Nurturing More Diversity and Inclusivity Within Chiropractic | An Interview with Dr. Angel Ochoa-Rea
Noah: Alright! Welcome to DC2Be Revolution, this is Noah Volz and we're thinking big to live large. I have a great opportunity that I’m getting to talk to Dr. Angel Ochoa Rea and he's a really personable and caring chiropractor; I’m super excited about this conversation. He's also the owner of LGBT chiropractic in San Diego. Dr. Rea thanks for being here.
Dr. Rea: Of course! Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Noah: Yeah, my pleasure well since you have LGBT chiropractic. I wanted to start by talking to you about diversity and so I wondered what your experience of diversity has been within the chiropractic community and if there's any advice you have in terms of creating more inclusivity within that community.
Dr. Rea: That's a good question, and a loaded question. So, I personally found chiropractic’s not very diverse. I've been to a couple different chiropractic institutions, I found most of it to be white, straight individuals for the most part. I'm Latino, from Mexico City, so I think I was one of the few Latino students at both schools that I went to.
So, I think historically chiropractic hasn't been very diverse in regards to different ethnic backgrounds and different sexual orientations so for me what that provided was this huge niche to be able to serve a couple different communities.
I'm fluent in Spanish and I have quite a few Spanish speaking patients and then I also identify myself as a gay male. I realized that there was a lack of health care providers as a whole, not just chiropractic, but health care providers as a whole that weren't serving the LGBT community.
They aren’t providing a safe space. What I mean by a safe space is where someone that identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender can go and be open and be themselves to their health care provide or not feel judged or feel harassed. I tried to make that community when I was at Life West for example. I started a LGBT club, there was nothing at life West.
There was nothing that was inclusive of the LGBT community and to me that was an issue because there are quite a few LGBT students there and I felt that was something that was really important to be able to provide so I think there's definitely a lot of work that needs to be done. There needs to be more people that are more diverse in the profession, to make it more inclusive and more welcoming to patients.
Noah: Thanks for bringing that up. That's personally a concern of mine. Chiropractic does not seem to be inclusive and as a middle class white male do you have any suggestions for somebody like me and what I could do to be more inclusive to augment my vocabulary so I am more approachable for people within that community?
Dr. Rea: As a gay guy I can identify as a gay man, but I wasn't super familiar with the transgender community, we're not really taught much in school about the transgender community, or a preferred gender pronoun. I've asked a lot of different people, “hey what's your gender pronoun” they look at you kind of oddly so I might prefer the gender pronoun: male, he, him. So I identify as he, him. Individuals in transition, let's say going from male to female or female to male, sometimes want to be referred to as he or she and someone to be referred to as them.
That's a little challenging because we're so used to having a gender or pronoun associated with an individual. So how do you identify or how do you talk to someone that identifies as them.
What I did on my website is to let the whole community know that I'm accepting their preferred gender pronoun. On my website I have my name and then I have my gender pronoun: he, him.
My office intake paperwork has options for gender where you fill it in so you're not necessarily circling male or female. Little things like that allowed individuals that are transgender or considering transitioning knowing that that office is going to accept them.
Society as a whole loves to put people in boxes and label people, that's one way to start, to talk about that. Let people know that you identify as a white middle-class American and say you want to see other communities other than that LGBT community. Talk about your travels if you have and I suggest traveling because people that tend to travel the world tend to be much more inclusive of all communities. Travel a lot. I’ve gone to India a couple times on different community service trips and I feel like that helps to make one more diverse and more understanding of the world as a whole.
Noah: I was lucky enough to live in Germany when I was 16 and that that experience changed my outlook and opened me up to more differing points of view.I feel like it made me a lot more tolerant as an individual. What does the acronym LGBT mean and is there a LGBT qualification?
Dr. Rea: LGBT stands for lesbian,, gay bisexual, and transgender. It’s an acronym, there's actually quite a few more letters now. There's also A for asexual, P for pansexual, I for intersex, but it's too many letters. I only have so many letters for my business, that's why I decided to name it LGBT.
In regards to certification. Here in San Diego I’m part of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce. It's called the Greater San Diego Business Association and I've worked with that group to develop a LGBT certification process.
The practitioner needs to watch a bunch of videos and then you have to submit your paperwork and your mission to the group. We make sure that it's inclusive of the LGBT community. That you have your proper preferred gender pronouns on the paperwork. That the gender options are not just male and female and basically you train your whole staff and certify that they've also watched these videos.
I have so many patients that have come into my office and say, “Doc, I am just so thankful I can come be me. I've been in a lobby before where when I hold hands with my girlfriend as a lesbian the receptionist is giving me a dirty look.” They feel welcomed and comfortable and don’t feel judged and ostracized.
