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Serving Those Who Serve

Serving Those Who Serve

Palmer and alumni care for military and veterans.
Summer 2017

cover story

Profiles of Service

Eight Palmer alumni improving the health of those who serve

Left to right: Col. Julie Stola, Commander, 45th Medical Group; Dr. Armstrong; Lt. Col. Cang Bui, Commander, 45th Medical Operations Squadron; Chief Master Sgt. Mario Acevesfonseca, Superintendent, 45th Medical Group.
Lance Armstrong, D.C.: with several military personel

Lance Armstrong, D.C.: willing, able and ready

When Lance Armstrong, D.C., Davenport ’96, walks into the building housing the 45th Medical Group at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Fla., he signs the log as an American Red Cross volunteer.

“I do whatever is necessary to treat these troops,” he says. For five years, Dr. Armstrong operated out of the physical therapy department two days a week, volunteering as the “unofficial, official base chiropractor.”

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Dr. Armstrong has been on a mission to bring his military and chiropractic careers together. His plan would not only include the recent implementation of chiropractors at certain U.S. military bases, but also include the commissioning of D.C.s as military officers and the deployment of chiropractors in military bases overseas.

“My greatest frustration is we aren’t serving our troops overseas or in duty stations where these injuries are occurring, just after they occur,” he says. “Instead, some patients are receiving chiropractic care years after they were injured.”

He’s only allowed to treat military members who are on active duty. “All of the medical doctors and physical therapists refer patients to me; many have received chiropractic care themselves,” he adds.

Dr. Armstrong recently stopped providing care in the 45th Medical Group building. He figured out that as long as he was providing chiropractic care for free, there would be very little progress toward hiring a paid D.C. assigned to Patrick AFB. “I said I’d give it six months and I’ve been here five years,” he adds. “I think that maybe this hiatus is necessary so we can get this issue back on the radar screen.”

On his last day at Patrick AFB, Dr. Armstrong was surprised by a contingent of base leadership, including the new medical group commander, who arrived to express their thanks and appreciation. He was gratified to hear the commander say “your idea” of Department of Defense D.C.s overseas implementation was being discussed by the Defense Health Agency.

For now he’ll move to the rescue wing hangers with his portable tables, enlist the help of interns from Palmer’s Florida campus, and whenever possible continue to treat “the tip of the spear” with no official title or designation.

Dr. Durham adjusts one of his patients at NHCCP.

Arthur Durham, D.C., serves at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point

Palmer Proud graduate Arthur J. Durham, D.C., Davenport ’75, is the division head of chiropractic at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point (NHCCP) in Cherry Point, N.C. He practiced privately from 1973 to 2002. “After the events of 9/11, I decided to sell my practice and accepted a position with the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a chiropractic clinic on a Marine Corps base in Cherry Point,” says Dr. Durham.

The clinic was established at Naval Hospital Cherry Point (NHCCP’s original name), located on the Marine Corps Air Station and home of the Harrier jet. Dr. Durham served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. “For me, opening and serving in a chiropractic clinic on a Marine Corps base was the naturally right, Semper Fi task to do,” says Dr. Durham. It opened Jan. 3, 2003, and the patient appointment schedule was full within a couple of months, a pace that continues today.

“We’re considered a specialty clinic, working in a multidisciplinary and integrated setting with orthopedics, podiatry, physical rehab, sports medicine and primary care providers,” says Dr. Durham. “All of our providers and caregivers are combined Naval and civilian personnel, and, in my opinion and clinical judgment, we all work very harmoniously for the benefit of patients. Keeping our warriors in a high state of readiness and peak performance is the primary goal. To this end, my clinic is well-equipped and staffed, and I have diagnostic privileges comparable to all the providers at NHCCP.”

For more than 14 years, Dr. Durham has been “blessed and honored to care for our nation’s finest.” After working hard to get chiropractic care into the DoD and VA since 1975, he’s proud chiropractic care is now a “well-accepted and vital part of the health-care team.” He says “chiropractic care will be expanding in the DoD and VA in the near future,” which will “present opportunities for D.C.s who have a desire to serve active-duty members and veterans.” Current openings for chiropractors in the DoD and VA are listed on

For now Dr. Durham is excited about Palmer’s DoD/VA student rotation program beginning with the NHCCP. “I am especially proud that the first chiropractic student to enter the program will be my daughter, Molly Durham.” Molly is set to graduate from the Florida campus in December 2017.

