Meet Susan Hansen

Hi Susan, thanks for joining us today. Was there a defining moment in your professional career? A moment that changed the trajectory of your career?

Life is full of defining moments; it’s about choosing these opportunities to help write the narrative. I didn’t always think this way. In fact, I never wanted to own my own practice. I had no idea how or where to start a business, let alone a nonprofit organization in the healthcare industry. It was a moment, insignificant to some, but career-changing for me, that created a defining perspective shift.

This moment presented one evening at an indoor soccer facility when one of my teammates on this co-ed team was tackled by an opposing player and escorted off of the field. He could hardly bear his own body weight through the injured ankle; a teammate retrieved a bag of ice and I dug in my bag for some athletic tape. To my amazement, the injured player stood up and called off his replacement substitute to finish the remaining minutes of the game. I approached him after the game had ended and gained his consent to evaluate his ankle. Upon my evaluation, I concluded this injury to be a grade I-II ankle sprain and educated him on the benefits of receiving care by me in the clinic I worked at during that time. It was as if I was speaking a language he did not understand, as he politely declined my professional opinion. When challenged, he rationalized his decline for care by saying he did not have health insurance, he could not afford the cash rates we charged, and he didn’t have time in his busy schedule to receive care. For the first time, I allowed an awkward silence to conclude a conversation. I drove home in silence and couldn’t sleep that night. When morning came, this feeling had overwhelmingly occupied my attention and I knew I was presented a challenge I needed to resolve. And so the Essential Project was created.

The Essential Project is a nonprofit organization created to deliver health services to the essential working population by means of mobile care on a pay-what-you-want (PWYW) method. That’s a lot to digest, so let’s bring it back to the defining moment that changed my career trajectory for the better. My soccer teammate stated he could not afford my services, so I implemented the unique PWYW pay model into this organization to allow people from all socioeconomic statuses be able to afford these services. And not just “people”, but the focus is on the essential working population magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as my construction-working teammate who did not have health insurance. Then there’s the time barrier that is resolved by providing services on a mobile-basis, implementing 20-minute sessions on-site at places of work or home visits. The Essential Project will create health equity across communities nationwide by challenging common barriers. It all started with a defining moment.

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Susan, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, Can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?

I grew up thinking I was going to be a Pharmacist, as many of my family members pursued this career. I also have an identical twin who I idolized and copied in our youth, so it made sense to follow her career path as a Pharmacist to keep things easy. It wasn’t until Sophomore year of high school when I applied for a “filer” job at a Chiropractic office that I challenged my destiny.

I cannot emphasize to you all enough how I had no clue what a Chiropractor was, but the job was simple and the hours were flexible so as any high schooler would do, I took the job and didn’t question much. Until I realized the people coming into this clinic were arriving in physical pain, yelling behind closed doors, and walking out with smiles and relief across their faces. I did what any kid my age would do: Googled it. And to my amazement, I saw for the first time the power of the human body to heal itself with the assistance of a Chiropractor’s touch. I came into work the following day, posed these questions I still had to the Chiropractor, had my full body adjusted, and couldn’t believe the happiness and joy I felt afterwards. I was told there was a time and place for medicine, but the body is a self-healing organism that, given the right assistance, can restore itself back to homeostasis.

My destiny to become a Doctor of Chiropractic was solidified. I went to undergrad at Arizona State University, obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, then went to Palmer College of Chiropractic for another 3.5 years and received my Doctor of Chiropractic degree. I moved to Vail, Colorado for an internship and never left, where I worked at an integrative health clinic for 3 years before starting my own nonprofit organization to treat the population who need this care the most.

Any advice for managing a team?

I hate when people give out advice that they deem to be the “right path” to take. I don’t have specific advice for managing a team or maintaining high morale, but I will tell you what worked for me and if it resonates with you, give it a go. I am still in the growth stage of my business, so I wear all the hats, so to speak. I have a board that consists of two other friends in the field that listen to me and my crazy ideas every few months at our board meetings, but other than that, I am the one calling the shots. Which is great when things work out, and really tough to handle when things don’t go as planned. But I have realized that to get to where I want this business to be, I have to face these challenges head-on. And celebrate the small wins! I’ve gotten to know myself on a new level and am learning to respect my time, my decisions, my challenges, my relationships, and even my weaknesses in a new light. Oh, and if it isn’t a “hell yes”, it’s not worth my time, energy or attention.

If you could go back, would you choose the same profession, specialty, etc.?

The pandemic scrambled my brain quite a bit in the sense that made me question “Is this really what I am meant to be doing in life?”. I fell into a depression, I wasn’t the same easy-going person I was known to be, and I even caught myself verbally telling my dog out loud “I don’t think I’m okay”. It was a dark place, but I’ll tell you that quitting the previous clinic I worked at brought so much clarity back into my life, along with seeking professional mental health counseling. My dog wasn’t the best counselor, but he had a cute face and listening ears. Once I left the toxic environment I was in, it all cleared up for me. I was able to ask myself the same question about my career path and it was astonishing to learn that yes, I was meant to be a Chiropractor and help people heal in a conservative fashion.

If you’re not happy where you are in life, whether that is because of your place of work, relationships you’re in, habits you’ve adopted, or the place that you live, I am here to say you’re human and you are meant to evolve and change and find what makes you happy. The rest will follow, I promise.