Dr Stephanie Tolonen's Story

Dr Tolonen’s Story

Dr. Tolonen shares the path which lead her to becoming a chiropractor:


Have you ever wondered why people pick certain jobs? I have always been intrigued by people, and my especially curiosity spikes when it comes to their careers. Did you become a fireman because one saved your life? Did you become a teacher after one helped you find your passion for learning? Did you become a police officer to make a positive impact in someone’s life and/or protect people?

Before I decided to become a chiropractor, I had a hard time figuring out what path may best suit me. When I was a child, I dreamed of being a veterinarian (probably so I could play with animals all day!) or a teacher. As I got older, the idea of being a detective or forensic investigator rose to the top of my list. I was a police cadet for many years as a result of this interest, and absolutely loved it. However, I had a hard time envisioning myself as a patrolwoman; I wanted people to be happy to see me, and not have a negative or fearful response when I approached. I am grateful for my law enforcement friends and admire them greatly, but it just did not seem to be my right fit.

As I neared college, a variety of possible jobs loomed in my mind; should I be a dentist? A counselor? Maybe a teacher? My high school guidance counselor constantly told me I should look into nursing, and although the medical field interested me, I had not interacted with many nurses and did not know much about them. Although I didn’t know much about my future, I did know what was important to me: feeling like I was making a difference in someone’s life, helping people, constantly doing something different, and having a flexible schedule so I could accommodate my future family.

Right before I graduated from community college, one of my classes required us to interview two people we knew regarding their jobs: what did they like about work? What did they hate? What were the pros and cons of their field? At the time, I was working at Costco Wholesale, and interviewed Paula, the physical therapist. I loved talking to her. She was spunky, vibrant, and happy. She raved about her job, noting how much she loved helping different people and how she had the ability to see different problems every day.

After talking to Paula, I decided to look into physical therapy. I was excited to have found a potential path, and enrolled in the pre-physical therapy track at Portland State University for the coming fall. During my three years at PSU, I kept my goal in the back of my mind; sometimes it was in the forefront since I was spending lots of time with different physical therapists. I shadowed at a handful of different clinics to figure out which realm might excite me most.

I spent time with the PT at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in the burn unit, which was fascinating. I shadowed a PT in a training and rehab facility, which was almost exactly what I envisioned myself doing someday, and I shadowed multiple private clinics, including one opened by two guys who were previously trainers. They had a very sports and athletic focused practice, which I loved! After finding the two training/rehab/athletic focused facilities, I knew I found where I wanted to be. These people were FIXING people’s problems and correcting their issues, allowing their patients to get back to the activities they loved.

Flash forward a few years: my boyfriend at the time (now husband!) and I were in a car accident after being hit by a drunk driver. I was seeking PT, and my husband was seeking chiropractic and massage.  We were both getting better, and we both wanted the other to try what we were doing; he really wanted me to see a chiropractor to see what I thought about it and whether it would help me. I was nervous and hesitant because I had no idea what chiropractic care would entail, but I made an appointment and went anyway. I had never heard of a chiropractor before!

At my first appointment, I was so nervous that I asked my friend (who was working there) to hold my hand during my first adjustment! The doctor made me feel really comfortable, and asked me about my career path. I told him I had applied to and interviewed for PT school, and he asked me why. After telling him my reasons, he told me a little about the chiropractic field, and I realized I could accomplish the same things with either degree. My husband and I looked into chiropractic school (to be honest- he’s the one who set up a tour with them and nudged me to apply!), and here I am.


Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays!

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