By Laura Newsome
As the ever-growing digital world shrinks the globe to the size of a cellphone touch screen, the philosophy of Chiropractic is spreading to far-flung destinations across the globe. The profession undoubtedly owes its record growth to a small group of adventurous chiropractors who have set out to change the world one country, one clinic and one adjustment at a time. These pioneers are putting down roots in some of the most scenic and culturally rich destinations around the world—places where the living is easy and people are eager to hear their message.
Before Matthew Westheimer, D.C., graduated from Life University in 2009, he developed a love of travel while backpacking through Europe. Born into a chiropractic family, Westheimer took an internship at LIFE’s outpost in Zigong, China, and later heard about a friend who was practicing in Singapore. After visiting in 2010, Westheimer decided to call the small island nation home and opened his own practice with Chiropractic First six weeks later. “It’s great being in another part of the world and getting to break new ground,” he says. “I love experiencing different cultures, and Singapore is so diverse—there are four national languages and religions, which is really fantastic.”
Singapore has a robust economy that ranks as the fourth largest foreign exchange trading center after London, New York and Tokyo. With a population of 5 million people who enjoy the third highest per capita income in the world, residents of Singapore have plenty of money to spend on their health, which enables Westheimer to operate an all-cash practice. “Practicing here is great,” he says. “It takes more education to get people to understand Chiropractic because it’s so unknown here, but it’s also a great opportunity to experience the pure, raw nature of principled Chiropractic because people are not tainted by Western misconceptions.”
Having been in practice for two years, Westheimer enjoys the ability to take quick trips to a host of Southeast Asian nations where his money goes far, tropical beaches are plentiful and historic monuments and cultural treasures abound. So far, he has visited Bali, Thailand and Malaysia, with destinations like Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Cambodia on his “must-see” list. “The quality of life is great here in Singapore and there are amazing places to travel to,” he says. “In the U.S., we’re kind of in a bubble, so when you go abroad you realize how diverse the world really is and you get to experience how most people actually live.”
While Westheimer is still getting used to the cuisine, he’s also picking up a bit of Mandarin thanks to his patients. “Coming here has been the most amazing experience,” he says. “I’ve learned more and discovered more about myself as a person. In my practice I see miracles every day and evidence of how Chiropractic can change lives. Although traditional medicine is very popular, when people hear the chiropractic story it makes so much sense to them, and they consider Chiropractic another piece of the healing puzzle. Any chiropractor who has the opportunity to work abroad should take it. I would do this again 10 times over. I’ve never questioned my decision to move to Singapore.”
Joseph Steiner, D.C., grew up moving from place to place in a military family. So in 2009, it was no surprise when he began seeking out job opportunities in both the United States and abroad. “I moved around throughout my childhood, so I really gained a love of travel,” he says. “The idea of practicing abroad seemed like a way to fulfill that desire, while also helping to spread the word of Chiropractic.”
Steiner completed his final quarter at the Life University clinic in Zigong, China. “It is still a very traditional Chinese city, and being one of a few foreigners there, it was a very different experience than I have now working in Hong Kong,” he says. “Hong Kong is a very ‘Westernized’ city, so it is much easier to get around here on a daily basis.”
Under British control until 1997, Hong Kong retains much of the Western culture, customs and political autonomy that characterized its colonial era. A place where East meets West, Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading financial centers, with a low-tax capitalist economy and one of the most traded currencies in the world. A superpower in its own right, Hong Kong boasts a vertical landscape with more than 1,200 skyscrapers, a highly developed public transportation system, one of the highest per capita incomes and the highest life expectancy in the world.
In addition to caring for the Hong Kong Ice Hockey League, Steiner has traveled all over Mainland China and nearby Southeast Asia. “In my travels, I’ve gotten to see very diverse areas from traditional villages to big Westernized cities. The people have been extremely welcoming wherever I’ve traveled,” he says. “They have such kind hearts and have helped to share their customs and traditions with me. I have come to learn a little Chinese, which helps me in the office, and my patients are always more than willing to help me with my pronunciations or teach me new words. It has been a treat to get to enjoy authentic Chinese food, and there is some breathtaking scenery throughout China and Hong Kong. I definitely recommend anyone who can to come and experience it for themselves.”
According to Steiner, chiropractic care is an easy transition for many Chinese people, since most are concerned with staying healthy rather than just treating illnesses. “Although Chiropractic is a fairly new profession within Hong Kong, the concept of holistic health is deeply rooted in their history,” says Steiner. “It is so important for us at this stage to educate the public about what sets us apart from others and how, with chiropractic care, their innate intelligence can achieve its fullest potential. China is currently booming in all aspects of life, and to be able to educate the public in Chiropractic’s infancy here can only be beneficial to the profession.”
A New Jersey native, Liam Schubel, D.C., graduated from Life University in the mid 1990s, excited about the adventures that awaited him during his next stage of life. Inspiration struck one day when Schubel picked up a LIFE newspaper and read about two alumni who had started practices in Peru. He contacted one of the chiropractors by phone and the chiropractor immediately asked, “When are you coming down here?”
