Four retiring professors’ careers celebrated at Western Chiropractic

Discover more about these teachers, who spent much of their careers in the Russell Neighborhood – at this fine medical school that so few seem to know about …

Hampton Hall’s foyer is filled with folks, celebrating the careers of four retiring University of Western States teachers.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was known for many of its 110 years of continuous operation as Western States Chiropractic College – it’s now University of Western States (UWS), and it continues to be a leading institution for educating Chiropractic physicians.

In July, 2012, Dr. Lee McCaffrey invited East Portland News to the celebration of the life and career Dr. Appa Anderson, head of the school’s Radiology department for more than four decades.

 > To see this story, “Life of influential chiropractic physician and educator celebrated in Russell Neighborhood”: CLICK HERE.

Little did we know, we’d be celebrating the career of Dr. McCaffrey and three of his teaching colleagues just 11 months later, on June 3.

The lobby of Hampton Hall, a central classroom building on the UWS campus, was filled with co-workers, friends, and well-wishers – all of them on hand for the retirement celebration.

UWS Director of Communications Brian Fawkes introduced us to the celebrants, that evening.

Colleague Fred Colley greets Dr. Lee McCaffrey at his retirement party, celebrating 35 years at UWS.

“I started here in 1978,” began Dr. McCaffrey. “I had a hiatus for a couple of years, so for me it’s 33 years. I’ve had an opportunity to work in several different areas of the college. And these last years, the classroom is what I’ve enjoyed the most – teaching a variety of medical subjects.

McCaffrey reminded that Dr. Appe Anderson, his mother-in-law, who also taught at the school for 40 years, introduced him to chiropractic medicine. “She encouraged me to look into it, and was instrumental in my applying to the school.”

What was most fulfilling about his career at UWS, McCaffrey said, was watching the students’ growth into medical professionals while at the school.

“I work with students in the first quarter that they’re here at the school, talking a little bit about the philosophy of chiropractic.  I also work with them in some lab courses when they start learning about human anatomy, and later in other classes.

“And then, near the end of their education, I’ve enjoyed taking these students to athletic events, and supervising them when they’re working on patients,” McCaffrey recalled.

“So I get to see the ‘finished product’. I think that’s actually been the most fulfilling – seeing that transition from being a new student to a person who is about to become a chiropractic physician.”

Wearing his brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt – his personal trademark – Dr. Michael Carnes talks with a friend, in one of the large Hampton Hall classrooms, about his 36 years at UWS.

Dr. Michael Carnes was easy to spot in the crowd – he was dressed in a colorful print shirt.

“I’ve always worn Hawaiian shirts. I have at least 50 of them, all my life I’ve been collecting them; I can usually get them on sale at the Goodwill store.”

A Chiropractor and anatomist, Dr. Carnes told East Portland News, “I ended up doing this by accident.

“Originally, I started in 1974 in Los Angeles at a chiropractic college in a temporary teaching position,” Carnes began. “I saw an ad for an anatomy lab teacher at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, and applied – and I got it.  I had no intention of teaching in a chiropractic college originally. In fact, I’d never even met a chiropractor in my life before that. And now here I am, a chiropractor.”

In Oregon it was also a happenstance, Carnes said. “I was here visiting my father-in-law, to fish with him, because I like the Pacific Northwest. I was driving by and happened to see a sign on the freeway [for Western States Chiropractic College] and stopped in, just to check it out. It happened that they needed an anatomist; I jumped at the opportunity. Two months later, in 1977, I was living here.”

Carnes said he had difficulty picking one highlight of his time at the college. “There are a lot of really good things about being here at Western States.  One is being around motivated young, healthy, happy, intelligent people.

“Another is the people that I work with – I’ve got 36 years of friendships and these four are some of them. If one added up, the four retiring teachers have a total of about 140 years’ experience. In a sense, we ‘grew up’ together,” Carnes added.

“It’s all of these things: Long-term friendships, great social experiences, and the intellectual stimulation – and never a dull moment, when you’re trying to keep up with the students.”

UWS colleague Dr. Darcy Vavrek congratulates Dr. Richard G. Gillette, Ph D., on his 32 years as the school.

Although his title is “Doctor”, Dr. Richard G. Gillette said he’s not a physician. “I am a Ph.D., a neurophysiologist.”

Neurophysiology, he explained, is a medical specialty that studies the central and peripheral nervous systems through the recording of bioelectrical activity.

Dr. Gillette said his path to UWS was through a high school literature teacher, who was the Academic Dean of the school in late 1970s.

“He knew of my work at OHSU where I was doing my PhD. work,” explained Gillette. “He told me the school needed a teacher of the particular subject matter in which I was being trained. He insisted I was ‘up to the task’; so I came and started teaching. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously the entire time. It’s been a great opportunity.”

Most professionally-fulfilling to Gillette, he said, was being able to continue his investigation into spinal pain.

“As a teacher, I realized that there were many unknowns about spinal pain. I used that as a jumping off point to help teach the students.

“At the same time I worked with colleagues from OHSU and the Neurological Sciences Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital – one of which was a world-renowned spinal researcher in the area of pain.”

With three National Institute of Health grants over 12 years, they were able to conduct detailed spinal-pain studies. “Then, I was able to bring new leading-edge evidence to the students – giving me the opportunity to do more than just ‘parrot back’ something in a textbook.

“It was very exciting; and a very unique kind of opportunity,” Gillette recalled. “Not only was I able to present this information to our students – in an area where there wasn’t any work done on – we got it published, and presented the data internationally.”

Asked how the school will cope with the retirement of himself and his colleagues, Gillette said, “They will find another great teacher. The school seems to attract them.”

Dr. Bob Boal Ph.D. grabs a bite to eat, while talking with friends he’s made during his tenure at UWS over 37 years.

Serving 37 years at UWS, biochemistry instructor Dr. Bob Boal said he received his Ph.D. In chemistry from Boston University.

“Biochemistry is one of the basic science courses students take,” Dr. Boal began. “That was the basic focus of my degree, as well as endocrinology.”

He’s enjoyed his career at the school, Boal said, for two reasons: The staff and the students.

“The staff – the people that I’ve worked with here, I’ve enjoyed tremendously. They are so well-qualified. It’s really nice to have a job where you can share ideas with peers,” commented Boal.

“The other reason is teaching, and working with students,” Boal explained. “The students here are very dedicated; and they work their fannies off to get to be doctors who will help people with pain and mobility. It’s nice to be part of that.”

Before the brief formal program, celebrants dine and chat in the Hampton Hall foyer.

“This is both a happy day and a sad day,” commented WSU President Joseph Brimhall.

“We are happy that these people are retiring and getting to move on into another phase of their lives. Yet, we are sad, losing their contributions and expertise.”

Their students won’t be let down, Brimhall assured. “We have an expectation of excellence; it is part of our culture. We tend to attract people who are interested in very high quality performance. That is reflected in the faculty we have, and in the performance of our students.”

To learn more about University of Western States, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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