When Amy Bowzaylo, D.C., was a student
at Palmer’s West campus, a trip home
meant traveling all the way to Athabasca,
Alberta, Canada. Today, the trip from San
Jose to her current home isn’t just miles
away, it’s a world away.
That’s because Dr. Bowzaylo now lives and
works in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, as the
director of physical medicine and rehabilitation
at Saad Specialist Hospital. It’s quite
an achievement for Dr. Bowzaylo, given the
prevailing professional barriers and cultural
challenges she faced in getting this position,
as well as some of the challenges she’s faced
in her personal life over the past few years.
After graduating from Palmer’s West
campus in 1996, Dr. Bowzaylo worked
with various West alumni at TEAM Clinic
in Santa Clara, Calif., and ChiroMedical
Group in San Francisco. Two years later,
she met her husband, Colin Neil, a petroleum
engineer, whom she married in early
2000. They subsequently moved to his
native country, Australia.
In 2001, after Colin was offered a job with
Saudi Aramco, the couple and their first
daughter, Sierra, relocated to Saudi Arabia.
While there, Dr. Bowzaylo practiced chiropractic.
But in early 2004, she experienced
two life-changing events. First, Dr. Bowzaylo’s
mother passed away. Then, just two
weeks later, Colin was killed during a
As she dealt with these two tragedies,
Dr. Bowzaylo made plans to move her
family to Canada. However, just days before
her scheduled departure, she received a
call from Saad Specialist Hospital. They told
her they were interested in having her join
their chiropractic staff. After interviewing
with the hospital, she was presented with
a job offer the next day. In a matter of
months, Dr. Bowzaylo was promoted to
her current position.
Dr. Bowzaylo drew much of her inspirational
energy from the memory and
influence of her late mother and husband.
“My focus and drive come from the
knowledge that I have a strong secure
group of family, friends and the influence
of my mother,” she said. “Nothing defeated
my mother except cancer.”
Driven to providing chiropractic care
Bustling Al Khobar:
The town in which
Dr. Bowzaylo practices,
Al Khobar, is home to
Saudi Aramco, the world’s
largest oil company and
companies like British
Like all women in her country, Dr. Bowzaylo
is not allowed to drive. However, she
doesn’t take a back seat in her profession.
Every day, she provides care for both male and female patients.
As for transportation, the hospital supplies her with a driver
who picks her up and takes her home each day to an employeeprovided
In addition, as a non-Muslim, she is not required to wear
the “hejab” or head cover but she does follow the local
custom of wearing a black floor-length cloak called an “abaya”
in public. She also has learned to speak some Arabic, even
though English is the official language at the hospital. And
while her colleagues may laugh at times at Dr. Bowzaylo’s
pronunciation, she says they’re gracious and good-natured
when correcting her mistakes.
“This position has provided an amazing opportunity,” said
Dr. Bowzaylo, who is also president of the newly formed
Chiropractic Association of Saudi Arabia. “You meet people
from many different countries and get a very intimate glimpse
into how other cultures live. I have made some amazing
friends in my five years here. Of course, I love the fact that
you get 43 days of holidays a year!”
As for the perception that the region in which she lives is
politically volatile, Dr. Bowzaylo commented, “We’re not
running from bunker to bunker. In fact, I feel safer here
than in the United States.”
Improving international relations
For Dr. Bowzaylo, her primary worries have more to do with
homesickness for Canada and how her coworkers interact.
“Actually, the greatest challenges are being away from family
and learning to resolve conflicts when you have many different
nationalities working together,” she said. “It is an opportunity
for betterment, though, and so it’s a good challenge.”
Chiropractic has been a featured service at Saad Specialist
Hospital since it began accepting inpatients in 2001. In
addition to Dr. Bowzaylo, the hospital staff includes seven
other chiropractors. Dr. Bowzaylo finds that the hospital has a
progressive view of health care, and that chiropractic’s wellness
approach to health care is helping to reduce some of the most
common conditions that Dr. Bowzaylo’s staff cares for,
including degenerative disc disease and comorbidity, which
is the coexistence of two or more disease processes.
According to Dr. Bowzaylo, the working relationship between
the chiropractors, physical therapists, orthopedists, neurologists,
and staff from all other departments in the 355-bed
hospital is excellent.
She says that her most satisfying experience at Saad so far was
when she saw a patient come into the hospital in a wheelchair
and subsequently regain the ability to walk.
When she was younger, Dr. Bowzaylo envisioned herself
becoming an orthopedic surgeon. However, she says she’s
pleased with the healthcare career path that she ultimately
pursued. “I am really glad that I chose chiropractic, as I get a
lot of personal satisfaction in healing people and more so in
empowering them to help themselves,” she said.
From the Persian Gulf to the Bay Area
This fall, she visited Palmer’s West campus to celebrate her
10-year reunion and speak at Homecoming on her personal
experiences as a chiropractor in Saudi Arabia. She made her
presentation, “International Chiropractic: Case Management
in the Middle East,” on Friday, Oct. 6.
“I am excited to share my experiences in the Middle East with
others, and to see all my old classmates,” said Dr. Bowzaylo,
who is currently developing a training program to teach her
hospital’s team of physical therapists more about the spine
and the philosophy of biomechanics-based chiropractic.
Today, Dr. Bowzaylo still uses the book “Differential Diagnosis
for the Chiropractor: Protocols and Algorithms” in her practice,
which was written by one of her West campus instructors,
Dr. Thomas Souza.
“Ten years?” remarked Dr. Bowzaylo. “That seems like a lifetime