An NYCC alumnus himself, Dr. Cunningham earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree at the school’s former location on Long Island, New York. After working for a year as an associate chiropractor in two different offices, he set up his own chiropractic office in his home, where he practiced for the next four years. It wasn’t until after Dr. Cunningham moved to just outside Syracuse with his family to settle down away from the city’s hustle and bustle, and revel in the fresh Upstate New York air, that he heard the college had moved to Seneca Falls — just down the road.
“I didn’t even realize the college was going to be that close — coincidentally. [It was] not a part of my plan,” said Dr. Cunningham. “I was asked to come aboard as an adjunct, and I realized I liked it. I became full-time faculty by 1994, and the rest is history.”
In his more than 20 years teaching, Dr. Cunningham finds today’s students keep him pushing for the most current information and explanations. This makes the faculty sharper and better attuned to students’ needs, he says.
“When the students challenge us, and they want more information or new information, it actually makes faculty members better. In meeting that demand, I think we all get better,” Cunningham said.
Dr. Cunningham works with students at both ends of their chiropractic college journey — from the beginning of their training into their final trimester before beginning their clerkships. He teaches a few diagnosis courses, but his primary assignment is chiropractic technique courses, including teaching proper procedures and methods, and performing adjustments and manipulations. He also teaches an elective, Concussion and Head Trauma in the Athlete, to upper-trimester students.
“What I like best about teaching is watching the students grow. And appreciating the fact that everyone who comes through our classes eventually treats patients and all of us on the faculty have made a small contribution to that.”
He reminds students often that ultimately all of this is about the patients that they are going to treat one day.
“Ultimately, what I do as a professor of chiropractic, is look at the patients that [my students] haven’t treated yet. I owe it to these patients, and I see that as my responsibility,” Dr. Cunningham said.
“I would like for the students to think similarly and say ‘hey, whatever I’m doing, my efforts are more than just serving myself — I’m learning to be the best I can to serve people I haven’t even met yet.’”
Cunningham is optimistic about the expansion of the role of the chiropractor and the growth and opportunity for chiropractors all over the country.
“From where I am as a faculty member, I get to see a lot more than I might have been aware of when I practiced full time,” Cunningham said. “We see chiropractors in VA hospitals, and others working in integrative settings with different healthcare practitioners. Just the idea that those opportunities are here now that didn’t exist when I got out of school is really tremendous, and it’s starting to grow.”
Dr. Cunningham challenges his students past and present to stay engaged professionally, always keep learning, and maintain the NYCC connection.