Noah: So, let's say you have a patient that is in the process of coming out they want they're identifying about to identify this gay bisexual transgender whatever it may be they're going to want to go to a doctor's office where they can talk about being themselves and not feel worried about that and feel that it's a safe space it's an interesting discussion.
Dr. Rea: So, I often have people say why did you name your practice LGBT, like what is the point and my point was I wanted people to feel safe. For myself I had a really hard time coming out as a gay man. I was born and I was raised in a Latino Mexican family, super Catholic, I was a Division one tennis player, played sports my whole life. I was really worried about coming out as a gay guy that people weren't going to accept me, to the point where it was just something I thought I was never going to do and so I realized that how many other people are out there like me that are in the process of coming out or newly come out and want to be able to go to a space where they can talk about themselves, talk about their sexual history, talk about their partner,s and not feel scared or feel bullied.
That was really important for me and for health care providers. You don't have to be an LGBT individual to be able to serve the LGBT community, you just have to be LGBT competent and understand that if a man comes in and talks to you about their boyfriend that you refer to that person as their boyfriend. I feel that these type of certifications are really important even if you are not part of San Diego LGBT community.
Noah: I feel like there's so much that we can learn as chiropractors on how to serve more diverse communities and that'll just create more diversity more inclusivity within the profession as a whole. Thank you for the work that you've done with the Chamber of Commerce in order to create something like that. Is there any other way you know of to help students while they're in school to get more of this competency?
Dr. Rea: These links to these videos are a good start I’ve been working with life west to get this integrated into the curriculum. We're trying to figure out where in the program it would make the most sense. It's important to have them before clinic, so that the whole student body has that baseline so then they're going out and serving the community, all communities.
Not all schools are going to offer that, it's probably a good six months to a year out, it's not easy to integrate something into a healthcare institution because there's a lot of policies and procedures.
I’m president the National Gay and Lesbian Chiropractic Association and I made a site so patients can find a LGBT provider in any state. There is a huge need, and a huge opportunity to serve a community that's really loyal.
Noah: I personally want to go to LGBT office to increase my comfort level in that environment, just be around people. I haven't had a lot of those opportunities and so even as a chiropractic patient that's a perfect opportunity for somebody like me to become more comfortable. It works both ways, the LGBT community is not as comfortable coming to a straight office, but also the straight person also has to get comfort able.
Dr. Rea: What's been interesting, with the name LGBT chiropractic I wasn't really sure what my patient base was going to be. Sixty percent of my patients identify as straight, so I have a huge straight community that comes into my office and oftentimes they'll say, “hey I'm straight, is that okay?” Yes, we are inclusive of all communities, so I don't discriminate against the heteronormative society. I am happy to help someone that is LGBT or straight. Any straight patient that's going to come into an office that's LGBT is going to be LGBT friendly.
There's a shift where LGBT and the straight community are really starting to integrate together. My goal is to never exclude the straight community, but it was to provide a safe space for the LGBT community. It's turned into this great synergy where I have this diverse community. Everybody that comes in here feels really comfortable and safe, no matter how they identify.
It's not that someone necessarily needs to see an LGBT doctor, they just need to see someone whose going to be respectful and is going to be welcoming of them and they're not going to feel judged.
In chiropractic we see our patients a lot more than the average provider so sometimes you're seeing patients three times a week and you get to know them really well.
That's why I decided to become a chiropractor's I wanted to be able to build these relationships with individuals in my community.
I just accept everyone that comes through my door, no matter who they are, what their background is, how they present, whoever they are, they're welcome.
I feel like every chiropractor should be that way. If the goal is service and serving you should then make sure to be a servant to all communities and accepting them for them.
Noah: I love that you brought up how important acceptance and openness is in terms of your mental attitude so no matter who you are you can always work on being more accepting, more open to experiences. I've noticed that I feel like you've been good at creating this target market, but in doing that you were increasingly successful with people outside of that target market.
Dr. Rea: Thank you it's been a very pleasant surprise. I think the secret is living a life of congruence and I feel like I've really been able to do that. I first graduated and I didn't know being out in practice was relevant.
I realized, this does matter because I want to be my authentic, congruent self. I don't want to have to hide anything I don't want my patients to feel like they should hide anything. I put all my cards out on the table which allows for connection and healing.
Noah: One last thing, how do people get in touch with you?
Dr. Rea: You can find my practice LGBT chiropractic on Facebook. I’m also on Instagram
Noah: Thank you for sharing. This is DC2Be Revolution. Helping chiropractic students think big in order to live large.
Writing with originality, generosity, compassion and purpose, Dr. Noah Volz imparts valuable lessons in an entertaining, engaging and snappy way―backed by a wealth of experience. As an author, chiropractor, and entrepreneur, he has started and run multiple companies and has been the host of the DC2Be Revolution YouTube channel and podcast.