Dr. Christina Meakim
A majority of chiropractors and upper cervical chiropractors are men. But of the women that are practicing upper cervical few have a larger or more successful practice than Dr. Christina Meakim in San Francisco California. We spoke with Dr. Meakim about her practice success, her ability to network and why so few successful upper cervical practices are woman-owned.
Dr. Davis: All right. So let’s get started. I like to always hear, what inspired you to become an upper cervical chiropractor?
Dr. Meakim: When I was in Chiropractic College I got adjusted wrong in the student clinic and developed severe low back pain and tingling down my right leg. I had already had a car accident and that’s why I was becoming a chiropractor. I was an older student I was 33. After I got, muscle tested and toggled, without X-rays, I developed severe low back pain.
All these smart people just kept saying NUCCA, NUCCA, NUCCA and it didn’t make any sense to me. But I found a NUCCA doctor that was in the town. I had her do a NUCCA correction on me and I stood up straight for the first time in my whole life.
Actually I had a really complicated misalignment. They kept sending my films to people to try to get an idea of how to adjust me because I could tell that it was working very differently and more powerfully than regular chiropractic for me. But it wasn’t quite clearing me.
Then I went to visit Dr. Robert Brooks, I’m sure you know him. He is from Oklahoma and he saved my life. He is the one who first corrected my spine really, and one of my dear friends since then. I precepted in his office and he’s still the person I call when something’s tricky.
Dr. Davis: Awesome.
Dr. Meakim: But that’s how I got there.
Dr. Davis: Yes, Dr. Robert Brooks obviously has been an inspiring influence on so many of us. I know many of his patients have gone on to become upper cervical chiropractors specifically NUCCA doctors.
So tell us more about the process of getting started in practice and the transition from school.
Dr. Meakim: I found the NUCCA work so potent and yet I still resisted becoming a NUCCA doctor. I was into the super intuitive touchy feely stuff and I resisted the rigidity of the NUCCA procedure but every time I got adjusted, I could not believe the relief and ease I felt. I I was going to school for applied kinesiology and NET, That’s what I went to school to do. NUCCA happened while I was there. It was the biggest miracle in my life.
So when I was first practicing, I actually precepted with Dr. Bob Brooks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Then I came out to San Francisco and I worked in someone else’s office for a little while. He wasn’t super excited about being a chiropractor anymore. I came from that happy office that was Bob’s office and it was just like I really want to create my own happy office, so I did.
Growing Your Upper Cervical Practice with a Personal Touch
Dr. Davis: So you started your own practice. So, yes tell us more about that. I’d like to hear about what your vision was when it came to starting your practice.
Dr. Meakim: I have to say my vision was I was going to work in someone else’s office and just have the fun in working and helping people and never the part of managing or any of that. I never saw myself doing that. So it’s a funny thing. I think that’s why I hired a coach because I certainly didn’t learn a lot about that. I just liked helping people feel better.
So I went to work in someone else’s office. I then I worked a little bit at Dr. Zabelin’s office adjusting people. He was super generous in letting me work there to try to establish my practice when the other thing fell through in San Francisco. But there wasn’t enough space for what I was looking for.
At that time I found another person. She was a student when I was in the chiropractic college teaching NUCCA for students in the classroom and the clinic. I found another woman and she wanted to start a practice so we started one together. We found a space, wrote a business plan, borrowed some money and started the practice. We borrowed $90,000 together. And then we started our practice.
Dr. Davis: That was in the San Francisco area, right?
Dr. Meakim: Right, it’s found near Fisherman’s Wharf although I might be moving it this year.
Dr. Davis: Okay. So you got started in San Francisco originally with a partner and so tell me about the growth of the practice. What sort of things you did to help build your initial patient base from a marketing perspective.
Dr. Meakim: Primarily at that point we did networking. I joined three networking groups and I became on the leadership team on all three of them and just started meeting people. I’m kind of a connector person anyway.
