She had originally wanted to be a neurosurgeon, Shaila Callaghan says.
Early in high school, the study of the nervous system sparked her interest and in university she secured a summer position researching at the Toronto Western Hospital.
She published articles and spent time in operating rooms and clinics, yet when the time came for her to decide what she would do after completing her undergraduate degree at McMaster University, she chose to pursue chiropractic.
“From severe neurological disorders that have become much easier for a patient to live with, to just generally being happier and more alert in their lives, every patient is a source of inspiration for me.” —Shaila Callaghan, DC
From neurosurgery to chiropractic – it’s not as big of a stretch as one might think.
“I knew that there were things that could be done to help the nervous system outside of neurosurgery,” Shaila explains.
“Not that chiropractic would ever replace neurosurgery in a million years – it’s a completely different side – but I was so fascinated by how the nervous system could be influenced outside of drugs or surgery that I ended up going the chiropractic route and I’m just amazingly glad I did.”
Shaila received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree in 2011 from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) and she is now practising at Vita Integrative Health Clinic in Toronto.
Did you know? There are only two schools in Canada that offer accredited Doctor of Chiropractic programs: CMCC in Toronto and the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, which is French only. Many students choose to complete their chiropractic training outside of Canada, such as in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Europe or South Africa.
When she sees her patients she may do examinations, re-evaluations, chiropractic treatments, orthotic treatments and shockwave treatments. “Every day is a little different and it really, really keeps me interested and excited,” she says.
Although she uses manual adjusting as her main intervention, she is also concerned with nutrition, supplementation, relaxation techniques and exercise. Leading by example, at least four times per week she puts on her running shoes and begins her day with a trip to the gym.
Shaila says her patients transform her life as much as they say she changes theirs. “From severe neurological disorders that have become much easier for a patient to live with, to just generally being happier and more alert in their lives,” she states, “every patient is a source of inspiration for me and I really just enjoy the time I get to spend with each and every one of them.”
Life and challenges after graduation
Shaila’s time at CMCC equipped her with many skills, including those for reading blood reports and X-rays, diagnosing and adjusting. Her fourth year was a clinical year where she had the opportunity to treat patients in school or external clinics three days per week.
“However, it’s very different operating under the school’s boundaries than it is in your own practice,” she says. Learning how to run a business, and how to do it professionally and ethically for both her and her patients, was the challenge that gave her the most difficulty coming out of school.
Shaila mentions Scott Levine, owner of the clinic where she works, as one of the people who helped her build her business knowledge after she moved to work at his clinic. An experienced chiropractor, he tutors and teaches younger chiropractors about things they may not have known so early in their career.
“Setting goals, how to keep track of your patients, how to know whether your advertising and marketing efforts are being worthwhile for you or not,” Shaila lists as some examples.
“And learning certain things about business, and how to grow a practice and maintain a practice so that I can be happy and fulfilled in my career from now to whenever it ends, which hopefully won’t be very soon,” she adds with a laugh.
Keeping herself updated with books, videos, seminars and other tools, she enjoys that there is no end to learning about new techniques, new diagnoses procedures and new equipment after graduation.
“And it’s really spending as much time as possible learning as much as you can to benefit your patients,” she says, “and if you’re met with a challenge that you otherwise don’t have the answer to, you’ve just got to go out and find it and be a good resource.”
What’s her advice to new grads?
Find an environment that’s right for you
Each type of clinic, ranging anywhere from rehabilitation to wellness, offers a different experience and Shaila recommends that new grads explore their options. “You’ll find one that works the best for you and every chiropractor is slightly different in patient management and treatment,” she says.
“I would encourage other chiropractors to even find a place that they gel really well with other chiropractors,” she adds.
“It’s the most amazing learning environment. We all teach each other,” she says about her co-workers. “We all learn from each other, we all practice on each other, and it really is incredibly motivating to be able to work with four other people who basically want exactly the same thing you want: to make an impact on other people’s lives, keep them healthy, keep them happy, have them inspiring their families to be happier and healthier.”