Seldom during the 23+ year history of The Chiropractic Journal have we had the pleasure of interviewing such a multitalented doctor as Mary Kleinsorge, DC. She first came to our notice through a small online announcement about the appearance at a Mexican café by the “Singing Chiropractor.” Then we learned she was a classical guitarist. And a songwriter. And an artist. And an active blogger. And a wife and mother. All that and in chiropractic practice for 24 years.
We knew we had to shine the spotlight on this interesting and inspirational woman who’s melded a chiropractic career with her creative nature, and brought beauty and joy to her patients and to all those around her.
Q: How did you first become involved with music?
By age 11, I had studied piano and absolutely loved listening to my mother’s beautiful voice. But, I was never obsessed or passionate about music until I bought a guitar at the Kansas State Fair. I’d sold a calf and convinced my father to let me use my calf money to buy that guitar. From that moment on, I had a difficult time thinking of ANYTHING else but music (except boys, of course). Music was the perfect way for me to be a personal success as a kid.
: When did you decide you wanted to make music your career?
By the time I was 12, I had a deep passion and endless determination with lots of dreams in my head about being a star. I practiced four to six hours a day, assuming that everyone who really wanted to play was playing that long.
Q: Tell us about your early music career.
By the time I was 15, I was already performing several nights a week. Later, I played at least four hours each night, six nights every week. Some days, I would perform from 5 to 7 p.m. in one establishment and then move all my equipment and perform from eight to midnight in another. My mother and I agreed I’d give my all to my music for 10 years. If by the time I was 25, I wasn’t living a life that I truly enjoyed and felt fulfilled in, I would consider another profession.
In 1982, I went to Nashville. I’d been traveling throughout the Midwest, where I was accepted as something very special. But Nashville was filled with talented musicians and I was only one of many. Smoking in bars was the norm and Nashville was the smokiest town I’d ever been to. I never felt at home there and returned to my base in Kansas City. By then, I had reaching the end of my 10-year trial period and my health was badly affected. All of those hours performing in smoke-filled rooms with a guitar strap pulling across my back—along with several auto accidents—led to health problems, including asthma. It was time to look for something else.
Q: How did you finally choose chiropractic?
I had taken aptitude tests that showed I was well suited to health care, so I interviewed a number of dentists, orthodontists, orthopedic doctors, and chiropractors to see which one seemed best. I originally thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon but during my research I was struck by how happy all the chiropractors were with their choice, how happy they were with their lives, just simply how happy they were.
From the moment I learned about chiropractic, there was no question in my mind. I knew the decision was inspired by God and that everything would be fine. Later, after seeing an MD’s personal and professional life up close, I realized I dodged a major bullet by choosing chiropractic over conventional medicine!
Q: Tell us something about your practice.
I chose the city of Delta, Colo., 24 years ago for my solo practice, based solely on demographics. Being from a rural area to begin with, Delta felt like home right away. There were two older chiropractors serving the community of more than 30,000 at the time and they begged me to open my doors. It wasn’t—and still isn’t—an especially prosperous area. This may have played a part in the success of my practice, though. Many people use me as their primary health care professional. How can you beat the value you get in a chiropractor’s office? Get your spine adjusted and then ask an educated doctor about other issues with your health at no extra charge! The recommendations you get will be less invasive, less expensive and hopefully as or more helpful. They trust that I know what doctor to refer to if I feel that they need to see someone else.
I have always had a very good working relationship with the MDs in our community. When I refer to the neurosurgeon in a neighboring town, he invites me to sit in and watch the surgery. Plus, he refers the patient back to me for rehab. I have an endless pool as part of my practice and have proprioceptive and decompressing exercises that I do with people after surgery. This has proven to be very helpful for rehabbing with less weight on the spine in the first phase of healing.
Delta gave me the chance to be the kind of citizen that I wanted to be. Moving here with no family, I had an abundance of energy to use for the good of the community. I was the first woman Rotarian and the first woman Rotarian president. I ran for County Commissioner and was very involved in all aspects of the community. My practice flourished. If someone wanted to know what was going on in Delta, they would just call my office. My staff was instructed to know what was going on and if they didn’t know, they knew they were to call around to find out and return the call to who ever had called with the question.
Q. What one piece of advice would you give other practitioners starting out?
Simple: get rid of all your debt as fast as possible. I remember buying one of Greg Stanley’s videos the first year I was in practice. He urged us to pay off our debt before spending money. It was such a comfort to hear someone confirm what I had believed all along, and I did it.
You can never get ahead as long as you owe money. I felt strongly that I didn’t need to spend lots of money on frills to open my office. What people come to us for is the power we hold in our hands, not for the fancy artwork on the walls or chairs in our waiting room.