In 1996, Schubel crammed his life into two suitcases and made the daring trip south, to a country still terrorized by warring guerilla armies that occupied the jungles. Within a month, Schubel learned enough Spanish to go door to door with a spine model, drumming up business in Lima, the most populous city in Peru. Soon, Schubel appeared on TV and radio stations and became a local celebrity. His practice grew to 1,000 patients a week, and eventually to its current status of 14 practices in Peru, three in the Dominican Republic and one in Colombia.
“In the U.S., there’s a sick system with an insurance-dependent core, but down here you just tell the chiropractic story and you can have a cash practice and pay off your loans in less than two years,” says Schubel, whose practices are the official Life PEAK teaching centers in Latin America. “All people talk about back home is pain, but only 10 percent of the population is experiencing pain at any given time, while 100 percent of people need chiropractic care.”
For chiropractic immigrants, emerging nations in South and Central America boast a tropical climate, beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, rainforests, lakes, historic ruins, gorgeous wildlife, colorful Latin culture, amazing food and an upwardly mobile economic future. Schubel, who has traveled all over the region, loves eating ceviche and hiking to Machu Picchu, the scenic ancient ruin he often visits with students who attend his “Best Mission Trip Ever” program. “I feel a little bit like B.J. Palmer down here,” says Schubel, who hopes to open 100 clinics by his 50th birthday. “I love the fact that I can do nothing but adjust. There’s low overhead, the cost of living is low, there are fewer taxes and expenses so you keep more of the money you make and it’s a rich culture that loves Americans.”
In addition to treating high-profile politicians and captains of industry, Schubel says the rewards of treating patients who spend hours every day doing hard labor, many while coping with congenital conditions, are experiences unrepeatable in the United States. “My motto is, ‘the bigger the vision, the bigger the life,’ and every man, woman and child on the planet should be adjusted from birth,” says Schubel, founder of Schubel Vision World Wide. “There are 7 billion people on earth and maybe only 120,000 to 150,000 chiropractors, so we need to start thinking globally and get out of the fishbowl. Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa and India—those are the next chiropractic frontiers.”
When David Bellin, D.C., was 19, he dropped out of college and moved to the Dominican Republic to find himself. “During my time there I came to appreciate different cultures and customs,” he says. “I also developed a sense of understanding not only of myself, but of how people adapt to their environment both at home and abroad. I learned to cherish the opportunities that lie beneath my feet, wherever I may be.” Refreshed by his experiences, Bellin returned to school and rocketed to the top of the dean’s list.
After graduating with a DC degree from Life University in 1995, Bellin dabbled with practicing in Costa Rica and even Russia, but found his home in China, working with Life University’s Global Initiative at Tsinghua University in Beijing, widely considered one of the top two universities in Mainland China. “I do not consider myself a pioneer here, but I am building on the opportunities that others have begun and creating new ones from that foundation,” says Bellin. “I enjoy working with a clean slate and helping to define Chiropractic in the purest sense as we define it at Life University. We have a unique opportunity due to my status with Tsinghua University and my relationships with other universities, hospital systems and corporations, as well as national and local government agencies, to have an impact on the establishment of the profession as a separate and distinct health care system.”LIFE’s program at Tsinghua is groundbreaking since it is only one of two universities in China that can initially develop new educational programs through the Ministry of Education, and LIFE is currently in discussions about a chiropractic educational program. Adds Bellin, “Through our clinic at Tsinghua and our satellite initiatives, we see many elite athletes, including many Olympians. We have patients at the highest levels of leadership in China who understand Chiropractic and want to see it available for the people.”
The capital of China, Beijing offers a seamless mix of centuries-old imperial architecture, stunningly modern skyscrapers and some of the most technologically advanced infrastructure in the world. The city is also home to the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China and the world-class entertainment venues showcased during the 2008 Summer Olympics. “Living in China has been very rewarding for me,” says Bellin. “I enjoy the people, the culture, the customs and the opportunity to relate with people at various levels of society. China’s local culture is as abundant as its population, and every place, be it a sprawling metropolis or a country town, has its own local dialect and cuisine, so I enjoy exploring new places and sampling the uniqueness of them all.”
As executive director of Life’s Global Initiatives for Greater China, which includes Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Bellin has traveled all over Southeast Asia. For Bellin, gaining a global perspective has helped him understand why every social and economic class deserves chiropractic care. “We are introducing Chiropractic not as treatment for pain, but for correction of the cause of dis-ease, which helps people return from dis-ease to ease,” says Bellin. “Chiropractic, in my opinion, is a natural health care system that when done properly has the capability to turn someone from the path of dysfunction and disease to the path of health instantaneously. Here in China there is a large population, a desire for Western health care, a history of natural healing, increasing disposable income and the willingness to pay for what they value.”