Dr. Lisi, right, accepting his ACA 2017 Chiropractor of the Year award, the ACA’s highest honor, with Dr. Anthony Hamm, ACA’s immediate past president.
Dr. Lisi, right, accepting his ACA 2017 Chiropractor of the Year award

Anthony Lisi, D.C.: VHA pioneer continues to blaze new trails

In 2004, Anthony Lisi, D.C., West ’96, became the first chiropractor appointed to the medical staff of the Veterans Administration’s Connecticut Healthcare System.

Three years later, Dr. Lisi was named national director of chiropractic services for the Veterans Health Administration, a role in which he oversees all national programmatic issues for chiropractic services in the largest integrated health-care system in the U.S.

In 2014, Dr. Lisi was instrumental in the establishment and implementation of the first federally funded chiropractic residency training program in the VA. The residencies provide chiropractic graduates with advanced clinical training in complex cases, knowledge of hospital practice, policies and procedures, and opportunities to collaborate with other health-care professionals in team care.

“We are proud of Dr. Lisi and his work at VA,” said Dr. Poonam Alaigh, acting under secretary for Health for Veterans Health Administration. “It is always great to be recognized for your work and especially meaningful when that recognition comes from your peers (see above). When veterans receive care, we believe it is important that we take a holistic approach. Chiropractic care is an important and valuable specialty.”

Dr. Lisi oversees national clinical program and policy matters related to the integration of chiropractic services into the VA health-care system, and serves as chiropractic section chief at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. VA began providing chiropractic care in 2004 with 26 clinics caring for 4,000 veterans. Since then, it has grown to 80 clinics, offering care to more than 44,000 veterans annually. At VA facilities without in-house chiropractors, veterans are referred to private-sector D.C.s for care.

“I’m very fortunate to collaborate with outstanding colleagues in the VA, and at our chiropractic academic institutions,” Dr. Lisi says. “Together, we’re committed to improving the health of the patients who our trainees will ultimately serve.

Dr. Clare Morgan
Dr. Clare Morgan

Clare Morgan, D.C.: groundbreaker at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

“Our family has a motto, ‘Honor what is honorable.’ We have always been grateful to those who serve,” says Clare (Pelkey) Morgan, D.C., West ’85. After graduating from Palmer’s West campus, Dr. Morgan established a private practice in rural central California and then went on to provide chiropractic care within a multidisciplinary medical clinic aiding the region’s underserved population.

Later, after moving to the Washington, D.C., metro area, she had the opportunity to serve our nation’s heroes. In 2012 she became the first woman chiropractor to acquire staff privileges at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“During the dark days of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was a need waiting to be filled,” she says. “My father served in the Navy, as did my husband, Bill. We have two sons who are currently serving in the military and a daughter who will commission after she graduates from college next year. So I found myself wanting to ‘honor what is honorable.’ Volunteering was a way I could give back for what they, along with so many others, have done for me.”

“The demand for chiropractic care at Walter Reed increased during this heightened time of war,” she adds. “Not only was there a six-week waiting list for an appointment as a new chiropractic patient, but more and more women, especially those coming back from combat zones, were asking for a female chiropractor. I was honored to help fill that need.”

One of the highlights for Dr. Morgan at Walter Reed was having the opportunity to take care of the U.S. Naval Academy football team members. “They loved receiving chiropractic care, and for many of them, this was their introduction to what we do,” she says. “They were enthusiastic about receiving care and always very grateful.”

Caring for members of our nation’s military should be thought of as an honor, she says. “If given the opportunity to treat anyone in this patient population, remember the sacrifices they and their families make. Provide the same care that you would to someone you love. But of course, I think we should do that with all of our patients.”

