Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. Today, Dr. Charmaine Herman of Life University shares her passion for chiropractic. With her full-on mission to contribute to the growth of upper cervical chiropractic healing, Dr. Herman gives us her gold nuggets for the people who are trying to open up their practice but whose funds may not be enough at the moment. A well-respected professor at Life University, she reveals how to balance teaching and private practice. On top of that, find out the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people while in and out of practice, and the power of words of encouragement to patients.
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Upper Cervical Healing with Dr. Charmaine Herman
We have Dr. Charmaine Herman. She is a Blair Upper Cervical doctor out of Alpharetta, Georgia. She is an expert researcher in the upper cervical field and is responsible for many new research articles on the upper cervical work. She was also Blair Chiropractor of the Year in 2016 for her dedication, research and expertise in the Blair upper cervical work. Dr. Charmaine is also a professor and instructor at Life University teaching the students the Blair work. She’s very passionate about Blair and sees many miraculous results in her practice. She discovered the Blair upper cervical work because she had excruciating low back pain that she could not get rid of. Blair upper cervical was able to rid her of her low back pain and give her the ability to function to her optimal potential. She is now helping others do the same at her healing center in Georgia, Agape Upper Cervical. Dr. Charmain, how are you doing?
I’m doing great, Dr. Kevin. How about you?
I’m doing well. I’m excited to have you on the show. You’ve been practicing Blair for quite some time now, right?
Yes, for a few years now.
Dr. Charmaine, where are you from originally?
My father is from Jamaica. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I lived in South Carolina for 23 years. I moved there in 1987. I’ve lived in Georgia for several years.
How was that transition from Brooklyn to a South Carolina?
I went to Alabama first. South Carolina seemed big when I got there. It was a life-changing experience. I love the south.
Did you say you started off in education?
I went to school at the University of South Carolina. I wanted to go to medical school.
What was your drive for wanting to be a medical doctor or a doctor in general?
I always wanted to help people initially. I knew that was the way of helping. My mom was a nurse. I grew up around science. I grew up around with things like that. I always love science. I worked for a vet for a few years in high school. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian at first. The animals at the school I went to were pretty big not like dogs and cats. That wasn’t going to work for me. I didn’t want bigger than dogs and cats. Medicine was the second thing on my mind. I wanted to be a pediatrician.
How did you end up making the transition over to chiropractic?
I didn’t grow up with chiropractic so I don’t have that history. A lot of African-Americans or African-Caribbeans don’t have a history in chiropractic. I later found out that my dad, who would get into a car accident, did go to a chiropractor. I didn’t know it. It was about 2004 when I was working for the Department of Health in South Carolina after I graduated from USC. I did that for ten years. One of the ministers at the church I went to had a problem with her back and it was lymphatic pain going down the leg and everything else. She tried everything. She went to the doctor. They gave her a bunch of muscle relaxants. At the health food store that I would frequent, the owner said, “Did you take her to a chiropractor?” I said, “What’s a chiropractor?” I felt stupid. I had a Master’s degree. I did all this stuff, but I still had no idea what a chiropractor was. I took her to the chiropractor. She had two or three visits. She was up and going, no medicine, nothing. It’s amazing to see the effectiveness of chiropractic on her life.
It’s something that stayed in the back of my mind for another year. I went back to that same office to talk to the chiropractor that was there. At that time, Sherman Grant had bought the practice. He started talking to me about chiropractic. It jived with what I believed, how I believe the body worked or what I believe God intended to body to do. It made much sense to me. He gave me my application to Sherman. It was great. It was so funny because I asked two of the chiropractors in Columbia. I went to see them first before I made my final choice. They were both like Grant. They both went to Sherman. I went to Sherman, turned in my application and started the next year.
Did you get your first adjustment that day?
I got my first adjustment before I went to Sherman.
Was that profound? Did you have any good experiences with that?
I didn’t notice anything different because I was not someone in pain. It didn’t make a big difference to me.
Did you find upper cervical chiropractic at Sherman or was that something you found after graduation?
