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Life West dean talks about life-changing trips, working with A’s

Life West’s Bruce Chester has had a long, distinguished career in chiropractic. In addition to serving as the Dean of Clinical Competency at the college, Dr. Chester is also the official team chiropractor of the Oakland Athletics.

Just as important to him, however, is his travel overseas to share the value of chiropractic.

Dr. Bruce Chester

Dr. Chester has made several journeys, including Life West’s most recent service trip to Tonga this past September. A graduate of Life West from the early 1990s, he said he is incredibly appreciative of the chance to embody the college’s mission of Lasting Purpose: Give, do, love and serve out of one’s own abundance.

“I always say, ‘I wish we had that opportunity when I was in school,’” he said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement within the student body because of opportunities like that.”

Dr. Chester’s first service trip was to India several years ago. He recalls being hit by significant culture shock, as well as being floored by the demand for chiropractic care in that country.

“It was life-changing for me,” he said of the experience. “It really changed my perspective and worldview of chiropractic. I’d been out of the country, but I wasn’t there assessing in the field” of health care.

Such an atmosphere can be quite intimidating, even to experienced chiropractors who have worked with professional athletes. Dr. Chester conceded that there were times he felt a bit overwhelmed.

“It was hundreds of people waiting to get in and see our group,” he said. “It didn’t stop all day. It was a constant flow of people. I’d be working on a patient, and there would be two people waiting. As soon as the patient got up, another would sit down or lay down on the table.”

However, Dr. Chester credited the team of Life West students and faculty, who banded together and helped give the patients care.

“As a group, we did a great job,” he said. “It was amazing how many people we saw. You do what you can to change people’s lives in some small way, whether it’s being there for them, performing the adjustment or whatever else it’s going to be.”

In addition to dealing with cases one may not see in other parts of the world, Dr. Chester said the trips spearheaded by Life West’s administration offer chances to show how chiropractic can change lives.

“On the last India trip, I was with Dr. Oberstein,” he recalled, referring to Life West President Ron Oberstein, DC. “We went to an area with severely ill and handicapped people. There was one person who could not walk. After being under care with our group, he was standing. We saw the ‘miracle’ kind of stuff, which doesn’t happen all the time. But when it happens, it’s a fantastic thing.”

Balancing jobs and looking forward

Dr. Chester, left, poses for a picture with longtime Oakland A’s clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich.

Dr. Chester also balances his work with Life West with time at the ballpark, where he has served as the team chiropractor for the Oakland Athletics since 2013. He works 28 home games each season, and thanks to his job at Life West, he often has plenty to do while waiting for pre-game patients.

“I’ve been there grading papers and clinic exams,” he said with a smile. “I do that on a regular basis because I have time when they’re at batting practice or in the clubhouse.”

This past season, Dr. Chester traveled with the A’s to spring training, where he took in the action from the clubhouse. He says providing care to world-class athletes has been an eye-opening experience.

“This is my sixth season with them, and it’s worked great,” he said. “The reason a chiropractor is with a professional team is because the players want them. It’s a lot of fun, because they know the value of chiropractic.”

Now 63 years old, Dr. Chester says he gets asked about retirement plans. But he’s in no hurry to call it a career just yet.

“I don’t see retirement anywhere in the near future,” he said. “I love what I do. I love being here at the college, and I love working with the athletes.”

Dr. Chester has two pieces of advice for future chiropractors, drilled into him by one of his mentors, who also works for Life West.

“One of the things Dan Murphy taught me is to keep a low overhead,” Dr. Chester said. “Secondly, live in the town you’re going to work in. That’s really important, to be in that area and be part of the community.”

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