This is a preview of the Spring 2020 issue of BACK Matters – a CCA member exclusive.
More women are studying and practising chiropractic in Canada than ever. They have thriving practices, conduct crucial research and hold leadership roles.
While discrimination and stereotypes are still obstacles, women chiropractors across Canada are overcoming them and finding balance in their busy lives. We spoke with five female chiropractors about their life journeys and how they make it all work.
Dr. Patricia Tavares, Toronto, Ontario
Patricia Tavares had everything she wanted — a booming practice, a loving husband and three small children. Then, after three surgeries for trigger fingers, carpal tunnel and tenosynovitis, she was forced to sell her practice or risk wrecking her hands.
She pivoted to find her purpose in community service, chiropractic research and teaching. As an Assistant Professor at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, she encourages aspiring female chiropractors to “Go for it! The flexibility and acceptance that women have now is greater than previously, making it easier to run a practice.”
How does she manage her volunteer work and a job that often keeps her teaching students until 8 p.m.? “My husband is a huge support and my mother lives with us. Because she helps with domestic duties, I can work the hours that I do. You also have to delegate duties to your kids as they grow up. You have to let them know that you are not Superwoman.”
Dr. Jabeen Jussa, North Vancouver, British Columbia
When Jabeen Jussa started her practice, what bothered her the most was “the look” that came from male patients. It said she was not strong enough to adjust them or assumed she was the office assistant. “I don’t even notice the look anymore,” she says. “I’m more confident of my skills and ability to help my patients achieve their health goals.”
On top of running a business, including managing staff, learning about marketing and dealing with finances, she travels, is a mentor for students and a board member with the British Columbia Chiropractic Association. She wants young women to “be ready to change people’s lives” – reducing pain and stress, as well as helping people live healthier lives. She’s rewarded by having patients who had difficulty lifting their child or lacing their shoes be able to do these simple but essential tasks thanks to her care.
Dr. Marie-Hélène Boivin, Montreal, Quebec
Marie-Hélène Boivin first saw the value of chiropractic as a child. “My mother had back problems,” she says. “She would leave the house in chronic pain and come back much better after her chiropractic treatment.” That memory stuck with her. She graduated from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières determined to “help people be healthy and relieve their pain.”
She’s gone from student to practitioner to president of the Association des chiropractiens du Québec (ACQ). It’s a demanding role, one she added to a list that included raising her sons and maintaining her practice. Eventually, she had to reduce her hours at the clinic. “I had the feeling I was letting down my patients, but surprisingly I am more present in every aspect of my life with these changes, instead of trying to do everything at the same time.” Her friends, family and colleagues help her balance the juggling act. “Everything often happens in a short period of time: finishing school, starting a practice and a family. I did it, but it was stressful. You have to find good mentors at the beginning of your practice, even before you graduate.”
Dr. Julie Yaworski, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Entering her third year of practice, Julie realized that the hustle and grind mentality that often follows new graduates was unsustainable. “Looking after my own health — mental, physical, emotional — and setting boundaries is incredibly important to prevent burnout.” She carves out time for herself and her hobbies, family and friends, and volunteering. “As practitioners, we need to look after ourselves in order to better care for others.”
Julie moved to Swift Current, Sask., in 2017 to launch her practice. She had to sidestep comments on her size, her gender, her age and her perceived capabilities. “I found the best way to deal with these challenges is to bring my best to work every single day. After a few years in practice, my role in a patient’s care is much more than I originally comprehended. One of the best parts of this profession is the relationship and trust that is built between myself and the patient. It is incredible when a patient comes to you for advice and guidance.”
Dr. Alanna McDonald, St. John’s, Newfoundland
There are a few things that get Alanna McDonald out of bed in the morning. One is the joy she gets from helping her patients through their problems. The other is a peculiar alarm clock: her two small children.
“I don’t stop from the minute my feet hit the ground until my kids go to bed, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” With a husband who travels for work six months of the year, Alanna relies on family members for help with the kids.
Despite her busy schedule, she has chiseled out time to volunteer, exercise and visit her chiropractor. More men than women ask her about a career in chiropractic, although she would love to see more women involved. Her advice to aspiring female chiropractors is a hand-me-down from her older brother, also a chiropractor. “Make sure you get good at adjusting. It takes a ton of practice but I think some women are deterred because it’s so physical. Women are entirely capable of being great adjusters.”