I personally have always believed that it’s a good idea to continue living like a student until all of the student loans are paid off. If we all were to follow that value choice, there would be more money available for up-coming doctors at a lower interest rate and we would all be freed up to create our financial legacy as we become successful doctors. This choice paid off well for me. I feel so strongly about debt that I don’t take credit cards in my office. I’d rather negotiate free care than have my patients go into debt for their heath care. It’s just another way I take care of the entire person in my office. I started in a rented office and lived in the back rooms. I had one used table, a used X-ray machine, a used ultrasound machine, and garage sale furniture. I had such ugly and mismatched pieces of furniture, that the only way to decorate was with clowns! Today, I have a collection of nearly 100 clowns my patients gave me over the years—all displayed in one treatment room in the office.
Q. Things obviously improved for you. Tell us more about your growth.
I lived in that office until my student loans were paid off, which took about two years. I then bought my first home and a small building that I and two girlfriends gutted, and I directed construction for my new office. I practiced there for five years. Once the house and office were paid off, I purchased property in Mexico.
I was able to build a new office near my home when I adopted my first daughter from China and kept the old office as a rental. I practiced there for 12 years.
Then, four years ago, I built a new office near our new home and rented the old office to an MD. I sold the X-ray machine along with that office to the medical doctor, but still have four treatment rooms, two with hi-lo tables and a decompression traction table. I occasionally use ultrasound and interferential, but the secret to my success is in my hands and the power of the adjustment.
I have work papers and a practice in Los Barriles in Southern Baja, Mexico. I go down for a weekend every month during the winter months of the year. I don’t make a fortune, but it usually pays for the trip. It gives me private time to write music and make a difference there.
Q: You’re married to an MD. Do you compare health care notes, or do you both pretty much stick to your own specialties?
We’ve both been teased about “sleeping with the enemy” but my husband, Craig Hammes, and I have a lot in common: our faith in God, our Midwestern upbringing, music (he plays the bass and sings), and our understanding of the human body. We met doing the musical version of “Clue” at the Magic Circle Theater, a local community theater; he was playing the part of Professor Plum and I had the part of Mrs. Peacock.
We’ve been together for 10 years, so were established in our careers before meeting each other. He’s an excellent radiologist and we’re both pretty down-to-earth people and have down-to-earth opinions concerning the best health care choices.
He’s practiced for many years and has seen firsthand the problems with over-medication or hasty surgery. He shows me interesting cases when they come in and I feel good having his expertise to back up mine.
When we first met, we (actually, I should say he) stayed completely away from the subject of health care. I’m afraid he didn’t have much respect for what I do. He was a victim of what he had been taught by the AMA machine. There was also the inevitable alienation that comes from egos—doctors on both sides are often more interested in talking than listening to one another.
But at one point, he couldn’t move his neck and had numbness down his arm from using the computer mouse too much. He quickly learned it wasn’t simply a coincidence that he improved with my care and his position about chiropractic softened.
Q. Tell us about your children.
Being a mother is by far the most important role that I’ll play in this lifetime. I could write a whole book on this experience and would encourage anyone with a heart to reach out to children who need a home. The most important decisions of my life have been inspired and the decision to adopt a baby from China as a single mother was one of those never-look-back turns in my life where I ran headstrong towards my future as a mother.
I was a little frightened, but not as much as you might think. I knew all the way to my bones that I was meant to be mother to Nikaila and Stephanie. Being their mother has grounded me like no other event in my life and they have brought me more joy than I could possibly describe and taught me more about love than I thought possible. They are 13 and 9 years old and we have learned so much by home schooling them. Niki helps me in the office and Stefi keeps patients entertained with her engaging personality. They play piano and guitar and enjoy sitting in on an occasional concert with me.
Q: Although chiropractic is your profession, you continue with your music. Are you happy with the “arrangement”?
There are few people who have true passion in their lives or can spend time doing something they love. I happen to be so blessed that I have more than one fulfilling and driving passion. The profession of chiropractic is more rewarding in many ways than my music is. Music can be hollow at times; I’m often left insecure and wondering why I’m driven to do this. Sure, I sing to crowds that cry and laugh and fill me with wonder watching them watch me. I find myself in awe at the songs that God places in my head and race to get them onto the page and flying through my fingers.
But, as a chiropractor, every time I place my hands on someone, I know I’ve made a difference and the income I make from my chiropractic career allows me the freedom to play my music when and how I want to. My life as a chiropractor enhances my life as an artist in so many ways. I joke with my patients about being a “choir-practor” and that they are my captive audience, as they lie on the table in traction or therapy of some sort as I sing them a song.