My Sad-Happy Health Tip

Just about a year ago my business partner of 20 years, chiropractic physician Paul Rubin, began our private Monday morning meeting (This Week at WholeHealth Chicago) with an ominous “I think I should tell you something important.”

Naturally, I froze. He’d never use that tone if it were simply a broken heating system or phones on the fritz.

His voice dropped an octave. “I’ve decided to retire. I’ve been working for years and I’ve loved almost every minute, but there’s a lot Marla and I (more about Marla later) want to do while we’re still relatively young and healthy.”

“Uhm…uh…well, OK.” I glibly answered.

But as I collected my thoughts and pondered Paul, his decision seemed utterly sensible. He’s a Renaissance man when it comes to his range of skills and interests. A T’ai Chi instructor, he travels the country teaching and learning. He and Marla love long trips to adventurous places, sending back photos of mountain climbing in New Zealand or flying a two-seater plane over the African veldt. They own a working farm up in Wisconsin that the two of them complain they never see often enough. Their boys (now men) are good guys. Cody’s married, Tanner’s engaged.

Yes, it sounded like he was ready to retire.

Our history
I must tell you a bit about our partnership, 20 years long and every year both peaceful and fun. You’ll just have to accept the fact that in two decades we’ve really never disagreed on anything of significance. And honestly, if an issue came up and we sensed a conflict (on something like room design), I’d say, “OK, let’s stop and just let Marla settle it.”

Undeniably they’re a great couple. Paul is calm, sedate, and thoughtful, perfect for T’ai Chi. Marla is nonstop energy. Her college nickname, Shpilkes, is Yiddish for being incapable of sitting still. They’re always glad to see each other and reluctant to part. Every greeting begins with a kiss hello and every departure with a kiss goodbye.

Paul and I had known each other for years before WholeHealth Chicago came to be. Our four boys are about the same ages and attended Chicago Waldorf School together. In 1993 or so, I was putting together a since-renamed entity called Chicago Holistic Center (CHC), which would combine conventional and alternative medicine, as WholeHealth Chicago does now.

I set about interviewing dozens of practitioners to learn something about each of the roughly 50 so-called alternative medicine fields that my conventional medical training had long dismissed as quackery. I opened CHC with a very young Mari Stecker as my front desk manager (her original CHC photo looks like I’m violating Child Labor Laws). Unbeknownst to either of us, her impressive acupuncture career was years ahead.

Paul Rubin was a successful chiropractic physician with a Gold Coast practice and, although he gave me a tour of the place, at the time he wasn’t interested in making any changes. However, three years later, our situations changed considerably. CHC, renamed American WholeHealth, had been successful enough for a venture capital firm to want to take the concept of integrative medicine national by buying practices like Paul’s and mine and rolling them into large centers.

This time Paul was interested and we joined a bevy of other physicians, both in Chicago and around the US, in a network called American WholeHealth. This was in 1996.

Well, it all sounded good on paper. But four years later, for a variety of reasons, the concept flopped and the many physicians involved in American WholeHealth were asked to take their practices and equipment back and re-open their old offices.

At this point, in December 1999, Paul and I agreed that we’d learned a lot from the experience and thought if we started something new together, a 50-50 partnership, we might get it right.

There was no polar vortex in January, 2000, when we built out the space at 2522 N. Lincoln Avenue, but believe me it was very cold. The building, now gone thank heavens, was easily one of the most poorly designed and physically unattractive in Chicago. But it was a rent we could afford and soon we’d assembled a stellar team of practitioners. If we provided our patients with exceptional care, maybe no one would notice the urine scent of the homeless who peed in the below-grade doorway at night. Marla, who has a good eye for these things, did the interior design and, all-in-all, the place looked pretty good.

Back to the future
Most of you know the rest. Almost three years ago, when we were informed 2522 was being torn down, we moved to our current Clybourn location, again designed top to bottom by Marla in tandem with Josh Hutchison of 34-TEN architecture. Everyone, both patients and practitioners, liked the place so we deemed the move successful.

