Hey everyone! Welcome to First Step Chiropractic Blog. This is our very first blogpost and I, for one, am super excited. My name’s Larissa and I’m the resident marketer around these parts. That means I have the best job in the world because I can tell people how awesome Dr. Pam is and Dr. Pam can adjust me on a regular basis, which is a good thing, because I’m the clumsiest former dancer you’ve ever met in your life. Now that you know a little bit about me, I’m going to tell you a lot about Dr. Pam.
It’s a pretty sunny day in Baltimore when I go into Dr. Woodward’s practice to interview her for this blog. One can usually find her writing a new encouraging message on the whiteboard behind the reception desk or doing cartwheels through the open plan treatment area but, on this day, for a change, she’s in her office. The walls are tastefully adorned with degrees and certificates, confirming that Dr. Pamela Woodward is fully licensed in two states and graduated top of her class. So, one might think the fresh-faced young lady lying on her stomach on a chiropractic table, chin in hand, feet swaying behind her, idly playing with a multicolored beaded necklace is Dr. Pamela Woodward’s teenaged daughter. A closer look at the degrees, however, shows a 2013 graduation year. This is Dr. Pam.
I start with an easy question.
Why did this type of work interest you, and how did you get started?
“I knew I was going to be a chiropractor from the age of sixteen. I had been a cheerleader for longer than I care to admit,” she confesses, a half-smile playing on her lips, “and I couldn’t do a sit-up without having major low back pain and there wasn’t any reason why this was this was the case. Coming from a traditional family, I went to every doctor under the sun. I was poked and prodded and injected with dyes and nobody could find anything.” At this she looks resigned, seeming to recall vividly this common tale, that was once hers.
“One thing they all said was that I’d have to quit cheerleading…which was social suicide, so I couldn’t do that.” I laugh and she laughs but a raised eyebrow, and having been to high school myself, tells me she’s not joking.
“So, they had decided to do a “lumbar puncture”,” her fingers air quote, “to make it sound nicer than spinal tap to just see if anything was going on. At that point, thankfully, my mom said, “No, we’re going to take you to see your second cousin who’s a chiropractor” and she said it the same way someone would say witch doctor.
The chiropractor had me stand straight but my feet were actually at a 45 degree angle. So, she adjusted me, I left feeling better than I had in years. I kept going to see her and worked through my pains and aches. She was the only doctor who didn’t tell me to quit cheerleading but she did tell me that I wasn’t designed to lift people heavier above my head. I didn’t think too much of this but I also stopped needing my inhaler, and it wasn’t until I went to chiropractic school that I realized that helping the nerves helps the whole body. So, it was like bonus prizes! I get to help people not only with pain but help them lead a fuller life across the board.”
Did you ever consider or try anything else?
“I had, of course, wanted to be a famous actress first. And then I wanted to be a teacher. Then the medical field, wanted to be a psychiatrist until I saw The Sixth Sense. I looked into surgery but I couldn’t get behind the idea of having someone’s life in my hands. When I found chiropractic, and it was less about what I could do and more about empowering people to fix themselves, that resonated with me a lot more.”
It occurs to me I know very little about how one goes about becoming a chiropractor. So, I ask her.
How did you become a chiropractor?
“I went to La Salle for undergrad where I majored in chemistry and biochemistry because I liked it. It was surprisingly helpful when it comes to chiropractic; I learned that the small reflects the large.” She takes her hands and moves them in for small and out for large, without thinking. I’m nodding excitedly. I love chemistry.
Dr. Pam continues, “So, did that first, graduated top of my class. I also did a lot of theater while I was there but that didn’t really have any bearing on my chiropractic. Then, you go and subject yourself to fourteen eleven-week quarters where you miss out on anything and everything to do with your friends and family. You complete just as many classroom hours as traditional medical school but they get more pharmacology and surgery, which we replace with chiropractic technique and increased radiology. But the basic science courses are the same: biochemistry, physiology, diagnosis. Our residency is built in to while we’re in school: start you off adjusting your fellow chiropractic students. In our final two quarters, we complete an externship with a local doctor or you can. I finished my classes in my first twelve quarters so in my last two quarters I worked in the office of my pediatrics’ professor’s private practice, primarily neonatal and children. I graduated in March of 2013, valedictorian of the class. Then they let me out into the real world and two states were crazy enough to give me a license!”