As years went by, I’m going to say it was really challenging the first few years before I hired my business coach, he’s a chiropractor too. It was very challenging because we would want to be at work, instead of going out to meetings and making relationships to bring patients in.
I’m not from San Francisco. I moved here to be a chiropractor. So every person I met was a new person.
So then we started doing events and screenings and we’d stand at gyms and do things like that. I’ve done a lot of different things but I found that personal contact with each person was always the best. the referrals.
Dr. Davis: Sure the referrals. You said when you were first starting that you were doing a lot of networking. Tell us more about the success of networking or did that help you to establish that patient base first?
Dr. Meakim: I joined the BNI group and then I was doing that for a little while and then I joined a thing called the Chamber of Commerce business online which is also a leads group and was in that for probably about three years. I also joined probably my favorite one the Professional Women’s Network. I found some of my best friends through that.
I met a lot of amazing people through this because entrepreneurs have a special kind of spirit. You have it. You have to have a different kind make up in your DNA to thank that you have what it takes to create a business from scratch. That youIcan create something the world needs and that it will work.
Dr. Davis: Right. Absolutely, so you got connected with some people that have that entrepreneurial spirit.
Dr. Meakim: Yes, lots of them.
Dr. Davis: Yes and that helped you to start to make some good connections in the community?
Dr. Meakim: Absolutely and then I get a lot of referrals from other doctors who do NUCCA. Obviously direct referrals are always the best from other chiropractors especially but any other health care practitioner or family or friends, co-worker are always the best. And the second best is trying to do things like what you do with trying to have more people find you on the internet or wherever they are looking for help.
Dr. Davis: Absolutely, you’re preaching to choir there. I want to talk more about your experience with business coaching. You mentioned that a couple of times. Talk about some of those things that you found to be the most valuable and the most important that you’ve learned through coaching.
The Importance of Coaching
Dr. Meakim: I think the most important thing I learned was how to do better patient care. Frequently NUCCA doctors are very much like “oh you’re holding come back when it hurts a little bit”. You know that, right? I got to tell you. The more I started checking people the better they did. And you and I know it. People who are out of alignment are growing arthritis. It’s just what happens.
You take care of somebody for years. They’ve got great results or whatever. Then they come back a few years later and you take new films and you see that they grew arthritis. I don’t know about you but when I’m seeing patient’s films over the years that stayed with me and do maintenance with me, they’ve never grown one little speck of arthritis that is visible in an X-ray. I know that’s not the same as an MRI but I have never seen any of my patients grow arthritis under care.
Whereas if they leave and they come back, I have seen what they grow and I show it to them and they go, “Ugh!” And they go, “Okay now I’m committed to maintaining my body.” With my coaches suggestions of looking for evidence we saw that we were not seeing patients often enough in the symptom based model. So we were in that model that a lot of NUCCA doctors have that patients can determine whether they need an adjustent. After checking patients more often I’ll say about 90% of people don’t know when they’re out of alignment.
Dr. Davis: Yes, that’s interesting. So you started to put in more procedures. From what I’m hearing is that you started putting more procedures to evaluate people on more of a schedule rather than a system where they’re basically self-directing their care and they just come in when they start to experience symptoms which as we know is the late stage of being out of alignment. That’s something that you experienced. It could be weeks, months or even years after you’ve been out of alignment.
Dr. Meakim: Yes, some people have no pain for 40 years, 40 years of arthritis. Pain is not a good indicator.
Dr. Davis: Right exactly. So talk about that. I think this is a good discussion for students especially and for doctors as well. What are some ways that you’ve been able to establish some consistent patterns of checking people that works well for the majority of people or for your office?
Dr. Meakim: That was the thing. My business coach kept saying just keep looking because we weren’t doing that. Our care plans were so short and we didn’t talk about maintenance from the beginning. It was just so different. When we started looking, I think we were off greatly. I got this from Bob Brooks so I’m not sure exactly right. I’m sure but he said it was ideal to check and go back and then adjust somebody within 24 hours to 72.
