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."