An Interview with Catherine Quinn, President of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA)
Catherine Quinn is the President of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) and alumnus of the AECC University College. We interviewed Catherine to find out more about her career to date and what inspires her, her time studying at AECC UC and her words of wisdom for our current and future chiropractic students, and what she thinks is the future of UK chiropractic care and building connections with mainstream healthcare.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?
“My route to becoming a chiropractor started when I was studying Sports Science at St. Mary's University, Twickenham. I was competing in Karate and dropped my guarded…leading to a kick to the head meaning I needed to see someone about the neck pain I was feeling as a result. Family and friends recommended I see a chiropractor, and that was my first exposure of seeing chiropractic at work! I was blown away by the hands-on care, the thorough assessment and the speed at which I was able to get back into training properly again. It completely changed my outlook on what I was going to do after my Sports Science degree, rather than enter the Sports Performance or development industry or another healthcare profession, I decided to become a chiropractor.
“I went on to study chiropractic as a mature student at AECC University College. I travelled back to London every weekend, keeping my connections with Harlequins Rugby League and London Cornish RFC. Committing to this volunteer work allowed me to build up a network within the Sports Medicine community so by the time I graduated from AECC UC in 2012, I was given the opportunity to join London Irish RFC First team in the week I graduated. I also completed a couple of weeks at The London 2012 Summer Olympics. I was my usual cheeky self and applied to be a chiropractor for London 2012, even though I would have only graduated 2 weeks before the games! I went through the process and was selected to join the Medical Team as a First responder. Just being a part of the Games was a fantastic experience and I am now looking forward to being a chiropractor at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, a chance for me to use my clinical skills in a Polyclinic setting.
"Since then, I have been First Team Chiropractor for Queens Park Rangers FC for the 9 years, joined the New Zealand Kiwis (Rugby League) team on tour and travelled internationally treating Australian, Norwegian and Dutch Skeleton Athletes with my friend and colleague Tim Button. These opportunities have usually meant working as an integrated part of the healthcare team. So, when I was asked to consider standing for the BCA Board in 2016, my drive to even consider such a role was my desire to see all chiropractors, not just those of us in Sport, considered as an integral part of any healthcare team. Upon my election as President in 2017, I finally had the chance to push this vision into action. At just 30 years old, I feel my naivety to my level of ‘chiro-political’ experience looked like confidence others and helped me to hear through the noise and stay focused on my task at hand. Once there, I had to figure it all out, and my own self belief that I could handle these things, contrary to a lack of any evidence of my ability to do so was half the battle. Wind forward to 2022 and we are incredibly excited to have delivered a new Vision and Mission via a new brand for the BCA, which is for chiropractic to be an integral part of UK healthcare – that’s hopefully where we’re heading now.
"I’m now living and working in Bristol and absolutely loving my new surroundings!”
As an alumnus of AECC University College, can you tell us about your time studying with us and do you have any words of wisdom for our current and future chiropractic students?
“I studied the Master of Chiropractic (MChiro Hons) course for four-years at AECC University College. I went for direct entry and studying at AECC UC gave me flexibility to still go back and forth on weekends to London, as it was located close enough that I could still do that. It also gave me a huge number of opportunities to learn and gain experience. I found that the tutors were always very encouraging of me making the most of those opportunities which I had already initiated and developed before I came to Bournemouth.
“In my final year, when I was a Clinic Intern at the very start of the clinic experience, for the first couple of weeks I pursued an opportunity to go to France with Harlequins Rugby League and I spent two weeks carrying out medical care such as first aid, massage and strapping as they completed a two-week tour. As I missed time in Clinic, I did have to make up the time so that I was able to hit all of the learning objectives but I knew the opportunity was worth the hard work to catch-up again. Along the way, I found this experience to be very indicative of how AECC UC supported students and provided flexibility to their learning; I was encouraged to take on opportunities, the chance to knowing that the responsibility was always on me to make sure I made up for anything I missed but was always given so much time and support from the academic staff. You need only ask :)
“In terms of ‘words of wisdom’ for students, it would be to make the most of all opportunities that come your way. Even if it doesn't seem like it's the opportunity that you were hoping for, you don't know what doors that might open. Make the most of being a student where you likely don't have the responsibilities of a mortgage or a family yet, and just go off and do everything that comes your way – go to every event and say yes to opportunities.”
