It’s safe to say that Life Chiropractic College West faculty member Mark Thompson, DC, has lived a full life. It’s also safe to say that the world of chiropractic has saved him on multiple occasions.
Dr. Thompson’s active, physically-strenuous lifestyle has led to what he calls a “six-pack” of artificial joints. His shoulders, hips and knees have all been replaced.
When Dr. Thompson was 19, he herniated a disc in his back while wrestling. The ensuing surgery resulted in several significant side effects (called “failed back surgery syndrome”), ones that stayed with him far beyond when he was discharged from the hospital.
“They didn’t really give me anything,” Thompson said when asked about his rehabilitation process. “I just tried to exercise and get stronger on my own. I didn’t stop power-lifting or weight-lifting. Everything I did, that people said you shouldn’t do, made me feel better.”
Ten years later, Thompson moved to California, where he continued to feel the effects of his prior injury. He suffered another herniated disc in a mountain-biking accident, this time in his neck. As he evaluated his options, those around him suggested he visit a chiropractor.
“I went to the chiropractor, and he worked on my neck,” Thompson recalled. “He adjusted my neck for several weeks, and the disc herniation symptoms disappeared. I let him adjust my lower back, and after 10 years, as soon as he adjusted my lower back, the pain disappeared.”
The experience inspired Thompson to start his own chiropractic journey, and in doing so, he conquered significant personal demons. After completing rehabilitation programs to combat longstanding issues with alcohol and drug abuse, he enrolled at Life West and graduated in 1991 en route to opening a successful practice in the Bay Area, which he ran until 2004.
Thompson sold his practice that year following an injury to his right shoulder, which he suffered while mountain climbing. In 2005, he returned to his alma mater as a faculty member while also completing Master’s degrees in bioanthropology and archaeology. Over the past 14 years, he has emerged as a beloved voice in the Life West community, one that has impacted the lives of hundreds of students as they go through the same program he once did.
At no time was that more evident than early-2019. Thompson’s right hip (one of his six prosthetics) dislocated while he was getting ready to come to work, and he was forced to leave his post to tend to the injury.
“I was in the shower at 5 am,” he recalled. “I leaned over, and my right hip dislocated. It had dislocated a few times before, and the last time, they said, ‘if it happens again, you need surgery.’ I could usually put it back in myself, but this time, I couldn’t.”
Dr. Thompson was far from alone on his road to recovery. The Life West community rallied around him, and dedicated time and service hours to ensure he was comfortable and supported in every possible way.
“After I went on disability, my students and fellow faculty and staff were just so wonderful,” he recalled. “Every single teacher got online and helped me so I could be online with my students while someone was teaching them. All of these people from school brought me food, came to see me at my home 50 miles away, and it was overwhelming. Everybody here really cares about everybody.”
The love shown to Dr. Thompson by his students, as well as fellow faculty and staff, inspired him during his rehabilitation. He promised he would be on campus for the school’s commencement ceremony in June. In addition to being in attendance as his former pupils crossed the stage, he showed his thankfulness in a special address to the Life West graduating class prior to the ceremony.
“My relationships with each of these young people are so personal,” he said while addressing friends and family of the graduates in that speech, which was held at a banquet the prior evening. “Their presence in my life makes me feel so young, alive and aware of the contemporary world, and that is just one of the many rewards I get.”
The speech was filled with expressions of gratitude, as well as several tangents from his script (ones his students have shown a fondness for over the years). Through it all, Dr. Thompson made no secret of his high expectations for the new doctors of chiropractic.
“The only way you will not be successful as a DC is if you quit,” he said to his former students. “It really is true that every single person on this planet needs you. I promise. Your task is to meet them where they are and to help them.”
Dr. Thompson will return to Life West in a part-time capacity this July.