That I found at Sherman. Around the fourth or fifth quarter, I developed a bad left hip pain while I was a student there. My intern tried everything and I still was in a lot of pain. Dr. Susan Brown-Cooper came on campus to teach the Blair work. Dr. Perry Rush was already teaching the Blair work there, but I was in the fifth quarter so I couldn’t take it yet. I got a seminar primary. It made so much sense to me. She came back, I took the intermediate. She came back and I took the advance. At the event seminar, I was in so much pain. She reached over, “Do you want to be the patient?” I asked, “Can I please be the patient?” I was at the point where a lot of my students get it where they feel like chiropractic doesn’t work for them. They work for everybody else, but they don’t have that source. I was in that place. I’m here but it’s not working so much.
That’s what you’re about to do. You’re about to graduate. It’s tough to get enthusiastic about something that you haven’t had any luck with.
Dr. Hooper took my X-ray. She adjusted me for 30 minutes. The first place I felt the heat was at my left hip. It’s like someone lit a match. My hip was burning up. I must have fallen asleep for I don’t know what time. When she got me up, my pain was gone. I stood there. I was like, “You adjusted me and my hip pain went away.
That’s what a lot of people don’t understand too. We are an upper neck specialist, but it affects the entire body.
I was on fire for Blair. They would come with a Blair person on campus. I was inside the Blair Club. I went to the seminar. I took Dr. Rush’s class. We learned the technique and I’ve been Blairing. I became the Blair person.
What did you want to do after you graduated? You’re in Alpharetta, Georgia. How did that come out?
I met my husband while I was in school. I married him at the end of my second year. When I graduated, he was already here. He moved up to school for the last couple of years so I didn’t have to transfer. He stayed on campus with me and worked from home. I graduated in March 2009. I’m moving back to Atlanta where his job was. We stayed in Alpharetta and the next question was I had already got my business plan and everything else because they had student programs. I had everything ready to apply for my loans. In 2009, that was the year all the banks tanked. Nobody was giving out anything. Thankfully, I had already applied to Life University because I had a Master’s in History and I taught history for a number of years. I taught while I was at Sherman at a local college. I applied to teach at Life in the undergraduate college where I’d have some funds coming in. They hired me. I started on April 6, 2009.
You started as a teacher to get some income at Life. It turned into something beautiful for you because you are one of the most amazing people like giving back to the community in the Blair society. You give so much to that college and the students are appreciative. How did you get connected with Blair on campus? Did it come naturally?
It was Dr. Rittman’s. He was a Blair doctor. What I found at Life, I worked in undergraduate college. I only taught history. I’m teaching biology labs becoming the overall labs under the Natural Science Department. My passion has always been chiropractic. I already had the license. I wanted to practice. In 2013, when I received the Blair faculty certification, I went ahead and applied to teach some Blair elective on campus. That has not been taught until 2004. I had to put in the paperwork and everything to apply to teach. I was already the advisor for the Upper Cervical Club. My students are getting to know me slowly into chiropractic. When I got to teach the Blair electives, that year I got hired into the chiropractic program full-time.
You also have your own private practice too?
I started my private practice in 2013.
When you said 2009, the banks crashed, a lot of people don’t have the finances. How were you able to navigate that and what is some advice you have for other students and doctors that are trying to open up their own practice but the funds may not be right and there might be other things in their life that they feel at the timing or whatever is not right. How did you manage to open up your own practice, stay positive and weather that storm a little bit?
My faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know I was going to open my practice one day. That did not mean I wasn’t going to be able to get there. I stayed focused on doing what I did. I stayed in the moment. I stayed working with the students. I stayed working on campus. You don’t have to have a lot of money to open a practice. I come back to that every day. You might need that. You could do it in less than that. You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles. Keep it simple. You want to keep your overhead down. You can buy used furnishings and buy a lot of stuff. I bought things online. I kept up my overhead low. It’s great like people, places like Titronics will lease new equipment with low payments. You don’t have to worry about buying a Tytron right out. You get monthly payments. There are many options there. It’s not all about trying to get all the bells and whistles.
The most expensive thing would be the X-ray equipment. How did you do that?
