Introducing the 2019-2020 VA Chiropractic Residents

A new cohort of residents has joined the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system’s Chiropractic Residency Program this fall. Several chiropractors participating in the program will continue ACA’s blog series on the residencies over the next year, sharing their experiences and lessons learned working as part of an integrated hospital team.

The residencies were launched in 2014 to provide participants with advanced clinical training in complex case management. Residents are mentored by senior VA chiropractors and collaborate with other healthcare providers in team care. They also learn via interprofessional rotations in various hospital departments and gain experience in hospital practices, policies and procedures.

Below the residents who will be sharing their experiences with ACA Blogs tell us a little about themselves and how their journey led them to the VA.

Jonathan Free, DC

I’m Dr. Jonathan Free, and I am the 2019-2020 Connecticut VA chiropractic resident. I am a 2018 graduate of Logan University, earning awards for clinical excellence and service. I am from Nazareth, Pa., and received my Bachelor of Science in Emergency Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh.

Prior to training as a chiropractor, I worked as a paramedic. I had a front-row seat in observing how teamwork in a clinical setting was not simply an option, but crucial to effective patient care. This sparked my interest in working with other providers and seeking out interdisciplinary opportunities when I entered Logan College of Chiropractic in the fall of 2015.

My clinical experience at Logan included a semester in student and outpatient clinics, respectively, and was followed by investing my 9th and 10th trimesters in a VA clerkship in Cincinnati, Ohio, under the instruction of Michael Clay, DC, and Frank Bucki, DC. While there, I had the opportunity to treat veterans and shadow other specialties, including physiatry, acupuncture, physical therapy and cardiology. I seized the opportunity to observe the interdisciplinary pain team and programming from Whole Health, strengthening my interests in team-based veterans care and public health. Through my VA clerkship experience, I developed a passion for treating veterans and began to understand the importance of finding novel solutions for veterans involving active care and self-management.

Since starting in Connecticut, I have been immersed in veterans care and have participated in numerous clinical rotations under different physiatrists at clinic locations in West Haven and Newington.  My interaction with veterans and countless other providers continues to reaffirm my goal of pursuing a future in the VA as a chiropractor.

  Peter Hibl, DC

I’m Dr. Peter Hibl and I’m the current chiropractic resident at the VA in Buffalo, N.Y. I graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in December 2018. Before chiropractic school, I attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where I received my Bachelor of Science degree, and then later completed my Master of Integrative Physiology.

I learned about the VA clerkship program one year into chiropractic school and it immediately became my goal. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a six-month rotation at the VA in Palo Alto, Calif., working under the supervision of Rob Walsh, DC, and Alec Schielke, DC. The clerkship was a challenging and rewarding experience that taught me how to operate efficiently within a clinical setting, clearly and thoroughly document exam findings, communicate with patients, manage complex cases, and interact with providers from other disciplines. During my clerkship I completed rotations in departments such as Neuroradiology, Pain Management, Physical Therapy and Spinal Cord Injury. These experiences showed me the unique strengths of each discipline and the important role that chiropractors play as part of an integrated healthcare team. I grew as an individual and as a clinician during my clerkship and I found the opportunity to serve this unique patient population very rewarding–it gave me a thirst for more and inspired me to apply for the residency program.

Between graduation and starting residency, I moved to Berlin, Germany, to join my wife who was working there at the time. I took this time to learn German, ride my road bike, enjoy a few fine German beers and recharge. I am excited now for the opportunity to be a resident and gain further clinical training within the VA setting.

Enya Katz, DC

My name is Dr. Enya Katz. I grew up in Long Beach, Calif. After graduating high school, I spent a gap year abroad in Jerusalem on a music and art program. I then returned to the states and attended college in New York at Manhattan’s Yeshiva University, where I graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, an associate degree in Judaic studies, and minors in Studio Art and Education.

I continued my education at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic (UBCC), where I graduated in May 2018 with honors. During my time at UBCC, I completed a clerkship at the West Haven, Conn., VA hospital. I also earned a Master of Human Nutrition while at school for my chiropractic degree. My nutrition degree is focused on functional medicine, which emphasizes a thorough history, exam and lab work to help people with conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, etc.

After graduation, I moved to South Florida where I worked as an associate chiropractor in Miami. I then moved back to Southern California to be part of the team at the VA Greater Los Angeles.