Dr. Shawn Neff and Rebecca Warnecke outside VAMC Martinsburg.
Dr. Shawn Neff and Rebecca Warnecke outside VAMC Martinsburg.

Shawn Neff, D.C.: students, patients and doctors benefit at VAMC Martinsburg

“The VA trains more health-care providers than any other entity,” points out Shawn Neff, D.C., Davenport ’03. “This gives our students the opportunity to learn alongside their peers in other professions, and it gives those in other professions, and their students, the opportunity to see how clinically competent chiropractic students are.”

As the staff chiropractor at the Martinsburg, W.V., VA Medical Center (VAMC Martinsburg), Dr. Neff’s chiropractic clinic is part of the facility’s Division of Rehab Services and chiropractors are members of the pain team. Dr. Neff is chair of the Pain Management Advisory Council and a member of the VA field advisory committee. That’s in addition to evaluating and treating patients as well as supervising and instructing his students. Dr. Neff’s current student is Rebecca Warnecke, a 9th trimester Davenport campus student.

“My students benefit from a lot of one-on-one coaching and instruction on clinical decision-making and treatment,” Dr. Neff says. “They do research and participate in interdisciplinary rotations, interacting with other types of providers and other health-care trainees and learn to function in a large medical organization as part of a team. I think my program’s placement rate into the residency speaks volumes about the breadth, depth and rigor of the training.”

Warnecke looks forward to the varied types of patient conditions she’ll see during her rotation. “I’m most looking forward to improving both my chiropractic adjusting and overall diagnostic skills in this unique patient setting. The majority of patients have a heavy list of co-morbidities and complex situations that affect their overall care and management.”

“The patients benefit by having a young, enthusiastic student reviewing their care and caring for them,” Dr. Neff says. “The students are always asking questions, which leads me to be constantly learning as well.” Warnecke has some advice for fellow students considering applying for a student rotation position in this setting. “Having a fantastic GPA doesn’t guarantee anything, and just being a great adjuster isn’t enough either. It’s important to develop social skills, leadership skills and be heavily involved in things that matter to you.”

Dr. Casey Okamoto
Dr. Casey Okamoto

Casey Okamoto, D.C.: on the pleasure and privilege of serving veterans

As a Palmer student, Casey Okamoto, D.C., Davenport ’15, was urged to pursue a Palmer DoD/VA (Department of Defense/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) Student Rotation by a faculty member. “He explained these clerkships were challenging, coveted and their graduates possessed a unique multidisciplinary skill set. It was an easy sale.”

Dr. Okamoto earned an eight-month clerkship with Shawn Neff, D.C., at the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.V. “There I further developed my clinical skills, published my first paper, and learned what a pleasure and a privilege it is to serve veterans.”

After this positive experience, Dr. Okamoto looked into the VA chiropractic residency-training program, now in its third year. He applied to all five of the initial residency sites, and was prepared to relocate wherever the training led. “I was offered a residency at the VA Western New York Healthcare System facility in Buffalo, N.Y.

“A resident’s role is multifaceted,” he says. “Residents are trainees, but also researchers, ambassadors for the profession, and most importantly, members of the multidisciplinary health-care team.” Each resident is mentored by senior VA chiropractors who facilitate inter-professional rotations for residents in areas such as orthopedics, behavioral health, physical therapy and rehabilitation medicine, teaching and research.

Their patients benefit in many ways. “The rigors of combat and service-related conditions leave veterans especially affected by chronic musculoskeletal conditions,” Dr. Okamoto says. “As part of the health-care team we provide a non-pharmacologic treatment option, education about the multifaceted nature of chronic pain, as well as advice for living a healthy lifestyle. We are advocates, as are all providers, connecting veterans with the services and resources they need to heal completely.”

Following his residency experience, in July 2016 he was offered his “dream job” as one of two chiropractors practicing within the Minneapolis VA Medical Center’s Comprehensive Pain Center.

“There is so much to do,” Dr. Okamoto says. “I have the infrastructure to do research. I’m involved with the training of medical residents and fellows, and I have a wonderful group of experienced clinicians from which to learn.”