I had already bought an X-ray from a doctor who went digital. I had already bought a system. I had it in storage even before I had my practice open. When I did open my practice, what was a big lesson was Dr. Christopher Lee, who practices Blair at Roswell lived three miles of my location. Instead of putting all the expenses of setting up a system, I sent my patients to Dr. Lee. We worked together. He takes my X-rays and back to me. We were able to get around that. I’ve taught people and it would be a great opportunity. Find other chiropractors in your community. Take views of other chiropractors in Roswell and other areas in Georgia because they’re great views. If you don’t have the money for the system, check your community, there are other chiropractors with systems would be glad to do it.
I see that “stopping” a lot of people. They say, “I want to but the X-ray equipment or the CBCT is too expensive,” when you can refer out for your X-rays. There are also dental people that if you want to do CBCT, you’re helping them pay off their machine. Those are still two good resources where you’re keeping the overhead low and you’re getting all the images you need to do the upper cervical work.
We don’t communicate well with others. Chiropractors, in general, are an island by themselves. Once we learn to communicate with the community around us and reach out to see what other people are doing. I sent letters to all the chiropractors in my community to let them know I was there. They may not have all responded, but they know I’m there. We have to put that hand out if you want something to come back. I tell that to my students, “Don’t think you’re an island by yourself. Even the medical community will help you. People get to know people in the community. I’d be glad to give you ideas, share knowledge with you. You don’t know anything. That’s one of the biggest problems we have as a professional. We are so isolated. You got a big world out there. People are happy to help.
Dr. Charmaine, what cases do you see in your office that you’re able to help with? A lot of people don’t even know what upper cervical chiropractic is. It helps with almost everything. What people do you see in your office? What cases are you able to help with?
I’ve been able to see a big gamut of people from young children. I’ve seen babies from twelve months who doctors thought had epilepsy, it was not. It turned out a hypersensitive sympathetic system that was causing them to have what looked like tremors. I’ve been able to work with babies and children. I researched about that. I’ve had an eight-year-old with severe back pain that they didn’t know what was wrong. I’ve had patients come with Meniere’s. One as far as four hours away came up to my practice because there are only two Blair doctors in Georgia where they have to travel from Tennessee for four hours. Two adjustments and she was doing great. Her dizziness was gone. Her life came back. I see everything in my practice. I’m always happy to see elders. I see over 65. My oldest patient is 76 years old. She’s been on the Blair for almost 30 years. When she retired in Georgia, they sent her to me. I’m excited about what I do. I love upper cervical chiropractic. My students always laugh at it, “You’re so passionate.” I’m passionate because I’m doing something I love to do. I love the practice. I love to teach. I have the benefit of doing both things that I love the most.
How important do you think that is in doing anything in life, following your passion, finding your passion and pursuing it?
That is one of the most important things you could ever do in order to feel like what I’m doing has a purpose. When you get out there and you’re on the job every day, and I’ve done that, this is my third career, I’ve been in a job that I did like but didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. If you’re going to be a chiropractor, you need to love it because you’re going to be doing it every day for the rest of your life. It is important. If you don’t, be old enough, man enough or woman enough to make that decision, “This is not what I thought it would be. I need to do something else.”
You see a lot of people wanting to make that jump into another career or something that they want to pursue, but they either are scared or they make excuses. They don’t believe that they can do it. What do you think it was with you that you are able to make that jump, switched careers and pursue your dreams? Not everybody does that.
Chiropractic was not my initial dream, but it became my passion. I like to help people. I want to help people live the capacity that I was working. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. That drives you enough to question Him. Once you question, as I said, I pray to God, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do. I’ve done this and this, what else can I do?” Here comes chiropractic right in my lap. I’m like, “This is what I want to do.” People do not have to get out of fear. People are afraid, but fear stops people from doing great things in every area. Once you get past the fear, I know I need to do something other than I’m going to die in this career that I hate so much and I need to do something. People need to be exposed. They need to take the time and look for things to see what else is out there. When you find it, do it wholeheartedly. There’s always money to get things done there. I find that when you make that step, everything comes towards you. Don’t be afraid.
What I hear from you is you realize that you were following something that was bigger than yourself. It wasn’t all about you or whether it’s about money or anything. It was you and your dreams. You realized you were helping and serving people. When it becomes bigger than you, it helps you get out of the bed in the morning on the days you don’t want to show up. The work becomes enjoyable.