For Chiropractic Awareness Week (CAW) 2022, this year's theme is Rigour, Evidence, Relevance – as the President of the BCA, what does the theme mean to you?
“Chiropractic Awareness Week in the past has always been about highlighting what we as a profession offer to society and celebrating chiropractic. We want to keep an element of that, but members have told us through the repositioning and the rebranding project that the BCA have committed to in the last couple of years, that they want to feel more integrated, respected and understood by their healthcare colleagues.
“So, this year with Chiropractic Awareness Week, we want to make sure that we are giving people the tools and resources to be able to integrate and communicate better with their healthcare colleagues, whether they're new graduates or people with years of experience.
“Over the week, we’re hoping to really highlight the fact that chiropractic is integral to UK healthcare, and that the private practice sector has a huge amount to offer to make sure that people have a choice in their healthcare options.”
What do you think is the future of UK chiropractic care and building connections with mainstream healthcare?
“The BCA has just completed our repositioning project, so we're very clear on where we want to be. We held stakeholder consultations both within chiropractic and across healthcare, and most importantly heard what our members want the future of their profession to be.
"Our vision is for chiropractic to be integral to UK healthcare. We think that there should be options to access Chiropractic across all settings and to be seen as a really important part of UK healthcare.
"The last two years with the pandemic have really shown where the gap in the market is for private practice independent healthcare. The NHS is not a never-ending pool of money and resource. It cannot keep up with this global burden of disease. As people struggle to access care through their GP, they're coming through our doors and we need to make sure that every patient who needs the care offered by chiropractors at least knows they have the option to see one. We're not saying that it's right for everybody, some people don't want or like the hands-on approach and patient preference must come into this, but we need to make sure that it's considered as a legitimate and accessible option for every single patient.
“If you ask someone what a surgeon does, even if they've never seen a surgeon, they will know what they do. If you asked the same question about what a Chiropractor does, you may not get the same understanding. We want everybody to know 100% and be very clear on what a chiropractor does, including other healthcare professionals so that together we can put the patient at the centre of our decision making and give them all possible options.”
You’ve recently received the prestigious Leadership Award as BCA President. Can you tell us some more about this award on what this means to you?
“So, Parker University were incredibly kind. Dr Bill Morgan asked me to speak at the World Congress of Women Chiropractors as part of Parker Vegas in February about empowering women in leadership.
“I spoke about how being a leader means having strong core values and a vision of what to do with them. Vision is at the centre of every decision made and it is the energy that drives you on. Vision is what will inspire those around you to follow your lead and share in your passion. I spoke about the importance of ambition because I believe ambition should be celebrated. It's just believing in yourself and your abilities. Should we take up space, or should we diminish ourselves to make others more comfortable? I challenged the delegates to be brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious as I believe that this could change the world... but let’s start with chiropractic. I asked the women, and men present to support each other. The difficulty with having fewer female role model in leadership is that it can create a sense of needing to protect that position. I stressed to the people in the room that by lighting someone else’s flame, it doesn't diminish yours. We need to lift everybody up and make sure that women, men, everybody are supporting each other.
“They then presented Dr Michelle Maiers, the American Chiropractic Association President, Dr Debbie Wright, the Canadian Chiropractic Association President and me with the Women in Leadership Award at a beautiful ceremony, and we were really blown away by the absolute kindness. It really showed that the work that we're doing is seen.”
And finally, what inspires you?
“There are a few areas that really inspire me. Being someone who's worked in professional sport for most of my career, successes like being promoted to the Premiership is amazingly inspiring. But for me, when a patient achieves their goal because of the work you do with them, they are my day-to-day inspiration.
“I spend four days a week with patients and there's one lady that comes to mind. She is a grandmother who just wants to be able to take her young grandkids to swimming and tennis. She wants to be able to be an active part of their childhood and not just sit back and watch. She came to me for acute low back and leg pain, which was sadly stopping her from doing just that, so after a couple of weeks of care, including gradually building up the involvement she has in their sport, she is able to take part fully. Her telling me that she knows the care she had received had not only taken the pain away but given her a plan to keep it away, I found really inspiring.
“Premiership promotions are great fun, but on a personal level it is the individual patients and their achievements that remind you why you're doing it.”