Drs. Paris, right, and D’Amico sporting their Palmer Pride hockey jerseys.
Drs. Paris, right, and D’Amico sporting their Palmer Pride hockey jerseys.

David Paris, D.C.: from hockey standout to veteran care-giver

During his years as a student at Palmer’s West campus, David Paris, D.C., West ’01, made some memorable saves as the goalie on the Palmer Pride ice-hockey team.

During the 12 years that Dr. Paris has provided chiropractic care for retired U.S. military personnel as a staff doctor at the Veterans Health Administration facility in Redding, Calif., he has saved many patients from developing depend- ency on pharmaceutical medications—an achievement that brings Dr. Paris an even greater sense of Palmer pride.

“We (chiropractic) were a much-needed, highly underutilized service—and you could make a good case that we still are,” says Dr. Paris. “I’ve been so fortunate to have some of the greatest colleagues that you could ever hope for—and am additionally blessed to have become friends with many along the way.”

The fact that many of his peers and colleagues in the VA system are fellow Palmer grads also fills Dr. Paris with Palmer pride. “A large major- ity of the D.C.s are Palmer grads, which is no surprise to me, because they seem to be a natural fit into the VA environment,” he says.

“In particular, we’ve been blessed to have Dr. Anthony Lisi, West ’96, as the architect of the VA chiropractic program. His efforts and abilities to navigate the advancement and availability of chiropractic services simply cannot be stated with enough praise.”

Dr. Paris also has high praise for the caliber of the Palmer program. “Based on my experiences with the graduating students who have completed VA rotations in my office, it speaks volumes to the quality of the educational experience that Palmer provides,” says Dr. Paris. His students have included Amanda Dluzniewski, D.C., West ’13, one of the first VA residents.

“I consider myself fortunate to have concluded my Palmer West education by working with one of the finest chiropractic doctors I’ve had the chance to meet,” says Aaron D’Amico, D.C., West ’16, also a Palmer Pride veteran.

“Completing my 13th Quarter field-training assignment in the largest multidisciplinary health organization provided an educational experience of unmeasurable value. I truly appreciate Palmer’s VA/DoD student rotation program, and, in particular, getting to learn from Dr. Paris.”

Dr. Pavalock in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Herman Farrer Photography)
Dr. Pavalock in Washington, D.C.

Every chiropractor can impact veterans’ health

“Chronic musculoskeletal conditions are an unquestionable clinical issue within the VA (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs),” says Michael Pavalock, D.C., M.P.A., Davenport ’02. “In my opinion, every veteran with a musculoskeletal condition seeking care at a VA facility should receive a thorough evaluation. Chiropractors provide the very best musculoskeletal evaluations available in health care.”

Dr. Pavalock knows the lay of the land in veterans’ health. He’s a practicing chiropractor and a medical center associate chief of staff in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He’s established chiropractic clinics in two VA facilities. Addition- ally, he’s served temporary duty assignments at the VHA Office of Congressional and Legislative Af- fairs in Washington, D.C., and as acting deputy chief of staff in Alabama.

Chiropractors can lead the way in a ‘whole health’ approach to health care. “The competencies of chiropractors have always focused on the whole patient,” Dr. Pavalock says. “It’s what we do. Fully utilizing chiropractors’ competencies can improve the VA system and the health of veterans.”

He also sees where chiropractic is valuable in the VA’s efforts to positively im- pact chronic pain, opioid abuse and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). “When a patient’s chronic pain is no longer physical it may be tethered to a mental health condition, and the VA has the very best mental health professionals to diagnose and treat such patients.” Chiropractors can help identify potential mental health issues and connect patients to mental health services.

At this time, 14 years after Congress mandated chiropractic care for the VA, 80 VA medical centers have in- house chiropractic care. “I believe the chiropractic profession can do better,” Dr. Pavalock says. “There’s strong clinical and business evidence to support further expansion. A staff chiropractor should be in every VA medical center.”

“Chiropractors love helping veterans. I encourage them to develop relationships with their local Veterans Service Organizations,” he explains. “Disabled American Veterans, the VFW or the American Legion are a few examples. It’s an opportunity for every chiropractor to make an impact on veterans’ health.”

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