I love it. My husband is retired now but he always says, “I can retire because I know you love what you do too much.” My patients know, my students know I enjoy what I do. I thank God every day because I’m able to do something I enjoy, both things I enjoy on a daily basis. It has to be bigger than you. Otherwise, if you do this to get rich, it’s the wrong motivation. It will happen that way.
I feel like the money almost follows when your intention is in the right spot. You must love also teaching the students, the Blair work at Life University. Tell me a little bit about that because upper cervical chiropractic is not on every campus. It’s only in a few in the country and you are one of the main doctors teaching it. How rewarding is that?
That’s extra rewarding especially when you go on to work in the upper cervical communities especially become a Blair doctor. I’ve seen a number of students go out and there are Blair doctors in other states. I feel so excited that will add to the profession because Blair doctors are so few and far between especially on the East Coast, there are so few of us. I made an impact on their lives. This is what I want to do. I remember to show them that I can do this and I’m going to go do it. It is one of the most rewarding things I ever felt is to watch my students go and start their own. It’s a great reward. I’m thankful for that.
It’s such a rewarding field especially the upper cervical world because you see so many miracles happen. There’s also on the other side of the coin, it does get difficult. I feel like a lot of students may feel like we were talking about it alone. Some chiropractors feel like they’re on an island or they’re by themselves. The Blair community is excellent. There are so many doctors that are willing to help you out, whether it’s sending X-rays through emails to help with listings and everything. If you’re a student out there and things are getting difficult, I’ve seen some people shut it down completely because they were struggling. The Blair community is very strong and if you ever need to send X-rays or get questions on a patient, we are all definitely here for you and able to help you out. Dr. Charmaine, I get questions about your email all the time down in Life University, someone to talk to about upper cervical. They’re thrilled when they find you down there.
That’s one of the upper cervical I’m excited. I talk to students from NUCCA and we have the conversation. As long as you understand how important the upper cervical area is, you’re part of the family. If you’re not doing Blair, that’s fine but do something. You should typically deal with the upper cervical spine. You learn how to adjust. You need to do it well because it will affect people’s lives and get you those miracles. I teach the head and neck clinical case integration course. I see every student every quarter and that’s one class where you got to be specific especially because we deal so much with the head and neck issues.
What does that mean being specific in the upper cervical spine adjustment and why is that so important?
The location of the brainstem, the location of the major arteries of the neck, things like the carotid arteries that feed the brain. You want to be as specific as possible not to cause any injury. At the same time to open up the power, to open up the ability to communicate with the body effectively because it’s locked that upper cervical subluxation. A full spine move might not do that. You may do that, but it might not work. What else do you have in your bag that will work? You might try Thompson. I hear a lot of things are awkward. It’s the one that moves the most. It’s the most unstable one. Adjusting is great. A lot of times we are afraid to contact that bone or they don’t know how to contact that bone. An adjustment is so important as far as knowing when to and also when not to. That’s something I do speak to my students.
Dr. Charmaine, how are you able to balance teaching and your own private practice?
I am at practice three days a week: Tuesdays, Fridays and Sunday afternoon. Those were the days I’m not teaching. The traffic in Atlanta is heavy during the week. A lot of things come up on a Sunday afternoon between 12:00 and 6:00. I can’t do any of this for my husband because he runs my practice. He rather is off if he takes the money, he made the appointment. That has been such a blessing for me. All of that, it’s not like I’m superwoman. I promise you I am not. There’s a little old thing. If you want things done, give it to a busy woman. One thing I am is doing. We also have a ministry. We have a family. There’s always something going on. The balance is there and I know my priorities. My patients are my priorities on patient days and my students are my priorities on teaching days.
You’re very present wherever you are, which are important. You touched on something that I also find important, the people you surround yourself with that are able to help you out because what makes my job in the office a lot easier is I have the same secretary that was with Dr. Banish for several years. She knows exactly how to talk to people, how to answer the phones, how to collect the money because that’s important. She makes it so I only have to worry about the chiropractic. It sounds like your husband also is amazing and takes the load off your shoulders in that department. How important do you think it is to surround yourself with the right people while in practice and also obviously outside?
