Promoting Chiropractic Over the Airwaves

DC Interviews Dr. Bob Martin

By Editorial Staff
With the chiropractic profession alive with projects and ideas on how to spread the message of chiropractic and natural healing to the public, Bob Martin, DC, DACBN, CCN, may have already discovered the answer. Dr. Martin hosts an interactive, call-in radio program called "The Dr. Bob Martin Show," considered the largest syndicated alternative health show in the United States. Want to know more? Read our exclusive interview with Dr. Martin in this issue.

Dynamic Chiropractic (DC): Dr. Martin, tell us a little about your background in health care. Why did you decide to become a chiropractor?

Dr. Bob Martin (BM): I grew up in Davenport, Iowa. I was one of six children. I was the youngest boy in the family, and I was very sick. I had asthma, severe allergies, chronic bronchitis, and I was in the hospital regularly with pneumonia. I was drugged and hospitalized during my entire childhood. I had eczema and all kinds of other things, too.

When I was 15, I [decided] to get a job. My oldest sister was working in a grocery store in Davenport. She was the head checker and she knew the manager of the store. They said I was too young to work in the store, but the manager said that if I wanted to come and work in the back, I could put frozen chickens into bags.

At the time, the whole stocking crew of the store [consisted of chiropractic students] working their way through chiropractic school. One of the guys noticed that I was constantly sneezing and coughing. He asked me why I was sick and what I was doing about it. I pulled out my asthma inhaler, my antihistamine pills, and a bottle of antibiotics. He asked me if I had tried anything else, and I asked him, "Is there anything else?" He told me there was a possible relationship between the way my body was functioning and my spine. I asked him what my spine had to do with it, and when he tried to explain, I glazed over. I thought the guy was a kook.

He kept talking to me over the next six months. One day, in the back of the grocery store, while I was sitting there bagging frozen chickens, he asked me if I had ever been checked spinally, just to see what was going on in my back. I said no. He said that he was in his clinical rotations at Palmer College, and offered to check my spine. One day, he rigged up a table in the back of the grocery store on these gigantic toilet-paper boxes. I lay down on the boxes. I had no clue what a chiropractor was. I'd never been to one. I'd heard that they were quacks, and that it was scary. He started feeling my neck. He found a spot [near] my ear on the right side, which hurt when he touched it. He said it was a misaligned vertebra in my neck, and told me I could fix it if I wanted. He made the adjustment to my neck. It didn't hurt, but it was shocking. I got up and I felt a little lightheaded. I wasn't in any pain, but my neck certainly felt looser.

Over the next month or two, he continued to check me a couple of times a week, and I started to feel different. I noticed that my mobility was better. The other thing that happened was that my nose and my sinuses got better immediately. My allergies got better, and as a result of that, the asthma got better. My parents started to notice changes in me. I started to call in sick less to work and function better.

I started asking the guy more questions about chiropractic and what he was doing. I was in my last year of high school at the time and was barely making it through, because I had always been sick. He said to me, "You've had an amazing miracle story of getting better with chiropractic. You should think about becoming a chiropractor." He told me to go to Palmer and talk to them. I already had a job at the grocery store, and I [was planning on working] in a local factory after high school. He told me just to think about it.

Finally, I went to the admissions department at Palmer. The [admissions director] told me that he had talked to the chiropractor who had helped me, and he said that if I could make it through prerequisite courses with good grades, they would enroll me into the chiropractic school without any former liberal arts education. I went through in the summer, and it was torture, because I was 17 at the time. I struggled to get through the prerequisites, but I made it and then started in chiropractic college. Again, it was torture for another year during the basic sciences. Then we started to get into techniques, and that's when I really started to do well.

[Growing up,] I had no intention of becoming a chiropractor. No one in my family was a chiropractor or had ever thought about being a doctor. Now, there's my two brothers and myself, and my son just graduated from chiropractic college. He's getting ready to start his practice. He's 27 and he's getting ready to start here in about a month.

DC: Did your chiropractic career lead you into the radio industry?

BM: I've been a chiropractor since 1976, when I graduated from Palmer College in Davenport. Shortly thereafter, I went into private practice in Denver, Colorado. I was there from 1976 until 1987. About a year after I started my practice, I became involved with the Colorado Chiropractic Association's speaker bureau, [which was trying] to improve upon the image of chiropractic in Denver.

We formed a speakers group [and] contacted radio stations in the Denver metropolitan area, to try to secure a time when we could get on and broadcast, and try to get out the chiropractic message. As a part of that, we also chose to go through one of Chester Wilk's training courses. He actually came to Colorado and did these meetings, where we would play devil's advocate, as though we were mocking a radio program [of] a debate between a chiropractor and a medical doctor as to the merits of chiropractic. The goal there was to create a greater level of confidence in DCs to debate anybody for any reason, especially allopathic doctors.