Anyway, that made sense to me, we were checking people. At first we’re checking them once a week or something. Then we went to checking every 72 and then it was like wow! A lot of them are out within 72 hours. Then we started checking in the last year within 24 hours I tried to check somebody especially if it’s not completely corrected. If there was just a reduction on post x-ray instead of a correction. And then I was able to get better correction that would be more stable.
So I checked people now usually for a week or two,three times a week and then I go to twice a week. (Unless they are a particularly severe case.) Then really they have to hold their alignment four times for me which means they hold for 14 days before I consider once a week. Then they do that four times every two weeks. It just makes more sense to me than just sort of guessing. I think it’s kinder to the person, and their body, and their suffering, and their longevity, and their whole family if we keep them in alignment longer.
So I had somebody once say to me that’s just marketing. My response was Nope, that’s just people being in or out of alignment. Their power is off or on. Who do you want to be as a doctor? To determine whether an adjusment is required, I have two posture measuring devices, leg length and we do muscle testing too. So Patients are either really functioning beautifully or they’re out and they deserve to be functioning beautifully as much as possible.
And never should they end up with the crazy burning permanent neuropathies and surgeries that we keep so many of our patients coming in with. Anything I can do to prevent that even if corrective and maintinece chiropractic care is sometimes not initially what patients would like to hear. You’re going to need this for the rest of your life. You’re going to need it this often for this period of time and then you’re going to need to maintain it.
Nobody wants to hear that. We have to get better at educating people. Seriously we have to get better at sharing with them what will actually help their whole bodies and their life so that when they’re 90 years old, they still walk and they can do whatever they want with all their marbles.
Dr. Davis: Yes, that’s a great way of looking at it. It is really. Obviously not everyone is going to choose that and that’s okay. But the goal is to educate someone properly and be able to tell them that this is the best thing for you. This is what would be the best possible outcome for you, for your spine, for your health, for your nervous system.
I love the dental example because I go see my dentist every six months. I haven’t had a cavity in I don’t know how many years but I get checked on a regular basis for my teeth. I take care of them on a daily basis and so forth because my teeth are valuable to me and I want them for the rest of my life.
Dr. Meakim: I was realizing the other day that everything is a choice and choosing to decay whether it’s your mouth or your spine is a choice. One is going to lead to great results and one is not.
Choosing to decay only a little is an interesting choice. Choosing not to decay where you do everything in your power to be kind to your body, because surely the kindest thing you can do for the planet, is be kind to your own body.
Dr. Davis: Right, absolutely. So let’s talk more about your practice. I know over time as your practice grew, as you started to learn some things about how to take care of people better and so forth, working with business coaches you were able to build a large practice and started to bring in some associates and some people that have learned from you. So talk more about that and talk about the importance associates have been to your practice and how that relationship has developed.
Dr. Meakim: It’s interesting because I’m going to just say it. I’ve never met someone with as much drive as I have other than one other person that went out and started her own practice. I had wanted to train with Bob originally but, I did not feel like I was supposed to remain in Oklahoma. So I moved out here. But Bob had the closest practice model that I was looking for at that time.
I think that I love to teach NUCCA. I saw that at the chiropractic college, I have had more than one associate they said well Dr. Meakim, you make it easy. It’s not that NUCCA is easy. It’s just that it doesn’t have to be so complicated to learn how to do it. Training somebody to mark X-rays and take perfect films as fast as possible has always been fun for me.
I think it’s really training them though to have the drive to go out and create a business in your business, that’s the part that’s the most challenging. I think as far as training your doctors because they have to want to step up and put themselves out there as someone who’s going to provide a service for people as a caretaker of the body, as a chiropractor. That’s the part that I found the most challenging to train new people.
Dr. Davis: What are some of the things that you look for when you’re hiring a new associate or you’re talking and interviewing students? What are some of the things that you look for in them that have been good indicators for you for success in practice?
