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C.J. Epstein works as a chiropractic intern at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital and recently finished his final national board exam to become a doctor at the age of 24.

Photo by Cpl. Lauren A. Kurkimilis

What I've Learned: C.J. Epstein

20 Dec 2013 | Cpl Lauren A. Kurkimilis Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

C.J. Epstein works as a chiropractic intern at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital and recently finished his final national board exam to become a doctor at the age of 24.

I was born and raised in Phoenix and from there, I moved to Tempe, Ariz., for college at Arizona State and then I went to San Jose, Calif. for chiropractic school.

I had a good life growing up; two parents who loved each other and a happy family.

I was really into soccer. I started playing when I was three. Being a professional soccer player had been my dream since then until I was, probably, close to high school when I started realizing that I actually wasn't that good and it probably wasn't going to happen. I finally noticed all the little hints my parents had been dropping over the years that maybe I should look in to something else.

In senior year of high school I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in in college. I thought to myself, “What do I want to do for a living?” I knew I wanted to work in some sort of athletic field but not necessarily be an -on-the-field kind of doc. I wanted to work in an office and being my own boss was definitely something that appealed to me as well as making a decent salary. So I came up with chiropractic. I became a patient and started shadowing a chiropractor in town and fell in love with it.

I didn’t realize how much I liked Phoenix and Arizona in general until I moved away. The weather does get extremely hot there, much like Twentynine Palms, (Calif.) but it’s nice year-round. You could essentially be outside all year long if you don’t mind the heat in the summer. It’s a good scene and a young crowd that lives there, especially near the universities. It’s a lot of fun.

There actually is snowboarding in Arizona. Two hours north of Phoenix there’s a place called Snow Bowl. It’s a small, small mountain where I learned to snowboard.

I was always okay academically. I always got A’s and B’s. More A’s than B’s.

Early on, I always tried really hard. My parents always pushed us to do well. My older brother is a genius. He aces tests without even trying whereas I was always big on doing all of my homework and had a harder time on the tests.

When I got into college, I saw that it was usually two or three tests and almost no homework and that’s it. That's your grade. So I got really, really good at taking multiple choice tests. I just figured out that my strategy was to study hard beforehand, practically cram but don't pull all-nighters and then on the test not to second-guess myself. If I knew the answer I would circle right away and never look back. It definitely worked. The last two years of undergrad I got a 3.9 and 3.92.

The last part of chiropractic school definitely got harder. The classes were longer and the tests were harder, but I’ve always made sure to keep an active social life. I’ve always thought that the moment it doesn’t become fun anymore, because I’m studying too much, was when I should stop.

I was in my 12th quarter of chiropractic school and normally we would do a clinic there but they started these internships with the Department of Defense and the (Veterans Association.) I’ve had a few friends say great things about it, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

I chose Twentynine Palms in particular because I’m planning on moving to San Diego and being here gave me the opportunity to go down there and shadow a few doctors.

At first, I really didn't know what to expect but now that I’ve been here for a few months, I see that all of our patients have been super respectful and nice. They really care about the work that we’re doing and that we’re actually there to listen and help them. That (appreciation) has really been the best part.

Here, I get a chance to work a population that is already active. They want to be healthy so they’ll do their at-home exercises to be able to get better and get back to the things they are supposed to do.

We work with neurological, muscular and skeletal problems. We don’t use any drugs or surgery, so we can’t prescribe, puncture the skin, or work with any broken bones or fractures. We specialize in preventative healthcare; ways to help you be a healthier person and prevent getting sick in the first place.

The general population typically comes to you, and they expect to get better immediately but they don’t always take an active role in their health. They might get adjusted and then feel better but they won’t but to become fully healed from an injury, a patient needs to do some of the work on their own. I’ve found that the military personnel here are very willing to put in that work.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms