Gracie Wendels, a current student at Palmer’s Main Campus, may have been full of nerves, but when Alan K. Sokoloff, D.C. (Main, ‘85) a.k.a. Dr. Sok of the Yalich Clinic in Maryland expressed a need for help with social media, she was the first and only student to volunteer. Needless to say, she got the job!
Dr. Sok had presented to Palmer’s Sports Chiropractic Club. “We talked after his presentation and both found similarities in how we could help each other; it has been the best opportunity I’ve had so far in my time here!” recalls Grace, who also runs the social media for the club, too.
Having gotten to where he is with a combination of persistence and luck, Dr. Sok was incredibly impressed by Grace’s initiative that day. “It’s a true give-and-take with Grace because I know nothing about social media so this is a different kind of mentorship! I encourage her to push me just as much as I push her. She knows that it’s not insulting or rude to ask for what she needs more than once. It’s her job, which she does so well,” he said.
Dr. Sok, founder and owner of the Yalich Clinic of Glen Burnie and team chiropractor for the Baltimore Ravens, the University of Maryland Terrapins and The Baltimore Orioles, has always enjoyed mentoring students. “I enjoy teaching and sharing from a real-life perspective rather than from books. Persistence is one of the traits that has helped me get to where I am today and I think it’s important for young people to learn and hone in on that skill,” he said. Grace concurs, having stated her growing confidence and willingness to put herself out there more with Dr. Sok’s guidance and encouragement.
It wasn’t overnight that Dr. Sok became a chiropractor for professional athletes. He started with small educational events where sometimes only one or two people were in attendance. But he persevered and paid attention to when the pro bowlers or Pasadena sports fisherman association were coming to town. “I set up my chiropractic table in smokey bowling alleys and did whatever it took!” he said.
Things started to turn when Dr. Sok was asked to do a rotation with the U.S. Olympic Training Center and then the Goodwill Games and Pan American Games. Eventually, the head athletic trainer from the Ravens called and asked him to work on a player and that was the start of a huge trickle-down effect. They asked Dr. Sok to start coming once a week and then twice a week, which quickly turned into preseason in addition to the regular season. “It’s been a year-round retainer for years now. We knew we were getting the job done when the Orioles decided to switch chiropractic providers and they asked us!” he said.
Dr. Sok has survived four heads of sports medicine, two head coaches, two team owners and three different medical group providers. “Those big changes can trigger other changes so I feel fortunate to still be part of the team!” he said. “It was always my goal to work in the NFL but after the Colts left Baltimore, there was no NFL in town for 10 years. When the Ravens arrived in 1996, I sent a letter to the head of sports medicine and was rejected. Three years later they asked me on. I saved the letter and show it to them from time to time!”
Grace has learned so much already in just a few short months. “One of the first things Dr. Sok spoke of was leaving your ego at the door, which made me feel as though I could be myself when talking to him. It has developed into a friendship and I definitely couldn’t imagine doing all of this without him. He has become family to me!”
Dr. Sok added, “In addition to persistence and checking your ego, two of the most important things I can teach Grace and other chiropractic students are strong communication skills and adaptability. If you are a great chiropractor but don’t play well with others in the sandbox, it’s an uphill battle. Palmer does a great job teaching technique so I teach the social side of this field and being flexible is key.”
Thirty-five years into it, Dr. Sok couldn’t be more pleased with his decision to attend Palmer and become a sports chiropractor. “When I first looked into chiropractic as a career, the average age of a chiropractor in Maryland was 55 years old. I saw that as an opportunity. My desire to help people, especially athletes, was already there but it really grew while at Palmer,” he recalled.
Dr. Sok’s advice for incoming students is to visit different providers and really figure out your niche. For current students, he advises getting involved rather than just sticking to classes. Use breaks to visit and talk to multiple doctors of chiropractic. “Try it before you buy it, so to speak!” he encourages. For graduates, interview the person interviewing you. It’s a two-way street. “This is your opportunity to do exactly what you want. After all, if it is not fun to go to work then why go?” he added.
Sports chiropractors are in demand. Whether you’re interested in helping professional athletes or weekend warriors, Palmer College will prepare you for a life-long career. Learn more at palmer.edu/sports.