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Dr. Rick Acquaro, an advocate for Palmer and chiropractic

Dr. Rick Acquaro leaning on adjustment table

Still youthful in appearance and reflecting the fit and healthy lifestyle espoused by his profession, Rick Acquaro, D.C., continues to make significant contributions to Palmer College and the field of chiropractic. "When you are so fulfilled by your profession, it's only natural to want to help those coming behind you," says Dr. Acquaro. A 1965 graduate of Palmer's Davenport Campus, the road to success was not easy for Dr. Acquaro and his colleagues during a time when chiropractic was not widely understood or accepted.

"I first became interested in chiropractic when I injured my back playing high school football in Daytona Beach," he says. "I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, then a physical therapist. Eventually I ended up in the chiropractic office of Frank D'Ambra, D.C., a Palmer grad (Davenport '57). After receiving chiropractic treatment, Dr. Acquaro was able to successfully return to playing sports. Over time several of Dr. Acquaro's classmates were also treated by Dr. D'Ambra and it was then that Rick Acquaro decided that becoming a chiropractor was what he wanted to pursue.

As Dr. Acquaro's relationship with Dr. D'Ambra grew, he learned more about Palmer College. "Dr. D'Ambra was a faithful follower of Dr. B.J. Palmer," Dr. Acquaro says. "I was always interested in science, and the more I learned the more I knew that Palmer was the place for me. So in 1961 I enrolled in Palmer Davenport."

While a student at Palmer, Dr. Acquaro met and married his wife, Kay. (Their daughter, Dawn Funk, works in the Student Services Dept. on the Florida Campus.) It was during this time that Douglas B. Cox, D.C. (Davenport '63), introduced and taught the Gonstead System in the Palmer curriculum. "I became totally immersed in the specificity and science of the Gonstead Technique and accredit much of my subsequent success in practice to the application of Gonstead patient care," he says. Upon graduation, Dr. Acquaro returned to Florida, accepting an associate position in Gainesville working for Marion Weaver, D.C. (Davenport '55).

After completing his contract with Dr. Weaver, Dr. Acquaro accepted a second associateship position with Herb Sweatland, D.C., who maintained a very busy practice in Fort Myers, Fla. Dr. Sweatland brought Dr. Acquaro on board to help grow a satellite practice. "I'll always remember what he said: ‘You don't go into practice to a waiting market, you've got to create your own market.' " Dr. Acquaro worked hard to aggressively grow the satellite office from about six or seven patients to 45-50 per day. "When necessary I would even treat people in their homes," he adds. "For the patient, it was truly affordable, accessible health care, to which I was totally committed."

In June 1967, Dr. Acquaro opened his first office and solo practice. "It was on 2nd Street in Holly Hill (Florida)," he says. "I had a three-room office. I leased my first X-ray machine and bought an old Relaxo table from the Palmer Clinic. We had one combination treatment/X-ray room, a waiting area with six chairs and my wife was my receptionist." As a new chiropractor, Dr. Acquaro would begin blazing a trail for chiropractic that many of his fellow chiropractors would eventually follow. "At that time there were 12 or 13 chiropractors in all of Volusia County. I became active in the community to promote myself and chiropractic, did a mail-out and placed several ads in the newspaper. By the end of my second month the practice was profitable."

Now well-established with expertise and experience on his side, Dr. Acquaro was targeted for leadership roles with the Florida Chiropractic Association, serving on the board of directors for 10 years and then as FCA president in 1987-88. Dr. Acquaro also served as president of Palmer's Florida Alumni Association. "I was committed to growing the field of chiropractic in Florida, developing scholarships, helping to recruit students and supporting Palmer College," he says. He also served on the State of Florida Peer Review Committee as well as with several other state agencies in an advisory capacity.

In 2000, Palmer College developed an interest in tapping into the potential market for students from the southeastern United States and more specifically from Florida. Around the same time, the city of Port Orange became interested in establishing a college as part of its growing community. As a trusted advisor, Dr. Acquaro became integral to the process. He helped coordinate a contingent from Port Orange who traveled to Davenport, Iowa, to begin discussions that would eventually lead to the opening of Palmer's Florida Campus in 2002. Dr. Acquaro remains active with the Florida Campus, having founded the Gonstead Club, being the first class' "Adopt a Doc" and serving as a regular host of PSAF tours of his office.

Forty-five years later, Dr. Acquaro partners with Dr. Peter Wakeman in an extremely successful multidisciplinary practice, combining the best of chiropractic care with physical rehabilitation. They enjoy an excellent relationship with the medical community, and a large percentage of new patients are a direct result of medical referrals. The practice is contemporary, spacious and located in a beautiful building overlooking the Halifax River.

Dr. Acquaro, who regularly employs recent Palmer graduates as associates, continues to blaze a trail for chiropractic and Palmer College. His reputation and relationships allow him to advocate with community institutions such as Daytona International Speedway, where, as a member of their checkered-flag committee, Dr. Acquaro, who has treated many NASCAR drivers over the years, is working on integrating Palmer students into The Speedway's Ambassador Program. In addition, he helps chair the Florida Campus capital campaign.

He firmly believes that even today the number one reason young people choose Palmer is a referral from their local Palmer chiropractor. "We need to keep the doors open to chiropractic care," Dr. Acquaro concludes. "I feel a responsibility to those who helped me and to help those who come after me."

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