Autobiography of Dr. Gillard
I was born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan and always had a passion for science and medicine – my father was a physician. After graduating from high school, I attended Ferris State University on a Track & Field scholarship and enrolled in their pre-med program.
At Ferris, I soon discovered that I had a gift for throwing the hammer (a field event in Track & Field) and after being named to the collegiate Track & Field All-American team 6-times, I decided to forgo medical school and pursue another dream: becoming an Olympic champion.
In order to get out of the snow and increase my outdoor training time, I moved to Marietta, Georgia where I was accepted to Life Chiropractic University and hooked up with a multi-time US Olympic weightlifting champion and coach, Ben Green, who took me under his wing and taught me the nuances of sport-specific weightlifting and program designed. In Marietta, I thrived both academically and in my Olympic training; I steadily moved up the US hammer rankings.
After graduating from Life Chiropractic University, Cum laude, I was invited and moved to Los Gatos, California where I began training with the elite US and international hammer throwers under the tutelage of our US Olympic hammer coach, Ed Burke. After completing a fellowship program at a highly-respected sports injury rehabilitation center, I took a job as an associate chiropractor in Gilroy, California where I learned the business side of chiropractic and continued to climb up the US hammer rankings--at this point I was within the top 10.
After making several Olympic Festival teams over the next few years, the pinnacle of my hammer career was achieved at the 1988 Olympic trials, where I was named an alternate to the 1988 Olympic team.
Although I achieved my personal best in the hammer throw (238 feet) early in the 1989 season, my promising hammer quest was abruptly ended in midseason after suffering a L5/S1 lumbar disc herniation and subsequent failed microdiscectomy following a weightlifting accident.
Notwithstanding the suffering of chronic back and leg pain, which certainly spurred my interest in spine research, I was able to develop a fruitful chiropractic practice in San Jose, California and focused on raising our five children with the love of my life, Lydia.
In my late 40s, after all of our children were out of the nest, that childhood dream of becoming a physician was rekindled, which led me back to the classroom where I refreshed my core science classes, took the MCAT, and gained acceptance into medical school.
Unfortunately, I soon learned that going to medical school at the age of 50 was much more difficult than I had anticipated, and I was easily enticed away by two job offers: one to become the director of spine research for a startup research Institute in Melbourne, Florida, and the other to become the solitary spine research coordinator for a well-established research Institute in Vail, Colorado, as well as the director of spine research for a prominent orthopedic spine surgeon from that same facility. Because the beauty of Vail was so enticing, and due to the fact that it was closer to my Californian home, I accepted the employment offer with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, where I was employed as their Spine Research Coordinator. I also worked exclusively for the orthopedic spine surgeon of the Steadman Clinic as his Director of Spine Research.
While in Vail, I learned a lot about databases; the different types of database collection systems and troubleshooting; writing society meeting abstracts; managing grant proposal writing; creating PowerPoints and lectures; and designing, writing, and publishing quality research papers. I also did some lecturing of my own to the Steadman interns and fellows, as well as the Steadman Philippon Research Institute scientific advisory committee.
After nearly 2 years of training and the accomplishment of almost all of my goals, which included the publication of two papers in high-impact medical journals (one of which I was the lead author on), as well as landing a grant for spinal research, I have decided to leave the Vail Valley icebox (it was 16 below zero the morning I left for home) and return to my warm and sunny Bay Area home.
Instead of returning to private practice as a chiropractic physician, I have started a business as a spine researcher / medical technical writer where I work on a independent contractor basis for different physicians around the world. (Learn more) I am also finishing up a spine lecture series and will be speaking over the next few months around the Bay Area to start.