3058 DC's "Dogged Persistence" Leads to Harvard Med School
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Dynamic Chiropractic – September 13, 2004, Vol. 22, Issue 19

DC's "Dogged Persistence" Leads to Harvard Med School

By Editorial Staff
Earlier this year, Geoffrey Bove, DC, PhD, was appointed to the Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty as an assistant professor of anesthesia. In doing so, he became the first doctor of chiropractic to attain faculty status at the prestigious 222-year-old institution.

"The factors that go into attaining a faculty position at Harvard Medical School are numerous and vary somewhat, depending on the applicant," says Dr. Bove. "Assistant professorship at HMS requires national, if not international recognition in the discipline, and typically requires, and considers as part of the evidence, independent funding from the government. This is in fact more typical of what is expected for tenure/associate professorship at other institutions.

"In my case, I had to have published a variety of manuscripts that demonstrated expertise in my field, evidence of teaching abilities within and outside of the HMS environment, and my own federal funding. (Last year, I was awarded a four-year RO1 grant, which is a hallmark of scientific independence.) But I must note that a main factor that led to this post was dogged persistence. I do not want to think about the number of times that I have failed, compared to the number of times I have succeeded."

Dr. Bove's journey to HMS began, at least in an educational sense, in 1984, when he graduated from Hampshire College in Amherest, Mass., with a degree in cognitive psychology and pre-medical. Then it was on to Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College for the chiropractic degree, which he attained in 1988.

In 1992, Dr. Bove co-authored "Family Physicians, Chiropractors and Back Pain" with Peter Curtis, MD, of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Published in the Journal of Family Practice in November of that year, it was touted as one of the most positive papers on chiropractic ever to appear in a medical journal. The article addressed the topic of family practitioners' understanding of and referral to DCs, and encouraged readers to "re-evaluate chiropractic" and "reconsider referrals to chiropractors for musculoskeletal problems." At the time, Dr. Bove was a Fellow of the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER) and a PhD candidate at UNC.

In 1994, Dr. Bove graduated from UNC with a doctoral degree in human anatomy and neurophysiology. By 1996, he had obtained a research fellowship in neurosurgery ("Neurophysiology of Headache") from Massachusetts General Hospital and HMS. From 1998-2004, he served as an instructor of anesthesia at HMS, and as a staff researcher in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Along the way, Dr. Bove and others fought an uphill battle to receive a very small portion of the hundreds of millions of research dollars awarded annually by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - most of which had traditionally gone to conventional medicine.

"I have had it suggested to me that being a chiropractor was not an advantage, though this cannot be proven. One of my other problems was that I perform research that requires understanding of chiropractic philosophy, pain physiology, and biomechanics. This is not a typical combination, and therefore, my ideas are not immediately recognized as relevant to chiropractic or general science. My limited success, and let's hope that it lasts, has relied on the faith of fellow basic scientists regarding the importance of the research that I wish to perform."

The RO1 grant Dr. Bove received from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) in 2003 was for the investigation of "Axonal Mechanical Sensitivity in Neuritis." Two years earlier, he had received a R21 grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to study "Nociceptor Axons and Neural Inflammation." Dr. Bove's first federal funding award came in 1993, when he received a National Research Service Awards (NRSA) grant for "Paraspinal Nociceptive Primary Afferents." All three research grants were awarded by agencies of the NIH.

In addition to his work at HMS, Dr. Bove is a grant reviewer for the Consortial Center for Chiropractic Research, the FCER, the New York Chiropractic College Research Fellowship Program, and the NIH Special Emphasis Panel on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), and is an ad hoc reviewer for a number of other prominent research journals, including the American Journal of Medicine; Cephalalgia; Pain; Neuroscience; the Journal of Neurophysiology; and the European Journal of Pain. He has contributed nearly 25 original articles, reviews, chapters and editorials to various print publications over the years.

So, what's it like working at Harvard Medical School? According to Dr. Bove:

"I don't think that there is much difference being faculty at HMS than faculty at any other major institution. I would do the same work at Palmer College or a public university, if I were working there. We do have an enormous resource, although taking advantage of it can be difficult. Another potential benefit here is that I can potentially attract very high-level students or postdoctoral Fellows, perhaps more because of the institutional reputation than my own reputation. That has worked out well for me in the past! I do not currently have any teaching or administrative responsibilities, so I can focus on my research. That said, I am also going to start seeing patients two mornings a week, to get my hands back on patients."


  1. NIH grant to Geoffrey Bove, DC: federal research awards - a difficult road traveled. Dynamic Chiropractic, May 21, 1993;11(11).
  2. Journal of Family Practice focuses on chiropractic: three articles present guidelines for MDs networking with DCs. Dynamic Chiropractic, March 26, 1993;11(7).
  3. E-mail interview with Dr. Bove, June 10, 2004.

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