By Jen Bakken
Walking into Dr. Gary McGowan’s chiropractic clinic, located at his home on Fountain Lake, one is greeted by a smile, Christian music playing in the background, and friendly conversation.
After 30 years in the business, many of Dr. McGowan’s patients have become friends, as well.
“It’s fun we hug, we talk,” laughed Dr. McGowan. “And, if I had a coffee pot here, nobody would ever leave.”
Growing up in Kasson, McGowan has two siblings, and comes from a large extended family, including 17 aunts and uncles and over 100 first cousins.
After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He spent four years in the service working on munitions systems and bombs.
While attending college in Rochester, his initial plan was to become a chemical engineer. Because his grades were spectacular, his college advisor told McGowan he would have no trouble finding employment with large companies.
Realizing that working for one of those large companies wasn’t what he desired, a friend suggested he become a chiropractor. After visiting his friend’s future father-in-law’s chiropractic clinic, and noticing all the patients in the waiting room, he added up what they were paying, and decided to become a chiropractor.
“Initially, that was my motive money,” he said. “Just like every young person, I wanted to make good money. But, when I was in college, I found out it’s rewarding and wonderful; the money is secondary.”
In 1978, right after graduating from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, he moved to Delano.
McGowan wanted to live in a small town, but be close to a larger city, as well.
“When I came to Delano, there was one chiropractor in Hutchinson, one in Wayzata, and two in Buffalo,” he said. “Minnesota now has the highest number of chiropractors per capita in the United States.”
When his clinic was in downtown Delano, he admits not being prepared for the impact this intense job had on his life. Having patients scheduled every 10 minutes or so, he had to be entirely focused on his patient, then shut that off and focus on the next.
“Their health is what I am involved in. I have to give that person all of my attention,” he said. “Over and over throughout the day, it’s difficult mentally if you are not prepared so I burnt out and sold everything.”
He then attempted to take a more laid-back approach with his new chiropractic clinics in Chaska and Granite Falls.
In 1982, he married his wife Kirsten, and they built a beautiful home on Fountain Lake, including room for a chiropractic clinic downstairs. The thought was that McGowan could see patients in the family home a couple days each week when he retired.
He began seeing patients in Delano again after selling his Chaska office in 1986. The Granite Falls clinic was sold in 2002.
McGowan will turn 58 years old this year, and has witnessed some changes in chiropractic care during his extensive 30 years in the business.
Though there have been changes in technology, the philosophy of chiropractic care remains the same, it’s a hands on, natural health care system where the nervous system controls things in the body, and the body heals itself.
Insurance coverage has changed for the better and for the worse, according to McGowan. He isn’t a member of any providership, except for Medicare, but instead charges a low flat rate.
“Signing up with insurance companies can help young practitioners get started in the business, but I avoid the headaches that come along with that,” he said. “I have no overhead, and can keep my rates low.”
Along with changes in technology and insurance came a change in the patients themselves.
McGowan says that, today, patients are much more aware of their own health than they were 30 years ago. He sees it as a very positive thing, and is happy his patients are more proactive, ask more questions, and seek alternatives to better their health.
Patients, themselves, may have changed over the years, but Dr. McGowan has the same friendly bedside manner he did years ago.
“He’s very sincere,” said Georgia G. Snicker of Delano. “I’ve probably been seeing him for 25 years. He’s very good, and knows what he’s doing.”
Kirsten McGoawn is also involved in health care as the assistant administrator and director of nursing at Auburn Homes in Waconia.
“It’s, without a doubt, the coolest nursing home I’ve ever seen,” he said.
A new building, the home-oriented Auburn home features separate wings with the residents’ own kitchen and dinning areas, allowing residents to eat at different times. There are flat screen TVs, fireplaces, and it is decorated as a home would be.
McGowan speaks of a story of an infant he treated almost 30 years ago.
A man came to the clinic with a sore back, and felt so much better after an adjustment that he asked if there was anything McGowan could do for his daughter.
As a 5-month-old baby, this man’s little girl was having a lot of digestive troubles, not gaining weight, not having bowel movements, and vomiting.
Being a young, confident practitioner, McGowan said he could help, and instructed the man to bring the baby in. Returning with his daughter, the man brought his wife as well, who had never been to a chiropractor.
“I adjusted the baby,” McGowan recalled. “They went home, and the next day, the dad called me asking what I had done to his daughter. My first thought was ‘Oh no, what’s wrong?’”
The relieved father told McGowan that once home, his baby had a bowel movement, began eating like crazy, and slept all night.
About 25 years, later a beautiful young woman walked into McGowan’s office with her baby. Not recognizing her, he asked if she had been to the clinic before. Announcing she was that infant he had helped all those years ago, McGowan could hardly believe his eyes.
For many years, countless members of this same family have been going to his clinic and always bring in their babies to be checked, as well.
Though dedicated to his profession, he makes sure to find time to be involved with the community through local sports or Delano United Methodist Church.
Photography is a passion of his, and while visiting his home, one can’t help but notice his other hobby gardening and landscaping.
When asked about plans for the future, McGowan said, “I like what I do. I think it’d be cool to have a 40th anniversary. I mean, I will do this job until I can’t walk anymore I love taking care of people.”