Dr. Meakim: To do NUCCA. Of course I train almost every doctor how to do NUCCA. I’ve only had two doctors come with NUCCA training. But I think it really matters whether they’re driven because I’ve had people learn how to adjust within a day, the stance, the pull, everything. I think the thing that matters the most is, they have to be able to tell people what they actually need and not just tell them what they want to hear. I hired a lot of women and I’m going to say it. And women doctors can be pleasers. I think the male docs just say ” you need this.”
It’s an interesting journey because I would love it if there were as many successful women chiropractors out there, that were really growing slamming businesses that were doing amazing service, that we are training centers like mine can be. I haven’t seen a lot. Have you?
Dr. Davis: No, there’s a much smalller percentage when it comes to chiropractic in general but upper cervical as well. So why do you think that is?
Dr. Meakim: Which part, the upper cervical or the chiropractic? I know that part of it is and I’m just going to say women often take off time to have a family . I’m just old and I don’t have babies. Haha, so I have the drive and the time. Many women docs take a break in their career sometimes to have children and I didn’t have that.
Dr. Davis: Right. Some of it just comes down to just priorities.
Dr. Meakim: Yes, I think family, yes.
Dr. Davis: Their priorities are maybe different and that leads them in a different direction and that’s fine and that’s great. But definitely that might be a big factor involved in why there’s not as many women who are doing what you’re doing which is having a real training center for new doctors. So let’s talk more about that. So if someone comes to work with you, a new doctor, a preceptor, whatever it may be, what sort of things should they expect from your clinic and from the environment that you have?
Dr. Meakim: I work best with someone who has a lot of questions and a lot of drive and wants to learn as quickly as possible. I have a super quick brain, You have to be able to keep up.
I’m looking for someone that really wants to share chiropractic with people and have a super open mind and an open heart and who wants to grow their business in my business. I like to help people become better at things. I think it’s fun.
Dr. Davis: On an on-going basis you have opportunities available, is that correct?
Dr. Meakim: Oh yes. If somebody came to me and was like, “I want to share chiropractic with the planet right now and I want to do it in your office with NUCCA.” That person with that energy would be having a slamming business in about a month.
Dr. Davis: So more than anything, you’re always looking for the right people.
Dr. Meakim: Yes, I’m looking for great energy.
Dr. Davis: Yes.
Dr. Meakim: Because you can train the rest, all the procedures, all the systems, NUCCA, you can train all of that. You can even help energy but it’s a choice whether someone succeeds in my office or not.
Dr. Davis: If someone was interested in an opportunity in your office, what’s the best way for them to go about learning more about that?
Dr. Meakim: Call the office. 415-771-7071.
Dr. Davis: Okay and then the website?
Dr. Meakim: I would love us to have a team of amazing doctors. Right now I have two people working for me part time and one person full time. I’m always looking for someone else who really has the drive.
Dr. Davis: Very cool and the web site is www.sffamilyspinalcare.com?
Dr. Meakim: Hmm and I’m thinking like I said I’m moving location and changing the name again but the phone number will be the same. And my name will be the same of course.
Dr. Davis: Just wrapping up today Dr. Meakim, what is the one thing that you would like to leave? I got a lot of students and doctors out there that are reading this. So what’s one final thought that you’d like to leave with everyone?
Dr. Meakim: I guess if you’re going to do this, do it. I got a quote recently. I think it was like 73% of people in Chiropractic College don’t end up being chiropractors. They don’t end up having a business and a practice or anything. I hope that quote isn’t real but I heard it from my coach so I’m pretty sure it’s real.
That means a lot of us are putting a lot of time and energy in training that is amazing and neccesary. We learn a lot about the human body and how to care for people and it’s a lot of money and a lot of time to do the schooling involved. We can do it. Just do it. Just get in the business. Make it happen. Go out and meet people. Hand out cards. Join networking groups. Do screenings…meet people. Grow a business. Help people. If you are going to do it, freaking do it.
I think that there’s too many of us out there not taking advantage of it. You don’t have to be a chiropractor if you don’t want to be, but they can be one if they want. Rock and help man! Do it. Make a difference on the planet. You can only do that if you are actually helping a bunch of people have a better quality of life. Contribute to the planet.
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