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SCU Resident Spotlight: Dr. Hiwot Melka

Primary Spine Care Resident, Dr. Melka Discusses the Future of Chiropractic Care in the U.S. and Beyond

Dr. Hiwot Melka came from her home country of Ethiopia to the United States with the idea that she would obtain a quality education and pursue a career in the healthcare industry. After receiving her B.S. in Health Sciences from Hamline University and while working in a hospital setting, Dr. Melka was introduced to the field of chiropractic.

"What struck me about chiropractic was that it addresses the whole person and can be implemented to the majority suffering from spine related disorders with minimal resources,” she says. “Because I come from a place outside the U.S., I’m interested in how to deliver care in places where it might be harder to get pharmaceuticals, equipment or medical support."

The portability of chiropractic, paired with Dr. Melka’s interest in spine care, eventually lead her to earning a Doctorate of Chiropractic from Northwestern University of Health Sciences and most recently to completing a Primary Spine Care residency at SCU. Dr. Melka appreciated that the Primary Spine Care residency aimed to standardize an approach to the diagnosis and treatment of spinal disorders.

"Even in the western world there are so many different approaches to spine care," she explains. "There are different techniques, therapies, and treatments advertised for treating spine disorders. The Primary Spine Care model establishes a reliable standard for an integrated, patient-centered, and evidence-based approach, where the Primary Spine Care practitioner diagnoses the patient’s condition and then coordinates their care in a team-based model."

Dr. Melka kept her home country central to her work by embarking on a research project to survey the state of chiropractic care in Africa during her first year of residency. The pilot phase of the study collected descriptive data from Botswana, where the first World Spine Care Clinic was established, and Ethiopia. The second phase is collecting this same data from the whole of the continent.

"Preliminary findings suggest that there is a variation in regards to treatment approach across practitioners and the distribution of chiropractors per region varies," Dr. Melka reports. "Even if it’s just a single chiropractor in a given country, chiropractic care does exist across the continent." Always looking for practical applications for her work, she hopes that this research will identify areas in need of primary spine care practitioners and form the basis for future study.

When asked about how she might counsel students considering a similar career, Dr. Melka points to evidence that back pain is a common leading cause of disability worldwide. "It leads to loss of productivity, it leads to suffering," she adds. "In the coming years, there’s going to be a high demand for primary spine practitioners. Students who join the field now will play a significant role in addressing the global burden of disease." Having been offered a position as a Primary Spine Care Clinician at SCU, Dr. Melka is excited at the prospect of training clinical students to do exactly that.

"SCU is teaching students to be prepared for where the field is moving—SCU is teaching for the future."


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