Margaret Payne, Senior biochemistry major and family and society minor from Nashville, Tennessee, is enjoying her last few weeks as an Ave student. This fall she will begin her studies as a Master's Chiropractic student at Palmer University in Port Orange, FL. Margaret is incredibly involved at Ave Maria and can be found working in Mission Outreach, doing research, and participating in service work with the Mother Teresa Project. Margaret is effervescent and will be so missed around campus.
How have you spent your undergraduate years preparing for a career in chiropractic care?
I’ve used my undergraduate summers to work in three different chiropractic offices. The summer after my freshman year, I worked in an office where I was the front desk secretary. It was modeled after massage envy and was somewhat impersonal. The patients came in, got their adjustment, and payed a flat fee. It was interesting, but it also showed me how I don’t want to run my practice. I think that patients should understand the quality of care that they are getting and be involved in the decisions regarding their treatment plan. The following summer, I worked for two doctors who were just opening up a new practice in Nashville. I was the secretary for them, as well, but they had a very different approach than the first office that I worked for. They had a very different style of adjustment, which was centered on holistic healthcare. The owner was a functional medicine doctor, and she helped me to figure out what I had going on with my own health. Working for her showed me that chiropractic care and nutrition go hand in hand, and in order to really heal ourselves, we need to integrate the two. Last summer I worked for a doctor as a chiropractic assistant. I was put in charge of teaching the patients the exercises that the doctor recommended and briefed them on how the office worked. I also was in charge of planning events, which I really loved. This office was different than the others that I worked for because they treated their patients as a whole person. That kind of chiropractic approach is what really drew me into the field. It made me think, “This is what a primary care doctor should be!”. I love that the future is heading toward a much more integrated system of healthcare. There is a place for medicine and a place for nutrition, but it is awesome to see how they can work hand in hand.
Did the Biochemistry program at Ave prepare you with the pre-requisite classes that you needed in order to be accepted into Palmer?
Yes, absolutely! I actually knew that Palmer was my first choice of chiropractic schools for a long time. It was the only school that I applied to, but I applied in enough time that if I didn’t get in, I could apply elsewhere and still meet the deadlines. I do feel really prepared for chiropractic school, which is why I chose to study biochemistry at Ave. With classes like medical terminology, nutrition, anatomy, biochemistry, and health science modules, Ave gave me the tools that I needed in order to know how to think and how to approach all of the sciences, as well as how to study. Because I took these classes, I have a deeper understanding of what is happening in the body at the most minute level. It’s really beautiful to understand the body and I am so excited to go forward with grad school and continue to learn about the human body. God is so unbelievable! There are hundreds of thousands of processes going on in the body at any given time, yet we just go about our day and take His craftsmanship for granted. If you treat your body right and try to give your body everything that it needs, it knows what to do and how to heal itself. I find that fascinating.
Did your participation in mission work influence your decision to go into the health field?
I went to Honduras on mission trips twice when I was in high school and I also went with Ave to Calcutta to work in the children's homes and the home for the dying. I remember just looking at the older men and women with terribly hunched backs and thinking, “When I’m a chiropractor, all I need is my hands to provide relief and give them the tools to ease their pain.” I think it is so beautiful how one human can ease the pain of another. So much pain could be prevented with the simple remedies that we have access to and take for granted. The children in these developing countries, especially, are so hard to see…their suffering breaks your heart. I think it would be so cool to go somewhere and do as much good as possible. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the position to do something like that long-term, but I would love to set up a program to adjust homeless people wherever I live. You have nothing if you don’t have your health, so to be able to give that gift to someone would mean so much to me. Ave has taught me that mission work doesn’t have to be abroad, it can be right in your hometown. Just like Mother Teresa said, "Find your Calcutta".
Is there anything that someone who wants to go into the medical field should absolutely do before senior year?
If you think you want to go into a certain field, in order to really know, you need to get a job in that field before you graduate. Be an office secretary, volunteer at a local clinic once a week, shadow a surgeon, it doesn't matter, but you need to see the day-to-day inner workings of the career that you plan to pursue. Doing this will really help you with your decision. The experience that you gain as an undergrad in the medical field may not show you exactly what you’d be doing as a working professional, because you’re not the doctor, but you get a great understanding. No amount of research on the internet competes with real life experience. You can Google all you want, but the experience of working with a patient and seeing hundreds of cases is something that you could never gain if you didn't step foot into an office.
What is the best class that you have taken at Ave?
Catholic Social Teaching with Doctor Rezende, hands down. The importance of everything I had learned in philosophy, theology…everything I learned growing up in a Catholic community was communicated in a way that I had never heard it before. It gave me the tools for how to live day to day as a Catholic in this world. It’s our duty to make the world better and this class was sort of the capstone of my education here. It was easily the best class I have ever taken. Going forward, I know that it deeply helped to shape my viewpoint on my position in the world. I will be able to implement what I learned in my career, my daily life, and in raising a family someday. I came to Ave for the formation, and that is exactly what I got and more.
Transitioning to Palmer from Ave, how will you take what you learned from Ave and who you became? What will make you different as a chiropractor because you came to Ave?
I think that something about Ave is that, for example, in moral theology we learned that the virtue of chastity is supposed to help incorporate our sexuality into our whole being and moderate it to the point that we aren’t controlled by our desires. Everything is supposed to be incorporated into who you are as a person. You’re not supposed to be dominated by one part of you. I’m not going to be Margaret the chiropractor, I’m going to be Margaret. I will hopefully be a wife and mother and Catholic, and I am also going to be a chiropractor. I hope that people will see something of Christ in me and in my practice and how I treat them. That’s what we are called to do - be Christ and bring His light. One of my favorite things that Saint Francis said is, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”. I love that. If it comes to a point that I have interactions with people who want to have a conversation with me about Catholicism, I feel very well equipped to answer their questions, and if I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, I know where I can turn!
Would you like to give a shout-out to a professor?
Thank you Doctor Peliska! He is the sole reason I am still a biochemistry major come senior year. I remember when he invited all of the biochemistry majors over to his house for a barbecue. He gave a little welcome at the beginning and said, “It is really cool to look around and see all of these people who want to study this amazing science and do it for the Church to help better the world.” He had tears in his eyes, and all I could think is, "This man is so passionate". He has conveyed that passion to all of us and has made such amazing strides in this program in the short time since it was created. He is one of those teachers who just makes you so excited to learn. You’re never worried to ask him a question because he never makes you feel like your question is dumb. Everything he teaches is taught in a way that can be understood. He stopped us in class one time when we were studying metabolic pathways and said, “This is one of those things that when you look at it, how could you not believe in God as the ultimate designer?!”. That is why you come to Ave. You learn from the best of the best in every aspect and your studies are always integrated with the faith. What a wonderful man. I am so grateful for him.