Elizabeth Tupper has come a long way from Russell, a valley town in the northern Adirondacks, population 1,856.
She moved to Western New York nine years ago to attend college, first at the University at Buffalo, then in the chiropractic program at D’Youville College.
Her two sisters, then her parents, have since followed her to Western New York.
“During my time here, I feel like I’ve just turned into a Buffalo girl,” said Tupper, 27. “I moved downtown during my first year in chiropractic school and I fell in love with the different kinds of culture I could find, the different foods … and everyone is just, I don’t know, they’re happy. I feel like I get what I want out of the city, and it’s affordable.”
Tupper has spent many of the early months of her professional life in New Delhi, India, working in the hospital ofDr. Vidur K. Jain, an orthopedic surgeon who graduated from D’Youville’s chiropractic program with Tupper last summer. She visited for almost two months last fall and several weeks late this winter. Combined, the duo nearly doubled the number of chiropractors in all of India, population 1 billion and climbing.
The experience has been life-altering for Tupper, who last month began a new full-time practice at the Novelli Wellness Center in Orchard Park. She has not ruled out future visits to New Delhi.
“It was a culture shock going to UB, much less India,” she said.
How did you meet Dr. Jain?
He started chiropractic school two years after I did and he was the buzz of the school. He was a nontraditional student, he wasn’t 20-something like the rest of us and he was an orthopedic surgeon. I didn’t interact with him that much in school, but when I did, I made it a point to talk with him because he had so much to offer: surgical stories, India stories, advice when I was talking to my patients. I always felt like he was more like one of my professors than one of my classmates.
He made a comment one time that he was trying to recruit more chiropractors to India because it’s a ghost profession there. There are three – with Dr. Jain, four – chiropractors to my knowledge in all of India. I told him, ‘If you ever need somebody to go over for a little while, I’ll go.’ I don’t think he thought I was serious.
What was it like after touching down in India?
When you first get to India you notice the heat immediately, even on the plane. At the airport, just being a light-skinned female American by myself, people wanted to look at my hair. They wanted to touch my hair. They wanted to look at my eyes, because I have light eyes. You get the Indian experience very fast. I went right into the hospital in Janak Puri, a suburb of West Delhi; Dr. Jain has an orthopedic surgical hospital there. I walked in and right away started seeing patients.
Being that most people don’t know what chiropractic is in India, they’d trickle in, and the receptionist would say, ‘Go see the chiropractor upstairs. Dr. Jain, when he was there, would send his nonsurgical patients to us. In India, if you need surgery, you’ll walk in in the morning and they’ll do it that night. So it was extremely fast-paced when Dr. Jain was in the office. There would be days when he would see 60, 70 patients a day and send 30 of them up. … They were excited to have an American doctor there. That meant a lot to them.
What were some of the more common conditions you dealt with?
I would say probably 60 percent of patients were suffering from sciatica. I saw a lot of ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a condition where your spine and the joints in your spine start to fuse. If it’s not treated, over time you stand up like a pole. It’s something you learn about in chiropractic school because we can help patients delay it getting very severe. We did learn in India it’s common. At least three patients a day had ankylosing spondylitis. I’ve talked to chiropractors who’ve been in offices for years here (in the U.S.) who’ve never seen a case.
What was it like in India when you weren’t working?
I did not do a lot outside of work because it really is unsafe unless you know people who know the city. I was not in a touristy area. (Fellow D’Youville grad Brandon Kulp and I) watched ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ every day at the hotel, like clockwork. … for two hours. We did get to go to the markets. Saturday market was my favorite. I have learned that I can get a real good deal if I’m just persistent with not paying a price.
What are some of the big lessons you took away from your two trips to India?
I guess just learning to appreciate everything that I have. I know it’s cliché to think, ‘Be grateful what you have in life,’ but boy did I learn it firsthand.
On the Web: Read more about one new Buffalo family’s take on the region at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh