Ushering the New Generation of Chiropractors
Phillip Nicolas, D.C., (B.A. ’96) always knew he wanted to go into medicine but couldn’t decide which path he wanted to take—until he arrived at New York Institute of Technology.
Nicolas chose interdisciplinary studies as his major. “I chose my major for freedom. I was able to take all my pre-medical classes, as well as social sciences and behavioral sciences classes with one degree,” he recalls. “I knew I wanted to become a doctor, but I didn’t just want to take science classes.” After a New York Tech professor advised him to pursue chiropractic, Nicolas says he never looked back. He is now the owner of Town Center Chiropractic in Columbia, Md.
He spoke with The Box about his journey to New York Tech, the pivotal moment that led him to chiropractic, and the advice he has for New York Tech students.
What led you to New York Tech?
I did my undergraduate at Nassau Community College (NCC). And then, after NCC, I received a scholarship to come to New York Tech. I was invited to their medical technology program [at the time]. I always wanted to be some kind of doctor and [chose] New York Tech because it was the only medical school on Long Island that was close to home.
Tell me a little bit about your journey—from graduating from New York Tech to starting your own chiropractic practice?
[My professor], Dr. Josefa Cubina, suggested that I become a chiropractor. She told me, ‘I want you to consider chiropractic. Keep an open mind.’
I asked her, ‘Why chiropractic for me?’ And she said, ‘One, you’re very social. And, two, because of the heavy recruiting of minorities in the profession.’ There were less than 1,000 Black chiropractors in the whole country [at that time]. I toured a program [in Atlanta, Ga.] and never turned back.
Why does representation matter in your field?
It means a lot to my patients. They feel that they can relate to me for several reasons. Being from Haiti and speaking their language. Two, being the only Black chiropractor in Howard County, Md., and three, growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., allows me to relate to my New York patients.
What are some of the ways you’re paying it forward for Black people and people of color in your profession?
I helped and introduced about five chiropractors of color to the profession. I would do this again. Being the first Black chiropractic in my county means that I have to set the tone.
What advice do you have for incoming students at New York Tech?
Find a professor you respect and pick their brain. I heard about my profession from Dr. Cubina, my pathology teacher. She told me that I should look into it, and I did and never turned back. Thank you, Dr. Cubina.
How has New York Tech prepared you for your career?
I took histology, pathology, immunology, microbiology, all these classes you would see in graduate school. In fact, the chiropractic school took my science credits. Still to this day, what I learned at New York Tech I’ve applied with my patients. I took immunology because of med-tech, so with COVID-19, I still remember all of the material I learned. It definitely prepared me for those high-level classes.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
As a New York City public school, special education graduate, I wasn’t prepared scholastically to go to college. New York Tech really prepared me for these high-level courses. I received excellent board scores, similar to what students from Ivy League schools received. And there was no other school that was offering classes for my major.