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Service trips help Life West share power, vision of chiropractic

At Life Chiropractic College West, “creating a brighter future for humanity” is a vision that goes far beyond the campus perimeter. Delivering a world-class education based on the history, philosophy and principles of chiropractic is just part of the school’s curriculum. In addition to creating highly trained professionals as care providers, the college also instills a core set of values in the student body, based on a campus-wide “Lasting Purpose” that fosters generosity and community accountability: Give, do, love, serve from a place of abundance. Life West seeks to inspire students to become active in their communities—and in the world—promoting a chiropractic philosophy that not only advances the profession but utilizes the knowledge and skills gained to improve health globally.

Members of the San Francisco team pose for a picture in March, the 10-year anniversary of monthly visits to this site.

Life West’s goals to broaden chiropractic are a key part of the service trips that are increasing in frequency, allowing both faculty and students to serve and care for people around the world. Students get the added benefit of learning on the job. Each of these service trips began as individual efforts, but all were developed to serve one overall purpose: providing students and faculty with the opportunity to help people in need who might not or have never had access to the benefits of chiropractic. Some of the service trips take place on Life West’s home turf, in San Francisco’s Mission District or in the East Bay’s downtown Hayward, and others have taken students to the other side of the world, to India and Tonga.

Service Trip America celebrates 10 years of service

Launched in 2009 by two Life West chiropractic students, now Dr. Joseph Ibe and Dr. Brian Morris; Life West Academic Counselor Lori Pino; and Life West faculty Dr. Coleman and Dr. Thompson, Service Trip: America (formerly called Mission Trip: America) is a humanitarian outreach program that provides complimentary chiropractic care to the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, some members of whom are also homeless in San Francisco’s Mission District. Through service, the team expands public awareness and education about chiropractic to the community while bringing free services to people who need them. And Service Trip: America is celebrating a milestone anniversary in March, providing chiropractic services for 10 years now at the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, one of many important programs provided through Dolores Street Community Services in San Francisco, whose mission is to nurture individual wellness and cultivate collective power among low-income and immigrant communities to create a more just society.

Once a month, the team conducts a free chiropractic clinic for the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, which has been uniting, empowering and organizing immigrant workers for dignified work and fair wages in San Francisco since 1991. From the initial launch to today, chiropractic services at the site have been met with phenomenal enthusiasm. Teams typically treat from 15 to 25 patients during each 4 1/2-hour event—three-quarters of the patients seen are returning for follow-up care while new patients continue to sign up regularly, including five to 10 walk-ins during each pop-up clinic.

More than 200 Life West students have participated in the program—approximately 30 student members at any given time—and the program manages more than 700 patient files.

When asked about the program’s beginnings and goals, Pino said, “In 2008, at student council, we had a guest speaker talking about service trips abroad, talking about their own trip. I thought, why couldn’t we have a program here where we have deserving people who could really benefit in our own backyard? By the end of the meeting, I said if anyone is interested in doing that here, let me know. Two student council officers came to me—we started talking and decided to see what we could do to launch a domestic service program. In March 2009, we launched a pilot program. We had contacted organizations in the Bay Area, gauging interest for a mutually beneficial exchange where our students can learn and provide free care and quality continuity of care to the population. With rare exceptions, we’ve been in every month since then.”

Reaching the 10th year has particular significance for Pino, who said, “One of the ultimate goals I had was to be able to bring it to 10 years.”

International Service Trips

Dr. Ron Oberstein, President of Life Chiropractic Life West, wants to spread the chiropractic message to all corners of the globe. With more than 68 non-profit service trips under his belt, Oberstein has already conducted three international trips since his appointment to the president’s office about two years ago.


During the 2018 Thanksgiving break, Dr. Oberstein and other members of Life West’s faculty and student body traveled to New Delhi, India. Former Life West alumni and the college’s Board Chairman, Dr. Jimmy Nanda, had a lifetime involvement with the Sant Nirankari Mission in India. Embarking upon an ambitious program of universal health care that addresses the need among the poorer areas where health care facilities are inadequate or sometimes even nonexistent, Sant Nirankari Mission hosts a three-day spiritual retreat twice a year, drawing more than 1.5 million people. About 60,000 volunteers are needed to staff each event.

More than 1.2 billion people live in India, and only 10 full-time chiropractors practice within the country. So Dr. Nanda approached the Life West board in a quest to bring chiropractic services to the retreats. Closely mirroring the ideologies of Life West, Sant Nirankari promotes a state of harmony, linking mind, body and spiritualism to better the welfare of others while finding real purpose in their own lives. Life West signed on.

