefer. I look forward to hearing your opinions. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can always get a hold of me through my website, DrHoefer.com or you can find me at any social media platform. Talk to you soon.