As a leader in SACA, this is easily the most common question that I hear. Every doctor of chiropractic wants to know, “What can I do to make sure the next class of graduates is as good as I am?”
Most clinicians’ favorite offer is shadowing time. I have taken advantage of this several times over the past three years, near home, near school and even on a couple of long trips. Experiencing the variety of offices, services and settings that DCs have built significantly enriched my vision of what I can one day accomplish. I have seen sports practices, family practices, neurological specialty and geriatric treatment. I have compared characteristics of urban and rural settings. When I wrote a reflection on all these settings, even the doctors I visited said they could learn something from that variety.
Unfortunately, students have only limited time to dedicate to shadowing. During the first two years of chiropractic college, even finding time for buying groceries is difficult, much less traveling to see a practice. Nonetheless, for those DCs who truly want to have an impact on the future of chiropractic, numerous other ways exist to help students.
At the most obvious level, for three to four years of our lives, what benefits the chiropractic colleges benefits the students. Contributing financially to growth funds allows the school to provide us with resources we need, be they comfortable study spaces, radiology equipment maintenance or sufficient clinic staff. Come to the events that the campus sponsors, from workshops to homecoming. Your presence sends a strong signal of support and validation and gives students the opportunity to seek you out.
Want to make an impact that is more targeted? Make an offer directly to a student. Help pay for travel and registration for a seminar; they’re less expensive for students, but we still have to ask Uncle Sam to increase our loans when we want to attend. Student ACA chapters across the country spend much of their time on fundraising, trying to make participation in NCLC and the student leadership conference possible.
If your favorite student is less of a traveler, help him or her get the books and equipment that will lead to academic success. Yochum and Rowe’s Essentials, a good ophthalmoscope and a portable table all contributed to my learning experience, and I would have skimped on them without the generosity of my own supporters.
If personal contact is what you like, make it a point to become a mentor to a student. Go beyond hypothetical moral support; set a time to talk each month. I have had mentors who reminded me of my strengths when I was feeling burned out and suggested new approaches when I came into “impossible” leadership situations. It can have a profound impact on the direction of the student’s future, so make it constructive and focused on the student’s goals.
There could certainly be a variety of approaches I have not listed, so be creative and think about what you could offer. Push yourself to make it substantial. Don’t just raise the next generation of chiropractors, elevate us.