Dr. Robert Brooks is a well-known and well-respected leader in the upper cervical community. With over 40 years of practice experience, we certainly could learn a lot from Dr. Brooks about marketing and communication. Enjoy this recent interview that I did with Dr. Brooks!
Dr. Bill Davis: Dr. Brooks, the first thing I would like to ask is how did you get into chiropractic?
Dr. Robert Brooks: Dr. Davis, great speaking with you today. The way I got into chiropractic is, I turned 17 in April. I graduated high school in May. I was on the way to college to become a mathematician. I ran into a chiropractor in July. He said that, “there is a power of life inside a human body that stops when you die. He said that, “misalignments in the spine limit that power and that makes people sick and when you correct the spine, they get well again.” And I said, “You know what, that is what I want to do with my life.”
So at age 17, I am on the way to Davenport. I was going to Palmer College. I matriculated in Palmer, say in September of 1963.
Dr. Bill Davis: Wow, so in 1963 you went to Palmer College. When did you first find out about upper cervical and started going in that direction?
Dr. Robert Brooks: Bill I got out of Palmer College and I was doing a full spine segmental practice at the time and I started a little practice in Tulsa with no parking. And after 9 months, I moved to a small town, a little town in Tahlequa in Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee nation in terms of Oklahoma. And it was also one time the hometown of David Letterman. I went there and opened a practice. I saw 10 new patients my first day opened. I did about a hundred patients a day in the first month. Between 150 and 200 patients a day for the next 3 years doing a segmental practice. But then I purchased a set of D.D. Palmer’s Greenbooks at a bookstore in Davenport when they had found some extra cases of them and they were trying to get rid of them. So, I was at night laying in bed reading D.D. Palmer’s Greenbooks and by doing that I said, “You know, there is got to be a better way to take care of the spine.” So in 1975, after 3 years of practice, I actually closed the door on the practice, and I spent the next several months looking at all the different technique courses I could find. When I reopened 18 months later, I had decided to be a upper cervical. I started with a kind of a modified toggle. I went to Blair and then with NUCCA with Ralph Gregory. That was kind of my path and I have been doing upper cervical work exclusively since about 1979. So 35 years.
Dr. Bill Davis: So when did you end up in Tulsa?
Dr. Robert Brooks: After 3 years, I opened up in Tahlequa again. I spent the next 6 or 7 years actually trying to clean up things that I have done earlier in practice. In 1987, I moved both practices back into my Tulsa office, in the location where we are now on the 31st floor of a 32 story building just South of downtown.
Dr. Bill Davis: At 17 you understood chiropractic philosophy or at least you started to and then eventually the philosophy is what led you to upper cervical.
Dr. Robert Brooks: It is the idea that you can release the power of life with a simple correction and that the body will sustain that correction. Make the correction once and not have to do it over and over and over again but to make it and have it sustain it, or to last for a period of time. I think that was the thing that became attractive to me and caused to change my language from chiropractic adjustment to chiropractic correction. If you can demonstrate that you have moved the spine to a normal position or at 85% of the normal position to me that is considered a correction.
Dr. Bill Davis: Yes the idea that the spine can be in an aligned position and stay there for long periods of time that is where health really begins, right?
Dr. Robert Brooks: Absolutely, getting that spine corrected in a way that the nervous system can open up those cognitive, emotional and sensory pathways as well as motor pathway that allows and manifest to the full expression of life.
Dr. Bill Davis: It is a beautiful thing.
Dr. Bill Davis: So you have been practicing chiropractic for a long period of time, when did you actually start teaching others about your communication techniques and the way that you are communicating with your patients?
Dr. Robert Brooks: When I started with upper cervical work that must have been in 1979 for about the next 5 years I was really focused on my skill to be able to restore the spine back to a normal position. During that time I really did not want to talk much to patients. People would ask me what I did and because my work is so profound I just say it is “magic”. I got away with it for 5 years. But after doing that for 5 years, it occurred to me that at some point I need to actually be able to communicate what I do to people. So in 1984, I started asking every patient on every patient visit, are there any questions. And over the next 5 years what I learned was that the very same questions arise in virtually everyone’s mind as they try to relate to what we do and integrate that into their life.
By the mid-1990s, I noticed that everybody else is having trouble communicating what they did to people as well. That is when I began teaching a little program that I simply call it, “Taking care of people.” And it is the communication and relationship skills to be able to be with people as they develop through the stages of becoming a lifetime patient and have the appropriate communication pieces in each one of those stages. So back in 1995, I actually began introducing people to those questions and the answers to those questions in terms of creating contacts for doctors to use to be able to relate to people. Of course, the experience on the patient side is, most of those questions arise some sort of a doubt, fear, worry or concern and when you know that those questions are coming and you know that this represents the stage of development this person is in and you can actually give them information to support the stage they are in. It allows people to really integrate what we do into their lives.
