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He has adjusted to change in 25 years

Terry Magdovitz didn't envision becoming one of the nation's best when he started his chiropractic practice in Brandon 25 years ago, but that's exactly what has happened.

The Consumers' Research Council of America recently named Magdovitz one of America's top chiropractors, but his enthusiasm is reserved for making patients feel better, not earning honors.

Over salads at Longhorn Steakhouse, we talked about his start in Brandon and how his industry has changed since 1982.

Pull up a chair and join us.

What was Brandon like when you came here 25 years ago?

It was just a small town. I graduated and practiced in Gainesville, Ga. I came out of Erie, Pa., and I wanted warmer weather than Gainesville. I wanted to be near a larger city, but I didn't want to be in a large city. Someone suggested Lakeland, but when I drove down it was all phosphate mines. So someone said to look at Brandon. It was this little bedroom community that probably had 50,000 people. There was nothing around, all these roads were just starting to develop and there were five chiropractors. I said, "This is a great opportunity."

And the rest is history?

Basically, before I made the decision to come down, I went door-to-door to 500 homes. I asked people if they knew about chiropractic, and if I was in the area, would they be interested. When I came down, I wrote 500 letters to all those people and it gave me a base to start with.

How has Brandon changed in the last 25 years?

It's changed greatly. There's probably more than 200,000 people in Brandon, there's 30 chiropractors in Brandon.

That's a lot more than five.

A lot more, but with 200,000 people, it's proportionally the same. There's still plenty for everybody.

How has the chiropractic industry changed?

It's getting much more accepted. Initially, 25 years ago, we were on the outer edge. Now, the number of the people wanting to go to alternative health care has greatly improved. People are saying, 'Let me see if I can do this without getting cut. If I can't, I still have that other option.' I tell people it's sort of like playing cards. Once you play your trump card [surgery], you can't play it again.

A couple of years ago, the Legislature tried to create a chiropractic school at Florida State and it was met with controversy. What are your thoughts about that?

It would have been the first state-funded chiropractic school, and it would have given a lot more credibility because they have unlimited budgets to do research. Right now, all Florida chiropractic schools are private. So if you do research, you have to fund it yourself. They keep saying, 'You don't have anything to say this works or that works.' Well, we don't have the money to fund the research and it has to be done at the state level and without an institution to do that, we can't get it. So that's the big battle.

Given some of the negative perceptions people had about chiropractic, what got you into the business?

I played baseball and basketball and I had an injury [at age 17]. I went up for a tip, a guy grabbed my elbow and it popped my whole shoulder out. I went to a doctor and they proposed reconstructive surgery to reattach tendons and ligaments and gave me a 50 percent chance of being able to throw again. My father had been seeing a chiropractor and suggested that I see him. Within six months, I was back on the baseball team.

So, are you one of America's top chiropractors?

Basically, the selection was based on education and how long you've been in practice. So, in that regard, yes. But I don't think any one chiropractor is perfect for everyone. Some patients will come in and talk about a chiropractor who fixed them with one visit. I tell them I'm going to do the best I can for you and if it isn't working, I'll refer you to whomever you feel is necessary. That's all I can ask. People ask, 'Are you the best?' Well, I'm not sure anyone is the best. That's why I keep taking seminars to try to learn a little here and a little there.

DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest

Terry's wife, Caren, grew up in Atlanta. When he brought her to Brandon 25 years ago, Terry said it was a bit like Green Acres. A few years ago, Terry had one son playing soccer at Durant High and another playing at Tampa's King High. Both teams wanted Terry at games to help with injuries, but only when the schools played each other could he do it.

As for the future, Magdovitz said it's possible he'll keep practicing until his daughter, Brittany, takes over. She's only 12, but has expressed an interest in the profession and already helps around the office.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa & State Edition of the St. Petersburg Times. He can be reached at 226-3406 or