With Paul’s and my partnership, WholeHealth Chicago became the first professional corporation in Illinois co-owned by a medical doctor and a chiropractic physician. Paul agreed to take on the role of managing partner and handle the day-to-day operations, a task I knew I was constitutionally incapable of. With a then-distant eye on retirement, we brought chiropractic physician Cliff Maurer into our partnership, with Paul training Cliff on the subtle art of being a managing partner.

Then, more than a year ago, we hired a practice management consulting firm, Zupko and Associates, to teach us how to run a better operation. Our consultant Cheyenne Brinson put it well when she said, “You guys run the place like a mom and pop grocery. That sounds homey, but you’re overworking for little return. Really, you need a professional practice manager at your helm.”

And so she identified Jamie Ozga, who has cleared away the duct tape that held us together and replaced it with smoothly running gears. I’ve been told by outsiders that WholeHealth Chicago is operating as efficiently as a health care center can in these years of health industry turmoil.

As the year following Paul’s retirement announcement sped along, Jamie and Cliff solidified operations. I can say with confidence that both the professional and ancillary teams at WholeHealth Chicago are stronger than ever in our 20+ year history.

Obviously I’ll feel an ache in my heart when my partner of two decades and his wife sell their house, load up a truck marked “Wisconsin or Bust!” and a year or so later put everything into storage and move on to their traveling adventures.

In his years as a chiropractic physician, Paul helped thousands of patients not only with the musculoskeletal magic that chiropractic docs perform, but also with chronic illnesses, preventive maintenance, nutrition, and compassionate counseling whenever it was needed.

I, we–the entire WholeHealth Chicago staff–wish Paul and Marla fun, excitement, good health, and long lives as they step into the opening chapter of their next big journey. Join me in wishing them a wonderful life together.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

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25 comments on “My Sad-Happy Health Tip
  1. Joan Chandler says:

    Paul Rubin was my favorite “doctor.” Hope the rest of his life is as wonderful as it has been so far.

  2. Irina McSweeney says:

    Wishing them the best of health and a lot of adventure in the years to come.

  3. Violeta says:

    I am also happy for Dr. Rubin and his wife and sad for the rest of us. I have always felt and deeply appreciated the sense of calm and utmost care when I stepped into his office. His travel pictures on the wall always transported me to a different time and place and gave me optimism to look into the future. Knowing that he took the pictures made the experience even sweeter. Thank you for sharing your history together with us, it gave me a further glimpse into his greatness. Dr. Mauer has some big shoes to fill, but from what I have seen, he is totally the right person. Congratulations, Dr. Rubin, for your retirement and prioritizing yourself, your family and enjoyment in the many years to come!

  4. Meghan Bautista says:

    Congratulations on your retirement, Dr. Rubin! You worked such magic for me 6 years ago that just last week I gave your name to a co-worker in need of a chiropractor. I’m sorry that she might not have the opportunity to have a visit with you.

    Best of luck with your travels and the farm. Again, congratulations on an outstanding career!

  5. Addie Meyer says:

    Dr. Rubin has been my chiropractor and primary doctor since 1996 when you were with the venture capitalists. Paul, I’ll miss you! I know from my own experience you’ll be so happy to have time at your service. Grow and flourish!

  6. Jill Hileman says:

    If Dr. Rubin will continue teaching Tai Chi in Wisconsin, would you have him provide his contact information? Luck and location might connect us!

  7. Wayne Mills says:

    Paul is a wonderful friend and Tai Chi instructor; I wish him and Marla many years of joy.

  8. Michael Burgan says:

    Ten years after leaving Chicago, I still appreciate the care I got from Paul, and everyone there. Yeah, that Lincoln building was pretty funky!

  9. Paul Rubin says:

    Hi Jill. I will be teaching on Madison.

  10. Sara K. Schneider says:

    Paul, I so appreciate your graceful spirit and almost a feeling of darshan with you. Big hugs and very best in your adventures! Congratulations to all of you for identifying Cliff as a future managing partner and having what I can envision as a beautiful mentoring relationship. A wonderful story of partnership and of lifelong friendship. Wind at your back in every way!

