Life of influential chiropractic physician and educator celebrated in Russell Neighborhood

If you’ve been helped by a great chiropractor – learn more about the woman who helped train thousands of these physicians in outer Northeast Portland …

At the memorial service for Dr. Appa Anderson at University of Western States, her daughter Linda McCaffrey and son-in-law Dr. Lee McCaffrey show uniforms worn by Anderson when she served in the Woman’s Army Corps during World War II.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The greater Portland area has a higher-than-average concentration of chiropractic physicians than do other cities – mostly because many of the doctors received their education at what was called Western States Chiropractic College.

Although the institution is world-renowned for offering quality education, the school –now known as University of Western States (UWS) – remains hidden from away from most outer East Portlanders in the Russell Neighborhood, located east of NE 122nd Avenue, with their campus backed up against I-84.

From near and far, students, staff, and friends of Dr. Appa Anderson gather for a “celebration memorial” of this influential educator.

Past students and staff at the school agree that over her 40-year tenure, one woman – Dr. Appa Anderson, DC, ND, DACBR – guided the school to being recognized as perhaps the finest chiropractic training facility anywhere.

Dr. Anderson started as a student herself at Western States Chiropractic College in 1949, and also began working in the X-ray department that same year. She graduated in 1953, and became the first female chiropractic radiologist in 1965. She retired in 1989 after 40 years of dedication to WSCC and the profession, but continued in private practice.

At age 88, Anderson passed away on July 15.

Alumni, staff and friends from all over the nation came to join in a celebration memorial held at the school for Dr. Anderson on October 13.

Many of Dr. Appa Anderson’s degrees, certificates, and commendations were on display at the school where she taught for four decades, during her memorial service.

Anderson’s son-in-law, practicing chiropractic physician and an instructor at UWS Dr. Lee McCaffrey, told East Portland News that Dr. Anderson inspired him to take on a healing profession.

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard of the word ‘chiropractic’ before meeting my mother-in-law,” McCaffrey said. “Just by being around her, I get interested in it, went to school at Western States, and graduated in 1977. And now, like her, I am an instructor.”

Anderson received her X-ray training when she was in the military service, McCaffrey observed. “After the war, one of her older brothers was already enrolled in chiropractic college, here at Western States – and suggested she look into the school.”

During her matriculation, instructors discovered that Dr. Anderson was already a skilled and well-qualified X-ray technician. “So, they put her to work immediately – and she became both a student and an employee of the College.”

Diplomat, American Chiropractic Board of Radiology, Dr. Bryan Gatterman DC fondly remembers Dr. Anderson at her memorial service.

Traveling from Hayward, California, where he teaches at Life Chiropractic College West, Dr. Bryan Gatterman, DC, D-ACBR, said he was the college’s first “resident” many years ago.

“At that time, a residency program really didn’t exist,” Gatterman said. “The College made a commitment to start the program; I was fortunate enough to be the first resident and pioneer of those early days.”

During that period, Gatterman said, residency provided an in-depth training in his chosen field, radiology.

“Dr. Anderson was interested in details,” Gatterman recalled. “I’ll never forget her detailed descriptions. The detail of how a student or resident described a feature on an X-ray was really important to her. That’s something I’ve always carried with me, this whole time, throughout my career. Now when I’m working with my students, I carry that on – giving, and requiring, detailed descriptions of what they see on X-rays.”

Like many chiropractors, Gatterman said, Anderson was an individual who had a profound influence on their lives. “In fact, I would not have become a chiropractor, had I not spent an afternoon with her, while interviewing at Western States College. Dr. Anderson showed me around when I first toured the campus – and I decided then and there to attend the college and became a chiropractor.”

Dr. Anderson’s daughter Bonnie Williams, and relatives William Lockhart and Annette Hanson, look at memorabilia posted in the hallway during the memorial.

In the foyer of UWS Hampton Hall, the school President, Joseph Brimhall, commented, “Dr. Anderson was truly beloved by many students. She made multiple contributions to the institution. Most likely, we would not be here today, it were not for her contributions, long-standing hard work, and dedication.”

Displaying an X-ray, Dr. Lee McCaffrey recalls Dr. Anderson’s sense of humor in the classroom.

Once seated in the large auditorium, Dr. McCaffrey spoke about the woman who inspired him and many others.

“She’d have fun with the radiology students who come to see her,” recalled McCaffrey as he slid an X-ray film onto a viewer. “She’d hold up an X-ray, examine it – then turn it over and say, ‘Oh, perhaps you can see more on the other side!’ Thus, the students were initiated into radiology, with her sense of humor.”

Young and old, from near and far – people gather to honor the memory of Dr. Appa Anderson.

Several of the nearly 100 people in attendance spoke up, and shared their fond memories of the doctor and teacher they grew to know and appreciate, before the group went back into the foyer for refreshments.

Dr. Anderson is gone, but according to her legion of students and friends, she continues to be honored in their memories.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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