That’s almost a given. Unfortunately, people don’t see it that way. You need to have that positive encouragement and strength when you’re frustrated with the patient. My husband will talk me off the ledge in a minute. Those days come. I love every patient. Not all patients are the best people at times to deal with. It’s great to have someone else there to take that pressure off of you. When people come at you and want to make deals about prices, you need to see him about that because that’s not on my plate. They feel like my heart is big. I don’t want to do this. He’ll cut them a break in a minute. Our practice is left to the ministry as well as service to the community. He was like, “If they can’t pay, we’ll take care of it next time.” I let him handle all that because he knows what’s going on. It’s okay but it’s still important to surround yourself with the support that you need to be positive because when you were in that practice when you were with those patients, they know what’s going on with you. They can feel what’s going on.
They could tell when you need a break or when you’re on fire.
They can see it and feel it. If you’re stressed out, they’ll know you’re stressed out. They’re like, “Are you sure you want to adjust me now?” I’m always giving my best when my patients see me. A smile is always there, an encouraging word. I was always trying to remember important things about family members like “How’s your daughter doing? How did that situation go the other day that you were talking about?” All of those things, that’s present at the moment with them and can’t be that way if you’re stressed with all the other things that are going on in life.
Remembering little things about your patients, whether it’s their birthday or how their daughter or wife is doing, that goes a long way with them. It might even help with the healing process a little bit, showing that you care. Do you feel a lot of the healing is mental as well?
I believe people have to feel like they can be healed. I put my patients up to trust and prosper. Sometimes it’s a long process depending on how much damage they are, how long they been subluxated. Let’s trust the process. Let’s trust the God-given ability of your body to heal is going to work. Take it one day at a time and let’s celebrate the small miracles. Turn their head and look, you couldn’t do that. If they can sit down without pain, you couldn’t do that last time. I always want to celebrate those small miracles. They encourage because it’s a process.
We all love those people that pop up off the table like the experience you had with your hip that it does happen. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s also a good amount of times where healing does take time and it could be a roller coaster ride for the first couple of months. Those words of encouragement are very important, especially for a patient that’s going up and down in the first couple months.
You as a doctor have to be a patient too because sometimes you’re like, “Is this going to work?” You have to be confident that you are putting in the force at the right time and the body knows exactly what to do with it. If you don’t see that miracle, what do you do? I had one patient I’ve been seeing her now most of the year. We took new X-rays and she was a little disappointed. I couldn’t think about it. It hasn’t gotten any worse. What we saw in the X-ray hasn’t changed. It’s not going from bad to worse. It’s staying stable. The next one we’ve got to do the healing. That made me smile about that. You’ve got to always keep your patients on the positive side of this care and at the same time know when you need to send her to someone else.
What people do you refer to when people start plateauing, Dr. Charmaine?
I keep them with me most of the time to see what the body’s got to do. There’s a NUCCA doctor not far from me that I refer to from time to time. He’s also a naturopath. She’s good at working with some of the other things that the body needs help with. I’ve sent them to a naturopath to look at that. Every now and then, if I see a case of not clearing out. Thankfully most patients have stayed with me. I’ve found that naturopathic care has helped a lot of my patients.
There’s so much going on. These days are so many toxins and dramas. We’re always on our cell phones looking down. There’s a lot more that goes into our health these days. Sometimes it does take a team to get people better.
At the same time, we had to be more willing to do things like give patient exercises. I do prescribe exercises, things that they do for their posture. Let’s do this. Let’s raise your computer. Let’s do that. The people start looking down all the time. Put your elbows on the table when you’re looking at your cell phone, things like that to get people out of that negative posture because that’s a big thing right now. We have to thank AT&T and Verizon for bringing us all these things. Getting people out of those bad postures and bad habits, that’s a challenge as well and that’s a big part of our care.
Dr. Charmaine, where are you located? Where can people find you? What’s your website, email and all that stuff?
My practice is Agape Upper Cervical Health Center and the website is www.AgapeUC.com. My email address is AgapeUC@Gmail.com. You can reach me there. At Life University, I am Charmaine.Herman@Life.edu.
Dr. Charmaine, I always ask my guests, what is one piece of advice that has resonated with you through the years that you would like to gift the audience? It could be absolutely anything.
If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Do what you love.
Dr. Charmaine, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for having me. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.
You’re doing it. Thank you so much for all you give back to the upper cervical world.
Thanks, Kevin. Take care.
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