By Amanda Donohue
Canadian-born Amy Bowzaylo, DC, is the clinical director and CEO of InTouch Chiropractic Clinic, in Bahrain. She is the only licensed chiropractic physician in the country. As a student at the Palmer College of Chiropractic San Jose campus in the 1990s, Dr. Bowzaylo served as president of the sports council for a term. After graduation, she stayed in the San Jose and San Francisco areas working in two multidisciplinary clinics and then moved with her husband to Saudi Arabia, where he was relocated for work. Of the 10 years spent living in Saudi Arabia, she served seven as the director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Saad Specialist Hospital in Al Khobar. Realizing that 34 percent of her patients were coming from Bahrain, she opened her own independent practice in the country and has been there since 2011. She is also the communications officer for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Chiropractic Federation (EMMECF), which includes the Gulf Cooperation Council, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Iran and Palestine.
Tell me how and why you became a chiropractic physician.
I landed on my head attempting a double-twisting double-back somersault in gymnastics when I was 12. I was lucky to not break my neck, but after five days of severe discomfort and bilateral arm pain and numbness, I asked my mum to take me to the chiropractor; after the first adjustment, the numbness and tingling were gone. I still had neck pain due to the sprain/strain, but the unrelenting numbness and tingling subsided. I thought, Wow! This is a great profession to get into; I want to be a chiropractor someday. I still see my chiropractor, Dr. Kurt Deutscher, every summer when I go home, and we exchange treatment.
Why did you choose to attend a chiropractic college in the States?
Have you spent a winter in Alberta, Canada? Seriously though, Palmer West had the ethos I was looking for: strong sciences and an evidence-based curriculum along with a potentially great, budding sports medicine program.
How did you make the decision to work in Saudi Arabia?
I followed my husband to Saudi for his work. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004, and after referring my patients from Udhailiyah to Saad Specialist Hospital, I was offered a position within the hospital.
Did you have to learn Arabic?
Yes, I learned basic Arabic for day-to-day living (shopping, etc.), but the official language of the hospital is English.
Are you able to communicate with all patients?
My patients are Arabs, English-speaking expats and non-English-speaking expats. I can get by in Arabic, French and German and, of course, English. We sometimes run into trouble with other languages, but English is the common denominator, so we can usually work it out. I have staff that speak English, Arabic and Tagalog. It gets pretty comical sometimes!
How were the relationships among the DCs, the PTs and the occupational therapists at Saad Specialist Hospital (in Saudi Arabia)?
When I first got there, they weren’t great. After being at Saad for six months, I was promoted to the position of director of physical medicine and rehabilitation. My first task was to “rehabilitate” the department. It took almost two years, but we did it and had a great department of eight chiropractors, 47 physical therapists, three occupational therapists, two speech therapists and two orthotist/prothotists. We provided comprehensive integrated care and were recognized several times as a leading department in the hospital. I am really proud of my staff from Saad. Many have emigrated to the USA and Canada and are now working in multidisciplinary clinics there.
Are most or all Middle Easterners open to chiropractic?
Yes they are. There is a growing awareness about chiropractic as more and more people travel abroad and are exposed to it.
Are there skeptics as in the United States?
Of course, but I haven’t run into that many. I have strong relationships with several hospitals in Bahrain and currently work at the American Mission Hospital one day a week as a musculoskeletal consultant.
Why do you think the need for chiropractic is so strong in Bahrain?
The lifestyle here is very sedentary: partly due to the bad habits of Western fast food influence, partly due to urban planning that has progressed with limited walking areas and partly due to the prevalence of chronic disease in the region.
What are your plans for the future?
I have opened a multidisciplinary clinic here in Bahrain and am also looking at other opportunities to expand in the region.
Do you plan to stay in Bahrain long term?
We are here for the long haul. Bahrain is my home away from home.
What are your hobbies?
Paddle boarding, running, rock climbing, swimming, reading, cooking for friends and walking with my dogs.
Amy Bowzaylo, DC, ACA member since 2013. Send suggestions for future member profiles to ACAnews@acatoday.org.