Matthew Knieper, DC

My name is Dr. Matthew Knieper, the current VA St. Louis resident. Prior to moving to Missouri, I was born and raised in central Michigan, where I grew up on my family’s livestock and crop farm. I was active in 4-H and showed cattle, sheep and hogs at the local county fair. Beyond the farm, I enjoyed sports in high school, including cross country and basketball. After high school, I made the (short) trek to East Lansing earning my undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

Four years later I packed my bags and headed west to Iowa, where I graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic. While in school, I was quite active on campus as a tutor for many different classes—one of my favorites was biochemistry. I was also a teaching assistant for physical diagnosis, neuromuscular diagnosis, and passive and active care courses. I completed a research honors project assessing interprofessional education in chiropractic students and, earlier this year, presented our findings at ACC-RAC in Baltimore and at WFC-ECU in Berlin, Germany. I completed an eight-month clerkship at VA Central Iowa under the mentorship of Nathan Hinkeldey, DC, DACRB. During this time, I gained an appreciation of the role chiropractors have working in an integrative VA healthcare setting. It was here that I learned more about the residency and knew this was an opportunity I needed to pursue.

Here at VA St. Louis, we are incorporated into the Whole Health program. Recent expansion of care has afforded me the chance to experience a variety of clinic atmospheres and rotations. In the first few months I have attended educational rotations with Interdisciplinary Pain Rehab, Pain Interventionist, Radiology, Acupuncture, and Mental Health grand rounds.

I’ve already noticed not only personal growth, but my growth as a clinician. I look forward to what the future holds. My goal is to continue within the VA healthcare system as it affords many opportunities for clinical practice, research interests and student training programs.

Alyssa Troutner, DC

My name is Alyssa Troutner. I am the current chiropractic resident at the VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System, working under program director Paul Dougherty, DC. I grew up in a small town in Western New York, near Chautauqua Lake, and it is so good to be back “home” for the next year. Prior to beginning this position, I graduated in 2015 from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology, Health and Society and then went on in December 2018 to receive my DC degree and Master of Science in Sports Science and Rehabilitation from Logan University. While I was a student at Logan, I was selected to complete a clerkship at the St. Louis VA Medical Center under the supervision of Pamela Wakefield, DC, as well as the Affinia Healthcare System, an integrated Federally Qualified Health Center under the supervision of Patrick Battaglia, DC. I am very grateful to have had these training experiences because they largely influenced my decision to apply for a 2019 – 2020 VA residency position. During this time, I was heavily involved in the Student American Chiropractic Association (SACA) and was able to serve as the chapter secretary, vice president and ultimately one of the annual Leadership Conference co-chairs. Additionally, I was able to co-found the Logan University Women’s Leadership Council and represent the University as a student ambassador.

In my opinion, there is no better patient population to work with as a chiropractor than our nation’s veterans. Over the course of my last two trimesters at Logan, I began to appreciate the benefit that chiropractic services have on patients that require non-pharmacological approaches to musculoskeletal conditions as well as the impact that chronic pain can have on their lives. As a result, my professional interests grew to include chronic pain management strategies such as pain science education and cognitive behavioral therapy, which I can continue studying as a resident. I am also enrolled in acupuncture courses through McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and will be able to treat patients with this modality. Additionally, I have been given many opportunities to foster my interests in academic writing and research and to give various presentations, even if they are a bit outside of my comfort zone.

I am ecstatic that I was given the opportunity to work in this healthcare system under the guidance of Drs. Dougherty, Christopher Farrell and Lindsay Rae. With their mentorship, I have been able to practice at the top of my education and learn something new from every patient case. I am frequently humbled by my patients and the New York Chiropractic College students that rotate through our clinics. It is a warm and welcoming educational setting for all.

I am looking forward to my upcoming rotations and hope to continue to become a more well-rounded doctor for my patients.

Rebekah Wilks, DC

I’m grateful to be the 2019-2020 VA Los Angeles chiropractic resident. I feel like I walk into a dream every day, as this VA has the largest Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department in the nation and provides the unique opportunity to be a member of the incoming class of medical residents. Additionally, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Enya Katz as part of an overlapping chiropractic residency in which she has mentored me through this unique transition.

I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Western States in December 2018 and have a 2007 degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the Texas Tech University Honors College. As a non-traditional student, I’ve had the opportunity to gain life experiences in the White House, U.S. Senate, and aboard cruise ships as a television show host.

While in chiropractic school, I served as student body president, vice president of the Portland Student Alliance for Integrative Medicine, national liaison to the ACA Rehab Council, national chair for F4CP, and legislative liaison for SACA. I was granted the chance to participate in a full-time student clerkship at the American Lake VA near Tacoma, Wash. Here, I learned a variety of skills from Ed Bednarz, DC, and Clinton Daniels, DC—the perfect mentor duo! They taught me case (and time) management, documentation pearls, and set up rotations through neurosurgery, acupuncture, and the groundbreaking integrative mobility clinic (three doctors in the room with ONE patient at the same time).

I continue to be grateful every day for this unique opportunity to serve our nation’s heroes under such a knowledgeable mentor, Valerie Johnson, DC, DABCI, DACBN, as we participate in this transformative piece of chiropractic history.