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May 3, 2004

Straight Down the Family Line:  Chiropractic is a Family Affair for the Pulvers



With the honorable distinction of being the first graduate to receive a diploma from Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic, one would almost expect Brian Pulver to have somehow led an extraordinary chiropractic career.

Like so many of his fellow pioneer graduates, Pulver certainly has had a successful and rewarding practice during the 25 years following his graduation. But perhaps his greatest point of pride stems from the fact that two of his sons are carrying on the family legacy by becoming doctors of chiropractic. Josh Pulver, 26, graduated from Sherman College on March 20, 2004, and his brother Levi, 25, is an eighth-quarter student at Sherman.

“I’m even more proud than I expected to have my son graduating,” Brian Pulver said the day before the March commencement ceremony in which Josh (who was named after B.J. Palmer) would receive his diploma. Pulver, who has been unable to practice in his hometown of Mason, MI, for the last two years because of an injury, is consoled by the fact that he is passing on the torch. “There will still be Pulvers adjusting people,” he said. “There will still be a Pulver Chiropractic someplace.”

Josh and Levi are also proud to continue the family tradition, but neither admits to knowing all along that they would become chiropractors. Brian Pulver remembers this clearly. “We’d come to Sherman and to Lyceum and buy the little t-shirts that said ‘My dad’s a chiropractor’ or ‘I want to be a chiropractor,’ he said. “But Josh and Levi were always stubborn and said they weren’t going to be chiropractors.”

Finding Their Own Way
Indeed, Josh and Levi had to make their own choices — but their career paths eventually led them back to their father’s example. “I didn’t want to become a chiropractor just because my dad told me to,” Josh said. “He never pushed me to become a chiropractor. I needed time to figure that out on my own.” Josh said growing up in a chiropractic lifestyle helped him gain a greater understanding of the profession. As he got older, it just made sense to follow in his father’s footsteps.

His decision to enroll at Sherman was an easy one. “I have been coming to Lyceum since I was a little kid, and I’ve always felt comfortable at Sherman” Josh said. “When I talked with people in the registrar and financial aid offices, everyone was so personable and welcoming that I made up my mind easily that Sherman was the school I wanted to attend.”

Levi also found his own path to chiropractic and to Sherman. “When you’re a little kid, you grow up thinking you’ll either be a football player or do what your dad does,” he said. “But as I got older and started thinking about college, I wanted to explore all my options first and go from there.” He enrolled at his father’s undergraduate alma mater,
Central Michigan University, and majored in biology. That left him a lot of options in the health care professions.

When he ultimately decided on a chiropractic career, Levi again explored his options before enrolling at his father’s second alma mater — Sherman. He requested brochures from almost every chiropractic college, threw out about half of them, and then talked on the phone with admission representatives at the remaining schools.

“Straight chiropractic was what I knew and grew up with,” he said. “I asked a lot of questions, and I didn’t feel I needed to visit any of the other schools. I visited Sherman, and it had everything I wanted. I also talked with my brother about it.”

Continuing the Tradition
Josh admits to feeling a little of the family pride knowing that he played a role in Levi’s career choice. “Just as happy as my dad is that I went to Sherman to become a chiropractor — I’m that happy Levi came to school here,” he said. “It’s like sharing a special bond. I know he’ll do great in school and will be a very good chiropractor.”

Brian Pulver can’t help but wonder what’s in store for his two other sons, Nick, 22, and Evan, 18. “Right now they’re saying that they’re not going to become chiropractors — but they’re weakening,” he said with a chuckle. As Nick and Evan see their older brothers becoming successful in practice, Pulver thinks they’ll be convinced.

Seeing the Differences
As he pondered Josh’s and Levi’s career paths and the next day’s commencement ceremony, Brian Pulver couldn’t help but reflect on his own experiences as a chiropractic student. Pulver’s mother had worked for a chiropractor for many years, so he had been under care from the age of five. After graduating from Central Michigan with a teaching degree and having trouble finding a job he liked, one day Pulver complained to his chiropractor. That’s when he began considering a career in the field.

His chiropractor recommended a different school, but when Pulver arrived on that campus, he knew it wasn’t the right place for him. After talking to his chiropractor once more, he learned that the chiropractor had heard Reggie Gold, D.C., Ph.C., talk about a school being built in South Carolina. He called Gold, and “Reggie put me on the list.” Pulver was one of the first people admitted to Sherman College of Chiropractic in 1973.

Hearing Pulver’s story, it’s hard to imagine how he knew for sure Sherman was the right place for his education. “Everything that Sherman did was hard from the beginning,” he said. “We didn’t have student loans. Within the first year, we found out that our accrediting agency had been eliminated. And at the time I graduated, only five or six states would take us.”

Sherman students and graduates even faced ridicule among fellow chiropractic students and practitioners. When he sat for the Michigan state board exam, Pulver was told he would not pass because he had been a Sherman student. When a group of Sherman students traveled to Kentucky to take that state’s board exam, they were accused of cheating because their scores were so high.

Other obstacles Pulver faced included the political (it took six months to “battle the politics” for his license) and the ridiculous (he had to interview with a priest after taking a morals test for state licensure). The very doctor who had suggested Pulver explore a career in chiropractic would not hire him because he felt it was too risky. But Pulver said that was probably the best thing that could have happened. He struck out on his own and opened Pulver Chiropractic Center in 1977.

As the years went on, Pulver’s experiences confirmed that Sherman had been the right choice. “One year at Lyceum, I thought, ‘Finally! They have a classroom building,’” he said. “They have a library. They have student loans. Finally we got accredited. Every few years, more states would open. None of it came without blood, sweat and tears.”

Pulver can only hope that his sons appreciate what Sherman is today. “Students sometimes tend to complain about the little things,” he said. “They complain about the quality of food or about a holiday or vacation day they didn’t get off. But when you get in the real world, you face real problems... like approaching a tough patient case or being audited by an insurance company. These are real problems that you have to be an adult for.

“Anytime I heard my sons complain, I would say, ‘You think that’s tough. School is practice for the real world. If they made Sherman easy, would you really be able to face the tough problems? It is the real world that school prepares you for.’”

Pulver also encouraged them to look beyond the present. “When you look at the big picture, getting a degree from Sherman is still the best thing they could ever do,” he said.

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