Dr. Oberstein and Dr. Nanda, along with other faculty members, guided a Life West team of 20 interns in New Delhi. Working in conjunction with the Indian Association of Chiropractic Doctors as well as doctors from around the world, this group provided chiropractic care to more than 11,000 patients during the three-day 71st Annual Nirankari Sant Samagam.

Dr. Oberstein said the people of India were very receptive to the vitalistic message of chiropractic. The November trip was such a success as a culturally immersive and hands-on training experience for faculty and students that the school sponsored another trip, this time to Mumbai, India, in January 2019. About 10,300 patients were seen in three days, allowing students and faculty alike to witness what chiropractic can bring to people’s lives. Dr. Oberstein reports that, post-adjustment, they saw non-hearing patients who could hear, mute patients who could talk and paralyzed patients who could feel.

The college’s ties and its commitment to creating a healthier India were strengthened when Life West service trip attendees also witnessed a ribbon-cutting ceremony, officially opening a new Life West Health Center in New Delhi. Dr. Oberstein said this unique venture will bring regular chiropractic care to the country’s inhabitants and will be staffed by a mix of doctors and last-quarter students, providing both clinical and cultural experience.

See related post, “Student calls trip to India a highlight of Life West experience.”


Wanting to broaden the horizon of chiropractic care to other corners of the globe, Life West sponsored another service trip in December to the archipelago country of Tonga, which was chosen for two reasons: Life West’s athletic director, Adriaan Ferris, a native New Zealander, coached rugby in Tonga and Fiji, and brought to the board’s attention that no chiropractic system existed in either country. In addition, during a July visit to the states Dr. Saia Plukala, the Tongan Minister of Health, connected with Dr. Oberstein at Life West’s Hayward campus, establishing and solidifying a relationship of mutual trust and goals to set a plan in motion.

The first trip to this South Pacific group of islands consisted of only three doctors and three students. During three six-hour days, the chiropractic group saw more than 1,650 people. Dr. Oberstein said the experience transformed both patient lives and the lives of the students and doctors providing care. For example, a 1-year-old boy slept through the night for the first time after just one adjustment, and held his head up after the second adjustment.

Life West plans to go back to Tonga with a larger group in March 2019, 14 students and seven doctors. The goal is to build up to three trips per year and take about 20 students each trip. Life West also plans to open a free chiropractic clinic in Tonga, where four to eight interning students can practice while taking classes online during their last quarter before graduation.


Hayward Veterans Clinic

In January 2019, chiropractic services became available to veterans and active duty military at the historic Veterans Memorial Building in Hayward. Part of the college’s ever-expanding community outreach initiative, the college’s Monte H. Greenawalt Health Center works in unison with the veterans center to provide affordable, convenient chiropractic care, delivering services that benefit a particular segment of the Bay Area community—active and non-active U.S. soldiers.

Headed by Dr. Scott Donaldson and staffed by Life West faculty and students, some of who are former military, chiropractic care is offered every Thursday from 4 to 7 pm. Initial exams are free, and other services such as X-rays and adjustments are discounted at half price.

“This clinic is all about community outreach—we want to reach out to both active service and veterans in appreciation for their service to our country,” said Dr. Donaldson, Vice President of Clinical Operations. Students and faculty who have served in the military will be able to give back to others who have served or are serving the country. “We’re connecting our student population and veterans with the local veterans center, so there will be veterans serving veterans.”

Expanding around the world

Dr. Oberstein has a unique vision, one shared by Life West students and staff: To create a brighter future for humanity, all around the world. In addition to the service trips to Tonga and India, Life West has goals to go further into the world to deliver chiropractic care where it isn’t readily available. Plans include service trips to China, Africa and Central and South America. Life West hopes to open health centers in these areas to provide continuity of care.

Dr. Oberstein added, “These clinics and service trips provide students with unparalleled field training experience in treating a vast array of maladies in extremely differing cultures—experiences that will not only better prepare them for the post-graduation real world, but experiences traditional study could never deliver.”

Space is tight, but the Life West crew makes it work at Dolores Street Community Services in San Francisco.

Dr. Oberstein said he also plans to reach out to corporations within the U.S., particularly in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area, about changing the world with drugless healthcare. As opioid and other drug dependency epidemics continue to create havoc globally, chiropractic care provides a sustainable way of life for people needing relief from pain. His message is aimed at companies that embrace a vision of creating a better future for humanity, and he hopes to harness support from corporations and other philanthropic entities who can help Life West make a more significant impact with the service trips.

“There’s a favorite quote of mine, taken from B.J. Palmer, the developer of chiropractic, that aligns with Life West’s campaign to spread the chiropractic message,” Dr. Oberstein said. “You never know how far-reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow!’”

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