As a result of those two experiences, we formed a radio show. I was a guest on that show. It was the very first time I had ever been on the radio. I was about 22 years old, and clueless and scared. The association actually bought the time on an oldies station that sold brokered time on the weekend. Every week, there would be a different subject, and various speakers in the group and outside of the group would come in. The host asked me to talk about the subject of stress and how that relates to chiropractic and the nervous system.

DC: What happened after that initial guest appearance?

BM: As a result of that experience, I decided that I wanted to do it more often. I came back and was a guest another time, and it was a lot better. Subsequent to that, I had a friend whose brother was a talk show host in Denver and [who had] a real talk show on a big station. He asked me to be a guest on his show. Again, I felt better and got better, and wasn't as nervous, and ultimately, I decided that I wanted to do that more often, because it was very empowering. I could reach a lot of people, get the message out, and also help to stimulate my practice, because suddenly, as a result, people were calling my telephone to get care. I eventually contacted a few radio stations, found one that had a pretty good signal, and bought an hour of time on that station. I went out and contacted a bunch of health food stores, because I thought they might be interested in having an audience that was there to talk about health and wellness. I was interested in chiropractic, healthy lifestyles, diet, nutrition, exercise, etc. Eventually, I got a few health food stores to buy commercials on the show to offset the cost.

After about a year of doing it on my own, I got a phone call from a lady in the middle of the night who had hurt her lower back. She was in a lot of pain, so I met her down at my office and treated her. She came back the next day. In my waiting room, I had an easel with a poster on it, which announced to my patients that they could hear me on the radio. She looked at that poster and said, "I'm in the radio business. I see you're on the radio, and I'll listen to your show." She listened to the show a couple of times, came back to the office, and told me she liked the show and [wanted] to talk to me about the possibility of doing a talk show on her station.

This particular broadcast group was owned by Sandusky Newspapers. They owned newspapers, radio stations, and I believe some television stations. They were expanding, and they wanted to try and compete in the Denver market against a big AM station there. So, they started a radio station, and I started a two-hour talk show. It was on Sundays when I first started, and it went very well for the first 6-8 months. Then we sold out of the commercial space that we had available, so they asked if I was interested in doing a third hour. So, we moved the show from Sunday to Saturday and expanded it to three hours. We sold out again within a short period of time, and it expanded to four hours.

I stayed with them for five years, and the show just kept getting more and more popular. My practice was really benefiting. I started hiring doctors, and I [also] recruited my two older brothers, who were in corporate America at the time. They both quit their jobs and went to Palmer, graduated, came to Denver and started helping me.

I thought things were going really good, and I wanted to expand the show nationally, so I approached the general manager. I said, "Look, if this is working in Denver and it's successful, why wouldn't it work in other markets?" He told me it was a possibility and said he would "run it up the flagpole" with the

people at Sandusky. He got back to me and told me the people at Sandusky didn't think the show would work on a national level because I was a chiropractor. I said, "Well, if it's working here, why wouldn't it work anywhere else?" [It turned out that] a lot of their revenue came from drug companies and pharmaceutical companies, people who buy commercials about everything from aspirin to hemorrhoid cream, and therefore, they didn't think it was a possibility, because I was sort of anti-medicine. I tried to explain that I wasn't anti-medicine; I was just pro-health.

They didn't quite get it. They explained that unless I was an MD, they really couldn't roll the show out. I said to myself that if that's what I needed to do, I'd do it. So in 1986, I sold my practice to one of my brothers, and I went back to school. Anyway, I eventually started medical school and was there for about a year. I was on an accelerated program. After about a year, I told my wife that I didn't know if I could do it, and that I had to find another way to do a nationally syndicated radio show. I put in a leave of absence with the school, and started to look into self-syndication. I met a man who had a very small business radio network, and there was a person [a layperson] who had a health show. I substituted for him, and they liked it, and they ultimately installed me as the host of that show. This particular network was landlocked, and I wanted to grow it more. I met another person who had a bigger network, so I moved over there. I eventually met another person, and he and I decided to do a self-syndicated network.

DC: So, now you have "The Dr. Bob Martin Show." Tell us a little more about it. What is your current listener base and syndication?

BM: After I sold my practice to my brother, I moved to Phoenix. That's when I started looking into the national scene and eventually met all of these people from different networks, until I finally got my own syndicated network.

The show used to be called "Health Talk With Dr. Bob Martin." In September 2004, I went on my own, and it changed to "The Dr. Bob Martin Show."

