Careers & Education

Dr Neil Gardner on chiropractic neurology

Neurological disorders, their specialty

Petre Williams-Raynor

Sunday, July 22, 2012    

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THEIR special gift is to help people with neurological disorders, among them autism and dyslexia as well as movement and balance disorders — all without the use of invasive procedures such as surgery.

These pros are called chiropractic neurologists.

Career & Education speaks this week to Dr Neil Gardner, Olympian and director of Gardner Chirporatic Neurology (GCN), located off Braemar Avenue in Kingston, for insight into the profession.

The former Wolmer’s Boys School student holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Michigan — an institution he attended on an athletic scholarship — and a doctor of chirporatic degree from Parker College of Chiropractic.

The 37-year-old, who represented Jamaica in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a semifinalist, graduated Parker College — from where he also holds a bachelor’s in health and wellness and anatomy — suma cum laude and was valedictorian.

Gardner, whose wife Carolyn is the chief operations officer at GCN, also holds diplomate status from the American Chiropractic Neurology Board since September 2010.

GCN, which opened its doors last May, offers chiropractic adjustments, laser therapy treatments, sport injury rehabilitation, sports neurology programme, neurospinal function scans, as well as chiropractic and neurological examinations. They also sell a number of products, including back supporters, neck and low back orthotics and, soon, neutraceuticals.

The company’s clientele include a number of Jamaica’s top athletes, ministers of government, business executives, civil servants, and “the wonderful members of our general public”, Gardner said.

Who is a chiropractic neurologist?

A chiropractic neurologist is a specialist in the chiropractic profession who has completed a minimum of 300 hours of clinical training, a written board exam and a practical examination to qualify for diplomate status by the American Chiropractic Neurology Board. In addition to evaluating for pathologies as medical doctors do, a chiropractic neurologist evaluates for subtle changes in the function of the nervous system. It is this expertise in detecting subtle changes in function that sets a chiropractic neurologist apart from other specialists.

What is the value of the work that you do?

In addition to addressing health concerns such as asthma, migraine headaches and chronic pain — cases normally seen by a chiropractor — the chiropractic neurologist uses a non-invasive, non-medicinal approach to treat certain neurological disorders, such as learning and attention disorders, vertigo, developmental disorders, movement disorders, balance disorders, autism, and dyslexia. Environmental stimulations, such as adjustment of the spine or extremities, and the use of light, heat, water, olfactory or auditory stimulations and electricity are used to achieve remarkable healing results.

What was it that prompted your entry into the field?

In 2004, I was informed by the president of the Jamaican Olympic Association that a scholarship was being offered to qualifying Olympians, to study chiropractic. Upon investigation of what a chiropractor does, I realised that this was what I always wanted to do, but did not realise that it existed as a profession. Imagine, to be able to help people get well without having to give them medications or perform surgeries. Amazing!

What are the academic requirements for entry into the field?

To become a chiropractor, a prospective student must complete 90 semester hours of undergraduate courses with a minimum grade point average of 2.50. Courses include biological sciences, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. The doctor of chiropractic must then complete four years of training, which includes two years of basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, embryology, pharmacology/toxicology, etc). The next two years of chiropractic training include the clinical sciences (diagnostic imaging, differential diagnosis, physical diagnosis, radiographic examination, clinical nutrition, clinical neurology, etc).

What other skills and/or competencies are required for entry and performance in the field?

No other skills are required as most will be taught during the course of study.

What do you enjoy about the work that you do?

I most enjoy the gratification of having someone, who came to us as a last resort, thank me for returning them to good health, or, as was the case with one of my patients in Texas, thanking me for giving him his wife back. When I am able to really help someone, I feel like it is worth it.

What are the challenges you face on the job?

The biggest challenge is the fact that many of my medical colleagues do not know anything about chiropractic and some have misconceptions about it.

How much can one earn as a chiropractic neurologist on an annual basis?

In the United States, the average yearly income for a chiropractic neurologist is between $54,400 to $81,600.

Why would you advise anyone to get into this line of work?

I would recommend that students considering a career in the health sciences seriously consider chiropractic as a viable option because they will learn how to help persons with their hands and without the need for reliance on medications or surgeries.

Trained as a chiropractic neurologist, what sort of employment options are open to you?

A chiropractic neurologist may decide to open a private practice, where he/she may serve as a referral destination for other chiropractors, medical doctors, other health professionals or may work as a specialist/consultant in a health care facility/hospital. He/she may also lecture in health science courses. Many of these options are not currently available in Jamaica, but with time we hope to see these opportunities begin to open up.

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