spinal column

A few thoughts on teaching at Palmer

Gilbert O. Schmiedel, D.C., Davenport ’59
Dr. Gilbert Schmiedel, Davenport Campus Professor of Anatomy, teaching Neuroanatomy II.
Dr. Gilbert Schmiedel lecturing

In the years since I began teaching anatomy classes at Palmer College in August 1963, I believe I’ve gotten more from the student-teacher relationship than I’ve given. Just being around students keeps you young. One of the things that has given me much joy as a faculty member is being active with student groups. It has been my pleasure to serve as adviser to several classes and clubs over the years, including the Veteran’s, Shooter’s and Student World Chiropractic Alliance clubs, and since 1967 both the Student Council and Delta Sigma Chi fraternity.

Many people wonder how the tradition of me wearing a special hat as the emcee of the Homecoming Talent Show got started. I believe it all began in the late 1970s with a particular class that was good at practical jokes. At that time there was a large lectern in the front of the classroom with a storage cabinet underneath. I came to class one morning, plugged in my microphone and began lecturing as usual. All of a sudden the cabinet doors burst open and students leaped out. They presented me with a quacking Donald Duck hat. I put it on, made it “quack” and proceeded to continue the lecture while wearing it. Word spread, and then a class presented me with a Mickey Mouse hat.

During the Homecoming Talent Show that year, I emceed and alternated wearing the two hats. The audience got a kick out of it, and alumni started sending me hats, too. So it became a tradition for me to wear a different hat at the talent show each year. Over the years, hats have been presented by different alumni or produced by students, and more recently the Student Council has been responsible for the special hats. I’ve kept them all and have a collection of about 30 hats at home.

Currently, I teach Neuroanatomy II in the third trimester. It’s undeniably a tough class, because it encompasses all of the anatomies. The ability to have fun even when teaching and learning a difficult subject is important and, toward that end, we try to inject some levity and practical experience to the presentation. It has, however, been my constant endeavor to provide the student with an even greater appreciation of the nervous system and the human body in general than I received as a Palmer student.

If I’ve learned anything over the years of teaching chiropractic students as well as taking care of patients in my clinic, it’s that you never want to lose sight of the big picture. To me, the big picture is this (and I feel I’ve lived this philosophy): The intelligence that made the body has the capacity, within certain limits, to maintain and heal the body. It never needs potions or drugs (although I’ve been known to partake of a little antifreeze occasionally), as long as it has an uninhibited expression of the nervous system.

Through these many years at Palmer, my wife, Arlene, has been involved with the wives’ club of the fraternity and as the adviser to the auxiliary of the Student ICA. Many of the students have regarded her as their “mom” away from home. One of the most gratifying things for Arlene and me is to see former students out in the field, either catching up with them at Homecoming or having an opportunity to visit them when we are traveling.

My final words of wisdom refer to a B.J. Palmer epigram: “Never take yourself too damn seriously.”

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