On Saturday, here in this market in Phoenix, I work for Clear Channel Broadcasting. I've been working for them going on 15 years. I'm an employee, and I have a four-hour show [8 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Arizona time] that broadcasts throughout the state and also simulcasts on the Internet. It's [broadcast on] a radio station called KFYI [550 AM]. We've had the top-rated show on the weekend for years.

The national radio show, which is a three-hour show on Sunday [6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. PST], has been on for going on eight years. It goes throughout the U.S. and Canada [through ABC Satellite Services] and can be heard on the Internet, and will soon be heard on Voice America. We're on in approximately 200 cities across the U.S.

I do seven hours of radio on the weekend. And because my name is out there, I'm asked to be a guest on radio shows all over the country.

DC: Dr. Arlan Fuhr (president of Activator Methods, International) was a recent guest on your show. Why did he stop by and what did you discuss?

BM: He's been a guest on my show both locally and nationally. He's actually now a sponsor of my national show. He knows of me and he's been listening to the show, and he knows that I practice Activator, too. One day, he called me and said, "I'm interested in getting the message out. I think you're doing something great for the profession, and I'd like to support your show and at the same time have people in your audience know that they can come to a place where they can call and get referrals to various Activator doctors throughout the country." I said that was a great idea. He came on as a guest, and he probably will [do so] more in the future.

DC: Do people call into the show, and are there topics that they call in more frequently about? Do they call in primarily about chiropractic, or does it run the gamut?

BM: Sure. It's live. All seven hours are totally off the cuff. The questions that people call in with run the gamut, because my professional background runs the gamut. It's pimples to prostate problems; aches to shakes; headaches to hemorrhoids - you name it, it comes up.

It's different. It's a live show. We take any kind of calls. Mostly, the show is entertaining. It's a news-magazine-like format where I'll go in there and talk about topics that are in the news, contemporary stuff that you would find on CNN or news magazines. I get the information from media sources, before it's printed in the paper or magazines, so I can broadcast it instantly on the weekend. I take that information and I assemble it in a way that comes from a natural philosophy, as opposed to a pharmaceutical one. I try to integrate, when applicable, the whole chiropractic, self-care, self-responsibility, holistic profile into it.

DC: You have been doing this for a number of years now. Based on your experiences, has the attitude toward chiropractic changed? Do you think that people are more accepting of it and more willing to try chiropractic, rather than heading to their MD first?

BM: Well, what is fascinating about this - and what our profession needs to pick up on - is that when you're on the radio, you are the expert. Whatever comes out of your mouth, people are inclined to believe and do.

They think that if you're on radio or television, there must have been some blue-ribbon group that sanctioned your being there.

We always teach the audience conservative first, liberal second, radical last [when dealing with] non-life-threatening, benign, self-limiting conditions. Ninety-nine out of 100 questions that come [up on] the show are the kind that can be answered in a way that says, "Look, try this safe, natural means of care, and if that doesn't work, go to the next level, and then the next level." Usually, the orientation [I give callers] is to try something that is nonsurgical, safe and effective, and that has a low potential for iatrogenic, drug-induced nosocomial conditions.

DC: What do you think is the most valuable aspect of the show, particularly from the perspective of chiropractors and chiropractic patients?

BM: The most valuable aspect of my show is credibility. No matter how good you sound, people have to be anchored to something that seems credible, for safety purposes and for validation. The problem with our profession is that we have nobody validating us; whereas with medical doctors, at the end of every drug commercial, they tell you to see the doctor. What we lack is credibility. Once we move that barrier out of the way, what we say to do or suggest becomes almost as normal as saying, "Go to your doctor and ask them about [such and such] drug."

DC: Any special plans for the show in the next few years? Where do you think it can go, and what do you hope to accomplish?

BM: My goal is to obtain more radio station affiliates in more markets. [One of my brothers] calls me the reincarnate of B.J. Palmer. (Of course, B.J. used radio to get chiropractic on the map.) I am trying to do that in a modern-day way.

In the beginning, the whole goal was to get the chiropractic message out, because it was hard for me to understand why the portal of entry is not the chiropractor in 90 percent of maladies and infirmities that are self-limiting. I really think that my purpose is to keep that message going. It's great one-on-one in the office, but [on the radio,] it's one on hundreds of thousands of people I broadcast to each week. That's the joy and satisfaction I get out of life. My goal is to help chiropractors to get that message, too, so that they can think about the possibilities of looking into this. It doesn't take that much.

My son is probably going to help me. I'm getting him involved in nutrition and all of these other things that I did, so that he can expand his knowledge base and also go on the radio. Once that happens, I can get into the mode of teaching [what I do to] other chiropractors, [so they] can do it in other markets throughout the U.S. and other places.

DC: Thank you.

Page printed from: