By Tracy Dunn
NSP Assistant Editor
In the healthcare field, “family practice” usually means an office in which patients of all ages are seen and treated. That’s true at Burt Clinic of Chiropractic in Walcott, too, but there, the phrase has taken on a more literal meaning.
Folks who have been patients for years know that Dr. Mickey Burt and his wife and office manager, Karla, began the clinic in 1974. The Burts welcomed their two older sons, Chad and Brad, into the practice about a decade ago. Now, their youngest son, Austin, is joining the family practic.
Dr. Austin Burt graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic on Oct. 19 and is already seeing patients.
“The addition of Dr. Austin to the practice marks a very unique milestone,” says Dr. Brad. “While it is not unusual for the next generation to join the family business, it is especially unique to have all of them working side by side under the same roof.”
In 1973, Dr. Mickey met Karla Warnecke (who was a patient at the Palmer College clinic), they were engaged, got married, conceived their first child, and he graduated from Palmer.
“It was a heck of a first year,” laughs Dr. Mickey, “and we haven’t slowed down, either!”
The Burts opened their chiropractic office in an old, 900-square-foot building next to the post office in Walcott in 1974, after Dr. Mickey worked as a technique instructor at Palmer College for about a year.
“It was the only building available in Walcott at the time, so we made do with that,” said Dr. Mickey. “There was an apartment in the back with one bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a living room.” When finances allowed, they transformed a long, walk-in closet into an X-ray room, developing the films in the basement laundry room.
Raising two young sons in the same place where they worked was a challenge.
“Back in the beginning days of the clinic, they (Mom and Dad) were both in the office and they had little babies, and there really wasn’t the ability to have daycare,” relates Dr. Chad. “The stories go that they would stick me in the swing in the reception area and let the patients play with me while they were waiting. It’s interesting, some of those patients are still patients in the office now, and to have those patients come in and to have the pleasure of taking care of them, knowing that they were some of the people who used to crank up my swing when I was a little infant, is really pretty special, and I think, speaks a lot to the nature of our practice.”
Growing the practice and the family.
The Burts eventually bought a house a block away from the clinic, and then built their current facility on Main Street in 1981. They expanded the office in 2001, bringing it to 6,000 square feet, not including the basement, which houses a conference room, kitchen and storage.
Dr. Chad joined his father in the chiropractic practice in 2001, and Dr. Brad, in 2002. Both spent time in their parents’ place of business growing up. Dr. Austin actually went to work at the clinic when he was about 14 years old.
All three sons are quick to say that they never felt pressure to follow in their father’s footsteps.
“When we were younger, Mom and Dad always said to us, ‘We want you to do whatever it is you want to do. Find something that makes you happy, because you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life,’” says Dr. Chad. “They never forced it on us as an occupation … It was always an option for us, but it was never, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’”
Dr. Austin adds, “They always said do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. It was just a natural fit for all of us.”
These days, Dr. Austin isn’t the youngest Burt spending time at the clinic. Dr. Chad and his wife, Kris (who also works there) have three children, and Dr. Brad and Dr. Austin, and their wives, each have one. The Burt grandchildren — at least those old enough to walk and talk — have their own shirts with the clinic logo and call themselves “The Burt Clinic-ers,” according to their grandpa. They greet patients in the waiting area, and the oldest, Chad’s son Dylan, makes labels that say “I feel great” for the patients to wear after they’ve had their adjustments.
“When we have the kids in the office, talking with patients … the atmosphere in the clinic just raises,” says Dr. Brad. “Everyone enjoys seeing that youthful energy. Everyone enjoys that family atmosphere. So when you see a mom and dad, and all three of their sons joining the practice — three out of three — and then you see the children of those three sons filtering through the hallways, it really sinks our roots deeper and deeper and deeper in the eastern Iowa community.”
Patients come first, and from all over
The Burt Chiropractic Clinic has continued to grow over the years, with plenty of patients to fill the schedules of all the doctors. Did they ever consider moving to a larger metropolitan area?
“No,” answers Dr. Mickey. “Davenport was already saturated with chiropractors. And our niche was Walcott. My commitment was to have a patient-centered practice focused on outcomes and committed to excellence.”
That philosophy has attracted and retained patients from well outside the city limits of Walcott. They come from as far away as Iowa City, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids and even Grinnell.
“It isn’t where you’re at, it’s the commitment to the patients, the level of care, making sure you treat everybody as if it was your mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle,” says Dr. Mickey. “It’s building a real relationship with people. That’s what it’s all about.”
That relationship extends into the community, where all of the Burts are involved in giving back.
“We go to these functions, and we look around the room and see the people who were in our office last week, or will be in next week,” says Dr. Brad. “They’re community members. They’re our neighbors, our friends, they’re the teachers of our children. They’re the people we surround our lives with, and it’s fun to surround our business with them, too.”
“We’re very blessed to enjoy what we do, and we all go home feeling rewarded at night,” adds Karla, who assures patients that while her youngest son has joined the practice, her husband is not planning on retiring anytime soon.