The Lybbaverse / chiropractor  

What got me interested in STEM


Dr. Charles Zollner shares with the Lybbaverse what first got him interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and technology) education. It wasn't the image of a germinating dandelion on his science book.

I was a bad student for the first 10 years of my life. School just didn’t interest me. I fidgeted. I got into trouble. Anything to break the tedium. I do remember being intrigued by the science textbook I had in my desk in first grade. I remember it to this day. The cover had a picture of a dandelion seed cluster beginning to disperse in the wind. I think we opened that book twice the entire year.

Subsequent years did little to engage me. School was taught in a very rote form. Memorization was emphasized. All that changed in fourth grade. My new teacher that year, Mrs. Maher, had a different style of teaching. She added a sense of wonder to her topics. Instead of teaching us to memorize that the moon goes around the Earth in 27.5 days, she explained that the moon rotates exactly so that the same side is always facing the earth. Isn't that fascinating? Why, yes it is, I thought. Wait a minute, why does it do that? Her teaching style engaged me. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Although subsequent years generally lapsed back into the traditional style, a seed had been planted within me. I began to read more. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer was generally, an astronomer or a chemist or both. Some sort of scientist.

For me, this geeky interest in how things work eventually found a place to land, like a dandelion seed, within the healthcare field.  If you want something fascinating, there is nothing more fascinating than the human body. If you want to learn about something in order to and make things better, nothing is more relevant and practical than the human body.

This style of teaching can apply to any subject. History can be taught as a dry memorization of dates or as the epic story of empires rising and falling, chance events that forever alter fates and tales of intrigue that have brought us to where we are today.

As today’s education tends toward teaching for an upcoming standardized test, I despair that the students coming up are being denied that sense of wonder.  The extent to which we can capture the imaginations of today’s youth will be the extent to which we can benefit from their talents in making the world a better place. 

As the world careens into a precarious time, whether our own civilization will rise or fall may ultimately depend on the degree to which we have engaged the intellectual resources needed to set it on a steady path. That will likely depend on this one metric: how well are we educating our youth?

Read more posts by Dr. Charles Zollner on his blog.

Q&A with Dr. Charles Zollner


Chiropractor Dr. Charles Zollner is a new clinician contributor to the Lybbaverse. 

Dr. Zollner notes, "Most people nowadays, at least in the first world, don’t die from infectious diseases. Instead, they grind down from the chronic diseases of civilization. To what extent, through better diet and lifestyle, can we mitigate these factors?" Here are more considerations and insights gleaned from his practice.

What are you most interested in, of late? 

CZ: As a sole practitioner running my own practice, I’m fascinated by the process and balance of maximizing the benefits to my patients with the resources I have available. I call this ideal, “Elegant Simplicity”. This entails the streamlining of resources and processes to help as many people as possible to as great an extent as possible. I was inspired by the book The E Myth by Michael Gerber. It is a business book that discusses the benefits of establishing systems and protocols so that a business (any business) can run efficiently and consistently. Certainly within the healthcare field, we have seen a growing emphasis on protocols and checklists as part of the standard of care. And yet, the danger always lies in catering to the mean at the expense of patients that are statistical outliers. By that I mean using systems that work well for the majority of patients but are less effective with the statistical outliers. The ideal system/procedure/protocol will somehow take into consideration the statistical outliers (i.e. patients that not responding to care) and have additional backup systems/protocols to address them.

In the 15 years I’ve been in practice, I have been trying to hone my skills and procedures to achieve this ephemeral ideal. I wish I could have begun my practice with my current information already under my belt. Similarly, new practitioners have to reinvent the wheel. I think a big challenge within the healthcare field lies in how to best disburse the best practices that have been arrived at through research and, perhaps more importantly, through the individual experiences of practitioners. The big challenge for healthcare, and really any field, in the future will not be gathering information. We are drowning in information. It will be how to best find valuable information (separate the wheat from the chaff) and best distribute it to where it can be used. I suspect this will once again come down to systems and procedures. Elegant Simplicity.

When and why did you become a chiropractor and patient advocate? 

CZ: Like so many chiropractors, it was a personal experience. I suppose my story is typical enough. I injured my lower back lifting weights when I was in my 20s. After a year of pain, off and on, a friend suggested I see a chiropractor. The benefits were remarkable. But what attracted me to the field was that chiropractic was facilitating the body’s innate ability to heal. There were no added injections or medications. It all came from within the body. Which then begged the question; in what other ways can we facilitate the body’s ability to heal and to achieve optimum health?

What first sparked your interest in the health and wellness field? 

CZ: As I’ve evolved as a practitioner, I have increasingly seen the connection between a person’s lifestyle and their benefits from a chiropractic adjustment. Simply put, what they do in the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of their day is going to have a very big effect on the 10 minute adjustment I give them. This is true of any medical procedure we’re giving to patients. Undoubtedly, this is a huge variable that determines the success of anything from a course of antibiotics to open heart surgery.

Another thing that has increased my awareness is my own aging body. I know I won’t get much sympathy from older people, but I just turned 50. There’s a phrase that I think is apt, “The 40s are the old age of youth. The 50s are the youth of old age.” As I look at my mother, who is about to turn 90, succumb to Alzheimer’s, I wonder what things she could have done differently, if she had had a better understanding of health, to avoid that fate. Similarly, what can I do to stay active and alert to the very end. Most people nowadays, at least in the first world, don’t die from infectious diseases. Instead, they grind down from the chronic diseases of civilization. To what extent, through better diet and lifestyle, can we mitigate these factors?

What do you love most about your practice? 

CZ: This is an easy one. Seeing patients get out of pain and experience improved function in their lives. I believe pain permeates all aspects of the patient’s life. Perhaps Grandpa is grouchy or mom is yelling at the kids because of their pain. What then are the societal repercussions of this?

Chiropractic is always emphasizing the connection between spinal alignment/mobility and the health of the nervous system. Research is continually bearing this out. Although the understanding has evolved from the more simplistic “bone out of place pinching on a nerve” concept, the basic principle is still the same. What we now realize is that when spinal joints do not move properly, this inhibits the firing of the mechanoreceptors of those joints. The mechanoreceptors tend to inhibit the firing of the sympathetic nervous system. When they don’t fire due to lack of movement, the sympathetic nervous system tends to go into overdrive. This causes more stress on the body which affects various systems. So more than just relieving pain, we are reducing stress on the body and, in doing so, helping the entire body. One study found that 23% of all people who saw a chiropractor experienced some benefit in a non-musculoskeletal complaint. Indeed, I get that all the time. Patients say to me that they are sleeping better or their digestion is better or they have more energy. One can only wonder what the whole body affects are of the chiropractic adjustment and, in turn, what the societal effects are.