Dr. Bill Davis: Yes, it is a powerful when the patient makes the decision themselves right?
Dr. Robert Brooks: Absolutely. In chiropractic we talk about non-interference. If you are practicing in a non-interference model the key is to allow the patient to make all their own decisions which empowers them as they go along rather than the doctor having the power and the patient being dependent. There is a cute little thing I do in my program, I will give you as a gift today, but I may not say directly to you Bill, but bear with me for a second. But here is the way it looks. “Your body is smarter than I am and I am smart enough to know that.”
Dr. Davis: Right. Absolutely.
Dr. Robert Brooks: That gives you access to your own wisdom rather than me, thinking of the answers for you.
Dr. Bill Davis: You do not have to manipulate or coerce someone, you just help them make the best decision.
Dr. Robert Brooks: And you don’t have to teach the 33 principles or the safety pin cycle.
Dr. Bill Davis: The “Taking Care of People” program is something that I have taken myself and it has been a real blessing to me when I was in practice in order to communicate with my patients and also communicating through the written word as well. I highly recommend it.
Dr. Robert Brooks: Well thank you. I appreciate that. I run into people now because I have been doing it almost 20 years. I ran into people who took the class 10 or 15 years ago and they are still using the materials. So yes, you use materials every single day. Another thing that has been happening over the last few years, that more doctors are bringing their team or their staff to the programs. And what happens is the team or staff kind of shifts from having a job to recognizing that this is a lifestyle and how significant what they do is to support it.
Dr. Bill Davis: That is great.
Dr. Robert Brooks: Yes, it is really has been a beautiful thing to watch as well.
Dr. Bill Davis: Any time you can teach your team to be better communicators of what we do is a win-win for everybody involved.
Dr. Bill Davis: Before we finish up just want to see if you would like to say anything else to our readers about upper cervical marketing or communication or what do you feel is the most important thing that doctors need to know when it comes to marketing and communication.
Dr. Robert Brooks: There is a couple of things that I would may be say about marketing and communication but I am going to shift gears for a moment. Dr. Davis as I was at the International Research and Philosophy Symposium at Sherman College listening to presentations of case histories and some presentations of historical perspectives and there was a panel for upper cervical chiropractic there and it was really obvious at this particular panel that a lot of us are starting to take a look at research at a whole new way and that is the advent of the MRI and the phase contrast MRI. We are right on the verge of being able to identify the tractorization of the brainstem.
We are right on the verge of being able to identify the vascular components of the upper cervical misalignment and how blood flow into and out of the brain is being affected and how the disruption of the flow of cerebral spinal fluid creates a cork like effect and that enlarges the ventricles and that creates a banging mechanism against the side of the skull and the vascular component changes intracranial compliance. Research right now in the upper cervical world is reaching a whole new level. Right now research coming out of chiropractic institutions but its reached a level that these projects to validate and create reliability for assessment measures to actually be able to monitor the effect on health and well-being, to monitor the mechanisms involved to have a valid assessment measure and in the incidence in the population. That is really going to be the future of chiropractic in my opinion. Right now the upper cervical world seems to be taking the lead in that.
In terms of marketing the upper cervical practice, there is a new website that just has been launched and it is called the ucmonograph.org. That website contains a progressive on-going evaluation of the detection and correction of the misaligned spine. The previous upper cervical monographs were published by NUCCA.
There were 55 issues of monographs published in 7 volumes and all of those are available online at the ucmonograph.org website as well as the standards of practice. It is really the scientific stuff behind what can be done in the upper cervical world. I wanted to put that out there first and second, I would say what’s important for marketing the upper cervical practice is the sustainability of the correction and the sustainability of living with your spine corrected. I think that is going to be something that more and more people are looking for. There are so many chiropractors in practice today in America and there are so many people who have already utilized chiropractic to some degree but they did not find what they were looking for. They did not find that sustainability.
I think right now whether it is on social media or it is on email blasts or speaking at your local chamber of commerce events, the places where you do screenings, but it is basically detecting the misalignment of the spine relating it to the person that you are working with and then allowing them to understand that they can live with their life compromised in that way or live without. The way I like to see it is suffering is optional.
Dr. Bill Davis: Right.
Dr. Robert Brooks: I hope that I kind of answered your question about the marketing and communication.
Dr. Bill Davis: Absolutely. It is an exciting time Dr. Brooks for sure when it comes to the research that has been coming out in the past few years. And communicating that research to our patients and our potential new patients in our offices, online and in our communities is an important part of any kind of marketing that we do. And secondly, as you said, the sustainability of the upper cervical correction is a unique differentiating factor of the upper cervical approach that should be a focus of our marketing as well.
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