  11. Lisa Romano says:

    Dr. Rubin, I’ve been your patient for 29 years. You were always so patient with me, accommodating to my odd needs, very calm and reassuring. I thank you for your healing ways and guidance. Enjoy your well deserved retirement. Love to you and your beautiful family.

  12. Patricia Woodbury-Kuvik says:

    The Whole Health columns are almost enough to encourage me to move from sunny AZ to chilly Chicago. If I din’t have some medical background of my own it would be tough to cobble together cohesive medical care.
    The Whole Health column arrived in my inbox this morning next to the vitriolic outpourings of an apparently frustrated endocrinologist (who blogs anonymously) ranting about how “mainstream medicine” must make war on “alternative medicine”. I subscribe because I feel it’s always good to know what someone else thinks. She has ripped people who have supported adjunctive therapies for cancer patients or who have suggested “treating the patient, not the numbers”, something I was taught early on. The contrast with Whole Health Chicago is deafening.
    A good physician touches minds and hearts, not just bone and muscle. Paul Rubin – it sure sounds like you are one of the good ones.

  13. Mary says:

    Congratulations on your retirement, enjoy the new adventures that await you both!

  14. Sarah Wiskerchen says:

    And what a year 1996 was, Dr. Edelberg! Continued congrats on your practice success, and best wishes to Dr. Rubin. A year ago I made my own return to WI; it is a good place to be. Go team WHC and KZA. 🙂

  15. Frederick Broderick says:

    All the best. We will miss you. Viann and Fred Broderick

  16. Judy Ronan says:

    Ahh Dr Edelberg I sensed your heavy heart this morning. Now I know the reason, and it’s a good reason indeed. You be well too Dr. Edelberg and carry on. I appreciate you and am so glad I found you and Whole Health Chicago.

  17. David W Bailey, DC says:

    I was on your crew when AHC was just moving along; circa 95-96. It was a beautiful concept and I enjoyed so much working with you. I remember telling folks that ‘if I knew what you had already forgotten, then I would be a genius’! 🙂
    Paul was always so kind to me whenever we spoke. I know you will miss him so much.

  18. Ann Raven says:

    Paul and Marla, I am happy for you! You are adventurous people and I hope you have fun in your travels and in the new experiences that await you together. EXPLORE, LEARN, SHARE! I know that’s what you’ll do. 🙂

  19. Heidi Sauhammel says:

    Enjoy your retirement Dr Rubin! I enjoyed working for you! -Heidi

  20. Katie H. says:

    Congratulations Dr. Rubin! I sure will miss you at 7:00 am every other Wednesday, but I am so excited for you and your family! A new season, and a new adventure awaits! Thank you for all your support and help over the last 10 years!

  21. Lori Strohschein says:

    Heartfelt and sincere congratulations to Dr Rubin and Marla! WHC is such a special and amazing place. They’ve changed my outlook on healthcare and I’ve been devastated that I’ve been unable to find its equal in any other state that I’ve lived in. Dr Rubin ( as well as all the other practitioners at WHC) are the most caring and knowledgeable people that I’ve ever been lucky enough to work for. What an innovative and amazing practice that these two doctors have blessed Chicago with. God’s blessings to Dr Rubin on this next exciting chapter in his life.

  22. Craig S. Rodich says:

    Paul,

    Congratulations on your retirement–it’s well deserved. I can’t believe that 22 years have passed since I was introduced to one of the city’s best chiropractors by your then office assistant Oona Morrison. And the rest is history. I wish you and Marla the best and I’ll be waiting to read your book on Tai Chi takes to the road.

    Best regards,
    Craig

  23. Carma Lynn Park says:

    Dr. Rubin, Enjoy your new adventures! I appreciate your caring attitude and competent help and am selfishly sad you will be retiring.

  24. Best of luck in your next chapter, Paul Rubin! Thank you for the inspiration you gave me early on. Those transitionional days at AWH/WHC have a warm place in my heart!

  25. Dr. Rubin says:

    Thank you all for your kind words. It has been my privilege and honor to have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people for the last 40 years. Thank you for sharing your lives and trusting me with your health. What an amazing journey it’s been. Thank you!

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