She beams. I beam. I’m really happy I live in one of those crazy states. I think about how many people don’t get to have a chiropractor this fun. Then I think about how many people don’t know what chiropractic is.
What do you do?
Now she’s excited. When Dr. Pam’s excited, she talks fast. She talks fast a lot. “I’m a chiropractor! I have the distinct privilege of making sure that your nervous system is functioning at the highest level possible. I get to do that by making sure that the vertebra are in proper alignment and that the rest of the body has proper biomechanical function as well. The big thing to keep in mind is that even though people typically come to me with specific issues, be it headache, back pain, neck pain, allergies, chiropractic doesn’t cure any one of those things, all that it does is make sure that your body is able to function the way that it was designed to.” She pauses here, looking up thoughtfully, and then continues, “Whatever happens after that is entirely up to you.”
The sun is shining brightly through the window beside the table now. She stretches slightly, then goes back to her previous position, swinging her legs and playing with her necklace.
Why did you decide to open your own practice?
“Because what else does one do in their first year of marriage?” she laughs wryly. Then, at once, she is all business: calm and focused. “Honestly, it would upset me seeing patients be limited in seeking care for their entire family due to high deductibles or copays. I didn’t want my patients to have to pick their favorite child to get chiropractic care while everyone else would have to wait. I wanted to establish a practice where even if you didn’t have insurance or the insurance that you had wasn’t conducive to the sometimes frequent care that comes with your initial chiropractic plan, patients could still be seen with the regularity to really make lasting changes. If that means I make a little bit less on the front end, that’s fine. My bigger concern is getting whole families healthy and keeping them that way.” Here she looks at me, with another eyebrow raise, “Which, I think makes me a terrible business person buuuut hopefully we’ll be able to keep the lights on.” That’s my job, and my cue. I wave off the joking concern. And honestly, I’m not worried. A doctor who cares, really cares, is the best business and marketing plan there is; and it can’t be bought.
Still, thinking about marketing…
How does your practice differ from its competitors?
“I like to think I have a lot more fun!” Yes. “I definitely find myself getting very invested in the lives of my practice members. When they get a new job, I feel like I just got a new job. When they have a baby, I feel like I had a baby…” I give her a look and she continues, “…except…not at all.” We both chuckle. And then she gets to the heart of it, “I really like to make an effort to show people that they are capable of more than they realize. I try to remind them that any time they make improvements in their health that all I did was point them in the right direction. I try to stay humble. If I ever have trouble with that, I have a little kid who will come and knock me down to size. I have special training in working with kids with sensory processing disorders and on the autism spectrum and ADD and ADHD. I work to create a unique approach to adjusting each individual, sometimes that means combining different techniques together. Sometimes that means adjusting them in another position than on their stomach or their back. It’s really about what works for each patient. There’s really no one-size-fits-all at this practice.”
That’s awesome for her patients. I should know; I’m one of them. Then I wonder what that’s like for her.
What is your job like?
“My job is like…um…equal parts excitement, challenge, and rewarding. Non-stop from the second you get to work until the second the last patient gets out of the office. Very easy to lose an entire day without realizing it’s gone by.” It’s clear from her expression and her tone that this is her happy place. This a person who’s happiest losing a day with non-stop excitement, challenges, and rewards.
But I know that’s not all there is.
What do you do when you’re not here?
“I’m always here!” Dr. Pam smiles, shaking her head, “No…when I’m not here, I spend time with my husband. I sleep, I eat…I love going out to restaurants. I like exploring Baltimore with my husband who fancies himself an amateur tour guide. I like to watch documentaries about pretty much anything. I like to make food and eat food and I like to go to the Jersey Shore and sit under an umbrella. And I still like to do theater but that’s kind of on hold right now while I help all of you lovely people,” her smile broadens, she’s talking to you guys now. There’s a pause, her hands go back to her face, “I think that’s all I do. Oh! I’m really good at Scrabble. Patrick, my husband, he won’t play with me anymore.”
Dr. Pamela Woodward is the family chiropractor behind First Step Chiropractic serving patients throughout the Baltimore area. First Step Chiropractic is located in the Mount Washington area, near the Johns Hopkins University Conference Center and the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. She’s available for new patients young and old, as well as worthy Scrabble opponents.